Connected Pedagogy: Social Networks

We continue the weekly series of articles written by the various speakers who will be appearing at LEARNING LIVE in September. In the next in the series we hear from Steve Wheeler:

In a previous article I outlined some of the metrics around the use of digital media, technologies and social networks. I wrote that:

“The age of social technologies has radically transformed the way we live our lives, and that includes how we learn and teach. Connected students can become the nodes of their own production, and are creating more content than ever before as they perform their learning for global audiences.”

Most of us are connected to each other through numerous social media platforms. Global social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter support various forms of communication and sharing actions that were previously unavailable. Being able to share content as text, hyperlinks, video, audio and images allows us to be more versatile in the way we assimilate and apply knowledge. Recent ad hoc crowd sourcing projects such as #Blimage have shown that people can learn from each other in a distributed manner, through simple ideas such as sharing images and blogging about them. A large proportion of younger learners are perpetually online, constantly using their smartphones as gateways into this world.

However, being connected means more than using connected technologies. It also affords us a connected mentality, where we expect to be members of communities that are distributed. The idea that we are all members of various digital tribes, and that we gather around digital totems such as YouTube, Wikipedia and eBay, shows that connected extends beyond learning, to entertainment, commerce and culture. This influences our expectations as consumers of knowledge, and it will influence the way teachers will educate in the future. It involves our perception of emotional connection, along with a sense of belonging to a larger group of likeminded individuals.

Many writers have highlighted the power of the global digital tribe, particularly the way groups tend to solve problems more effectively than individual experts (Surowiecki, 2009). We read of how groups can self-organise and co-ordinate their actions in connected global environments (Shirky, 2008) and that there seems to be no limit what a tribe can do when it is given the appropriate tools (Godin, 2008). Mobile and personal technologies that are connected to global networks have afforded us with the priceless ability to collaborate and cooperate in new and inventive ways (Rheingold, 2002), and allow us to rapidly self organise into new collective forces (Tapscott and Williams, 2008). Connected technology not only gives us access to existing knowledge, it encourages and enables us to create new knowledge and share it widely to a global audience.

In the light of this, there are several key challenges for teachers in this ever shifting knowledge terrain, where students have the entire world of learning at their fingertips: What can you teach that will never go out of date, and that will create constant wonder in the minds of your students? What are you able to do that capitalises on, rather than negates, the potential of students’ personal devices? How can you optimise the connectedness that exists to create new and dynamic learning environments, so that students learn how to be citizens of the digital universe?

American president Woodrow Wilson once said: “I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.”

Godin, S. (2008) Tribes. London: Piatkus.
Rheingold, H. (2002) Smartmobs: The Next Social Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.
Shirky, C. (2008) Here Comes Everybody. London: Penguin.
Surowiecki, J. (2009) The Wisdom of Crowds. London: Abacus.
Tapscott, D. and Williams, A (2008) Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. London: Atlantic Books

About the author – Steve Wheeler:

Steve is a Learning Innovations Consultant and former Associate Professor of Learning Technologies at the Plymouth Institute of Education where he chaired the Learning Futures group and led the Computing and Science education teams. He continues to research into technology supported learning and distance education, with particular emphasis on the pedagogy underlying the use of social media and Web 2.0 technologies, and also has research interests in mobile learning and cybercultures.

He has given keynotes to audiences in more than 35 countries and is author of more than 150 scholarly articles, with over 6000 academic citations. An active and prolific edublogger, his blog Learning with ‘e’s is a regular online commentary on the social and cultural impact of disruptive technologies, and the application of digital media in education, learning and development. In the last few years it has attracted in excess of 7.5 million unique visitors.

See Steve Wheeler LIVE when he takes part in Learning Live in September – simply click here for further information.


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