The DLTV annual DiGiCon Conference 2016, held at Swinburne University Hawthorn Campus was a professionally invigorating experience. The conference reminded me that that still, in the 21st Century, education is all about people and the relationships they forge. Typically, our classrooms are now rich in technology but this technology is inconsequential without engaged learners and effective educators.
I had not been to DiGiCon for a few years as, apart from being swamped by new employment responsibilities, quite ironically, I found this conference and others like it had become very tool focussed whereas discussions on people and pedagogy had been largely forgotten. But this year the DiGiCon meeting reflected a shift or growth in our teaching community, as demonstrated by keynote speakers and workshops that focussed on people, learning and relationships. This focus on pedagogy is also a reflection on the key organisers of this conference who network relentlessly and collaboratively to build education in Victoria.
The three keynote addresses that I attended (I did miss one) were very people centric. Jenine Beekhuyzen founder of the Tech Girls Movement spoke of empowering young girls. Rosie and Lucy Thomas spoke with passion about tackling issues of bullying in school communities via Project Rockit; their goal is to create real social change. Steve Brophy communicated with emotion the need to live a life of passion and “walking on to new opportunities and challenges.” These three presentations juxtaposed together, served as a beautiful reminder of the importance of people and what can be achieved when they learn from each other.
Social Networks in Digital Learning Environments
During each keynote presentation, my mind kept wandering to Charles Kadushin’s work on Understanding Social Networks (Kadushin, 2012) as each presenter demonstrated that they had made powerful use of social networks to effect change. I do laugh at my thought process here, as this writing of Kadushin’s, which I have read as part of my M.Ed journey, is a hard, hard read but as I have discovered, provides good knowledge of how social networks function. During the DiGiCon16 key notes I tweeted:
— Simon Keily (@aus_teach) July 19, 2016
— Simon Keily (@aus_teach) July 20, 2016
The history of civilization is the story of diffusion through networks (Kadushin, 2012). What elements can move through networks? Disease, ideas, opinions, values, traits, physical objects, practises and innovation. The 21st century educator is becoming more adept at acting as a conduit, to facilitate the diffusion of these elements amongst our teaching peers and very importantly into our classrooms, which otherwise act as “networks in a box” or socio-centric networks (Kadushin, 2012). We want to break down the functioning of old classrooms and inject into them new ideas, opinions and practices. It is invigorating to know that as modern networked educators, we have the power to use our social networks to bring a plethora of new ideas and activities into our classrooms and to change how our learning communities engage with knowledge. The enabler of this change is not just technology but also the people we meet while networking at various meets, or while learning and exploring online.
Thanks for reading. Please gift me with your reactions or feedback.
Kadushin, C. (2012). Understanding social networks: Theories, concepts, and findings. Oxford University Press, USA