Yes I believe open and networked e-learning undermines formal education because I have more questions than answers about open and networked learning.

Steve Downes provides answers with three main principles; interactivity, relevance, useability as the nitty gritty of online networking. In this presentation he highlights how these impact our use of social networking software.

The first aspect of a personal network is interactivity. Pushing or pulling; Steve Downes advocates to pull your audiences is a more favourable approach and others will be more receptive than to someone pushing their point. People (he explains patiently) participate in a personal learning network as individuals – to do so they need to communicate the ways they learn, delineate what is relevant and appropriate, and be willing to document their own activities, offering sequential accounts regularly, either in email groups, in weblogs, bebo, myspace or facebook to name just a few. He recommends that the best way to pull the reader, communicating in an authentic voice, which makes others more receptive. The building of a social identity, given the dynamics of an online network requires giving and taking and ongoing maintenance, it is delivered by a narrator with a context, – who often includes personal details, specific experience involving personal or educational gains. A networked collaboration is an explicit objective and the desired outcome of interaction.

These new electronic  pathways bring benefits like feeling connected and becoming more readily informed can be very rewarding. They bring us into direct contact with many more teachers and other people from other professions with a passion to communicate their vision, to debate, to teach and to collaborate. To me Steve Downes demonstrates the effectiveness of online networking. His dynamic commitment to leadership is inspiring and I can see how his influence would reach communities and organisations.

For Mark Prensky there is no debate: today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach. Requiring in addition, that students are to be more critically reflective in their self assessments and of their formal learning imposes more demands on digital natives time. Which should challenge teachers as digital immigrants to carefully consider informal network learning is where less output from them can mean more input from the learner. Wikieducator is a dynamic open entry that as a collaborative educational platform for publishing open learning resources, is just one innovative network that invites student to have an input.

The internet can readily blend a deep learning in a variety of ways. The following equivalency theorem of Anderson (2003, p.5) posits that:

deep and meaningful formal learning is supported as long as one of the three forms of interaction (student–teacher; student-student; student-content) is at a high level, although more than one of these three modes will likely provide a more satisfying educational experience.

Formal learning demands a personal response and yet there are many instances learning is internalised and will never communicate, somethings are illogicall, unknowable i.e. we can all attest to the shelf life of paradigms and the fallibility of the scientific model. Knowing has always been a collaborative process, not as settled, sure, and certifiable by authorities as we were once led to believe. Formal education just happens to be one way to learn. Where we an grow individuals it is in combination of ways.

Its supporting all three of the deep and meaningful interactive educational modes. Formal learning historically has often been regarded as objective. With the advent of what Peters (2004) describes as ‘network-based distance education’ formal teaching provides access to digital media and the Internet, allows alternative forms of engaging in learning interactively. Navigating the web covers a raft of responses to online material: searching, evaluating, storing managing, and copying material across an online public forums provided by the digital delivery software (closed and open learning).

Network learning is done by both defining boundaries and crossing them. Forming and revisiting connections, relationships, dialogues and collaborations with others, some of whom are defenders of their disciplines and their familiar organising tools.

The network asks for another learning theory, one being advanced by George Siemens claiming that it is consistent with the needs of the digital age is connectivism. Connectivism is a learning theory for the digital age redefining learning so that it is reflective of social environments in which formal learning no longer comprisies the majority of learning across web 2.0, though communities of practice personal networks ane through completion of work-related tasks. Knowing -what is supplemented with knowing how to find and evaluate, in order share our expereince with each other.

Networked education promises to augment and already proves to enhance learning outcomes that will increase access to other formal education opportunities. There are important additional characteristics to critique an environmental aspects of learning. Note: there are self paced, self assessed and when theory doesn’t always give rise to practice, there are open-ended interactive forums to sound things out, get support, advice. The student, can bring a “seeing with new eyes” that serves to refresh the subjective, revise the objective and re-invigorate the collaborative pursuit of knowledge and its applications.

I have more questions than answers about open and networked learning and I believe none of us have ever been the people our education system was designed to teach.

How do I leave out the evaluation, the critic and the editor out of the authentic voice? There are publishing authors who claim that an authentic narrator should not confuse the creative muse (our first thoughts) and our editor. This is not easy as I can attest from countless attempts only to find, it is those first thoughts that inspire a censoring editor. If the objective is to evaluate and discuss academic articles, is it realsitic to have an authentic voice. Not always.

I try to imagine the addition online didactic learning networks for teachers must be like. So many have already involved email networks with members corresponding about topical subjects can involve long threads that are time consuming to follow and other social contracts like it or not need to be taken seriously like students, colleages, managers, friends, family and tall dark strangers.

In reflection one of the many challenges to optimise formal learning is to bring a focus as wide as possible when writing and also focus widely in the effort to prioritise when the online network impinges the offline networks and the day to day demands to attend to. I find this is a very tricky balancing act. Somethings got to give.

victoria wellington