Creating Cyber Connections

We have been reflecting lately on the significance of our network in helping us learn and grow as scholars, as teachers, and as co-learners. Often, people associate the term network with the infrastructure of computer systems. But, what has this important term come to mean for learning in the context of digital pedagogy and the social web? Who do we connect with and how do we share on the web? How do networks facilitate and expand the scope of our own learning? We have met and worked with many new colleagues from around the globe, thanks in part, to the power of networks. But, what are the key aspects of networks that engender such possibility for new human connection?

This question will be considered more thoroughly in the upcoming collection entitled Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments published by MLA in the MLA Commons. Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities is a series of featured “keywords” that will be available for open peer review and public comment. The project is being staged in batches and certain keywords have already been released for open peer review such as:  “failure”; “multimodal”; “poetry”; “professionalization”; “project management”; “race”; “sexuality”; and “text analysis.” In an upcoming phase, we will be curating the keyword “networks.” 

In getting started with our work, we feel inspired to kickstart our process of curating our keyword “networks” by going meta. Hence, as we attempt to gather the most significant references and models out there, we are inviting all of you (from our networks) to help us make sure we have covered the most important aspects of the term “networks.” We figure that if we are going to write about networks, we may as well leverage our own networks to make the understanding of the term even better. The official phase of open peer review of our eventual curation will come once we finalize our frame for understanding “networks” but, we see no reason not to involve people in the earlier generative phase of our consideration of this term

Here is what we are currently thinking (*very early stages)

We are looking at the following (not mutually-exclusive) categories:

  1. Social networks — as in tools like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and whatever else lies in the future. We would be looking at artifacts of their use in pedagogy, by people like Jesse Stommel and Pete Rorabaugh, and we would be looking at exploration of power and influence on social networks, such as Bonnie Stewart’s dissertation research.
  2. Networked learning — as in focusing on the approach to learning being networked, connectivist, connected. Here we are thinking of the work of Siemens, Downes, Cormier, and the new participatory culture work from Henry Jenkins, Mimi Ito, Danah Boyd, as well as the significant contribution from Howard Rheingold. We are thinking of artifacts such as the early cMOOCs by Siemens and Downes, and more recent ones like #rhizo14/15, #ccourses, #clmooc and such. We also do not want to ignore the early history of networked learning from the early days of eLearning, pre-social media and MOOCs.
  3. Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) — as in focusing on relationships and connections between people. Here we focus on work that has been done on this topic by the likes of Alec Couros and Jeff Merrell, and we give examples of opportunities for building personal learning networks such as Virtually Connecting.

We have started an open document in order to collect initial thoughts, references, citations, and examples of “networks.” We encourage everyone to add their ideas and links to materials into our Google Doc. If you’d like to participate via Twitter, please tweet a link to your reference or whatever you would like to add using the hashtag #CurateNetworks (please tag @Bali_Maha and/or @MiaZamoraPhD). We will add an acknowledgement section at the bottom of our article for everyone who contributes. Let’s use the power of networks in order to collectively apprehend “networks!”

Banner image credit: Pascal Charest