A Starting Point - Some Principles of Networked Learning

Holly MacDonald and I are hosting the first NetworkedLearningBC meetup on Monday 28th Jan. After introductions, our first discussions will be around “what on earth is networked learning?”.

I thought I would collate a few points for us to use as a starting point, to generate debate and new knowledge. As with all my blog posts, this is a work in progress and I will edit or reprise this after our meeting.

A Starting Point - Some Principles of Networked Learning

Connectedness: We live in an increasingly connected world. Technology allows us to access amounts of information that were unfathomable a decade ago. As a result, we cannot know everything. We need networks through which to find answers. As George Siemens wrote in 2004: “When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill.” 

This requires us to be adept at Personal Knowledge Management and creating personal learning networks. And as we develop skills in collaboration and cooperation, we use social network technology to tap into cumulative wisdom and develop new relationships.

Discovery: Critical thinking: through our networked relationships we question, inquire and discover. These are all central to constructivist learning theories. Constructivist theories posit that individuals learn by building upon existing knowledge when trying to make sense of new information or concepts. In networked learning we co-create new meaning through our interactions and build upon a group or community of practice’s collective knowledge. 

Embrace Ambiguity and Failure:  We do not discover unless we embrace ambiguity and failure. As Holly recently wrote, we need to work through struggles that will sometimes result in failure. Learning design should incorporate ambiguity (such as no right or wrong answer) and failure.

Pull / On Demand Learning:  To aid discovery, we must be aware of the 70-20-10 rule of learning. While the research is quite limited, there is enough evidence to support that we learn much more socially and informally than we do in formal settings. This means putting control of learning in the hands of students or employees and supporting their decisions.

Context Rich, Immediate Relevance:  Workplace - means align with business needs and processes.  School/University - away from facts and methods that are not immediately relevant to students.

Interaction Rich:  Focus on making connections between students, workshop participants, geographically-dispersed employees and giving them the tools to easily collaborate and communicate.

Narration:  Encourage narration of work or school to breed openness and communication. Blogging or skills in other digital literacies (even microblogging) will be essential in the connected workplace or educational institution.

Researched-Based:  We know from educational psychology research that spaced repetition and contextualised practice enables retention and understanding. The research is available - in education, psychology, neuroscience, sociology and other fields to support effective learning and instructional design. For example, Will Thalheimer is great resource for workplace learning specialists. Build your network and you will find the research.

Instruction Designed by Learning Experts, not SMEs:  in traditional education, you were taught by an expert who told you all the "correct" facts or formulas. Unfortunately, many subject matter experts still want to do the same, whether they are teachers, accountants, lawyers, doctors or engineers.  There is a desire to let tell students or participants in a workshop everything they know.

I suggest talking to your favourite instructional designer, give them your content, and have them come up with some instructional design suggestions to incorporate the principles above into the learning experience you hope to create.