Let me tell you a story or two of networks I've been involved with and those I've created - its been an interesting journey. Yes you guessed it, another story - that's my passion, storytelling.

This story begins back in 2002 as I joined the Flexible Learning Leaders (FLLs) - a pack of 40 people from all over Australia - who were beginning their journeys into leadership in flexible learning. That's what we called it back then, flexible; nowadays we call it e-learning. Things have changed over the last six years - dramatic changes have taken place in the internet and we are now well immersed in the read/write web - but back in 2002 it was all about flexibility. Flexibility in courseware delivery, flexibility in providing support for learners and teachers, flexibility in communications and flexibility of leadership.

The best thing that happened for me from that point forward was the widespread networking that has provided me with a multitude of connections right across Australia - the FLLs are still the best network I know today, in the VET education field. During our year of leadership, we were divided into smaller groups - each with a name: constellations such as Aquila, Columba, Dorado, Tucana - this enabled us to bond as a smaller team under the wings of a selected mentor. These small groups learned to trust, to accept, to admire and inspire each other as we pursued our own particular theme. These four groups were part of a family of FLLs that year who were able to draw on one another over a period of years at the drop of an email. The 2002 cohort then found they were part of a much larger network of FLLs who had gone before and they felt the benefits of being among strong group of leaders. They had a shared purpose and many common interests. We continue to communicate via a simple FLL listserv and every now and then someone will post out to everyone seeking advice, providing some news, or forming opinions on topics of interest and generating a flow of conversation. This network was grown over a number of years from 1999 to 2005 - and as each new group of FLLs came on board we embraced them into the FLL family. Although the FLL program is finished, the FLLs are still a strong and influential group of dedicated educationalists in Australia. The larger group of over 200 leaders are part of a network now referred to as the Wollemi Ringleaders.

My FLL focus in 2002 was 'mentoring' and the learning and support I received through the leadership program enabled me to continue to research, explore and model mentoring strategies and build my own mentoring practice today.

In 2005 my focus changed to Digital Storytelling and I was supported by TAFE frontiers (where I worked for 2 years with such people as Clint Smith, Sheila Fitzgerald, Linda Smart, Mark Landy, Glenda McPherson and Ben Fennessy) to develop the first Australian Digital Storytelling (DST) Network. This network was formed at just the right time for DST enthusiasts across Australia and the membership grew like wildfire with a huge amount of generous sharing of ideas, materials, strategies and workshops. The success of this network was in part due to the dedication of the core group consisting of myself, Robyn Jay, Josie Rose, Glenda McPherson, Mary Schooneveldt and Janet McMillan. Strength of purpose grew into a leading light for those who were looking for inspiration and education about the art of digital storytelling - the network now has over 250 members and has a home base at one of the EdNA groups.

During 2006-2007 I was privileged to become a mentor for groups of practitioners across Australia who had secured funding from the Australian Flexible Learning Framework to develop their own Networks. This experience taught me a great deal about the how and why of networks success!

This is where I will pause in my story ..... and I will continue with a presentation about Networks at the induction on August 1st. You will notice some words in bold above, these are some of the essential ingredients for a successful network.

To be continued .... HERE'S THE CONTINUATION OF THE STORY: 'Networking: a driving force for e-learning' - this article was planted in the Knowledge Tree in Edition 8 at this address: http://knowledgetree.flexiblelearning.net.au/edition08/npra_mcculloch.html In this article I have concluded each segment with a key question to draw out your thoughts. Take a look at these and see which ones might be useful conversation starters with your networks.