Networked Learning: Ok, But What Would It Really Look Like?

For the first half of Gardner Campbell’s “Networked Learning as Experiential Learning,” I was wishing that I had a clearer definition of what he believed “networked learning” to be. Is it learning that simply creates interpersonal relationships? For example, working in a corporate company allows many employees to network, meet a variety of people, and maintain connections all over the world. Does it mean building your working knowledge of a topic or discipline off of the learning of others who have come before you? Or, could it refer to online learning in a general way?

After reading the whole article, I would think it could mean any one or all of those things at the same time.  But one line from Campbell struck a chord with me: “The common denominator is a real-world context that provides deeply integrative opportunities for classroom-based learning to be applied to complex and complexly situated problems or opportunities” (Campbell, para. 3). I just started my teaching experience last semester when I was the instructor of record for Virginia Tech’s 1106 section of First-Year Writing. I am now teaching two sections of 1105. I have found that I am a firm believer in this  idea of “real-world context” (Campbell, para. 3). Most of my students are looking to major in a STEM field, not the humanities, because this is, after all, Virginia Tech. I am always wondering how I can make this required English class more relevant to a real-world situation or what we can talk about/read/do that would provide them with real world skills. Honestly, I am terrified of their leaving this class and thinking that it was a complete waste of their time.

So what would Networked Learning look like in my context? What would it really look like for freshmen in 1105 or 1106, and how could it possibly be framed in a “real-world” context? I then read Tim Hitchcock’s “Twitter and Blogs are Not Just Add-Ons to Academic Research.” I have read articles on Genre Pedagogy that talk about using the Blog as a means of making sure students can narrow down 8-10 pages of writing into a bite size morsel or as using the Blog as the final project altogether–ideas which I have never been crazy about considering implementing.

Hitchcock stated something that I found interesting, but something that I think wouldn’t directly translate to freshmen in a class they have about 5% desire to take: “Twitter and blogs, and embarrassingly enthusiastic drunken conversations at parties, are not add-ons to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion that underpins it” (Hitchcock, para. 4). This explains bloggers in a new light to me. They’re so passionate about a subject that they talk about it in multiple ways and genres. This would also explain why I have never enjoyed blogging in the classroom environment. I simply have not been passionate enough about a topic, I suppose. So yeah–would my freshmen students care enough about their argument paper topic to want to write a blog or two about it? I tend to think no, but I guess it really depends on the topic they choose/whether I let them choose it or not.

But Hitchcock believes that undergraduates writing becomes more clear, concise, and, well, readable with the implementation of blogs (para. 8). So, I’m thinking that for my class, a successful example of networked learning could be that I have students start an online discussion about their thoughts on a paper topic, as a means of talking through their ideas before they start running with them? If every student offers at least one fully-baked thought or opinion on another student’s post, I think that could be helpful and a different, interactive learning experience. The students wouldn’t have to take on another’s advice, only read it and think about it. Because this type of brainstorming, sound-boarding, and collaboration does, in fact, occur in the real world, and these type of activities are always something for which I am on the lookout.

 

Works Cited:

Campbell, Gardner. “Networked Learning as Experiential Learning.” EduCause Review, 11 January 2016,  er.educause.edu/articles/2016/1/networked-learning-as-experiential-learning, Accessed 3 Sept 2017.

Hitchcock, Tim. “Twitter and Blogs are Not Just Add-Ons to Academic Research.” LSE Impact, 28 July 2014, The London School of Economics and Political Science, blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2014/07/28/twitter-and-blogs-academic-public-sphere/. Accessed 3 Sept 2017.