Networks are an important part of both our personal and professional lives. People need other people for many different reasons. Affiliation provides us with ???a network of support that will help us when we are in need??™ (Crisp and Turner 2007, pp266), it is a social process that satisfies a psychological need. Forming close relationships is a fundamental part of our lives for reproduction and survival. Communities survive better than individuals. In a professional context developing networks can help your career development, improve your sense of self-worth and make your working life more enjoyable through interaction with others.
When prompted with the question ???Why would experienced practitioners who are perhaps at their desired level of affiliation wish to help out younger less experienced individuals??™ I began to think about what the benefits were for them in them doing this. I came to the conclusions that it is important for knowledge to be passed on so that we can educate the next generation, pass on our skills and continue to improve. No one will live forever so we must pass on our knowledge in order for learning to progress and be on-going. If everyone kept their knowledge to themselves then we wouldn??™t know half of the things that we do today.
I also think it gives you a sense of pride and achievement if you are in the position of helping out less experienced people than yourself, it would promote feelings of satisfaction and self-worth.
Also experienced and knowledgeable individuals were not always that way therefore they themselves must have been helped at some point and so could feel it only right to now give something back and help out others.
The concept of cooperation is very interesting, Robert Axelrod shows it very clearly in his ???Prisoner??™s Dilemma game, ???The game allows the players to achieve mutual gains from cooperation, but it also allows for the possibility that one player will exploit the other, or the possibility that neither will cooperate??™ Axelrod, R. (1984 pp xi ??“ xiv). It brings to light the idea of tit for tat, what information are you willing disclose in order to gain information you desire from someone else
On reflection of where I might use cooperation in my current position, I think it can actually be a useful skill to have when teaching. If I want to get the most out of a group of children and make sure they are working well all lesson I will often use this idea of ???tit for tat??™. If they work well then at the end they will be rewarded with playing some games. I hadn??™t thought about it like this before, but I am using cooperation for mutual gains. It??™s a good tactic and works effectively in this situation.
Some networks are formed involuntary; family, your boss and co-workers, others you will go out of your way to form; friends, teachers, advisers. But all of these networks are meaningless and ineffective unless you construct meaning for them,??™ meaning is not discovered but constructed??™ Crotty, M. (2005 pp 42?44)
Crotty also states that ???Before there were consciousness??™s on earth capable of interpreting the world, the world held no meaning at all.??™
This helps explain that before being part of your network these people were already in existence but had no meaning to you. It is what emerges through your own thoughts and construction that will determine how they fit into your network, how they can help you and how you can help them. Only through knowing what purpose people play in your network (and perhaps what you play in there??™s) will you be able to use that network efficiently and gain the best results from it.
The idea of connectivism questions the traditional learning theory that we learn by knowledge being transferred from one person (book/webpage) to another. Technically this transfer does still happen, as when a teacher tells you something or you read a book you are being given information. However the point being raised is that this information does not necessarily become knowledge. You have to understand what is being said for it to become knowledge and for learning to take place. As the learner you need to take the information given to you and make sense of it for yourself, you need to connect with it, ???Constructivism suggests that learners create knowledge as they attempt to understand their experiences??™ (Driscoll, 2000, p 376)
Within your networks information can run both ways and so the channels must remain open for this to happen ???Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to individual??™. Siemens, G. (2004).This cycle allows you to keep up to date with knowledge and information through the connections (nodes) you have made, enabling you to learn both from and within a network.
Technology has changed the way and the pace of how we learn, ???Half of what is known today was not known 10 years ago??™ Siemens, G. (2004). If learning continues to grow at this rate, can we really keep up with it all If we are learning so rapidly do we really have time to take it all in or reflect on what we have learnt and how it affects us
On the other hand technology can be a very useful tool when it comes to learning. With the vast amount of information available to us we no longer have to experience things for ourselves to be able to learn about them. Karen Stephenson states; ???other people??™s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge.??™ We can learn through the internet, TV, radio, books, and articles about a huge variety of subjects that we would never otherwise get access too.
Communities of Practice
Looking at my own network I can see that it is mainly made up of a community of practise, a number of people or groups in my network are linked to me and each other through our common interest in dance. ???Members of a community of practice come together because of mutual interest and generate a shared experience of engagement in the community of practice??™ (The Network Professional Reader 2010.) I don??™t think this would be true of all professions but I think because dance is not only my job but also something I am passionate about and interested in whether it be performing it, watching it, teaching it or studying it, it has become the basis for a lot of my networks.
Being a part of this community we can learn from each other??™s experiences, exchange ideas and share information to increase our knowledge and progress further in our chosen field. I would have to agree with some of the disadvantages bought up by Ross and Nicholas with regards to communities ???becoming secretive and not sharing what they know,??¦??™ (Ross Dunning 2010) if you are in direct completion with each other. I have experienced this as a dancer seeking work and auditions but now that I am doing more teaching work I have found this community of practice to be very supportive, helpful and encouraging. Teaching jobs are perhaps less competitive and therefore I found others to be very forthcoming with advice and ideas, and I too am happy to share my successes and new ideas with them.
Crisp, J & Turner, R 2007 Essential social psychology London Sage
Axelrod, R, 1984 The evolution of cooperation London Penguin
Crotty, M 2005 The foundations of social research: meaning and perspective in the research process London Sage
Driscoll, M. (2000). Psychology of Learning for Instruction. Needham Heights, MA, Allyn & Bacon.
Siemens, G. 2004 Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age
The Networked Professional Reader 2010/11
Dunning, R. 2010 Current Networks