Networks for Learning

Video credit:We Think – posted CharlesLeadBeater on YouTube



The video above, You Are What You Think: by Charles Leadbeater a leading thinker on creativity and innovation, explores ideas around conversation leading to creativity, innovation and social change. It may be a few years old, but the ideas are current.

The classroom is no longer restricted to the institution. The classroom learning experience has broken down physical barriers and now extends to networks of fellow learners that you may or may not know in real life. Ngee Ann Secondary School in Singapore is just one example of what Microsoft calls a “Pathfinder School”. Ngee Ann has been actively using social media in the class room since 2009.

There are many education professionals looking at how learning is evolving. Stephen Downes (researcher with the National Research Council of Canada) is thinking about New Tools for Personal Learning. Henry Jenkins, the principal investigator for Project New Media Literacies (NML), writes about Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture.


Think before you ink
Expanding your networks
It’s easy to create and build our networks of people around just those that we know quite well. But what about the blogs you read, are those authors part of your network? Who do you follow and who do you friend? Would you friend a prof? Follow a boss? Expanding your network, changes it. Here are some considerations:

  • including people in your network who are different than you expands your world view and offers the opportunity to see another perspective.
  • trust is an important consideration – who do you trust to recommend new contacts? How do you decide who is trust worthy?
  • would you create new or different networks for learning? Why or why not?

Approaches for collaboration:

  • discussion boards (Reddit is one example)
  • collaborating on a writing project, using a wiki or collaboration tool such as Google Docs.
  • sharing your comments on blogs about subjects that you are interested in.
  • starting your own blog and sharing it with your existing network.
  • sharing your work through social media channels (like the video above)
  • learn more about collaborative study tools like Quizlet
  • include a wide variety of people in your social media networks, like Twitter.

Making your learning visible:

This isn’t for everyone, but it can have great rewards if you value your mistakes and consider all of your attempts as valid contributions to your eventual success (and the success of those in your networks). Creating your work online (using wiki spaces, blogs, shared writing projects) makes your learning visible to others who you give permission to see it. Writing for a broad public audience can be risky but can have immense payoffs in building the competencies that you’ll need in the 21st century, including:

  • improving the quality of writing
  • learning how to use tools as a creator NOT just a consumer
  • helping to build a positive digital identities based on your contributions to knowledge building in a discipline or around a topic
  • builds your literacy with open tools and practices

Make it easy to keep in touch:

      • desktop organizers/feed readers like Netvibes or Google Chrome apps and extensions make it easy for you to add feeds from your favorite sites or use widgets to manage your own sites (like Facebook and Twitter) – so that you can contribute your ideas from a single starting place.


The Digital Tattoo Project encourages critical discussion on topics surrounding digital citizenship and online identity. There are no correct answers and every person will view these topics from a different perspective. Be sure to complete the previous sections before answering the questions.

  • What are the strategies that you use to expand your networks of learning?
  • How does social media impact your learning networks?

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