The development of network technologies has changed the way we operate with knowledge (Harley, 2008). Connectivism and networked learning means that today’s and tomorrow’s learners are able to access infinite sources of information. Furthermore, they are able to build relationships, collaborate and develop knowledge and this is being done and will be done outside the walls of the traditional classroom (Siemens, 2005). According to Hall and Herrington (2010), ‘Blogs, wikis, forums, social bookmarks and other social and collaborative tools have pushed the social nature of learning to the forefront. Development of an online community is an important aspect of social learning, as the community provides the place where learners can develop trust in others, share their new knowledge, and learn from and with each other.’ (p.1012).
The size of this global learning environment is infinite which means there will be significant leaps for organisations to make if they are to meet the increasingly individualistic needs of their staff. Teachers will need to understand that for an organisation to maintain a competitive advantage and stay at the cutting edge it will need to manage knowledge exceptionally better than its competitors. Organisations will need to have a vision of a different kind of knowledge management, where engaging with knowledge and competencies will be transformative and where the one size fits all approach is history.
Diversity of Learning Environments
As discussed by Andrew in his post on Diversity of Learning Environments, the danger is that we try a ‘one size fits all approach’ which is no longer sustainable work. NGL can provide a dynamic learning environment and through the use of technology it is possible to cater for individual needs and create personal learning environments (Downes, 2014).
However, I think there is a downside in that those who struggle with technology could be left behind. NGL means that one can access information anywhere which means that learning and collaboration can occur at both a local and global level. Learning will move more and more to a social space and education will shift to massive open online courses (MOOCs).
Teachers have more resources to assist them than ever before. The article which Andrew posted on schools taking global learning to the next level talks about students becoming internationally minded and becoming ‘true global citizens’. In terms of NGL informing my role in helping others achieve this global citizenship, I think it’s about providing vital skills so that people can connect – so that people aren’t living in a ‘bubble’.
Through the use of international perspectives learners can reflect on their own progress and collaborate on a more personal level. As Steven Mark, Director of the International Primary Curriculum says, ‘To my mind helping kids to get a deepening sense of ‘others’ is absolutely at the heart of what good international, global learning should be about.’ The use of tools like Flickr to promote intercultural understanding I thought exhibited a brilliant example of using tools to create engaging understanding.
Understanding the benefits of NGL
The kind of technological changes that have occurred in the last ten years are mind boggling. Such changes have also affected traditional instructional methods and learning strategies. Teachers will need to understand the benefits of NGL and the emergence of new learning styles. Knowledge is now fluid and not contained between four walls – it is virtual where anybody, anywhere can access it.
Furthermore, knowledge is not created and owned by an authority figure, it is cultivated through social and global networks. Learners are empowered more than ever before and with easy access to cheap tools connectivism will grow as now it is about personal learning (Richardson, Mancabelli, 2011).
Teachers will also need to understand the power of NGL as transformative learning. David brought to the attention Dron and Anderson (2007) article which outlines the uses of social software for learning – there are many tools and many uses. However, the key for teachers is to know which tool is suitable for which job, not dissimilar to a tradesman knowing which tool serves which purpose.
Similarly, organisational learning or training functions must have a collaborative pedagogical framework that ensures effective learning practices that focus on improved learner achievement (Department of Education, 2013). By contributing to the quality of teaching and learning, providing new ways for people to interact, and applying a research-based approach to evaluating the effectiveness of educational technology innovative teachers will be able to capitalize on NGL principles and take learners into the future of learning more confidently.
Barriers and hidden challenges to NGL
Although the benefits of NGL are recognised there are potential barriers and challenges for teachers. These include, usability of technology, trust in and acceptance of Information Communications and Technology (ICT) in communication, a sense of belonging among members, paying attention to cross-national and cross-cultural dimensions shared understandings, a common sense of purpose, use of netiquette and user-friendly language and longevity (Gannon-Leary, Fontainha, 2007; Hall, Herrington, 2010).
Annelise’s post on preparing students for jobs that don’t exist yet raises some interesting points on both collaboration, sharing resources and about preparing students for the future. As Andrew says in his post on the future of learning ‘With new forms of technology, collaboration, access to information, and social networking over the past 10-15 years, the way students act, learn, understand, and grow has changed dramatically and this will continue to evolve over the next 10 years and beyond. Teachers need to embrace these new ways of thinking and education needs to continue to adapt to the changing world around it so students can learn and become successful participants in the future of society.’
Similarly, I think that one of the biggest challenges will be, as David points out, the mindset of the existing institutional systems and processes. Organisations will need to have a ‘broad understanding of the meaning and the potential of networked learning’ (Downes, 2014). Organisations will need to beyond pumping out eLearning with a compliance mentality. They will need to think about the big picture and future skills and client requirements. Not only will teachers need to be skilled in critical reflection but be able to evaluate the effectiveness of educational technology and understand the importance of ongoing assessment in the educational experience and the role NGL plays in this (Bloxham & Boyd, 2007; Black, harrison, Lee, Marshall, & Wiliam, 2003; Harlen, 2006; Higgins, Hartley, & A, 2002; James, McInnis, & Devlin, 2002).
Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B., & Wiliam, D. (2003). Assessment for Learning: Putting it into Practice. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Bloxham, S., & Boyd, P. F. (2007). Developing Effective Assessment in Higher Education. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Dede, C. (2008). Theoretical perspectives influencing the use of information technology in teaching and learning. In J. Voogt & G. Knezek (Eds.), International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education (pp. 43–62). New York: Springer.
Department of Education. (n.d.). Training and Employment Strategic Plan 2013-2014, Engaging minds. Empowering futures.
Downes, S. (2014, July 9). Beyond Institutions – Personal learning in a Networked World. Retrieved September 11, 2014, from Stephen’s web: http://www.downes.ca/presentation/343
Dron, J., & Anderson, T. (2007). Collectives, networks and groups in social software for e-Learning. In World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education , 2460-2467.
Gannon-Leary, P., & Fontainha, E. (2007). Communities of Practice and virtual learning communities: benefits, barriers and success factors. Elearning papers.
Hall, A., & Herrington, J. (2010). The development of social presence in online Arabic learning communities. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(7), 1012-1027.
Harlen, W. (2006). The Role of Assessment in Developing Motivation for Learning. In J. Gardner, Assessment and Learning (2nd ed., pp. 171-183). London: SAGE Publications.
Harley, R. (2008). The Fall of the Wall: Beyond Walled Gardens in Higher Education. Paper presented at ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation International Conference: Creating Value: Between Commerce and Commons, 25-27 June, Brisbane. [viewed 28 Sep 2009] http://www.stereopresence.net/news/the-fall-of-the-wall-beyond-walled-gardens-in-higher-education
Higgins, R., Hartley, P., & Skeleton, A. (2002). The Conscientious Consumer: Reconsidering the role of assessment feedback in student learning. Studies in Higher Education, 27(1), 53-64.
James, R., McInnis, C., & Devlin, M. (2002). Assessing learning in Australian Universities: Ideas, strategies and resources for quality in student assessment. Melbourne: Centre for the Study of Higher Education Australian Universities Teaching Committee.
Richardson, W. Mancabelli, R. (2011). Personal Learning Networks – Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education. Published by Solution Tress Press in Bloomington, IN.
Siemens, G. (2005, January). Connectivism: A learning theory for a digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1). Retrieved August 1, 2008, fromhttp://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm