During our first ever #edcmchat (Elearning & Digital Cultures MOOC #edcmooc chat) session on Twitter, Andy Mitchell voiced a concern that I have also had and in fact talked about in a previous blog: “There’s so many webtools available now I struggle to find time .. I often feel I am playing catch up”. Angela Towndrow, an #edcmooc quadblogging partner, asked “Do we need to set aside time to keep up like getting a haircut or going to the gym….?”. My initial response was that I didn’t know… “the networking stream keeps moving even when you disconnect – calls for a blog to think it through.” There was certainly no way to give the subject much deep thought when tweets were rolling through at about 18 tweets per minute (pretty slow compared to events like the Olympics but fast for this new group).
With more time to think about it, my answer turns out to still be a work in progress with an initial answer. As I walked along the Potomac River this morning near my house without any social media, I realized that disconnecting to play catch up was not the obvious way to keep up with social tools. Sure a person can take time away to research and test various web tools; it’s usually what I do now to see if there is a capability that we might like to bring into my workplace. However, the real test is in using the tool within a network where  learning comes from both trial & error as well as coaching from others in the network. And that’s hard to do on your own if you disconnect from networking. Instead, I think that a venue like #edcmooc provides the perfect way to catch up on technologies and techniques for digital connectedness. I’ve listed some of the reasons, although I suspect there may be others.
1. Moves you out of your comfort zone
2. Provides a safe environment to network and experiment
3. Gives you access to people with many different skill levels and experiences – both in the network and adjacent to the network
4. Provides great feedback – both positive and constructive
Before I started the preparation for #edcmooc in mid-November, I was in a rut. I used a number of tools in my workplace and a different set at home (e.g. Twitter, G+, Facebook). But I wasn’t pushing myself to really learn anything more – I’d gotten comfortable with the minimum of interaction through relatively well understood social tools. I might test something new and then move on. The #edcmooc pre-course preparation has pushed me out of my comfort zone into interacting, chatting, searching, researching, connecting, testing and sharing experiences in a richer, deeper way. At the same, there is no pressure to perform like there is in a work  environment.  Also,  the wide depth of knowledge and experiences of the participants make it a joy to act as both a learner and a teacher/coach/mentor where needed.  This includes people who may not be directly in the network but are looking at similar capabilities or have skills needed by the network.   And the feedback so far has been both positive and constructive.  I have not had this same level of experience since I first started on the pioneer path with social media in 2005-2009. It’s exciting and challenging at the same time.  The biggest challenge is the time to fuse all the knowledge and perhaps develop a plan for the way ahead.  In other words, what do I want to do with all this knowledge and the networks that I am acquiring?  That will be for a later blog.