Abstract: Educational technology provides public and private school educators with the study and practice of effective technological practices to support student learning and teacher professional development. This includes the facilitation of theory and practice in building connectivism and professional learning networks to supplement and improve current knowledge and skills. This paper is a report on networked learning as one of the significant strands in technology that supports the development of professional learning communities. Discourse analysis will be used to identify the different stages of development and implementation of networked learning, including the (a) 1970s when the Advanced Research Projects Network (ARPANET) became the first operational packet switching network; (b) 1980s when the HyperCard was developed as an application program and programming tool for Apple computers, (c) birth of the World Wide Web (WWW) that further established the interlinks of hypertext documents through the Internet; and, (d) development of the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) as an online digital library of education research and information.
Educational technology provides public and private school educators with the study and use of effective technological practices to support student learning and teacher professional development (Fonseca, 2011). This includes the facilitation of theory and practice in building connectivism and professional learning networks to supplement and improve current knowledge and skills, effective communication, and constant learning (Fonseca, 2011, p. 60). Networked learning influenced the beginning and ongoing expansion of professional and personal learning networks among individuals, groups of people, countries, and nations to establish (a) interdependent connections; (b) unstructured collective learning experiences, (c) life long learning and interaction; and, (d) reflection of social networked learning ideas (Fonseca, 2011, p. 60). The desire to stay connected and establish relevant and productive learning networks began with the earlier use of customized or personalized learning (Drexler, 2010). Customized or personalized learning has become the trend among individual learners, which continues to be a significant element in the expansion of emerging web applications (Drexler, 2010, p. 369). Personal webs have materialized to support the necessity of individual learners to organize, write, edit, publish, and manage online digital content as part of networking and collaborating with fellow learners (Drexler, 2010, p. 369). Prior to the advancement of networked learning in building professional learning networks and communities, its historical development provided significant and interesting stages to illustrate the validity of its chronological experiences. The historical perspectives in networked learning stems from the influences of the early developmental stages of electronic computers and the launch of Sputnik by the Russian government in the 1950s (Kleinrock, 2009). This includes the creation of data networks and the establishment of the ARPANET in the 1960s and 1970s (Kleinrock, 2009). Apple’s development of the HyperCard in the 1980s also contributed to the development of the Internet, which eventually led to the development of networked learning as it is presently utilized (Kahney, 2002). Meanwhile, the birth of the WWW marked the establishment of interlinks in hypertext documents through the Internet, which significantly contributed to the one of the essential foundations of networked learning (Connolly, 2000). The development of the ERIC database also serves as an example of networked learning based on the functionality of ERIC as an online digital library for education research and information (Education Resources Information Center, 2012).
This paper will use the Four-Quad Analysis methodology to gather the necessary data in this report. This type of methodology provides the research with significant opportunities in gathering data, interpreting findings, segregating relevant from irrelevant information, and understanding the elements that contribute meaningfully to this report. The Four Quad Analysis methodology is composed of four parts. These parts include (a) Quad 1, which defines the theory, research, and best practices of the study; (b) Quad 2, which identifies the federal and state laws, rules and data of this report; (c) Quad 3, which describes the district or campus perceptions, feelings, beliefs, and experiences in relation to this report; and (d) Quad 4, which provides the district or campus policies, regulations, records, and data of this report. Furthermore, this paper also explores the use of qualitative methodological instruments, such as informal interviews, online surveys, observations, and face-to-face consultation with different stakeholders of the school community.
Drexler’s (2010) study, The Networked Student Model for Construction of Personal Learning Environments: Balancing Teacher Control and Student Autonomy, provided a conceptual framework on The Networked Teacher (Couros, 2008) as show below. This framework illustrated the different elements that comprise the necessary tools, resources, and ideas of networked learning (Drexler, 2010). It is a model that illustrates what teachers use to build professional learning networks among fellow educators to develop collaboration and communication and actively participate in networked learning for professional development (Drexler, 2010, p. 371).
Figure 1. This figure illustrates the conceptual framework of The Networked Teacher (Couros, 2008).
Furthermore, Drexler (2010) included in his study another illustration of a conceptual framework on The Networked Student as shown below (Drexler, 2010). In this figure, the idea of networked learning follows the concept of constructivism to support student learning (Drexler, 2010).
Figure 2. This figure illustrates the conceptual framework of The Networked Student (Drexler, 2010).
From these illustrations, the concept of networked learning stems from the interdependent connection of different technology-based and education-based theories and practices, such as synchronous communication, social networks, contacts, information management, colleagues, blogs, wikis, tool/content development communities, and digital/online learning communities (Drexler, 2010). These current theories and practices were made possible through the early developments of the Internet, particularly during the historical stages of ARPANET, HyperCard, WWW, and the ERIC database.
The ARPANET came into existence in the 1970s and it was recognized as the first operational packing switching network and recognized as the origin of the Internet (Markoff, 1999). The Department of Defense of the United States (US) initialized the development of the ARPANET to support military-based projects, particularly during the US-Russian Cold War (Markoff, 1999). J.C.R. Licklider (1962) developed the earliest ideas of creating a computer network to allow general communications among computer users (Markoff, 1999). Ivan Sutherland and Bob Taylor (1963) were convinced by Licklider (1962) to participate in creating computer communications networks, which led to the invention of online communication through the use of computers (Markoff, 1999). Likewise, Taylor’s (1963) complete computer network plan provided the avenue for ARPANET to host computers and be connected to the network (Markoff, 1999).
Apple Computer’s HyperCard was developed during the 1980s, which served as a small self-contained hypertext system and was a successful hypermedia system before the WWW (Needle, 1987). The HyperCard was composed of virtual stacked cards that hold data (InfoWorld, 1989). Users of the virtual stacked cards were able to browse through the available information by navigating from card to card, including the use of existing features (i.e. search mechanism, user-created scripts) (InfoWorld, 1989). This concept can be tied with the present browsing and searching capabilities, navigation of data within different Internet browsers, and customized add-ons in Internet browsers.
The WWW came into being during the 1980s and the early 1990s, as more people recognized the increasing need to find, organize, and manage files and information online (Deken, 2006). Tim Berners-Lee created the network-based version of the hypertext concept that provided wider opportunities for technology to be available to individual users (Deken, 2006). The most significant evidence of Internet expansion was the creation of the Mosaic web browser (1993) by Marc Andreessen (Deken, 2006). As history continued to unfold, the Mosaic web browser eventually evolved into the Netscape Navigator, which was developed by Andreessen in 1994 (Deken, 2006). This popularity of the Netscape Navigator was ultimately overshadowed and taken over by Bill Gates’ Internet Explorer, which was created in 1995 (Deken, 2006). However, Andreessen was not deterred in moving forward when he was able to use a special code that was supposedly intended in revamping Netscape Navigator (Payment, 2006). This code was used to develop Mozilla Firefox, which is one of the most used Internet browser today (Payment, 2006).
The ERIC database resides in a complex system that provides individual users with a wide range of information that are searchable, user-friendly, and retrieved from bibliography-based websites, online academic journals, and research-based information (Education Resources Information Center, 2012). The development of the ERIC database serves as an example of networked learning based on the functionality of ERIC as an online digital library for education research and information (Education Resources Information Center, 2012). Likewise, this database is a significant evidence of an improved and a well-designed web-based system that incorporates the evolvement of the Internet and the network’s capabilities (Education Resources Information Center, 2012).
Networked learning has developed through the years of progress and expansion in the realm of web-based applications, Internet browsers’ capabilities and features, and individual users’ conceptualization of effective collaboration and communication online (Drexler, 2010). The desire for diversity in knowledge, expertise, and application; establishment of individualized values and decisions; building of more meaningful and relevant interactivity among fellow learners; and, fostering of openness in perspectives, have influenced the continuous growth in professional and personal learning networks (Fonseca, 2011). The historical evidences in the different developmental stages of networked learning provided the beginning of an era of technology-based interdependence, where distance is no longer a question. More so, these historical accounts serve as recollections to commemorate how the past have been significant in establishing present and future innovations.
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