Hooking into the Network

Networked learning is a strange concept. It isn’t something that should be special, because it is so much of how we process the world. We connect with the things around us to remember people, places, smells, sounds, and general sensations. But we waste so much time learning in a static and stuffy manner that suddenly the way we naturally process the world became a new and creative concept.

I earned an undergraduate and a masters degree with nothing but class time and some lab hours. The amount of information I’ve retained from those degrees is minuscule despite the years invested. Meanwhile, since I’ve been at VT I’ve had to present my work multiple times, I’ve had to interact with people outside my degree, and I’ve actually started building a network. This reinforces my own knowledge while connecting me with people I can talk to when I reach a topic outside of my comfort zone.

Interacting with the “real world” forces students and people, in general, to reevaluate what they are doing and saying in a way that enhances understanding and retention. At the best of times, people fact check and correct your mistakes making learning that much better. Sometimes they’ll do this in hurtful ways, but that is yet another learning experience. Getting a B on a paper and no other marks hardly teaches me to learn from my mistakes. Meanwhile, @blogjerk496 (I hope no one actually has this handle) telling me I’m an idiot and should have researched x, y, and z before talking about the origin of the alphabet gives me a chance to correct myself and learn some new information.

What I think we really need to teach in classrooms is how to connect to, build, and utilize our networks. Blogging, Facebook, and Twitter are a start, but how do we actually grow those communities beyond close friends, classmates, and maybe our parents? How do I invite amazing speakers to talk to my student group? Heck, how do I get people into my student group and to care as much as I do about the group? Once the network starts to build I imagine you can facilitate discussions to learn from their experiences. Actually having those discussions can be difficult for some, but for me, I’m not even that far yet. I’ve got some distant peers that I hope to run into at another conference, but that’s about it. Should I track those people down and follow them on Twitter? Facebook stalk them or remind them that they have a LinkedIn? Even if I do connect, how what do I discuss? I can hold my own in a room fairly well but over the internet in 140 characters or whatever? That’s so far outside my comfort zone right now.

What do my classmates think? How have you developed your networks? Do you wish you could add something to it (like international collaborators or diversity)?

Once more into the fray!

Hello everyone! Here’s to another semester of blogging! You can read more about me on my page, but as a quick intro to me, I’m in the Macromolecular Science and Engineering program. This is my second time in a PhD. program because I had problems with my advisor staying put after I joined his lab. I’m infinitely happier here than I was at Syracuse University where I left with a Masters. This has left me very interested in the advisor-advisee relationship and what the ideal strategy is to address items such as professors leaving.

Anyhoo,  I’ll end here. Let’s have an awesome semester!

Global Perspectives Program 2019: Switzerland

I have recently found out that I was accepted to the GPP ’19 trip to Switzerland, France, and Italy. I am beyond excited! I just wanted to start an initial post for this category to share my excitement and prep for the blogging that is to come. Hopefully, I’ll be uploading many pictures this summer to flesh out this blog a bit. My first task is going to be to buy myself a nice little journal to keep track of the trip and my excitement leading up to it. I’m also planning on taking an old HP Mini notebook and installing Linux on it so I can easily blog from abroad. This is bound to be an exciting adventure!