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If we are to build an effective learning network,
what will it look like?
An effective learning network is complex, changing, growing, shrinking, morphing over old, new and evolving platforms. It reaches into classrooms and across the globe, held together by personal learning networks (PLNs) that continually build new connections, cultivate new relationships and learning while allowing others to dissipate.
It centres on individual connections and actions, yet provides far-reaching value.
It allows learning to reach the student desk more quickly than our old structures. It puts an end to the geographic privilege of access, builds collaborative efficacy over distance, normalizes collaboration as a way of professional practice, and amplifies promising practices.
Individual Workflow – Personal Learning Environment or PLE
An effective network is composed of educators who work openly by default. Their daily workflow (Personal Learning Environment or PLE) includes personal learning that comes not only from traditional sources, like books and research articles, but also through efficient searching for educator blogs, tweets (microblogs), ebooks, audio books, webcasts, videos and exploring other online digital content that takes them into classrooms and into the minds of educators.
Content is organized and shared back to the community in a format that will reach their audience (parents, teachers, ECEs, leaders, community). They connect online with people in similar or different roles to have discussions, share strategies, consider ideas, connect thinking and stay in tune with what is happening in the world of the people they serve. They bring in the experts they need to ensure student outcomes are improving.
And, as they learn, they document that learning in a way that is valuable to others, considering audience and format, privacy and purpose. They share that learning back to their audience in a way that models digital citizenship and celebrates the work being done in their schools.
- Collecting Information – Leaders dedicate time for professional learning and develop competencies in effectively exploring and organizing relevant content, including blogs, podcasts, discussions, monographs and articles shared by others through social media. They share these information and knowledge collecting strategies with peers, teachers, students and the community. They understand how to access the information they need by leveraging the capabilities of the network.
- Connecting in Physical and Digital Spaces – Leaders value their connections to others and the learning that comes from conversations in person and online. They continue to nurture and build connections, bringing value to their organizations and those they serve. They model the importance of connectivism for students and other educators.
- Curating and Sharing Important Learning with Others – Leaders streamline the flow of information by filtering, packaging, and sharing in a way that mobilizes knowledge for targeted audiences. This is a complex skill that all of our students should also master.
- Creating and Providing Value to the Network – Leaders contribute what they are learning and make their thinking visible to others. This involves documentation and sharing skills, modelling them openly for others in the organization. Networks are only as valuable as the people in them and what they create and share with others.
Documenting Learning: Capturing the learning (and lack of learning)
- Understanding a process/protocol for documentation (for example, Documenting for Learning)
- Choosing an appropriate tool and product (text, blog, image, video, webcast, podcast, report, etc.)
- Developing expertise in editing products (audio and video editing, website development)
- Technical expertise
- Reflecting (what to share, what audience, when?)
- Modelling all of these for those you serve in the organization (students, educators)
Sharing the Learning (Openly as the Default)
- Consider the privacy protection of those involved in your learning
- Consider the intellectual property rights of any work you have used or remixed (develop a deep understanding of Creative Commons Licensing)
- Consider the most effective and appropriate place to share based on desired audience (with open as default) – online open, online internal, conference, learning session. It is understanding the shifting differences and similarities among platforms, and where audiences reside at the moment.
- Develop visual media, web and information literacies as well as global literacies
- Amplify the practices that are making a difference.
- Contribute in a positive way to the network, modelling this for others in the organization.
- Where are other learning networks you can leverage?
This view of network leadership presents many entry points, and a shifting variety of digital literacies and skills needed for successful participation in networked learning.
Some of these skills are outlined here.
*Featured images by Giulia Forsythe CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0
Langwitches Blog: Digital Citizenship and Documenting Learning
Harvard Business Review: Are You Network Literate?
The Digital Skills we Must Teach our Children: World Economic Forum, 2016
The Tipping Point to Transformation: David Culberhouse