Monday, March 30, 2015

Network skills in the 21st century

I did a session on network skills in the 21st century at a symposium for VOCUS, the students of pedagogy/education. I was the last one and wanted to put them to work rather than listen. I asked them to form groups of three to formulate a short question on network skills and put this question out to their own online networks, as exercise. See a short video ...

Questions were:

  • What is the value of (online) networking?
  • What skills do you need to network properly?
  • What can you share as a student?
  • Would you rather have a good online networker or a face-to-face networker?
  • Consists Facebook after 10 years still?
  • How do you deal with skills that do not yet exist?

I'm a fan of Howard Rheingold who explains in his book Netsmart 'how to thrive online'. (see an earlier blog post of mine about 5 essential online survival skills). He describes the basic skills you need as a professional such as managing your 'attention' (online mindfulness) 'crap detection (know what is nonsense) and online networking. I like the networking perspective because I believe in network learning - social learning. Learning and networking are inextricably linked.

In our book En nu online we already wrote about the half-life of knowledge. The half-life of knowledge is how long it takes before 50% of the knowledge you have gained during your education is no longer relevant. For instance, I have learned to work with wordperfect during my study using MSDOS prompts. I don't remember how it worked, but it doesn't matter because it is no longer relevant. I have also learned to survey land, manually. I have never used that knowledge anyway but I know it is currently done with laser technology. It was quite a surprise to the majority that our knowledge gained in an education is in less than 3 years obsolete (mmm 50% that is). While you can debate whether this is measurable - it is a clear trend that knowledge is becoming obsolete faster, if only because technology propels rapid changes. Hence the need to to learn continuously as a professional is very obvious. A lovely way to keep up as a professional and a way I really believe in is not by attending refresher courses, but by participating in (online) networks. I am convinced that this is a critical skill that will determine whether a professional will be relevant and attractive.

I think students do a point to address the question of whether it is more important to have online networking skills or general network skills. I think the basic skill is networks, learning and focussing and secondly how you can do this online. However, the online part of the networking skills is becoming more important because of the new possibilities such as participating in MOOCs, follow hashtags on twitter and ask questions in online professional groups such as LinkedIn. The scale and speed at which you can network is hugely magnified online. Plus, online it is much easier to look beyond the boundaries of your own discipline by 'lurking' in other communities.

After half an hour I asked people to check answers to their questions in their online networks. There were still few answers through the online networks of participants. I think this is both due to the fact that 30 minutes is quite short (fellow students did not respond even though they are normally very quick responders) as well as the online presence of the students. For instance very few students had a Twitter account. The next time I would rather ask participants in the audience to network face-to-face and practice professional asking of questions.

Here are the slides of the session (in Dutch). By the way - the students told me there is very little attention for digital didactics within their education. That is really shocking isn't it?

denk ik.

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