My background is in the Humanities – Economics. I’ve always thought it a no-brainer that people and groups working together in networks achieved better results than individuals working alone. At work, my staff rooms have always included colleagues who readily shared and assisted each other – despite regular philosophic and political differences. Learning was truly about the ability to create and navigate networks (thanks George) – our working definition of Connectivism.

Recently, the Vocational Education sector in Australia has seen a seismic shift in the nature of its networks. Legislation and some managerial practices have encouraged a paradigm of competition and commercialisation between our Registered Training Organisations. One of the outcomes has been the dismantling and discouragement of many of the effective networks we relied upon and the subsequent need to re-create these in different formats for different purposes. Stephen’s outline of “Learning Networks – Theory and Practice” tells us this growth and change is essential, as networks can’t be controlled and the democratic processes need to take their course to allow the participants to learn how to tap into this distributed knowledge.

It’s intriguing to watch the range of networks in operation- those that are “officially” sanctioned and those which spring up as professionals see the need.

Another outcome has been the unwillingness of some to share their resources and ideas as this may give an advantage to a competitor and therefore lead to a loss of students. All of this at a time when the infrastructure and the tools exist to enhance and improve the sharing that we have used successfully for a long time.

Speaking of tools, in my readings and research this week I came across a paper from Macquarie University in Sydney. Gibbs and Gosper in “The Upside Down World of E-Learning” outline the way that e-learning and its implementation has been driven by the tools and not by the pedagogy. They assert that many of the early technologies “promote narrow pedagogies – the delivery of content – centric instruction via a transmission model of learning” (p47). Instead the technology needs to lead to “the creation of learning environments and sequences that provide opportunities for multi-user collaborative activities or the co-construction of knowledge – both representative of current learning theory” (p48).”

In one of my recent roles I facilitated a range of professional development activities with teachers outlining to them many of new Web 2.0 and other technology tools available to them. At one point a team of teachers concluded a session by saying “don’t give us choices, just tell what you want us to do”.  Looking forward to exploring this further with some upcoming topics.