It is hard to convince people who make directional decisions for educational organisations of the benefits and opportunities in networked learning, because to properly appreciate networked learning you need to be engaged in a networked learning community of some sort. Getting directors and managers engaged in a networked learning community is difficult to say the least - time, or the lack of it, are usually the responses from such people when encouraged to communicate with the TALO fold for example. The few who do come along, do so for a little look/see and eventually ask to be unsubscribed from the egroup because their email has over loaded, and few ever get around to keeping a blog, sharing resources via networked bookmarks, contribute to editing a wiki resource, or subscribing to feeds with a socially networked news reader.
Now, I'm beginning to hear the chorus. "But Leigh! Not everyone wants to blog, socially network their book marks, edit a wiki, or subscribe to RSS.." Basically that means not everyone wants to network their learning. And I hear the "time" factor again (or is it more accurately a want and priority thing..?) I guess I'll have to accept that, what can I say - my way or the high way? Yeah right, but the anecdotal evidence of the benefits of a networked learning to the professional development and training of so many teachers now seems compelling, and would certainly justify further research and attention.
If you're not already part of a networked learning community you might find yourself asking, "what anecdotal evidence?" How about the growth and current health of the TALO eGroup for example; the amazing increase in professional blogging in Australian education; the willingness and ability all of a sudden for so many of those Australian edu bloggers to communicate via RSS through their respective blogs; the curiosity at least, by units within many organisations, in networked learning models. There is clearly a sharp rise in the use of a networked learning by many individuals in the Australian education sector, but organisations, and particularly professional development units within organisations are still perplexed as to how to effectively use and manage netorked learning.
I think we need to do 3 things to help organisations consider networked learning more clearly:
- Sustained and participatory research to define and assess networked learning
- Case studies and documentaries
- Development of open network, digital literacies in our communities of practice
I have already started a wikipedia entry for networked learning, so the sustainable and participatory research for a definition at least has begun.
Development of case studies and documentaries will help assess networked learning and also help stimulate the 'want and prioritisation' in our organisations to fund and develop open network, digital literacies.
Once the capacity building via literacy development reaches a critical mass, I'd suggest that we go through those 3 steps again. A cycle of investigative, participatory, action research.
I think if we adopt those three projects (research, case studies and literacy development) then examples of networked learning will grow outside the arena of professional development in the education sector and into industry sectors, higher education, and community organisations. I would say, by then the directors and managers of educational organisations will be able to 'want and prioritise' networked learning in their work, and maybe even feel safe enough to openly engage with a community themselves.
So I know we have the funding opportunities here in Australia, will we have the collective ability to win that funding and apply it to something like this?
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