The rising importance and influence of networked organisations is one of CORE’s 2015 Ten Trends.
Educational institutions are by nature very reliant on the structures that give them their identity, and serve to support what they do and the way they do it. Schooling structures, in many cases, look quite similar to how they have appeared for decades – a set staffing hierarchy, single classroom designs, separate curriculum areas. Today, however, across many organisational structures, not just educational spaces, we are seeing structural changes occurring. These are deep-reaching changes that alter the way authority, capital, information, and responsibility flow in and beyond an organisation
In schools, this can mean changes to existing physical structures (as we see in the design of innovative learning environments), changes in power relationships (such as students and teachers sharing responsibility for learning and teaching), or the emergence of completely new structures (e.g. virtual schools in the cloud).
The fundamental shift is in the way we understand how information can be created, managed and shared. It is no longer the privilege of those at the top of a single organisation – nor of single organisations in isolation. Now, anyone can have a voice, make a contribution, and be part of a collaborative enterprise. Sharing practice, developing ideas and new knowledge need not be restricted to certain people, single places and localised spaces. Driven in part by digital technologies, everyone can expect to be able to be heard and to have a legitimate role to play.
A networked organisation is one that understands two key ideas:
- that each person within that organisation can make a personal contribution to the evolution of the organisation.
- Secondly, that the organisation itself is part of a global set of connections, groups and individuals, able to communicate with anyone and make visible its work.
In the New Zealand education system, we can see this trend emerging in new views on curriculum design, professional learning practices and reimagined schooling environments that aim to cater to diverse contexts for learning. The concept of ‘school as a network’ is seen in the shared leadership and design for student agency at schools like Hobsonville Point Secondary School and the design of collaborative spaces such as those at Roxborough Area School.
The emergence of grassroots driven professional learning, such as #edchatNZ and #cenz15, that use networks beyond traditional organisations, reflects the demand of the individual to drive their own learning, rather than have it mandated. In this interview Danielle Myburgh, of Hobsonville Point Secondary School, describes #edchatNZ – a community of teachers on Twitter – and outlines the benefits of networking this way.
Social networks like Twitter are used in many ways, but the use of such spaces for informal learning in a network of colleagues has become a powerful addition to educators’ personal learning networks, or PLN. These are people you connect with for the specific purpose of learning, based on reciprocity and a level of trust that each party is actively seeking value added information for the other. There is a tacit understanding among participants that the reason they are connecting is for active learning.
The open nature of environments like Twitter means these learning networks are open and public, increasing opportunities to collaborate, connect, and discover new learning opportunities. Educators are able to access the collective knowledge of their peers, engage in discussions, debates, conversations, and participate in collaborative projects whenever and wherever they like. This active participation depends on a degree of transparency, self-motivation, and an implicit willingness among participants to experiment with new ways of learning within an informal “networked organisation”.