Power, Connections, Personal Learning Networks, and In-the-Moment Mobile Learning

The sight of flashing numbers on digital timepieces throughout our house yesterday afternoon was obvious evidence of a power outage while I had been away earlier in the day. But it wasn’t particularly distressing. I knew that PG&E, our local utility company, had been doing major work a block away from where I live, so I assumed the outage was over, reset the clocks, then went into our backyard to do a little gardening before joining the Week 2 live online session that would connect me to the training-teaching-learning colleagues I’m meeting through the five-week Exploring Personal Learning Networks (#xplrpln) MOOC (massive open online course) that Jeff Merrell and Kimberly Scott are currently facilitating under the auspices of the Northwestern University Master’s in Learning & Organizational Change Program.

Connected_Educator_Month_LogoApproximately 15 minutes before the session was scheduled to begin, I was about to step back into the house to log into the Adobe Captivate space where #xplrpln colleagues were to meet, but noticed something strange: the water in our fountain had stopped flowing. Wondering whether it had become clogged, I turned off the pump, turned it back on, then recognized the problem: the power had gone out again.

In an extended in-the-moment response that unexpectedly continues up to the time when I am writing—and you are reading—this piece, I begin considering options to fully participate in that live online session—and think about the importance of back-up plans. My desktop is clearly not an option since it’s reliant on a flow of electricity that is no longer available. My laptop, running on its fully-charged battery? Also not an option: it relies on a wireless router that is no longer functioning because of the power outage.

Then it hits me: my Samsung Galaxy tablet has a fully-charged battery. And 3G connectivity. So I fire it up, follow the link from my email account to the Exploring Personal Learning Networks session, and discover another barrier: I don’t have the free Adobe Connect app on my tablet. Following a link to the Google Play Store—all the time thinking “This isn’t play. This is serious!”—I tap the “install” button in the hope that the download will be quick and that I won’t face a high learning curve to be able to use it.

With moments to spare, the download is completed. I plug in a set of headphones as the PowerPoint slides for the session appear legibly on the seven-inch screen, and am hearing a stream so clear that it feels as if I’m in the same room that session facilitators Jeff Merrell and Kimberly Scott are occupying—which, in an appropriately visceral and virtual way, I am.

Curious as to whether the full range of interactions available via a desktop or laptop computer exist on the tablet, I struggle with the on-screen keyboard to enter a chat comment letting colleagues know that I may not be fully participating in the session because of the tech challenges. And it goes through, making it visible to them and to me.

xplrpln_logoThey respond audibly and via the chat to say how impressed they are. I respond by telling them how relieved I am that it’s actually working. And we all walk away with another example of the power and increasing ubiquity of m-learning (using mobile devices to augment our learning opportunities and experiences), personal learning networks, and the levels of creativity that adversity inspires.

PLNs--Writing-and_Technology--2013-10-16P.S. – Using a fountain pen to write the first draft of this piece the morning after the session ends, I face another tech challenge: the fountain pen runs out of ink. The fact that I have a back-up fountain pen with me moves me past this final tech challenge, and further confirms the importance of having effective back-up plans in place whenever we step into the wonderful intersection of technology, learning, and collaboration in our well-connected communities of learning.

N.B.: This is the fourth in a series of posts inspired by Connected Educator Month and participation in #xplrpln (the Exploring Personal Learning Networks massive open online course).

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6 Responses to Power, Connections, Personal Learning Networks, and In-the-Moment Mobile Learning

  1. Quite a story there Paul. I am glad you could make it to the PLN session yesterday. It is interesting to know that mobile technology is making waves in health (read UNICEF story here: http://www.unicef.org/zambia/media_9979.html) and financial (read Vodaphone story here: http://alturl.com/5pb6r) sectors in third world countries, where other regular options are not that viable.

    And power outage is part and parcel of life in such countries ;) ;).

  2. Patti Poe says:

    That was a great story, a cautionary tale, and a good reminder of why we need Plan B’s. Thanks!

  3. Thanks Paul, talk about ‘thinking-on-your-feet’ to quickly come up with a solution. Out of interest, did the app on your mobile device allow you to engage fully (ie thinking about the drawing of the PLN that other participants were doing)?

  4. Thanks, everyone, for the comments.

    Shalinee, those links really add a great deal of perspective to the minor challenges I faced; deeply appreciative that you posted them.

    Patti, I’m sure you’ll be relieved, as we approach our workshop, that I’m a firm believer in having Plans B, C, and D firmly in place whenever possible.

    And Helen, I didn’t push the technology too far once I learned that we all had presenter rights–I didn’t want to do anything that might inadvertently interfere with the session in progress–but I did see signs that the app allowed interactions (moving through the presentation slides before the session formally began) and even at the drawing level (inadvertently running my finger over the screen seemed to add a line to the drawing). Will be interesting, with more practice, to see if there are any limits to that interactivity via a mobile device other than the challenge of trying to type on a touchscreen keyboard.

  5. Janet Webster says:

    Did you know that Woody Allen writes his film scripts on the same typewriter he bought 30 years ago? He cuts and pastes with scissors and a small stapler. I learned this watching a documentary on his life’s work this week.

  6. If my “scripts” were anywhere near being as creative as his best work is, I’d be using that typewriter, too…and keeping plenty of spare ribbons at hand.

    Thanks for the inspiring response.

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