Last week’s conversation in the cck08 course has been on the distinction between networks and groups. Which is funny, because in his presentation George Siemens starts off by saying this is an unfair distinction as “they are the same”. Siemens tell is this because groups are a type of network. But aren’t we really talking here about the distinction of groups and the concept of “emerging networks” which i discussed in my previous post?
I get started to think that there is an interesting conflict underlying these two concepts and when overlook, often causes failure of designed learning environments. In this movie Stephen Downes elaborates on the differences between groups and networks.
“A lot of what people are presenting as online learning focuses on groups. I believe what online learning brings us looks more like networks” (Downes)
Groups are based on unity, coordination, closeness and are distributive in nature. Networks, according to Downes, are more diverse are based on autonomy and openness and are connective in nature. So groups are manageable, they can be coordinated by a manager or a teacher. Groups have closed walls and teachers will present knowledge to their groups/ class. Groups will therefore need technologies like learning management systems which allow teachers to offer their class structure and manage their learning in a close environment. Networks cannot be managed. Members (learners) are autonomous and their learning environment is not bounded by (physical) walls. Networks need technology like personal learning environments, blogs, e-portfolio’s.
The mapping of groups and networks with the technology that fits with their charecteristics was a real eye-opener for me. It made me think about organizations wanting to implement portfolio’s in closed learning environments, demanding employees to write a blog post every week and doing this in a shared blog (non autonomous!), etc…..
Thinking about the differences between groups and networks is not a very easy task, but its very worthwile for every educator/ learning designer to be aware of the distinct differences between those. We (or I) certainly need to do a lot more thinking on the matter, make it concrete for deeper understanding. Many web 2.0 tools are gaining loads of attention nowadays for their educational/ learning purposes. We need to question ourselves wether such a tool was designed for a network audience or if it was based group principles and in what sort we would like to use it.