This is part of the “Hi, AleX” series — advice to AleX NetLit about enhancing her levels of network literacy through day-to-day personal and professional social networking. AleX Netlit is a fictional persona created by Network Literacy Community of Practice to serve as a guide to Military Families Service professionals, Cooperative Extension educators and others seeking to learn more about using online networks in their work.
You’ve heard all this talk of flat worlds, emergent and open-source learning environments and you’re probably still a bit bewildered.
With that in mind, I wanted to point you to another great networking resource: informal learning expert Jay Cross’s brilliantly conceived map of the new flattened learning and networking landscape. It’s got to be one of the best graphic depictions in terms of demonstrating what will be required of us as professionals in the 21st century.
If two words best describe this new flattened learning environment they are freedom and informality. People are freer than ever to share ideas and seek feedback from others.
The Web made all of this possible.
The informal networks springing up across the world are also subverting traditional hierarchies. Consequently, the old plan-and-push approach — the way you were trained a decade ago to develop and deliver your programming —is quickly being brushed aside within this flattened communications landscape.
Learning is now emergent. Yes, I know, that sounds a bit obtuse to a newcomer like you, but it strikes at something very significant and remarkable about this new world. Knowledge is no longer being handed down from on high by information brokers. Tens of millions of people, many of them rank amateurs and even novices, are using the enhanced opportunities for conversation and sharing afforded by these new networks not only to learn on their own but also to expand their opportunities for learning.
They don’t need trained professionals or educators as they once did, because learning is now being constructed from the bottom up rather than from top down.
Granted, people are doing what they’ve always done — forming communities of practices among likeminded people — only now these communities are encompassing considerably wider scales that often transcend state, national and even continental boundaries. Participants within these networks are gaining wider and deeper perspectives as a result.
Public and private entities are slowly beginning to get the picture. They’re learning that the old plan-and-push approaches — conferences and workshops — account for only 10 to 20 percent of what their employees learn at work.
We live in an era of “unconferencing.” Employers are discovering that their top performers are skipping conventional approaches — conferences and workshops — opting for informal learning opportunities instead. Yet, if you think about it, that stands to reason: People have always learned the most through informal conversation, trial and error and simply associating and working with people they know.
Networking is simply making all of this easier — not to mention, more fun.
A few employers are even beginning to realize that networking and emergent learning are doing most of the heavy lifting for them in terms of preparing their employees for the demands of the 21st century.
Finally, AleX, take special note of the section on conversations in the left-hand corner of the Jay Cross’s map. In the end, that’s what all of this is about — conversation. Cross is right: “Conversations are the stem of learning.”
People love to talk and the frequent and open conversations that are incurring from all this talking within formal networks is driving innovation.
Yes, I know you’re still a bit spooked by all this, AleX. You fear that that networking will erode the daily conversations you undertake with valued clients — just understand that casual conversation is as vital and integral a part of this new communications order as it was in the old one.
The only difference is that you’ll being carrying on conversations within an even wider circle of people, gaining insights that you then can share with more intimate contacts.
So, relax, AleX, things are going to be fine: You’re soon going to discover that there is far more promise than peril in this new flat world.
Author: Jim Langcuster
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.