A Response to “what is networked learning?”

When first beginning this subject, I was under the assumption that “networked learning” referred only to those teaching methods that employ digital information and communication technologies. This definition would include a course requires minimal interaction between teachers and students and could be completed through independent study and analysis alone.

shutterstock_208347706My understanding of the concept has
now evolved to be quite different. Brigitte’s post regarding how to define networked learning, does an excellent job of simplifying a complex question. I
agree entirely with her assessment that networked learning is “decentralised way of teaching”, where “not everything is taught by the teacher within the structure of the institution”.

The key to the effectiveness and potential for failure of this teaching method is the connections and interactions that can be built and encouraged between participating students. This could be achieved without the use of digital technologies, however their use greatly enhances networked learning. I think this course is doing an excellent job of demonstrating to us the risks and rewards of using networked learning teaching methods by having us be our own “test guinea pigs”. We are not only observing the effects of this style of learning, but also experiencing them. The stress and uncertainty many of us are experiencing will help us understand the challenges our students will face.

I wonder if perhaps some preparation for this new form of learning could have helped eased us in to the course and encouraged us to build closer connections earlier on. A paper by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education warns that “learning communities often do not actually change classroom practice and improve student achievement”(Katz, Dack, & Earl, 2009). I wonder what forms of scaffolding would be usable before networked learning became excessively teacher directed. I agree with a more recent post by Brigitte, in response to one of my own posts, that we may have benefitted from establishing expectations and routines. I acknowledge that the reason for most participants taking this course, including myself, was to allow for work to be completed on my own time and that placing expected routines would go diminish the flexibility of this course.

This leads me to another topic that I will try to address in another post. While I myself am a big enthusiast of implementation of ICT in education, I still haven’t convinced myself that online and distance curriculums actually offer learning advantages aside from flexibility and convenience.

Reference

Katz, S., Dack, L., & Earl, L. (2009). NETWORKED LEARNING COMMUNITIES: Fostering Learning for Teachers and the Students. Principal Connections, 12(3), 36.

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