The Learner as Network

A post on Will Richardson's webblogg-ed brings home the critical issues central to the whole debate about 'futures' in education. The learner has always been considered central to the education enterprise, and in a constructivist sense the learner is the creator, shaper, and manager of learning experiences. Translate that into the world of ICT, and you get education being 'delivered' with different IT tools, exploring new and/or different ways to allow students to engage with ideas for the creation of new personal knowledge.

Sound good? Many schools think so, and in some cases are appointing people into a position that might be a Director of e-learning (or similar). e-learning what? how?

What then about the socially networked world of our students? Aren't they busy e-learning without any help from their teachers?

Will comments on how far we need to go:

" We are still about control, not sharing. We are still about distribution, not aggregation. We are still about closed content rather than open. We are static, not fluid. The idea that each of our students can play a relevant, meaningful, important role in the context of these networks is still so foreign to the people who run schools. And yet, more and more, they are creating their own networks, sharing, aggregating, evolving to the disdain of the traditional model of schooling that is becoming more and more irrelevant.

Read the full post here. My concern is that educators need to understand (if not adopt) the ways of networking that permiate the lives of students. Also,what we need in our schools or educational institutions is someone who can 'direct innovation'. This is vital to ensure that a true blend of tools, techniques, processes, and thinking strategies can happen. Who can bring a broad curriculum understanding to integration of ICT and social networks, as well as promote and develop literacy for reading and relaxation as well as communication (essential for metacognition and learning), plus embed knowledge techniques for information search, analysis and sythesis? If the position criteria are any guide – what we now need is a Director of Innovation. This is not an IT leader, or teaching & learning leader, or curriculum leader, or information services leader. This is new, and this is important!

We can no longer afford a silo mentality. We need a genuine innovator to remix a new learning framework for our students – within a school that is remixed in shape and style to accommodate "the learner as network".

Blogs and Pedagogy

James Farmer’s two blog posts about how to and how not to use blogs in education summarize this paper. His thesis is that

"in order to effectively utilize blogs in an educational context, their inherent communication dynamics must be examined and pedagogical and environmental strategies and constructs used which reflect and utilize them effectively."

Read the rest of the ideas posted by Doug here. It is important to catch-up with the dialogue around blogs – just saves time in the thinking and application of this particular technology. Our own local experiences with blogs for teaching and learning can build on found knowledge.


Direct from Scotland and a report of a keynote address by Alan November to150 educators – some thoughts that resonate here and now:

" After showing off the San Diego classroom where each student has his or her own desk and computer (i.e. their own office), he is now showing off the power of Google and how a search for "miserable failure" turns up the White House and George Bush. Students need taught how to use the internet, how to interpret information and analyse it, not how to use computers. We need to teach Information and Communications, not the Technology.This is nothing new for edubloggers, of course, who are able to tap into November-like thoughts every day of the year. But this room is full of around 150 educators, most of whom don't have a blog and so it's great to see the message getting through to a new wave of teachers."

As I write this post, Ewan McIntosh (who writes about learning in Scottish schools) is right there in the auditorium commenting, using his wifi connection. Up comes the message – stay online! I will, as I am keen to learn more about that conference!