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Collaboration, Education, Livelihoods and Development in a Changing World

GlobalNet21 as a Learning Environment

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GlobalNet21(GN21) has many facets and attracts people for many different reasons. The GlobalNet21 Network & Development Meeting was an opportunity for the informal learning network group to involve others, so I was sharing ideas about seeing GN21 as a learning community.

The scope of GN21 is best discovered through its website (GlobalNet21 - The Global Public Square - Recreating Our Futures… ) and through a quick exploration of its meetup site. GN21 is a treasure trove for any free-range learner with an interest in our present and future lives, on a personal level, or on a community level - where "community" can mean anything from local community to world-wide community. 

Vision for the learning group

Some GN21 members are interested in studying topics in greater depth, and over the past year we have started to do so through house groups, and study circles. At the development meeting I had a chance to outline my vision for GN21 as a learning environment. I was encouraging people to consider carefully what GN21 offers already for free-range learners, and how we might develop it further, so people can have the best possible kind of learning journey within GN21.

Content

Regarding content, any GN21 member has a huge variety of topics and interests to choose from, with our events acting as a jumping off point. There is a wealth of expertise amongst our members, and also from other contributors to our meetings. Our events are topical and presenters are actively involved in what they describe. There are always opportunities to ask questions, and to network with other attendees, who, by definition, have overlapping interests to some degree.

Anyone on a learning journey within GN21 will find plenty to choose from. The topics for our meetings bubble up through the interests of GN21 members, so learners are free to make suggestions for additional events, and can take an active role in helping to make them happen.

Delivery

There are already many different ways that knowledge is shared through GN21. Visits to the website and meetup site show a variety of face-to-face (F2F) meeting formats, and locations. There is no "fixed address" regarding any physical premises for GN21, although some locations soon become familiar to regular members. These locations include the House of Commons, people's homes, pubs, colleges, and hot-desking locations.

We are active online as well - not just with the website and meetup presence, but also through webinars, twitter and facebook. Seeing GN21 through the eyes of a free-range learner is like finding a smorgasbord of learning opportunities, plus a network of potential learning affiliates to share your learning journey. It is totally self directed, and not like following any set course.

Structure

Some of our F2F meetings are presentations by speakers followed by questions and answers, some are less formal. The structure of our study groups is emerging. Some are peer to peer (P2P) learning, some are training sessions, some are altogether different. There is scope for whatever is most appropriate.

Peer to peer

In P2P groups, the leaders are facilitators and co-learners, rather than instructors. They may be new to the topic or may bring considerable expertise and enthusiasm, which is why they want to explore the topic further with others. A P2P learning approach doesn't mean that everyone will have the same amount of expertise, nor will they have the same kind of prior knowledge. Different perspectives add to the shared knowledge of the group. They are peers because they share an interest in the topic and will show equal respect for each other as co-learners.

When additional specialist knowledge is needed the group can arrange to set up "normal" GN21 F2F meetings or webinars with expert speakers, or use our other online channels. 

Practicalities and pioneers

At the GN21development meeting we weren't just discussing theory, we were interested in practicalities.

We don't have the human resources to suddenly change GN21 into our ideal of a supportive learning environment.

However some of us can start to look at ourselves as "learning system pioneers" within GN21. We can start to connect with other GN21 members who see themselves as learners. We can see how we can help each other with our learning journeys within GN21. As we help each other we will start to set up systems that will make it easier for other learners to make their learning journeys in future.

As we look to the future we can imagine people coming to GN21 with the specific intention of making a learning journey. We would have induction sessions, with people to welcome the new learners in, help them to plan their journeys and find their way. How we make this dream a reality is something for the pioneers to work on.

Next steps

We have already recognised a need for practical skills development on using the digital tools that are available to us. Terence Freedman has volunteered to lead a training session for us on Google hangouts. We can probably arrange to do it at Central Station, but diaries are already very full so it will probably be a couple of months before this can happen.

Meanwhile I could demonstrate what we use in Dadamac - mainly Skype and etherpads, and we can see who else will help us to learn other practical skills.

Francis may already have some other practical sessions lined up.

There are various study circles coming into existence and I hope we will gradually build up the structures to enable easy communication between us all.

Are you interested?

Any potential "learning system pioneers" please start think of yourselves in that role, and  connect with me via the contact form and together we will see how to take this forward.
 

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