Monday, August 8, 2011

54.The Networked Student Model

The networked student model for construction of personal learning environments: Balancing teacher control and student autonomy

Wendy Drexler (201) - University of Florida.  Australasian Journal of  Educational technology, 2010, 26 (3), 369-385.  Available at:

This article is truly a must read, for those interested in true online deliveries and those who wish to wet their feet in the use of online learning technologies through a specific project, even in blended or f2f environments.

The essential elements and contributions of this article related to the approach to teaching and instructional delivery more than the actual content and case study used to demonstrate them. The now familiar theoretical underpinnings of this study include: contructivism, networked learning and connectivism.

The networked teacher (Drexler 1)
Network learning is defined as: "learning in which information communication technology is used to promote connections: between one learner and other learners, between learners and tutors, between a learning community and its learning resources."

The networked student model is presented as a spin on the networked teacher model, where students connect to and through their learning experiences though four key areas: contacts (with experts, teachers, classmates, friends, family and coworkers); information management ( locating experts, evaluating resources, accessing scholarly works, open course ware and library texts); synchronous and asynchronous communication (VC, blogging, instant messaging and mobile texting); and RSS (subscription readers, blogs, wikis, podcasts, social bookmarking and social networks.

The idea of the model is to empower students to create meaningful nodes of learning, through reflective search and open sharing of findings. These nodes (the network) that one student creates are deeply connected by default with the learning community or communities that the learner is part of and should be regularly revisited and updated. Drexler reminds us of the following key ideas from Jonassen, (2003):
"Ultimately, meaningful learning occurs with knowledge construction, not reproduction; conversation, not reception; articulation, not repetition; collaboration, not competition; and reflection, not prescription.[ It is this] perspective of meaningful learning [that] guides the design of constructivist learning environments."
The article reminds us of a few more ideas that are worth considering - I highly recommend this reading to all:

  • Consider students' familiarity with the online tools - digital literacy - these needs must be addressed before planning activities that require the effective use of tools to complete meaningful tasks.
  • Modify the level of structure and scaffold required for students to work in this model, depending on personal needs and experience learning according to the model. First time students will require more structure and mode scaffolding as well more frequent supervision and guidance.
  • Adapting the model, even for one specific project, can become the objective of a unit - guiding students through the creation of personal learning environments.
  • This model enhances the use of time management and provides opportunities to practice and improve the skill.
  • Use of checklists and minimum weekly expectations to be fulfilled are tools that instructors can use to implement the model.
  • Implementation of the model changes almost drastically teacher practice
The networked student (Drexler 20
I add below the picture of the model that you can find in the article to help you gather thoughts about its intriguing potentials. 

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