#PLENK2010 Information Overload can be Tamed by Collaboration: and PLEs are One Example

Thanks to Rita for this summary!   She brings up the concern that the over-abundance of information leads to a dearth in analysis.   My position is that the limits of our individual cognitive abilities is being replaced by collaboration with committed and passionate others and PLEs are one example where this is happening.

First, you’ve drawn my “attention” to the concept of information consumption.  It’s a great idea: respond to over-abundance by changing consumption.  Indeed, not only abundance, but also the decreasing half-life of knowledge (another concept I got from Hagel) is changing the way we consume information.  This is also where the idea comes in that we are leaving “content” as the primary focus of education.  Traditionally education focused on content, even though it was widely recognized that you forgot a lot of content very quickly.  This never made sense to me, but it is becoming less and less palatable now.  What we need is the ability to find and make use of content, not to memorize it.  I believe no one should be required to memorize anything they can google and then use in an intellectually mature fashion.

First, I would like to make a distinction between students in educational institutions and those outside the “walls”, who are learning in the wild so to speak.  I think the place of ed institutions is to cultivate mature thinkers.  Some level of basic content memorization may be needed, but beyond that we want to quickly change the focus to measuring the ability to find and use knowledge.  Once people begin to work in the wild, beyond ed institutions, the approach to learning takes on an everyday problem centered focus.  What you need then is something like this:

  1. A mature intellectual mindset for how to approach your problem.
  2. The ability to find and synthesize relevant information.*
  3. The ability to tap into (Hagel’s) knowledge flows.

I think #1. is the province of formal education, what we should expect of Higher Ed graduates.  #2 is primarily technology enabled, even though the synthesis part may entail much hard work.  #3 is the province of PLEs, something that is highly social as I stated here.  PLEs are technologically enabled, but it’s the network that’s important, not the tools.  I would argue (along the lines of Hagel, Brown and Davison) that the quality of your Network (mostly as measured by commitment and passion) is the most important determinate of success in whatever your endeavor.

*Thanks to Christopher for his idea

Pull (Distributed Learning) as it Relates to Zuboff’s Distributed Capitalism #PLENK2010

In my last post I alluded to some counter-intuitive ways that I think learning is becoming different.  This post addresses that issue in someways by drawing on this McKinsey article.

Most people’s idea of learning comes from their experience sitting in classrooms reading from textbooks, memorizing spelling lists or completing practice math problems.  This is a far cry from what social networked or “pull” learning is all about.  Because they have this mind set, many aspects of “pull” learning can seem counter-intuitive.  In order to understand people will need three things.

  • New experiences involving pull learning,
  • The willingness to give up old ideas of learning and
  • A new narrative explaining pull learning.

Shoshana Zuboff has helped devise a new narrative through his commentary on a closely related theme he has named distributed capitalism.  (In many ways “pull” learning draws on ideas that are close to distributed cognition and social cultural constructivism)  Shoshana (like Hagel, Haque, Florida and others) has proclaimed that we are in the midst of a economic structural reset creating new demand patterns and stressing old ways and resources and this mirrors the new ways we are thinking about learning.  This is the way he explains this shift:

When a majority of people want things that remain priced at a premium under the old institutional regime—a condition I call the “premium puzzle”—the ground becomes extremely fertile for wholly new classes of competitors that can fulfill the new demands at an affordable price.  . . . today, we are moving from an era of mass consumption to one focused on the individual.

Shoshana lists five essential ways that distributed capitalism is different:


. . . Instead of “What do we have and how can we sell it to you?” good business practices start by asking “Who are you?” “What do you need?” and “How can we help?” This inverted thinking makes it possible to identify the assets that represent real value for each individual. Cash flow and profitability are derived from those assets.


Once valuable assets have been identified, they must be rescued from old, costly industry structures that keep them from serving individual needs in a cost effective manner.


. . . (Bypass) existing institutional structures—human, physical, organizational, technological, or financial—and connecting individuals directly to the assets they seek. . . . bypass the unnecessary costs, outdated assumptions, and value-destroying practices of legacy systems.


Allow customers to reconfigure . . . assets according to their own values, interests, convenience, and pleasure.


. . . offer consumers the digital tools, platforms, and social relationships that support them in living their lives as they choose.

Just as Shoshana suggests that CEOs should “question the old logic and vocabulary of competitive strategy”, so should we ask those supporting learning to question the old methods, pedagogy and vocabulary that may very well remain stubbornly in place across the spectrum of learning opportunities.

He goes on to suggest that we look at the following 6 areas:

  1. Focus our attention on learning that is “affordable to few but desired by many”.
  2. Build trust across learning platforms
  3. Eliminate fixed costs wherever possible
  4. Replace organizational systems and structures with flexible low-cost networks
  5. Access hidden assets especially those on the edge or even outside of organizational boundaries.  You do not need to control all the assets that are needed to meet customer expectations.
  6. Constantly probe the end users desires and needs as a strategic commitment.

(Note – Shoshana list 7 items, but I think his #5 and 6 are better stated together.)

Most of all, Shoshana notes that distributed forms currently exist in digitalized internet spaces, but need to be matured and extended to face to face situations, which he terms the next test for distributed capitalism.

Can distributed capitalism go further? What happens when it confronts forms of physical assets and social support that cannot be reduced to information—arenas where face-to-face experience is essential? This is when distributed capitalism, which until now has manifested itself almost entirely in the digital world, will begin to mature as it takes aim at core economic functions with a second wave of more complex mutations that combine virtual and real-world assets.

Is it a “Personal” or a “Social Networked” Learning Environment? #PLENK2010

This post is a response to readings (week 1) in the MOOC, PLENK 2010.

The book Power of Pull is my favorite exposition of a theory of networked learning, because it accounts very well for an action orientation and a social embeddedness as it portrays the learning process.  The course readings echo this idea. like when the Educause piece says:

The (network and the collection of resources) becomes a PLE when the integration of resources starts to include the work and voices of others as readily as a student’s own critical reflection and scholarly work.

It is stated again in Stephen Downs’ piece when he quotes Graham Attwell:

‘New forms of learning are based on trying things and action, rather than on more abstract knowledge. ‘Learning becomes as much social as cognitive, as much concrete as abstract, and becomes intertwined with judgment and exploration.’

Graham’s quote is great because it also emphasizes a move from the learning of abstract content to action based learning, that is also social, contextualized and problem centered.  (Alec Couros’ book chapter Developing Personal Learning Networks for Open and Social Learning points to Knowles’ concept of Andragogy, Vygotskian Social Constructionism and Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory for a sound theoretical background for this type of learning.)

So again, my question is; is this a “personal” or a “social networked” learning environment? I think the continued use of the term “personal” in someways reflects an over-individualized view of learning that now, in the context of networked learning, can be seen as more inadequate than ever.  I also think it is more than just terminology.  Many aspects of networked or “pull” learning tend to be counter intuitive. In order to really appreciate this new paradigm I think many people, especially in the business world, will need to suspend their common-sense ideas about what it means to learn.  I think I’ll attempt another post on this theme.