Monday, 3 October 2011

Networked intelligence

One of my favourite definitions of a service is that it is networked intelligence.

From my own experience, I know how valuable the network of blogs and Twitter feeds are that I regularly connect with.

They furnish me with ideas I wouldn't have thought of, promote a self-reflexivity that would otherwise exist only as a weak, stunted wretch, and inspire me to improve my practice in ways I had never imagined.

It is the very definition of a networked intelligence in action.

It is exciting, liberating, and stimulating, so why don't more people use it?

I am thinking here particularly of my learners.

I read this wonderful article recently about the faddishness of online learning, as if it had reached its limits and was somehow receding into the past, like hula hoops and cabbage patch dolls.

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach argues, correctly in my opinion, that we have hardly begun to utilise our online resources and she lists a whole array of possibilities, only some of which I can say I use.

On the whole, however, my learners don't use any form of online community at all, either for personal development generally, or language learning in particular.

Their intelligences are islanded, or peninsulaed at best, if I can neologise for a moment, rather than networked.

(Ironically, if they were networked, they may well be able to do without me, or at least specify more clearly the role which they would like me to play in their learning.)

So what can I do?

I can encourage my learners to explore online communities of learning, show them in action, and even create mini-ones for their use, but I can't make them use them.

There has to be a moment when they click with each individual user, when they experience a benefit or glean an insight that they had not expected.

Until that happens, online communities mean nothing to the uninvolved user.

As Dean Shareski points out, 'simply removing the barriers to something doesn’t by itself make it meaningful, it just makes it more possible.'

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