Learning and Knowing in Networks

I’m currently presenting a paper to ITForum on Learning and Knowing in Networks: Changing Roles for Educators and Designers (.pdf). From the abstract: “Current developments with technology and social software are significantly altering: (a) how learners access information and knowledge, and (b) how learners dialogue with the instructor and each other. Both of these domains (access and interaction) have previously been largely under the control of the teacher or instructor. Classroom walls are increasingly permeable. Google Scholar, Scopus, and open access journals offer increased access to academic resources; an extension to more informal approaches such as regular internet search and Wikipedia. Social software (blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, instant messaging, Skype, Ning) provide opportunities for learners to create, dialogue about, and disseminate information. But what becomes of the teacher? How do the practices of the educator change in networked environments, where information is readily accessible? How do we design learning when learners may adopt multiple paths and approaches to content and curriculum? How can we achieve centralized learning aims in decentralized environments?”
Feedback/reactions/comments are appreciated.

2 Responses to “Learning and Knowing in Networks”

  1. I have been exploring the idea of “Viral Professional Development” (http://injenuity.com/archives/66) and have received favorable reaction from readers. I think the concept can trickle down to the classroom. Those who’ve contacted me seem to feel this change has been happening right under their noses and they just didn’t know how to address it.
    One thing I’ve noticed is happening due to information accessibility, is that instructors can spend more time learning about things that truly interest them. We no longer need to learn a little about everything, as we have the means to find answers when we need them. Instructors seem to be able to specialize again, rather than becoming generalists. This is good for the instructors, because they are happier and more likely to spend time on professional development outside their scheduled hours. It also frees up time for networking, where they meet other specialists and easily bring them into the classroom.
    I look forward to watching the responses to your post!

  2. George and others,
    Lots of comments come to mind (in no particular order) to your post “learning and knowing in networks” focused on your question about “what happens to the teachers?” By the end of my musings you will see that I solidify to the need to redefine the role that used to be teacher – coming full circle to your question.
    a) I have lead numbers of groups of people simultaneously coming up with local solutions to issues by facilitating participatory action research (my favorite process for learning) online. The learning results have been transformative. For me this a piece of this larger puzzle.
    b) I think the word teacher helps keep us in the old paradigm. We really facilitate more than teach – and it is best and most fun when I learn as well – (my current standard for refelctive measurement of the experience.) Keeping standards for measurement for myself and the “student” seems part of the role.
    c) As I work with doctoral candidates I see what I do most is help them set in their own mind the size and shape of hurdles they need to get over and then make suggestions about tools that might help. Using this metaphor teachers really are coaches (and again the standard of measurement idea shows up).
    d) What is fun for me about the “academie” is the height of the hurdles we set for each other – unfortunately these also may lead to ego issues but that is another story.
    e) In another post I read today (http://kwhobbes.wordpress.com/2008/02/06/lets-meet-them-at-the-door/) a woman self identified as a teacher wrote of the difficulty of creating new networks, when others (she mentioned you by name George) had been doing it for so long. I really hate silo’s of ideas, thoughts or people – what can we do in our new redefinition of the role that used to be teacher that will help us avoid these traps? This woman reminds us that part of this role is to give a helping hand up as we look upward our outward ourselves.
    f) Finally I always come back to wondering what other cultures have by ways of understanding the roles of student and teacher that can help. Perhaps concepts of elder come in here, a concept I like because it seems without ego.
    Thanks for the provocative question,
    Alana