|Image: Flickr Pandora connection issue CC BY SA 2.0 by Abraham Williams|
A grey Monday morning has been enlivened today by my participation in the Bring your own device for learning #BYOD4L activities. Today we focus on connecting - spending time in various online spaces encouraging other teachers, researchers, students, learning technologists or other interested folk to connect to the #BYOD4L event: 5 days full of online activities exploring how we can make use of technology in our professional roles to increase our impact across our sector, discipline or even just within our institution!
Connecting has been a major focus of my professional life over the past few years. In particular, making computer-mediated connections to enhance my professional activities and researching how such connections can best work for my context. This work has completely transformed my life as an educator and I would like to share some of the things I have learnt.
- Birds of a feather flock together!
Human beings like to join others with similar interests. You can't insist that everyone connects through decreed spaces in order to talk about something - well, you can but ultimately you will fail. You get a kind of begrudging compliance unless there's a real shared purpose which everyone buys in to. It's not all about the tool or the schedule, although thinking about such things may help. You have to create an atmosphere and those you wish to connect with have to believe it is worth investing their time connecting. You may have to accept that only those like you will come along. Of course this leads to the accusation that some spaces are echo chambers and some are hijacked for less than illuminating purposes.
- Keep an open door and an open mind
Connecting through open groups on social media platforms reduces the barriers to connection. Don't think everyone will flood in, most of us prefer to "lurk" watching what is happening and forming opinions about whether or not to join in. By providing a welcoming presence and dealing sensitively with all new arrivals, gradually you will see discussions taking shape. It is vital that responses are timely, immediacy is known to be key to engagement. Keep an open mind on migrating discussions to other digital spaces, do your research on your connections and find their networks if you want to engage more deeply. You may find that your connections lead to serendipitous encounters and developments. Mine certainly did. You may also experience the demands of such nodal activity.
- Go global!
What is to stop you! Once you have an online presence and connected devices there are no borders preventing you from following your disciplinary interests around the world. There are many networks which connect for fellowship, interaction and mutual support so follow your interests. If you are interesting in telecollaboration for teaching and learning in Higher Education check out this new academic organisation: Unicollaboration. You can enhance your language skills in the process!