As part of my ongoing research into personalization, I realized that networked learning depends critically on the process of socialization, as much as perhaps on having the tools for networking. Indeed, the solutions here may be far more difficult to conceptualize or implement than is the case with technology. I am specifically interested in this from yet another dimension – perhaps this requires an added metaphor for educators in a connected world.

As John Q. Johnston writes:

While the mission statements and policy documents of schools generally, reflect a view of education as an open-ended, dynamic and life-long process and pledge commitment to an eclectic approach to teaching and learning which takes account of individual needs, the fact is that practice sometimes falls short of such ideals. Indeed,according to Gammage (1986, p 82) the reality is often shown to be one of modestly child-centred and individual approaches, mixed with a large core of class teaching and recognisably planned and sequenced teacher direction.

John’s study, that uses the Learning Combination Inventory, talks about different types of learners characterised by specific learning preference profiles (sequential, precise, technical and confluent processing). Similar work has been done elsewhere – for example, Learning Styles Inventory and the Learning Orientations model.

In fact, the former describes the “social (interpersonal) learning style” as:

If you have a strong social style, you communicate well with people, both verbally and non-verbally. People listen to you or come to you for advice, and you are sensitive to their motivations, feelings or moods. You listen well and understand other’s views. You may enjoy mentoring or counseling others.

You typically prefer learning in groups or classes, or you like to spend much one-on-one time with a teacher or an instructor. You heighten your learning by bouncing your thoughts off other people and listening to how they respond. You prefer to work through issues, ideas and problems with a group. You thoroughly enjoy working with a “clicking” or synergistic group of people.

You prefer to stay around after class and talk with others. You prefer social activities, rather than doing your own thing. You typically like games that involve other people, such as card games and board games. The same applies to team sports such as football or soccer, basketball, baseball, volleyball, baseball and hockey.

Rupert Wegerif talks about research (I could only access the abstract) where it was found that:

…individual success or failure on the course depended upon the extent to which students were able to cross a threshold from feeling like outsiders to feeling like insiders. Factors affecting the construction of a sense of community are drawn out from interviews with students. The significance of these findings is discussed in relation to a situated model of learning as induction into a community of practice. Finally recommendations are made for the support of community building in the design of courses.

This last quote, is perhaps why I suggested that the existing metaphors of educators need to be extended. I believe that educators and instructional designers should also take on roles that help them incorporate strategies for enabling students to “cross thresholds” and recognize that barriers to socialization need to be overcome if connectivist learning is to occur at all.

As always, would love to hear from you all and voraciously read any references you may care to provide!