The power of Networks #ISTEK warm-up

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March 25, 2011 by Willy Cardoso

Last month I wrote an essay entitled Globalization and the work of teachers: performativity and networks. Although this was for me to be evaluated at the MA program I’m in, there are good bits of it that I’d like to use as background to my upcoming workshop at the ISTEK ELT Conference, on 2-3 April.

What follows is a cut-paste assemblage of this essay and whatever comes to mind. 😉

(by the way, I so wish academic papers were more multimedia, wouldn’t it be so much better if there were hyperlinks, short videoclips, blogposts instead of footnotes, etc??)

:…::…:

Social network theory offers useful and promising lenses for understanding and exploring educational phenomena.

As supported by recent findings in educational research (see for example Yoon & Kopfer 2006; Fenwick & Edwards 2010; and Wankel 2011), social network perspectives offer a way to understand the variable success of change efforts focusing on what ultimately conduct teaching and learning: formal and informal social systems; not opposed to, but as an addition to the more human capital/bureaucratic explanations.

Recently, networks have become a major focus of attention not only in business but in society at large and throughout a newly emerging global culture (Capra 2003). One major example of the importance of networks in social movements is the Seattle Coalition -alliance of labor, environmental, and consumer groups that was formed to challenge the WTO summit in 1999. These recent developments make it evident that online and off-line networks have become one of the most prominent social phenomena of our time.

In education, the rise of the network society brings about a shift in attention from formal organizational unities –the school, the curriculum, the teaching staff, the pupils –to the network of agents engaged with one another in various ways and degrees.

Social network theorists challenge assumptions about the significance of organizational boundaries and forms, asking instead how patterns of stability and change might be explained by the web of relations through which ideas, information, resources, and influence flow (Daly, 2010).

The stronger the professional network, the more likely educators are to stay in the profession, feel a greater sense of efficacy, and engage in deeper levels of conversation around teaching and learning.

Very often, knowledge transfer is taken for granted as a linear and predictable movement through formal professional development and trainings. However, in the network paradigm, social structure, position, and the quality of relationships have a direct influence on the types of knowledge and information individuals and groups receive.

Therefore, attempts to create collaborative actions, decentralized leadership, and participative decision making often demand changing existing social relationships. ………………………………….It is this interdependence of action and social relations that ultimately may moderate, influence, and even determine the direction, speed, and depth of change efforts.

“What are important, therefore, are not ‘structures’, which imply a center, a concentration of power, vertical hierarchy and a formal or informal constitution” (John Urry, 2000).

Rather,

networks

“constitute the new social morphology of our societies, and the diffusion of networking logic substantially modifies the operation and outcomes in processes of production, experience, power and culture… the network society, characterized by the pre-eminence of social morphology over social action” (Manuel Castells, 1996).

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