There’s more to it than the Internet and social software

The following is a bit of reflection and curation of various posts from participants in the netgl course. There’ll be a few of these coming. The aim for this post is to suggest that there might be more to the “networked” part of Networked and Global Learning than just the Internet and social media. This is an important point to make because the interventions design by the folk from last year’s offering of the course were a little too limited in their focus on the Internet and various forms of social media.

At some level, the argument here is similar to the one from this post titled “Why everything is a network” i.e. not that everything is a network, or that a network is the only metaphor by which to understand a whole range of situations. It is to suggest, however, that a network is a useful model/metaphor through which to understand and guide interventions in a range of situations.

And this is a view that can trace its origins beyond just learning, teaching and education. Barabasi (2014) writes

Networks are present everywhere. All we need is an eye for them.

and then goes on to show how a network perspective provides ways to understand as diverse topics as: the success of Paul in spreading Christianity; how to cure a disease; and, the rise of terrorism. Leading to the

important message of this book: The construction and structure of graphs or networks is the key to understanding the complex world around us. Small changes in the topology, affecting only a few of the nodes or links, can open up hidden doors, allowing new possibilities to emerge (p. 12)

Changes in purchasing books

For example, in thinking about the future of Tertiary education Lisa talks about changes in the publishing industry, including her own behaviour around purchasing books

as this industry seems to be floundering and I only have to look at my own behaviour as a consumer to see why. As a book consumer, I can say I do still read, but I get my books from the places that are cheapest and easiest for me – Amazon and Audible (owned by Amazon). Why would I spend $45.00 on a hard-copy book from a shop when I can listen to it on the way to work by paying an audible credit that costs less than $13.00? Why would I order a book from a retailer that may take months to arrive that I can download to my Kindle app instantly – and cheaply?

Changes that I observe in my own practice. But also more than that. The Barabasi quote from above is from the Kindle version of the book I purchased. I read that book mostly while traveling to and from Wagga Wagga using my phone. Highlighting bits that were relevant to me and making annotations as I went. In writing this post, I’ve started up the Kindle app on my Mac, synced with Amazon, and was able to view all my annotations and highlights. Not only that, I was able to also see the popular highlights from other people.

The experiences of both Lisa and I illustrate how digital books are making it easier to create links or connections between nodes. Both Lisa and I find it much easier to “connect” (i.e. buy) a book via the combination of Amazon and the Kindle apps. Not only in terms of price, but also in terms of speed. Having the content in a digital form that can be manipulated also helps make links to specific parts of the book.

Barabasi (2014) writes

Nodes always compete for connections because links represent survival in an interconnected world.

Amazon is currently winning a large part of the publishing “war” because it is making the ability to “link” to a book or other publication much easier. The more links it is able to create, the more likely it will be able to survive.

What if there isn’t a network?

Angela ponders “The challenge of networked learning when there is no Network…” as she enjoys a weekend away from Internet connectivity and apparently no ability to engage in netgl. Of course, Angela has forgotten that she had taken along one of the most complex networks we currently know, her brain.

The Connected Brains website makes prominent use of this quote from Tim Berners-Lee

There are billions of neurons in our brains, but what are neurons? Just cells. The brain has no knowledge untill connections are made between neurons. All that we know, all that we are, comes from the way our neurons are connected.

The website then goes onto to trace some of the history and research going on that seeks to understand the brain as a complex network.

In a post title “Connectivism as a learning theory” Stephen Downes makes the connection between the view of the brain as a network, a weakness in other theories of learning, and how connectivism addresses this by viewing learning as “the formation of connections in a network”.

In closing

…much more to come, it’s been a fruitful week for netgl blogging.

But the point here is that the “network” part of netgl is much more than just social software and the Internet. This is perhaps the most visible parts of netgl to the participants, but these aren’t the only examples of, nor are they required for netgl.

6 thoughts on “There’s more to it than the Internet and social software

  1. lenandlar

    Thanks for sharing. Is there an aggregate of students blogs (assuming they are sharing online ) and to the course outline or so (for free ie ). Thanks again. Love the way you connected to those different papers and ideas – Barabasi, Downes etc. That makes your point further even if implicitly so

  2. Pingback: Understanding learning as network formation | The Weblog of (a) David Jones

  3. Pingback: As a student, participation in NGL was useful for me. | teachfacilitatelearngrow

  4. Pingback: Understanding and using the idea of “network learning” – The Weblog of (a) David Jones

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