Giving Compass' Take:

• Julia Freeland Fisher discusses the need for schools to improve their networking skills to better learn, grow, and serve students. 

• How can philanthropists help grow, engage, and participate in these networks? 

• Learn about the value of mentoring

Here’s the one of the biggest quiet buzzwords in education: Networks. They can happen in any community—among educators, among schools or districts themselves and, of course, among students. And so emphasizing learning networks nudges educators to think about learning in different ways.

Julia, you looked at a different class of networks—the ones around students. Why?

Julia Freeland Fisher: Our education systems have, for so long, focused on students' human capital or what they know and can do and largely ignored students' stock of social capital: [namely] whom they know and the access to opportunity that networks tend to open up.

So I wanted to understand: What does the data tell us about that? And what are the innovation opportunities? At the Christensen Institute, we've spent about 10 years looking at all the wonderful ways we can use technology to improve instruction and to deliver content and to assess students. But we haven't looked as much at using technology to connect students to relationships that might otherwise be out of reach.

Do you also see schools struggling to learn?

I think schools are perhaps poor at learning and they are equally poor at connecting. The great John Dewey himself said that we should have schools that were modeled after embryonic communities. Given that 50 percent of jobs come through personal connections, we cannot afford to isolate our students. Given the way that the future of work is shaping up, networks are going to be even more crucial to go in and out of different jobs more flexibly. So we need to figure out how to both connect our schools to other schools and also connect our students to relationships beyond the four walls.

Read the full conversation about networking by Betsy Corcoran at EdSurge.