Network Literacy – the next big thing

I said I’d get back here to reflect on my presentation at the Perspectives on Learning V.2 SLAV conference and our PLP (Powerful Learning Practice) face to face meeting at Toorak College on Tuesday. The week’s been a long one and the exhaustion factor has been high. Hence my slow return!

First up, I’m pretty sure my presentation went well. I received positive feedback and that’s the best you can hope to achieve really! I was really pleased with the slides and as is usual for me, once I start I find it hard to stop. I need to work out how to deliver a presentation in 50 mins rather than an hour so I can field questions at the end. I embedded the presentation here last Monday so  track back to then and you’ll find it if you want to see it.

Our PLP meeting was a wonderful opportunity to share our thinking, projects and ideas for how we continue to change practice in our schools. When you’re hosting the event it’s hard to get perspective on how it’s all going, but my feeling was that it was a positive day that had benefit for those attending. Will Richardson had timely advice for us all and it was a fantastic opportunity to gain from his experience.      

On the Monday night before the meeting we went out to dinner with some of the PLP teams. On arrival, one of the team members said to me something that went like this;

“So, Jenny, what’s the next big thing? It seems like we’ve been talking about these things for the last six months, what’s the next new thing coming along?”

My answer went something like this;

“I don’t think there is any ‘next big thing’. I think the next big thing is how we use these tools to get our students connected. It’s how we get them to start making the connections with others out there.”

What I’ve realised is what I’m talking about is what Will Richardson calls ‘Network Literacy’. This to me represents the biggest shift our schools need to take if we are going to make inroads for the students we teach. Will’s presentation on Monday struck many chords for me and reshaped my thinking about the next steps I need to take in my school.

Will defines Network Literacy as;

The ability to create, grow and navigate personal learning networks in safe, ethical and effective ways.”

He says we need to help students identify their passions and then immerse them in ‘passion based’ learning environments where they can then pursue their interests in Personal Learning Networks.  He references the work of John Seeley Brown when he discusses this.  

We have been learning the tools and have embedded some of them into practice, now we need to start assisting our students to reach out and create learning opportunities themselves. How they do is the tricky part for us as educators because we need to have a handle on it first if we are to guide them well.

Will asked educators to consider these questions in his presentation on Monday;

Am I “network literate”?

Am I “Googled well”?

Am I learning with others “out there”?

Am I a “mobile learner”?

Am I reading and writing differently?

Am I collaborating, co-constructing and collectively acting with others?

Am I a learner first, teacher second?

I can confidently answer ‘Yes’ to six of the seven questions. I’ve got to  master mobile technologies – this is an area I’m  not confident with yet.

The real question is ‘How many of our teachers can answer in the affirmative to the questions Will posed?’ And that is the dilemma facing our schools. How do we bring teachers with us and how do we do this on the scale that is necessary? I don’t know the answer to that question, I know that PLP goes someway towards it, but I do know that I have to start making inroads with the students I teach.

This means teaching them how to write in a hypertext environment. It means lobbying for an elective called Passion Based Learning where I help students understand how they can become self directed learners. It means working with my school and changing thinking about transparency for student writing and allowing our kids to connect with other teachers and learners outside the walls of our school.

It means lots of hard work and an understanding that change takes time. We can’t expect to see things happen overnight. Small steps are important ones and these may have to be the steps taken to have the shift take place.

Thanks Will for helping shape my thinking and helping me define the next steps.

11 Replies to “Network Literacy – the next big thing”

  1. Jenny
    7 thoughtful questions Will asked, I’m on about 4.5, not so great either on mlearning, yet.

    My favourite, and also the most influential one, is number 7.

    An affirmative answer reflects ceding traditional “teacher” control and admitting I have much to learn without the order or answers one may normally assume of “the” teacher. Scary hard for some, totally understandable too.

    “Learning is like spaghetti”, Will reported elsewhere, possibly the mad dogs breakfast is more apt for a few of my recent lessons. Provoked passionate real arguments on treatment of refugees. It felt different this year.

    Baby learning steps, our DET providing suitable ICT access soon and passion based learning? yep my “align 09” may just come to fruition.

    1. I think those spaghetti lessons are my favourites. I love it when the discussion is so intense that we swing on tangents and become the directors of our learning. I hate when I find I have to reel the students back to what the curriculum demands I teach, and so do my students. I know the environment I want to foster!

  2. Thanks for the post. Will’s questions are ones we all should be asking! Mobile learning is something I am not into yet — but I never was a real early adopter! I’m still learning tow to use the tools I am comfortable with in my teaching!

  3. I agree with Tony – number 7 is my favourite question. It’s liberating to be a learner first, and you’re in good company – with students and people who never stop learning. No need to pretend you know everything, so much to look forward to. Share the stage with students, ask them to direct the learning, own the learning. I’ve just started to read Sir Ken Robinson’s ‘The element’ and I’m even more convinced that there’s little learning without passion. Maybe just incidental or inspite-of-learning.

    1. I think you may be right. I’m wondering how much of the curriculum we mandate is retained by our students.

  4. Jenny,

    I’m with you, I can say yes to 6 out of 7 with some confidence. I still ebb and flow between teacher and learner with my students. Still trying to strike that balance between what they know and what they need to know.

    I keep wondering though, is the what they need to know, the piece of the equation that I need to let go.

    1. I still think they need pointing in the right direction. Seeding their learning still needs to happen. I spent some of last night seeding our Yr 9 ning with Slideshare presentations on Romeo and Juliet. They need a basis off which to work to develop thier own learning. I have to say I’m loving being a learner; my enthusiasm and passion for teaching has tripled since I discovered the world of global education.

  5. Thanks for sharing these 7 questions Jenny! I’m wondering if we can use them in a self-survey here at ISB to start a conversation about how we can be networked learners (as teachers). I like the simplicity of the statements and how clearly they represent a change in what we currently view as “literacy.”

    I feel like I’m doing pretty well on all 7 topics. Just having bought an iPhone has really helped me understand what mobile learning is all about. It amazes me what I can do from my phone now – many evenings I’m not even opening my laptop anymore because I can do everything I need on my phone!

    1. The good thing about where you are Kim is that you are working in an environment where you have teachers embarking on the learning curve and a few who are already extremely well networked!! Must be lovely to work with others who ‘get’ what it is you are talking about. : )

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