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A role for networked learners in #etmooc: Translator

February 3, 2013

In a newly released report, Connected Learning: and agenda for research and design, researchers from MacArthur Foundations DML Research Hub write,  “There are roles and supports for teachers, mentors, and outside experts to act as translators and connection-builders for learners across domains and contexts.” (pg 78)

During a recent Connected Learning webinar, Mimi Ito, one of the contributing researchers described some of the ways adults can play the role of translators, explaining how we can help children make sense of the learning opportunities online.

The concept of working as a translator stuck with me. I chopped this short clip out of the hour-long session because I appreciate the personal nature of the examples Ito gives.

Ito explains how adults have to change from monitoring screen time to supporting children developing filtering and crap detection skills. Her comments indicate that the navigation skills participants in this cMOOC are practicing and developing are essential fluencies for this generation’s parents.

I feel a sense of urgency to grow my capacity to act as a translator for my own children, students in my district, and the adult learners I work with in my school district. That same urgency likely brought me to this MOOC and contributes to my sense of falling behind in it.

Translating takes different shapes in the media and texts about learning online.

In Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education, Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli act as translators for budding networked learners when they offer a tip about Twitter.

Here’s an important reality: few if any Twitter users actually read all the tweets from those they follow. Most just check in from time to time to see what’s coming through the flow at any given moment.


This supportive information is exactly the type of help educators need to work in networked ways online. Also, Mancabelli and Richardson’s tip offers important permission, to let go of the web content you can’t get to.

On his YouTube Channel where he comments about learning and #etmooc, Benjamin Wilkoff acts as a translator, too, modelling for all who tune in the power of vlogging, the importance of reflective practice, and the participatory nature of learning online. His videos encourage me to turn on my web cam and speak. I look forward to the long hours of practice I’ll need to develop both the speaking skills and video capability Wilkoff demonstrates every day.

Learning on the fly as I am in this #etmooc, I often find that I’m translating a language I’m just learning. When I’m done translating, I hope that I’ve helped share the power and possibility of digital tools and online learning.

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