Networking is the new learning !

My experience of pedagogy from school to college to even some part of grad school has been same. I had always thought that the conventional way i.e. a single person talks to a group of people sitting in a hall trying to explain them what he/she knows or what the book says, the group of people try to grasp as much as they can and make notes, work on homeworks/ assignments and finally give an exam and the grade is a marker of how much they actually learned, was the tried and tested way of teaching and learning.

But last semester when I took the Communicating Science course, my thinking completely changed. That course was all about communication with the fellow classmates, communicating your research to them, getting their feedback, getting their appreciation, writing news articles about each other’s research etc. What was happening was that I was presenting my work number of times to different people with varied research backgrounds and in the process I was building a network, which helped me learn and understand my research in a different and better way. What this course helped me realize was that networked learning is really important and effective.

Coming back to the method 1, is the conventional method which is still the most prevalent one around the world, really effective? Because many grades on my transcript( and of most people’s) are the result of studying restlessly a day or two before the exams and not real learning. However, the method 2 which encourages the “learners” to engage in discussion, debate, dialogue and learn a lot more in the process is really effective. A great example of this would be the discussion we had in the first class of Contemporary Pedagogy. I really wasn’t aware of the discussed aspects of the Learning management systems and just listening to people talk about their perspective on the topic helped me learn a lot and actually encouraged me to go back and research more about it.

I think there is a need to change our understanding of “learning” and the pedagogy will play a crucial part in it. Courses like Contemporary Pedagogy or Communicating science need to be introduced to a wider audience and young teachers and future professors like us should inculcate these new approaches while teaching.

Looking forward to a lot more ‘networked learning’ throughout the semester and fellow learners, feel free to pitch in your ideas/comments/views on this topic.

13 thoughts on “Networking is the new learning !”

  1. I really like your thought about the networked learning, and I agree with what you said. The learning is not a person who should stand front of you in the classroom and just give you a lot of information that you should memories. So, the learning should be also through the web, learning management systems, and the social media with focusing on keep it effective between the teacher and the learner.

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  2. I really like your thought about the networked learning, and I agree with what you said. The learning is not a person who should stand front of you in the classroom and just give you a lot of information that you should memories. So, the learning should be also through the web, learning management systems, and the social media with focusing on keep it effective between the teacher and the learner.

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    1. Hey Khaled, thanks for your comment. Yes I agree with you. We need to encourage all new kinds of methods of learning and teaching. Newer methods that focus on the quality of teaching and learning and not the quantity.

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  3. I like your thinking. Method 1 is hardly tried and true. It was probably just the first way we could get data to try and draw conclusions from. It’s hard to quantitatively asses how much people learn by just talking to them at length about a subject. As a scientist, I understand the desire for meaningful data and statistics, but I think professors, admins, and testing companies neglect the confounding factors that can drastically alter a test or homework score. Those scores don’t show second jobs, hour+ commutes, illnesses, sleep deprivation, or even amount of studying. There are hundreds of unaccounted variables, but admins and others still try to draw conclusions? Try publishing that kind of sloppy research in a peer-reviewed journal in any other discipline.

    Furthermore, I’d rather have a network of experts in various fields that I can lean on than have mediocre knowledge on the same number of subjects.

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    1. Hey Bradley, thanks for the comment. I agree with you, there are many unaccounted factors like the ones you mention. Grades/marks should not be the quantifiers of a student’s learning. That’s where new methods like networked learning become important. Have you heard about pathway education curriculum being offered by VT for some courses? That is a really great example of what learning and teaching should really be like.

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  4. I really appreciated your contrast of Method 1 (traditional lecture) with Method 2 (networking) and how you mentioned that the switch to Method 2 will require a change by teachers. Because while networking as learning may be “new” to the university, I think it is actually how everyone learns best. There is that idea that you learn best by doing and by teaching someone else, so we have to give students the opportunity to DO and to SHARE. Whenever I think about this, I always think about the movie 3 Idiots. When watching it, you can’t help but want to identify with Rancho, the inventive student who applies everything they learn and uses it to solve new problems. It should be clear that he knows the material, and while he does well, he doesn’t buy into the traditional system of education and he is punished for not conforming. Instead, most of us are Chatur, the character you want to hate, but really is most students–he does his best to “win” within the system that exists, and even though he knows the material as well, he is not interested in helping other students or finding creative solutions. But we, as teachers, create the system. We can be like Virus and cling to Method 1, but then we only encourage students to be like Chatur. However, if we embrace networking as learning, we can foster a whole classroom of Ranchos–just like the kids in the school where he taught. Because just like Carrie stated in that quote during the first Communicating Science class–all children are born scientists. It’s up to us to make sure people don’t lose their curiosity by pushing them through a system that rewards cramming and memorization rather than a true love of learning and creativity.

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    1. Hey Heather.. thanks for the comment. I completely agree with you on the point of 3 idiots. I must say the thought of 3 idiots did cross my mind when I was writing the blog and thinking about the perceived notion of “learning”. It is true, we need more Ranchos than Chaturs. At the end of day, one might argue that being Chatur is a tried and tested approach. But I am glad that schools like VT are taking a step in the right direction by introducing course curriculums like Pathway courses on a large scale and not just electives like Communicating science and Pedagogy.

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  5. Hi Adbhut,

    Your post is showing a lot of deep thought about how you can apply your experiences to your own pedagogy. I think that there is A LOT that one can draw from in Communicating Science and I hope that you find this course to be equally useful to you!

    I wanted to sidebar comment on what Bradley was talking about with regard to assessments. One of my toughest classes so far at VT has been Hillslope Hydrology–for those that aren’t familiar, it’s the theory and physics behind how water moves to & through the ground. In the class, we learned tons of equations, we applied them in exercises, we did our own research and presented to the class… the profs had us do A LOT to develop the experiences required to crystallize the course content. But the final exam? At first, I was terrified. I thought it would kill me to prepare for a rote exam. As it turns out, they chose to have an oral exam/defense of knowledge. Each student had a 1-hour session with the profs, we all got the same questions, but it was more of a discussion than anything else. They probed us and we told it how we understood it. They gave us dry-erase markers and a whiteboard for drawing conceptual diagrams and showing the physical relationships. It was great! I (as more of an artist than a physicist) greatly appreciated the room to demonstrate what I had learned rather than simply working a handful of problems using the right equations. I’ll never forget it. It was one of the best exams I’ve ever done–simply because I was able to articulate my knowledge in a relaxed environment (vs the pressure of a sit-down timed test. Yuck!) Anyway. There’s lots of ways to assess learning and I think it takes a bit of creativity and understanding on part of the prof. to make the experience positive and successful for all students.

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    1. Hey Sara, thanks for your comment. I agree with you the professors play an important and maybe the most important role in making the experience positive for students and that is the main learning from Baby George video as well. Wouldn’t it be awesome, if all the courses had assessments like Hillscope Hydrology? I think what matters in the end is the students understand what is taught in the class and there can be numerous ways to assess that and those ways don’t always have to quantitative but can rather be qualitative as well. For example, even if on a quantitative test, a student performs well by memorizing the formulas with a good enough understanding on how to apply them, he/she might not be able to remember those formulas/equations in the long run. He will have to refer again to the book or web if and when he is applying it somewhere. So, a discussion with an aim to understand if the student knows the approach and has understood the concepts is a great way. As I told Bradley and Heather too and maybe you already know about the Pathway courses introduced by VT and that is one big step in this direction. And I am sure, I will have a lot to learn from this course.

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  6. I really liked how you used your experiences in life to communicate your thoughts on Networked Learning. There is no doubt that communication and discussion through online tools is a new way forward. But I am also fond of conventional teaching techniques. I would love a good mix of both like we somewhat have it in this class. Students are comfortable with method 2 as you mentioned. But, it is high time conventional teachers wrap their heads around this new teaching technique in order to create a good amalgamation of teaching tools.

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    1. Hey Jap, thanks for the comment. I totally agree that a mix of two is needed, and that can be done easily by inculcating the use of these tools like blogging/discussion forums. Even during assessments, so part can be qualitative than quantitative. I am sure these techniques will become popular soon if encouraged by schools. VT is a great example.

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  7. Great post, Adbhut! I can relate to your experience with method 2 and how it changed your perspective on learning. I also participated in a Communicating Science session as part of the GRAD 5004 – Future Professoriate – course. It was really astounding for me to realize how difficult it was to describe my research to someone outside of my immediate network (i.e., those in my program). However, and like you mentioned, those conversations helped me to understand my research from different perspectives and gave me a broader application of my research. This, I believe, is the experiential learning component that Gardner Campbell was talking about. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for you comment. I would highly recommend taking the course Communicating Science if you liked that session. It’s a really well designed course.

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