Friday, March 26, 2010

When is learning not networked learning?

Networked learning is not a theory of everything... I think I verge on making that mistake when I talked about 'promoting connections'... in the minds and lives of students and staff, and things you do to promote connections to the point that they engage with/in networked learning. I believe that is vital to bring them to the feast and so it is relevant and foundational, even a pre-condition to it, but not essentially networked learning.
And, in a similar way, I'm not convinced it's useful to extend Personal Learning Environments (PLE) as including 'everything', even if it does temporarily cause us to reflect on the differences between PLE's and VLE's, and how people configure their whole learning environment.
Part of the problem is that learning is very complex in humans and they're doing it a lot, to various degrees...
Recently I was reading a bit of Peter Alheit and when his use of the term 'networked learning' caught my attention:
What do you think...? How is the following 'networked learning'? p117
The purpose behind this new understanding of the term 'learning' is the option of networking these different forms of learning in a synergistic way - learning should not only be systematcially extended to cover the entire lifespan, but should also take place 'lifewide', i.e. learning environments should be engendered in which the various types of learning can complement each other organically. 'The "lifewide" dimension brings the complementarity of formal, non-formal and informal learning into sharper focus' (Commission, 2000, p9.)
Lifelong, 'networked' learning thus seems to become an economic and social imperative of the first degree. The 'new' concept of lifelong learning betrays an ambition that John Field has termed 'the new educational order' (Field, 2000, pp.133ff). Learning acquires a new meaning - for society as a whole, for education and training institutions and for individuals. The shift in connotation exposes an inner contradiction, however, in that this new learning is initially 'framed' by political and economic precepts. The goals are competitiveness, employment and adaptive competence on the part of the workforce. The intention is also, however, to strengthen freedom of biographical planning and the social involvement of individuals. Lifelong learning 'instrumentalises' and 'emancipates' at one and the same time.
This seems to put a high price on 'networking' formal, informal and non-formal learning.... which is haunting me somewhat... Is 'networking' here just another word for 'including' or 'linking', etc. and thus a mere co-incidence, or does it have something important to say to the concept that is the subject of this blog? Right now, it strikes me as pitching for another [learning] 'theory of everything'.... (sorry Peter - probably 'my bad')
As trends in learning theory move from behaviourist, cognitivist, and social learning, the lens shifts to such a wide angle that, in the end, one is depicting 'life', rather than 'learning'. But I think it also happens when I get over-excited about an insight or idea I've just grasped (or re-grasped) so that 'learning theory myopia' (or is it hyperopia!?!) kicks in, and, suddenly, I see nothing else - for a while at least!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I want to promote connections, but how far will the connection go once released into the wild...? This is surely one of the variables that anyone engaged in networked learning will consider.
I am (sometimes painfully) aware that one slight error in handling the interface and a message I intended for one person suddenly and irrevocably gets transmitted to the masses.
But what about the communities I work in? For example, there's the 'IT people' within the school and I have a Lotus Connections Community dedicated to just 'us'. Would it be a good idea to open it up to the rest of the University or even the World? Is there any real threat to each option. Am I really only worried in case those in my own school are more conservative than me about sharing and will dissengage... Perhaps I should pop off and ask them :-)
I may have a 'rose tinted' memory, but I cant remember losing out by sharing... in the words of the proverb:
Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days
But there are times when simply 'open' or 'closed' is too simplistic. I need to be able to discern what level of openness is apt for each communication and that adds overhead to communicating at all! That leads me onto another proverb (paraphrased as):
Even an idiot can seem clever if he can keep his mouth shut
If I post this to this fairly quiet blog, as I have here, chances are no-one much is going to take note. If I post a link to it in my CU-only blog, chances are that several people will take note and may even start commenting on it. The size of the audience and the level of openness will affect whether or not I get some dialogue going, but it also determines the potential reach and impact of my words, beneficial or otherwise.... all this from someone who cant even choose a packet of bacon!