Internet Identity: Fear of Failure

This week I had a fantastic opportunity to attend the ‘Flexible Teaching, Flexible Learning’ conference at Bangor University. I was particularly moved by the keynote speaker, Steve Wheeler from Plymouth University.

I am already doing research on social networks and connected learning and the way Steve talks about it is just music to my ears. Let me share some of the points that he put across so elegantly.

People were never designed to be factory taught or put to work in batches. There’s just something that doesn’t resonate through drill or monotony. The most ‘optimal experience’ takes place when we are challenged at a level that corresponds to our skill level. That is why the production (or synthesis) as opposed to a consumption centred model of learning leads to better understanding and higher creativity.

With that in mind, the ubiquitous computing of the postmodern age serves as a tool for the mind, to curate, share and enter into discourse over the how’s and why’s of all things. Never before has the blog or the tweet empowered the common man into a content curator. Never before could people across the world speculate and critique in matters of seconds, and benefit from the enhanced serendipity that comes with the state of flow.

And what’s exciting is that it’s not just about finding information. It’s about being found. With tweets, wiki’s, slideshare presentations and sites such as or linked in, there’s never been a better time for the inquiring mind.

This thought provoking video was shown too, which had been produced by a student in one of Steve’s classes. She talks about her online identity and asks different soul searching questions about why we do what we do, and why we might want to hide such trails.

This is something I found really interesting because I am currently in the process of applying for jobs, and I’ve been considering my own various blogs and social networks that I have written online over the years. Some of them I read and wonder how a potential employer might feel reading them. Even now as I write, I feel to choose my words carefully because of what this could imply. The reality is I don’t drink, or engage in destructive rebellious behaviours. But I have blogged about politics and the economy. In today’s climate these can indeed be dividing topics.

Some might suggest abstaining or moderation; however I can genuinely say that it is through the putting of my thoughts and feelings into words that has helped me recognise the efficacy of my view points. In a very real sense, sometimes you have to go somewhere to more fully understand it, and that includes contemplating the extremities of political opinion. Yet because it is an incomplete work I feel to hide it away from the world in case I be misjudged. The problem with the internet being written in ink is that it leaves little sympathy for mistake.

Another remark of Steve’s that I liked was his acronym for failure. A ‘fail’ is simply a First Attempt In Learning. In the attitude of tearing down walls, why should errors and mistakes made using the fantastic infrastructure for social learning that we have hamper those engaged with the best learning of the day. Can the internet just be a little more forgiving?


Personal Knowledge Management

This year I will be taking on a teaching role within the university. I’ll be teaching a class called ‘PITTS’. It’s an orientation course teaching the Apple interface, and then equipping students to use the internet for research and the production of well formatted APA documents.

A new addition to the course this year is ‘Personal Knowledge Management’, a component of the module in which we are going to try and teach students from day one of their degree to begin networking.

PKM is a concept that has been developed by Harold Jarche. The idea is that one builds ones own personal network, engineered entirely autonomously, to connect with those in a research discipline that excites you – the learner. This network of both people and documents grows over time and aides learning.

This blog is a form of my own PKM, which I have been doing on and off throughout my university time. But as I continue to write here, I am taking the information which relates to my own study, and am making sense of it, which advances my own personal learning far better than any memorisation ever could. If I extend that into using twitter or linkedin, or if I start following peoples’ blogs I am expanding my academic peripheral vision and making myself a more effective learner, and thus making my career more effective for both me and my employer.

I have spent a lot of time this year studying how the connected world has a holistic effect upon learning, in anticipation of the dissertation project I will be starting. I think it is a terrific idea to begin learners on this at as younger age as possible.