The other day, I picked up a tweet from Mark Oehlert. He was at a conference and a speaker mentioned moving from “subject matter experts” to “subject matter networks.”
I was stuned for a moment thinking about the power that this idea has. This is, of course, in the simplest terms is exactly what we have been pushing towards for several years. We believe that learning is networked and has more legitimacy, power and capability when it occurs this way. As subject matter (read: content, the life blood of schools) changes at an increasingly fast rate, we need to redefine what our mission is. It cannot be to educate students in “the facts,” whatever those may be.
Subject matter networks strikes to the heart of our idea of “experts” and how knowledge is created and where it is contained. In this model, knowledge is a living thing that is constructed, created and often contained in the network. For several years, I hoped that knowledge networks would spontaneously be constructed by students around the globe as they found peers to connect with. While in my classroom I have yet to see this occur beyond any small scale, instead I have seen these networks grow as teachers and other adults intervene, model growth, and support students in their quest to find others who think like they do.
In the past few years we have seen tremendous growth in the number of students who are working online in connected ways. From only being able to find a few classrooms online five years ago to now being able to locate dozens with farily simple ease, it is obvious that many more students are having these experiences and are learning in new ways. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying, there is tremendous room for growth.
This also makes me wonder about educating students to be part of a network and not to become an expert. How does the educational experience differe between these two goals? What would be emphasized? What would a classroom day be like? Many things here to consider.