Obviously, I’ve been taking a bit of a blogging break of late. And while I’m not feeling like I’m totally back at it yet, I have found myself doing some reading, getting back into Twitter, and connecting some dots in my brain. Without question, these last six weeks have been mind-numbing…way too many presentations in way too many cities to have much left in the tank at the end of the day to read or write. And I don’t cross the finish line for another few weeks, a point at which I’m sure I’ll simply hibernate for a few days to catch up with everything.

What’s been interesting with this day after day presenting is how my thinking about this message has been tweaked and how certain parts of it have floated to the top. If nothing else, Twitter has made plain the power of the network, and that network has become the focal point of almost all my presentations. (Thanks, btw, to all of you who have answered spur of the moment requests in Twitter or with Skype or others to help me demonstrate the potential of the network. Much appreciated.) It’s not about teaching or classrooms or even kids…it’s simply about learning, about how we can learn, about how we do learn when we are connected. And, most importantly, it’s about how we need to understand what’s happening in our personal learning networks in order to make sense of what the potentials are, at some point, for our classrooms. Nothing really new here, I know. But just a deepening in my own understanding that is pushing me further.

Of course, the network has been helping this. Stephen’s recent posts “How the Net Works” and “The Personal Learning Effect” have been greatly instructive and have caused me to re-evaluate important parts of my practice. The more I consider it, the more I find myself moving away from a frame of social networking towards one of networked learning (which is obviously social by nature). More toward the literacies of networked learning. I find myself reflecting really deeply of late about how we build these connections, how we manage them, how we leverage them.

And that’s fueling my main frustration right now which is how hard it is to get the educators I speak with to be selfish about these ideas and not run toward classroom implementation of tools. I understand why it happens. Part of it is the “drive by” nature of much of my work, something that I’ve begun to shift away from. (More about that at some point.) And, even more, it’s because of the very little emphasis that districts in general put on supporting the personal learning of teachers. It’s all about student results and assessments, and it’s very difficult to look at these opportunities outside of that frame. Invariably, when the questions start, it’s all about how to keep kids safe or how to satisfy the IT people that we should do this or…you get the idea. I wish the questions after my sessions were more about how to cultivate trusted nodes, or strategies for creating connections outside of physical space.

At some point, I want one of the goals and outcomes for the students at my kids’ school system to be that they will graduate with the ability to build their own learning networks in effective, ethical and safe ways. But that will only happen when enough of the administrators and teachers understand that for themselves. Only then will they be able to help my kids add dots to their world maps in ways that teach them the power of networks in the ways we already know it.

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