Networked learning enables powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge. Experiencing it changes learners fundamentally. How do we construct personal meaning amid the chaos of this emerging medium?

In 2005 I began developing a concept titled The Networked Learning Manifesto. Based on The Cluetrain Manifesto, the seminal work of how social media changes markets, I outlined how emerging social networking technologies would influence learning and teaching. Building on these ideas, I want to expand educators’ thinking about networked learning and help begin to construct personal meaning for how it influences learning.

Networked Learning Manifesto

Learning is conversation consisting of human beings. Networks are enabling new learning, new conversations, and new relationships that simply were not possible in the past. Rather than being one to many, this learning is happening many to many. Networked learning is owned by people, not institutions, and cares little about demographic sectors.

Networked learning allows human beings to speak to each other in a powerful new way. It enables new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.  Networked learners are getting smarter, more informed, more organized, and are changing what it means to teach and what it means to learn.  Networked learners realize that they get far better information and support from one another than through traditional means.  Networked learners know more than schools do about their own learning.

Schools struggle to speak the same voice as networked learners.  Their attempts sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.  By speaking a language that is distant, uninviting, and arrogant they build walls instead of embracing the opportunity to communicate with their learners.  Schools need to talk with learners with whom they hope to create relationships, else networked learners will seek schools who speak their own language.

Networked learners are getting smarter, more informed, more organized, and are changing what it means to teach and what it means to learn.

Networked learners are communicating.  The conversations are happening in schools, in communities, and online.  People talking to people. Not just about rules, standardized tests, curriculum, and funding.  Schools depend heavily on these networks to generate and share critical knowledge that is learning.  When they are not constrained by fear and filters, the conversation they encourage sounds remarkably like learning.  Schools need to resist the urge to control these networked conversations. Communities are built through conversation.  Human speech about human concerns.  Schools must share the concerns of their communities, but first they must belong to a community. However, at the moment, millions of networked learners now perceive schools as little more than quaint legal fictions that are actively preventing these conversations from happening.

Smart schools will help the inevitable happen sooner. A healthy community organizes learners.

For networked learners, our allegiance is to ourselves‚ our friends, our acquaintances, even our sparring partners. Schools that have no part in networked learning also have no future. To traditional schools, communities of networked learners may appear confused, may sound confusing. However, we are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.  We are emerging and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.

Supporting Research

boyd, danah. “YouTube - danah boyd on Teenagers who are Living and Learning with Social Media.” 22 Sep 2009 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rmoc9F6fceQ>.

Locke, Chris et al. “The Cluetrain Manifesto.” The Cluetrain Manifesto. 22 Sep 2009 <http://www.cluetrain.com/>.

“National School Reform Faculty.” National School Reform Faculty. 22 Sep 2009 <http://www.nsrfharmony.org/protocols.html>.

Nussbaum-Beach, Sheryl, and Will Richardson. “Powerful Learning Practice.” Powerful Learning Practice. 22 Sep 2009 <http://plpnetwork.com/>.

Siemens, George. “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age.” Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. 22 Sep 2009 <http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm>.