Towards the networked school….

I spent quite a bit of today working on an introductory section to a handbook that will be published shortly for New Zealand schools that are already or are interested in becoming a part of a Learning Community Online on the Virtual Learning Network. The diagram above is a summary of a section in what I’ve been writing that attempts to summarize the changes we’re experiencing in moving from traditional teaching and learning environments towards the concept of the networked school in a virtual environment. You can download a PDF version of the diagram and explanation here:  The emerging Networked School environment – I would be keen to receive feedback on the ideas before it is finalised.

13 thoughts on “Towards the networked school….

  1. Structure and concept good easy to follow. Is there a place for face-to-face/blended learning especially at junior primary in your future vision. Good conceptual futuristic ideas but are they feasible and accessible to every student? Rural, underprivileged etc.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Anne – I certainly see a place for f2f/blended learning, perhaps I need to make that more explicit in the diagram 🙂
      In terms of being feasible, it is the rural sector that is leading the charge with the concept of virtual education – the VLN has more than 300 courses already offering, and an increasing number of schools connected. The clusters involved have been working through the issues of sharing EFTs and staffing, timetabling etc for ten years now. The big issue is now (a) getting the faster broadband services to the rural areas for them to take advantage of the newer technologies, and (b) bringing this same level of thinking and pedagogical practice into the urban areas.

  2. Hi Derek,

    It’s a good summary and pulls together lots of the work that we’ve been doing over the last few years in an easy to understand form. One of the things that I am particularly keen to encourage, but which doesn’t appear explicitly is that of virtual team-teaching. Technology allows for the traditional one teacher – one class model (necessitated because of the physical world) to be changed to a many teachers -one class or many/many. So I’d add a row for organisation of teachers that shows how teaching need not be a solitary occupation in a distributed, virtual world.

  3. Good point Trevor – although it’s not actually a new concept in terms of where it fits in the timescale. There have been some excellent examples of team teaching in primary settings in particular, but also in some secondary settings for many years now – and there are examples of this that have flowed into the online world from the beginning of work in this area. While I agree that the technology does allow for this in the virtual world (I’ve taught collaboratively online since the mid 1990s) I don’t see it as a phenomenon associated with technology. The impetus to teach collaboratively is borne out of a pedagogical disposition – enabled by the creative use of physical classroom space as much as it is by technology and the online world.
    That said, the point I take from what you are saying is that the networked school will provide far greater opportunities to operate collaboratively, for both students and teachers, and that these need to be explored and exploited in whatever for they can – whether F2F or online – or blended.

  4. This is very timely and useful for us thanks Derek. Technology (the web in particular) does enable collaboration across schools though, which hasn’t really occurred to any great extent so far (although I’m sure there are some examples out there). There is a chance to completely re-think the way schooling works in NZ.

  5. i dont really get it derek, are we heading for some big shared education network that will link bunches of schools, teachers, teaching and information? if so then yawn from me.

    maybe im getting totally the wrong end of the stick.
    In the PDF it appears that the networked school does things that the connected school doesnt. I think comments like learning in an authentic and real world context will happen in a networked school but not in a connected school is wrong and ambiguous. several of the other perceived outcomes in the networked school are on shakey ground too. actually removing young children from the true things they know exist, to a screen and a network may actually blur the boundaries of real world contexts.

    I know your information would be far better explained, presented, but from afar it appears to be less appealing. which is part of the reasoning of not relying on the networked web to bring you closer to the future school of utopia

    1. Luke – thanks for your feedback, pithy as expected 🙂 It’s very important to me that this sort of document succeeds in communicating ideas succinctly and clearly, and clearly there is work to do on it yet. I agree that it would probably make more sense to have the explanation around it, and there certainly is in the longer document we’re writing up – this is simply the summary. Regarding the networked future – this isn’t simply about kids sitting in front of screens, this vision is more about what the paradigm beyond the “autonomous, self managing school” of 1989 was all about. It’s about schools, and learners for that matter, being nodes on a learning network in much more profound ways that we experience at the moment by simply being “connected”, although some of the indicators of what this might look like are embedded in the practices of social networks and Web2.0 environments. There are implications in all of this for how we see schools being funded in the future, the appointment of staff, the allocation of roles to teachers, and of students to ‘courses’ etc. Perhaps has most significance to our current secondary schools – but consider the implications for the hundreds of smaller, rural and isolated primary schools too.

  6. Hi, Derek.
    Well I totally do ‘get it’, thanks! As a teacher I am continually frustrated by our lack of connectivity at every scale; student-student, student-teacher, teacher-teacher, teacher-school, school-school, school-district, district-district! We continually reinvent the wheel, make up our own (often flawed) assessments, attempt to make curriculum engaging yet there are resources out there that do a far better job.

    I see teachers becoming experts at learning. I see students owning their own learning goals, and progressing as individual learners, not as a homogenious group of factory learners. I see schools and parents, students, and teachers connected to learning so we all have timely information about progress towards goals. I see a day when a student needn’t be in class everyday, and that will be a great day!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Mike – glad you “got it” 🙂 I’ve just spent the evening with a group of principals and education leaders from seven different countries, all of whom were expressing concerns similar to yours about the lack of connectivity at a system level. It was of interest to me to note the strategies that are being adopted in many of these countries – several very pro-active responses at a system level, including new organisational structures.

  7. A good conversation being gad by all with some interesting and valid points to take note of Derek. Just to let you know the links to the PDF etc are not working. Live long and prosper

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