Sunday, May 24, 2009

TIMN and Networked Learning

As I read David Ronfeldt's In Search of How Societies Work, I kept thinking how neatly this applies to the classroom and networked learning. I guess this is not a big surprise as the classroom is often seen as a microcosm of society. Tom Haskins inspired me with his post Combined Models for Pattern Recognition, and I wonder if there are others who have aligned Ronfeldt's TIMN model with learning.

Ronfeldt identifies four forms of social organization: tribal, institutional, market, and network (Ronfeldt, 2006, p. 1). Tribal structure deals with identity and belonging. The institutional form emphasizes hierarchy (e.g. state, military). The market form focus is competition and free trade. Network form deals with the connection of dispersed groups via emerging communication technologies. (Ronfeldt, 2006).

In the classroom, the tribal structure is evident in the kinship that develops with the teacher and between students. Teacher acts as leader. The institutional aspects of education include the schools, districts, state, and national standards and requirements placed on schools. It is also evidenced in the hierarchy of discipline (teacher, dean, principal, district). The market aspect of learning includes the outside forces such as textbook companies, software, curriculum packages, or online learning that is repackaged for other districts, states, or countries. Within the classroom, there is competition for grades, science fairs, history fairs, and placement based on standardized test scores. More recently, there are opportunities for students to create and share allowing some student products to rise to the top for reuse by others. Some classrooms are moving into the network form by interacting with others via network technologies, emerging web applications, and connecting to students outside the classroom.

As societies evolve through the forms, they do not abandon the previous structures. "If the addition of a new form occurs properly, the older forms end up being strengthened, not weakened, even as their scope is newly limited (Ronfeldt, 2006, pg. 3). I think this is an important point for all of us who argue for change. Most of our classrooms are still in the tribal/institutional structure (TI) with some penetration in market (TIM). I say that because most of the competition and free market aspects come from outside forces. The students have few opportunities to create knowledge and share with others for their learning.

Two big lessons for me as I consider the implications of networked learning:
  1. We cannot jump directly into networked learning and abandon the previous structures.
  2. The optimal learning environment is not networked alone, but a TIMN approach that continues to build relationships within the classroom (f2f or virtual), works within the current institutional requirements while trying to change those requirments, gives students opportunities to create authentic learning products that can be shared with others, and provides them with the tools they need to construct personal learning environments.

Ronfeldt, D. (2007). IN SEARCH OF HOW SOCIETIES WORK: Tribes — The First and Forever Form (pp. 1-102). Working Paper, Rand Corporation. Retrieved May 23, 2009, from


Tom Haskins said...

Thanks for the mention Wendy. Your two big lessons from this are great for me to think about further.


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