The ambiguous experiential nature of Networked learning

The articles and video on networked learning and blogs this week argue that rather than a solitary process, more powerful forms of learning involve putting one’s own thoughts and perspectives in conversation with a broader community. This is really critical. I like Campbell’s notion of this when he says that learning is best understood as an “adventure in discernment and self-actualization within a deeply relational context.” These articles and the video particularly speak to the possibilities of digitally mediated networks for this type of learning – blogs, twitter, and collaborative student projects – that go beyond the aims of gaining information, finding meaning, and even critical thinking, to the possibilities of making meaning (Wesch).

This all largely fits with what I see as the conditions for powerful learning. In many ways, it seems to suggest a form of learning, and of knowledge, that is more inclusive of many non-Western cultures that understand knowledge as fundamentally relational rather than the traditional Western conception in which knowledge a universal truth that transcends all cultures and places. More specifically for this week’s articles, digitally mediated environments make it technically easy (as Wesch suggests) to realize the interesting possibilities associated with collaborative projects. I’ve often considered how students in my Global Environmental Studies class might somehow collect and organize their collective learning and knowledge gained throughout the course and make it available in a public forum. I could see the class as having a sense of accomplishment in doing this. But as Wesch rightly reminds us, while these projects are technically feasible, the actual practice of having students “connect, organize, share, collect, collaborate, and publish” sounds quite rigorous and time-consuming.

Despite the argument that these digitally mediated learning environments are a form of experiential learning that is associated with high-impact practices, it seems to me that they capture a very limited range of the human experience. It certainly is experiential in the context of digital environments. But we might question what parts of life, such as directly embodied human-human or human to non-human interactions are left out of these environments. The limitations of communication through social media are well known, when a particular Facebook comment can be read in multiple ways. In short, then, I’d argue that the experiential learning of these digitally mediated environments is valuable in today’s world, but also quite restricted and abridged.



2 thoughts on “The ambiguous experiential nature of Networked learning”

  1. “I’d argue that the experiential learning of these digitally mediated environments is valuable in today’s world, but also quite restricted and abridged.” – I agree! The ambiguity can be a cause for concern, as it may lead to misconceptions. It lends value, though, as a way to supplement true human experience, and facilitates interactions across borders that were previously impossible. But I agree that in and of itself, it is not enough.


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