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Networked learning is a process of developing and maintaining connections with people and information, and communicating in such a way so as to support one another's learning. The central term in this definition is connections. It takes a relational stance in which learning takes place both in relation to others and in relation to learning resources.
It has been suggested that networked learning offers educational institutions more functional efficiency, in that the curriculum can be more tightly managed centrally, or in the case of vocational learning, it can reduce costs to employers and tax payers. However, it is also argued that networked learning is too often considered within the presumption of institutionalised or educationalised learning, thereby omitting awareness of the benefits that networked learning has to informal or situated learning.
Network and networked learning theories can be traced back into the 19th Century, when commentators were considering the social implications of networked infrastructure such as the railways and the telegraph. More recently, networked learning has its roots in the 1970s, with the likes of Ivan Illich's book, Deschooling Society, through to more recent commentary in the early 2000s, largely inspired by the Internet and social media.
In 1971, Ivan Illich envisioned 'learning webs' as a model for people to network the learning they needed:
In 1977 Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King and Shlomo Angel wrote and published A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. In this seminal text, mostly referred to by architects, lists a "Network of Learning" as the 18th pattern, and cites Illich's earlier book as "the most penetrating analysis and proposal for an alternative framework for education.." Alexander et al. go on to advise builders and town planners interested in establishing learning networks with:
In the 1970s, The Institute For The Future at Menlo Park in California experimented with networked learning practices based on the Internet and computer conferencing. Soon after their reports were published two educational pioneers in the use of Internet technologies, Hiltz and Turoff, linked education directly with this pioneering work.
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