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The Networked Student, Wendy Drexler, 2008

The Networked Student, Wendy Drexler, 2008

EdTech 504 Module 4 Reflection

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.

~ African proverb

Being connected definitely allows us to go further in education. Students and teachers want to connect, collaborate and create; and social media advances these 3 “Cs”. Learning, or should I say, how we learn has changed greatly. Technology does affect what we do on a daily basis. To find out what is new in the world we no longer need a newspaper or a radio or a television. Instead we simply pick up our smartphones, open an app like Twitter, or “Google” it ,and the latest news is brought directly to us. To talk to someone, we can “text” or “message” or “Skype”. Because communication is so much easier to achieve, we are more connected than we have ever been. This new “connectedness” means that previous learning theories aren’t quite right for us any more; we need a theory that addresses this change. Connectivism is an emerging learning theory that actually considers the impact that technology has on teaching and learning. Downes (2007) describes it best with this summary: “At its heart, connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks.” Knowledge can be shared and exchanged more readily, which is a good thing because knowledge seems to be changing at an ever increasing rate. What we know today could be outdated in as little as six months. So our need for current knowledge and our need to be connected have come together in connectivism.

Nowadays teachers and students must network, hence the terms networked teachers or networked students. To collaborate, to create, to share–we need networks. Thanks to social media, the Internet, and improved mobile technology, we can build our own personal learning environment (PLE) or personal learning network (PLN). Hamilton, a high school librarian, defines the networked teacher and student in her paper. Hamilton (via the course she co-taught with Lester) wanted to prove that learners could initiate and sustain their own conversations for learning over an extended period of time if technology and collaboration are employed. To achieve these goals the instructors had students use a variety of digital tools to collect and evaluate research/evidence (Symbaloo and Scoop.it), share findings and provide peer feedback (WordPress), as well as reflect upon their own learning (Netvibes). The instructors taught the course using the same resources the students were expected to use when learning. Because social media and cloud computing were integral to the course, the classroom was open 24/7. The teachers and the students could “virtually” communicate and / or collaborate after hours through blogs, wikis and email. This scenario reflects a “network” or networks in action. The instructors’ roles involved modelling the “tools” and the desired interaction or connectedness, and the students’ roles involved becoming networked or collaborative beings.

This reading affected me so much so that I have tested some of Hamilton’s approaches with our grade 9s this term. Another teacher and myself are creating our own connected network using similar tools in order to teach students how to write a research paper. So far we have incorporated social bookmarking using Scoop.it and collaboration using Google drive (documents). Students love sharing their Scoop.it pages with each other! A sense of community also exists because of the shared LibGuide on “searches and synonyms” which allows students to view video clips on how to complete an advanced Google search or experiment with the visual thesaurus to broaden search terms. The guide is a springboard–it lets the students jump off from there into the world of the Internet where they can explore, inquire, collect and share. Our students aren’t at the point of creating their own PLN just yet (we are steering them in that direction) but they are beginning to create their own PLE. From this point we can go further– together!

While researching the interrelationship between connectivism, the use of collaborative digital tools and literacy instruction in the present-day classroom, I came across Drexler’s “networked” student diagram (see the image included at the top of the page). Drexler based her diagram of the networked student on Couros’ diagram of the networked teacher. Drexler believed that if a teacher could network so could a student — especially when implementing a connectivist approach to learning (via an inquiry project). Finding Drexler’s diagram and her writings also influenced my view of connectivism. At first I wasn’t sure completely sold on the theory. But Hamilton and Drexler, with their concrete inquiry courses and projects, have convinced me that there’s something to this theory. Technology and its impact on learning can no longer be dismissed. We are witnessing the effects of technology everyday in our classrooms. Students want to be connected. They use social media tools on their own time–so we need to tap into their interests and use them in the classroom. It is our job to ensure that they use these tools effectively and appropriately. We need a workforce that is adaptive, collaborative, and connected.To achieve this, teachers also need to network. The teacher is no longer the know it all at the front of the room. Today you and the learner can literally switch places. You share and they learn, or they share and you learn. Sometimes you are an expert sometimes you aren’t, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Although there are some scholars who are holding off on fully accepting this theory, like Kop and Hill for instance, it would appear that more people are seeing connectivism as a real learning theory especially when projects or assignments are constructed based upon the principles behind the theory.  In fact, my Ed Tech 504 Synthesis paper is focused on convincing someone like Kop and Hill to change their minds about this theory. To them it isn’t a  true learning theory because it is not driving educational curriculum – yet. Unlike some though, Kop and Hill are warming up to the idea when they stated that connectivism will continue to play an important role in the “development and emergence of new pedagogies where control shifts from the tutor to a more autonomous learner.” Time will tell of course.

Our drive to be connected, more importantly, our students desire to be connected, will decide the outcome of this debate. Being human, means being connected. We want to connect. Fortunately, advancements in technology are helping us to connect in a variety of ways. Simply put, it is ensuring that we can truly be networked teachers or students.


Downes, S. (2007). What connectivism is. Half an Hour. Retrieved from http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2007/02/what-connectivism-is.html

Drexler, W. (2010). The networked student model for construction of personal learning environments: Balancing teacher control and student autonomy. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(3), 369-385.

Hamilton, B. J. (2012). Embedded librarianship in a high school library. Library Technology Reports, 48(2), 21-26.

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 9(3), 1–13.