Network Literacy Critical in New Information Era

A new information era

Hour by hour, day after day, in workplaces all across this nation and the world, workers are hearing the term “social networking.”

They’ve begun to understand that the old information order in which people interacted, taught, and learned exclusively in face-to-face encounters and through the printed word has changed. It’s been replaced or complemented by something radically different — virtual sources of knowledge and communication, accessible at the speed of light.

They see their coworkers integrating social media tools — tweeting, posting to Facebook and blogging — into their everyday work. These early adopting colleagues have discovered that using these tools and techniques enables them to connect, share, and make deeper professional imprints among a wider circles of peers.

Missing out? But how to begin?

The people who haven’t started incorporating social media tools into their work sense they’re missing out on something — something lasting and significant — something big.

They are anxious to take the critical first step. But how? How do they master all of this and make it work for them?

In other words, how do they become network-literate — fluent in the skills that define communicating in the 21st century? How do they find the time? How do they avoid the perils widely associated with social networking — privacy infringement and copyright violation, to name only a couple? How do they convince their supervisors to encourage social networking as part of their plans of work and evaluate the impacts of their social media efforts?

Word cloud: Network Literacy

eXtension Network Literacy Community of Practice

The eXtension Network Literacy Community of Practice was formed to provide professionals not only with the skills but also with the mindset to make optimal use of this new approach to communicating.

Our main goal is to engage a broad learning network to help define a new kind of professional —a fully engaged, networked professional equipped not merely to survive in this new, highly competitive communication landscape but also to learn, teach, create, share, and build within both personal and professional networked communities.

The times are calling on all of us to build deeply engaged, reciprocal relationships with those we serve, learn from,and create with. Simply learning how to use social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook to reach larger numbers of clients isn’t enough. We must learn to use these and other online tools to build two-way, even multi-party, collaborative relationships with our clients.

This is why a big part of the Network Literacy effort will involve helping professionals become comfortable with online social networking  tools and then to begin building and sustaining collaborative relationships within emerging networks.

A critical first step will be learning how to help professionals gain sufficient levels of what networking visionary Thomas Vander Wal describes as social comfort, namely learning how to build networks in which participants not only feel comfortable among each other but also with the technological tools and subject matter.

This is the charge of the Network Literacy effort: to build a new-model worker adequately equipped and inspired to use emerging networks to forge close, highly collaborative relationships with their clients.

In the course of helping build this new working model, we hope to contribute something equally as significant: a powerful group of transformers, people who, in the course of building open, fully engaged networked environments, also create transformative relationships with their clients.

Join our efforts to promote online network literacy

Become a member of our community of practice (eXtension ID required) or liking our Facebook page. You can also contribute to our curation of content about social media and online networks by tagging your posts “#netlit”.

Find out more

Join us on Monday, October 3rd 2011 at 2 p.m. EDT for an interactive webinar discussing Network Literacy and the eXtension Network Literacy Community of Practice. More details are available at:

Authors: Jim Langcuster, Bob Bertsch, Peg Boyles and Stephen Judd

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