Openness in networks

Openness in networks

I have had several fascinating conversations this week between people who would like to see online social networks used more fully in education and those who emphatically do not. My own view is that such networks can and should be used where appropriate to the learning tasks, but that students (and staff) will need training in order to understand what they are doing and to use the applications responsibly. I have heard some “fundamentalist” arguments that external applications such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter etc should never be used for education (despite the well documented advantages for student support and engagement). I have also heard a totally gung-ho “bring-it-on” attitude that rushes to adopt every new technology. In my view, both are wrong! The benefits of the new wave of web 2.0 applications, apart from the networking potential, are the peer-to-peer co-creation of knowledge, and also the unpredictability of the network connections. Not for nothing has it been called “disruptive education”. While I do firmly believe that the ‘established’ educational system does need to be disrupted and encouraged to embrace the online innovation that is hitting every other sector of society, I am not in favour of incautiously experimenting on students. The way that we teach people to deal with new technology, such as online social networks, is not to ban it or smother it in regulations, but to work with students so that they learn the benefits and disadvantages and through this we all understand what constitutes “appropriate behaviour” . I was reminded of a wonderful educational quote that “We learn about democracy by acting democratically” and following on from this I adapted this great image from those social media known as ‘Wikipedia’ and the ‘Creative Commons’ to reflect on another misguided attempt to dictate how people should think and with whom they should network.

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One thought on “Openness in networks”

  1. Frank,
    You should speak to Dr Emma Clayes at Perth, who has recently conducted some research in this area. Results were interesting, and (from memory) seem to back up what you’re saying.

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