Can a network of learners serve the same roles as a teacher or professors? Revisited

This is my response to Jenny’s post on: I don’t know what I don’t know

Hi Jenny,
Thanks for this in-depth analysis on that important question. As mentioned, it is pretty difficult in generalising nowadays, as even situated learning is contingent to the situations.
In network learning:
Is there a teacher needed in a network?
Who are the “teachers” in a network?
Why does one join the network?

Not all scientists like to work in a network, Newton is a typical example. His lecture was not filled with any “student”. He liked to work alone. There are few Newton nowadays.
Even Einstein preferred to conduct research (i.e. on relativity). Isn’t it interesting? Many great philosophers and scientists were lonely researchers and thinkers, and they may not like to be bound by the rules of communities, society, so as to allow their creativity to flourish. Besides, society places higher values to those great educators and research scientists (the Nobel Prize winners in particular). How would one be remembered in history? Individual or collective contribution?
Nowadays, people could only achieve their goals with the co-operation, collaboration and connection with others. One needs “learners” to become a “teacher”. So teachers and learners need to be connected. And it all comes back to the vision (pathfinding) of both learners and teachers.
George and Stephen are leading the way in this course, and they deserve the credits in opening up the avenues towards connectivism.
Is teaching still a noble profession? In a commercial world, is corporate training more important than higher education?


4 thoughts on “Can a network of learners serve the same roles as a teacher or professors? Revisited

  1. Hi John

    Thanks for the reference and your comments on my blog.

    I think there will always be people like Newton, who are antisocial and therefore don’t appear to be well networked or connected. But at neuron level Newton’s connections must have been firing ‘with all guns blazing’ and I should imagine that the extent of his conceptual connections didn’t allow him much time for social connections 🙂

    I think teaching is and always will be a noble profession, but our view of how a teacher exemplifies this nobility and the profession will maybe change. Who knows!


  2. In network learning:
    Is there a teacher needed in a network?
    Jenny expertly points out the limitations of a connectivist theory of learning, pointing out that a network of 4-year-olds left to themselves will probably not spontaneously learn to read. In this example, I see the need for “expert facilitation.” And what network, whether toddlers or adults, wouldn’t benefit from the same?

    Who are the “teachers” in a network?
    Show me an educator who hasn’t learned something from a student. I dare you. Show me a student who hasn’t learned something from another student (making the student a teacher, by definition). Show me a student who hasn’t learned something from herself. This is a long-winded expression of the trite answer, “We are all both students and teachers.”

    Why does one join the network?
    One joins the network when one articulates the desire to learn and accepts that learning results from active participation in the network.

  3. Hi Jenny,
    Many thanks for your sharing and I agree with your views.
    There are still some people like Newton. Some people would prefer spending time in conducting research rather than meeting people, they are the thinkers and analysts.
    I had a highschool classmate who was a genius – scholar (rank number 2 in the whole city in public examination and got all distinctions (highest grade) in matriculation and University studies, with all honours (rank first) in his medicine degrees. I have only spoken to him once in the whole year in High School with just one word – hello! He seemed to prefer not to socialise at all (except with a few elites classmates, perhaps).
    Under the current climate, I hope teaching could still be perceived as a noble profession. In the 90’s, there were downsizing in most organisations, in this decade, what will come next, especially for professional teachers? For most teachers: Multi-skilling in both subject discipline and ICT would be expected- for sure! Will this be the most challenging moment for teachers ? Let’s see….
    Renewed thanks for your inspiration.

  4. Hi Reid,
    Many thanks for your response. I fully agree with your views. And I again resonate with your insights in that: We are both students and teachers. And that active participation is important.

    Greatly appreciate your valuable gift in sharing.

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