Networked Learning: Moving Forward, Going Backwards

Hello readers, today I am embarking in my second-ever official blog post. The first one was about how certain pigeons were populating the high buildings in Colombia due to deforestation destroying their natural habit, but that post never flew like I was hoping (blogging Going Backwards), similar to how the pigeons did not fly from my balcony. But eventually they did. So here I am giving it another try (blogging Moving Forward). Thanks to the GEDI (Graduate Education Development Institute) team at VT for “awakening” my blogging desires again.

After the related/not-so-much-related introduction, it is time to move Forward into the core of this post: Networked Learning and the need of enhancing Internet use in today’s education.

In his article “Networked Learning as Experiential Learning“, Gardner Campbell conveys an interesting message regarding higher education in 2008: having a career and being competent at whatever chosen field was being more important than asking questions and understanding the real human capacity. To a certain degree, that same context can still be applied today. Internships, study abroad programs and undergraduate research (where possible) have certainly gained popularity, and allowed undergraduate students to apply the theoretical knowledge outside the classroom. However, the use of the Internet, as a medium for even greater interactions, still appears to be missing after all these years of having a “connected world”.

It is like technology and communication possibilities are advancing (Moving Forward), but the share and spread of knowledge in higher education environments, mainly at the undergraduate level, is somewhat stagnant or even Going Backwards. In multiple occasions assignments written by students are read only by the instructor or a GTA, they are not shared even with their classmates to generate collective improvement, and ultimately end up in recycle or forgotten in an archive. At least in the past, in the times of the ancient Greeks, there was more discussion and collective learning was being developed.

Plenty of people interact today through the web, either by just exchanging emails or by being more active in platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Sharing ideas/experiences through YouTube videos and blogging have become quite popular; some people even live from doing it. Yet, the integration of these tools to higher education is still in its infancy. There are plenty of reasons/excuses for this disconnect between education and high-impact communication tools, to name a few: cybersecurity risks, professors’ teaching preferences, students’ learning possibilities (not all have equal access to these tools, not even today), cellphones being a distraction in the classroom, etc. However, just as the pigeons flew away after the balcony was no longer suitable, due to some drastic/non-lethal aesthetic renovations, the gaps that apparently separate classrooms from the connected digital world can be also overcome with some creative/innovative/collective team work. Something a member of the GEDI community should be prepared for and eager to contribute with.

Like in all journeys, being well prepared is fundamental to potentially be successful, and in this journey of enhancing the “Networked Learning” professors and students, and possibly other stakeholders, must be ready to talk in the right language (human and machine).

Let’s keep learning, let’s keep educating, let’s keep moving forward.

– Carlos F. Mantilla P.



Filed under GEDI F17

12 Responses to Networked Learning: Moving Forward, Going Backwards

  1. So, I’m pretty intrigued by the pigeons (and I love the allusion to the not-published post not really flying). Yes, to moving forward and to leveraging the open web for communication, interaction and what Campbell identifies as “experiential learning.” It is about being well-prepared for whatever comes, but also much more. And I really appreciate you highlighting the digital divide, which remains a challenge. Curiosity is the first step. Access is the second. Progress without those two is pretty much impossible.

    • Carlos F Mantilla P

      Hi Dr. Nelson. Well, the image in this link (if it works properly) will more or less illustrate the pigeon situation ( … usually we would have three to five visitors in different windows or in the balcony…perhaps the fact that one of the neighbors liked to feed them encouraged the visit…but nevertheless it is a problem faced in multiple cities in Colombia and companies have developed different “solutions” to prevent the pigeons from staying…once they even left some eggs and that ended…well… sad and not pleasant story…..I agree with the curiosity and the access, and I would add from other posts: the will to let go the fear of being open and sharing

  2. zhanyu

    Your post got me thinking about whether our current grading schemes impede students from learning together and sharing. The fact that each person is assigned a grade – a number differentiating the level of competence…from each other – is discouraging collaboration…lest they’re called on for “cheating” or “plagiarism.” I wonder if networked learning calls for an updated format of student evaluation, one that reflects and encourages student engagement and contribution.

    • Carlos F Mantilla P

      Hi Zhanyu, thank you for your comment, I think it is definitely something to analyze, and like all changes, it could be a hard one to do, but if outcome sounds good, then why not?…. if you haven’t done so, I invite you to read debjitg post’s about the prisoner’s dilemma…can be easily applied to a competitive classroom environment

  3. You bring up a great point about access to technology (as did Dr. Nelson). Relying on tools like Twitter and Facebook can hold back students barred from using these, either through their geographic location — Facebook is banned in China — through ability differences that make social media harder to use (like print disabilities). I don’t think we can meaningfully talk about networked learning, with its ethos of openness/connectivity, without discussing access issues. And, in fact, a conversation about access can turn into one that highlights the inner workings of the web, the unique possibilities engendered by this tool, and what we can do to facilitate scholarship online across the globe.

    • Carlos F Mantilla P

      Hi Emma, yes equitable access or open access…I guess with time we might get there, trying to be optimistic but also a little realistic that it might take more time that what we would like…so step by step showing the benefits of open learning might lead to business enterprises interested in giving that open access…for instance it is good to see that some cities in Colombia have started to provide free wi-fi through the city…but even with free wi-fi, if you don’t have the hardware to use it then the problem persists…

  4. Amy Hermundstad

    Thanks for your post! I really enjoyed reading it. Your point about a disconnect between education and a high-impact practice such as networked learning is really interesting. It reminded me of one of the points that Kuh made in his article on High Impact Practices. It is not only important to incorporate high-impact practices; it is also important that these practices be implemented in sequence and connected to other high-impact practices to foster higher levels of engagement and learning.

    • Carlos F Mantilla P

      Hi Amy, very true…a true network must be created…and we are focusing here on higher-education but the branches of the tree must reach everywhere for it to be really strong ( high school, business, government)…it goes in hand with the discussion made by Hitchcock on incorporating Twitter and blogging into the research world

  5. Carlos, great writing. I liked how you talked about the undergraduate study and how ideas are dying. This is a great point to work on. Like having a common ground where students can go through the ideas of the fellow students. BTW, back in my country, we have some species of pigeons that like to live in high buildings rather than in the woods. I am a big fan of pigeon meat!! you?

    • Carlos F Mantilla P

      Thanks Syeed, on the pigeons…are you sure they prefer the buildings? or they have no choice? …I guess they might prefer the buildings in Colombia too…I have never eaten pigeon meat, so…

  6. zlwang

    Hi Carlos, I like that you mentioned digital innovation. Usually, we would think that digital innovation is the business of the IT domain. Yet, using an innovative digital product does not always get people much more value or meaning if they are still doing things in similar ways. The IT domain gives us opportunities, but it is us the users who get value out of a technology. Just like blogging has been there for years, still people do not know much about its potential in education. It takes effect only when there is a well-investigated and designed teaching strategy by the teacher and when students are really “experiencing” it.

    • Carlos F Mantilla P

      Hi, you are absolutely right, and as a future teacher, that is definitely a challenge in front, design a teaching strategy to incorporate the creation of digital products and connect the students in a greater way.

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