#cck11 Hope for Connectivism as a Theory for the Future

These are 3 things I’m thinking about in regards to theory in psychology, education and for evaluating Connectivism as an educational theory that can provide a pathway to the future.

  1. The difference between reducible physical objects and non-reducible psychological properties.
  2. The hermeneutic nature of cognition and theory’s conceptual role in hermeneutically informed science.
  3. Recent criticisms of connectivism as a standalone theory that I think it should be judged within a wider field of educational theory.

Social Action is not Reducible to Individual Behavior: The Complex Emergent Variable Field of Social Science

This continues a previous conversation with Alan Cooper about the nature of theories and educational theories.  See here and here for that conversation.

First, start with an example of the development of communication between mother and child (From Vygotsky, need reference) .  The child randomly grasps for an object, but the mother interprets this as intended communication to obtain the object.  Overtime, the mother helps the child formulate efficient communicative actions by presenting objects and interacting with the child to refine the resulting communicative acts.  This demonstrates the social genesis and nature of communicative action.  Neurology is not the only foundation of action.  Communicative action also functions at a higher social level. You will never see the complete neurological correlates of social behavior because it involves the neurology and practices of other people.   Social action is not reducible to individual behavior.

This is also just one example that shows why the variable fields social and educational research are so diverse.  Natural science is able with some success to reduce experiments to a narrow field of variables, but in ways that are not available to social sciences.  This does not mean that education and social science research is not possible or valid.  It is just that it cannot operate within the same standards for validity as natural science research.  Validity is an integrative evaluative judgement of the degree of support for research.  Standards cannot be established a-priori, but must fit a situated holistic understanding of the method, intentions and variable field in which the research is operating.

Digging Deeper: The Hermeneutics of Psychology and Education

But during the 60s (Paul) Ricoeur concluded that properly to study human reality one had to combine phenomenological description with hermeneutic interpretation. For hermeneutics, whatever is intelligible is accessible to us in and through language and all deployments of language call for interpretation.  Paul Ricoeur Entry in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

First Aspects of Hermeneutics: Our Horizon, Our Prejudice and Our Ability to Change

Our field of interpretation is often referred to, through a vision metaphor, as our horizon.  This horizon represents our field of experience.  The object we interpret stands in this field and we compare and contrast it to our experiential field to make our interpretations.  It is both our horizon and the basis of our prejudice, the preconceptions that we bring to any interpretive task.  These preconception are the horizon with which we see or interpret any subject or object.  Our horizons are not static, but are ever changing.  They change in the process of fusing different horizons.  The primary work of interpretation to take something alien and interact with it in a way to expand our context of meaning.  What first appears alien can later be understood as a function of our initial perspective or prejudice.  (Note – Prejudice in this usage is about all preconceptions not just bigotry)

Second Aspect of Hermeneutics: The Dialectic Between Part and Whole

The hermeneutic circle expresses the central idea that interpreting any text (or experience) is by reference to the whole, whether it be a body of texts, a discipline or the whole of one’s experience.  In turn, one’s experience (our horizon) is made up of other experiences and texts.  No idea, project or theory can be understood by itself, but only in reference to other ideas, theories and projects.  While this does presupposes no ultimate or final interpretation, is does not preclude the ability to make judgements about the validity of interpretations.

The Hermeneutics of Theory

Theory, like any concept, cannot be understood except as a reference to a wider conceptual field.  This mean convergent and divergent differences with other theories as well as it’s position relative to broader intellectual movements and by considering lower level concepts that can be juxtaposed and compared with the concepts of other theories.  Therefore, evaluating the validity of connectivism involves (1) situating it within broader intellectual movements, (2) by comparing it’s structure and concepts to the structure and concepts of other theories, and (3) by evaluating conceptual parts of the theory for comprehensiveness and consistency.

How do reviews of Connectivism fit within this evaluation framework and what theories and movements would I consider relevant for evaluating Connectivism.  I’ll leave those questions for future posts.  I am looking for the pragmatic ability to peer into the future.  This is the future question posed by John Hagel at Edge Perspective:

(H)ow do we embed teams in increasingly rich platforms that will scale by encouraging the formation of  more and more teams. How do we then motivate and help these teams to connect with and learn from each other? What would these platforms look like?  . . . a pathway that is pragmatic and provides short-term value while also building the foundations for much more powerful long-term learning and performance improvement.

This is the next killer app. for education.  How do we create knowledge flows, the pragmatic web, the places that bring everyone together in increasingly empowering ways?  I don’t think that existing theories can foot that bill.  And we can’t wait 25 years for traditional theoretical development pathways to work their magic.  This is the hope I have for this Connectivism journey.

#cck11 – Where Should We Find Knowledge Production: Disciplinary Peer Review or Networks of Practice.

Reviewed a recent article by Susu Nousala (2010) that I thought was related to cck11: Improving the peer review process: an examination of commonalities between scholarly societies and knowledge networks, (Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1762876)

Discussing general peer review systems the author ask:

(W)hat other ways may be used or incorporated to better serve emergent interdisciplinary and/or hybrid disciplines, creating a more holistic community based process to improve overall review outcomes.  . . . Over time the emperical approach to peer review has led critics to discribe the whole system as generally allowing conventional work to succed whilst discouraging innovative thinking.

I would add some things that I feel are not specifically addressed in the article:

One, for scholars interested in research on practice, the peer review process tends to be organized by disciplinary interests for people who are intending on advancing within a disciplinary hierarchy.  Research on practice tends to be a primary location for interdisciplinary – hybrid research, while peer review often subjects research to disciplinary requirement that are not about furthering practice.  My basic point is that furthering practice is not the same as furthering disciplinary knowledge.  This is a potential place where innovation in interdisciplinary research is hampered. Disciplinary requirements can do as much to hurt knowledge development as it can to encourage it.  As pointed out by Wenger (1998 and Nousala, Organizations are made up of many overlapping communities of practice.  There is a case to be made that these communities are the natural place for knowledge development and the negotiation of peer meaning; not disciplinary organizations.

Secondly, the peer review process is about individuals reviewing others individual efforts that exist in a finished form.  Since knowledge can be seen as existing and developing within communities of practice, you can see that it is the community as a network where ideas combine and meaning is negotiated.  Peer reviewing individual papers at best obscures this knowledge creation process.  At the worst, it discourages the dialogue that is needed and necessary to negotiate and synthesize new forms of knowledge and practice, thereby needlessly restricting knowledge development.  The authors state;

In more recent times “peer review has become a powerful social system” [9] which has multiple layers of knowledge networks linking and supporting its members within these communities of practice.

In my mind, peer review processes do not acknowledge most knowledge networks and are restrictive in that the first requirement of knowledge is acknowledgment.  Acknowledgement should be a community or network process, not the pervayence of a few individuals.


The authors conclude;

Without the foundation of sustainable practice and processes, the build up of the internal knowledge networks will not occur. Instead, there will only be information systems and management, which do not function in the same way and can not take the place of tacit knowledge networks.

In my view, at least a portion of the peer review process should occur within network processes.  Supported by the development of Open Educational Resource and student personal learning environments, learning is becoming network centric.  It is time to acknowledge that knowledge production is also network centric and it is time to move scholarly activity into open network processes.  This would acknowledge the importance of networks in knowledge development, enable the integration of digital networks to improve productivity in knowledge production, enable practitioner communities to participate in scholarly processes and would align scholarly processes with current theories of learning.

#cck11 – Equipotency: A Potentially Important Concept for Connectivism?

I would like to contrast some recent interesting posts (prompted by the CCK11 MOOC) with the peer to peer concept of equipotency which I will define as: an open and equal capability to participate in diverse social network activity.  The theoretical / memetic foundation of equipotency is the emergence of open peer to peer culture, that I think can also be related to the idea of knowledge flows, as defined by Hagel, Brown and Davison (HB&D) in the Power of Pull.

Stephen Downes notes that we need a precise vocabulary  to analyze and talk about social networks.

Rather than use prejudicial and imprecise vocabulary, . . . we can respond to it meaningfully, with clarity and precision.  . . . the point is that we can use network terminology to explain much more clearly complex phenomena such as instruction, communities and interaction.

I believe we need much more than vocabulary, we also need a framework; a theoretical account to help us distinguish between information and noise and to point out how things are changing overtime.  This is the relevance of connectivism as a theory. What is the connectivism framework?  I like Jennie McKensie’s summary in a Connectivism Linkedin Group conversation when she says:

Understanding according to George Siemens is, “Depth, Diversity, Frequency, Integration and the strength of your Ties”.

But, Paul McKensie reply was also interesting.

Knowledge is distributed with a decreasing half-life – why do we insist on cementing the same blocks of content together.

Traditional education, focusing on content and a specified curriculum is, I think, an example of HB&D’s push learning.  It can only really be successful where knowledge is stable, changing only slowly.  When we are faced with situations where knowledge behaves more like Paul’s decreasing half-life metaphor, we need an openness to change that focuses on more than things like equipotency.  Equipotency may become an important to a connectivism framework.  Concepts such as tie strength may not be focussing on the most salient aspects of learning relationships.

Sui Fai John Mak further expands on this discussion through discourse analysis and asks whether discourse and power relationships are important to the social web.  Quoting Rita Kop he says;

(T)he notion of  ‘supernode’ predictably emerges when some contributors are recognized by a  number of others as having particular relevance to, or knowledge of a problem. There seems to be a natural tendency within the ‘perfectly’ democratic network to organize itself, over time, in a hierarchical system composed of leaders and followers.

In her dissertation Rita also said:

As research has shown, the open WWW has a hierarchical structure and is not the power free environment that some would like us to believe (Barabasi, 2003; Mejias, 2009) (pp. 267-268)

HB&D’s point is that it is not longer possible to identify what will be important in order to push it out to the network.  Digital networks can be seen as a flow of knowledge, and the point is to be open and able to draw on this flow in productive ways.  As I commented on John’s blog: many people are still searching for expertise in their network participation, teachers or knowledgable others (in Rita’s terminology) who can push the knowledge they need to their where they are at the time of need, but participation in peer to peer culture recognizes that value can arise from any node and can not be predicted in advance.  Supernodes, if they are truly valuable, may represent people who are not experts or knowledgable others in content knowledge, but are most able to recognize value in the knowledge flowing around them.

Open peer to peer culture as a way to understand the creation of value and participation in web-based social networks.  Peer to peer culture according to wikipedia is described and defined as:

  • Relationly and structurally dynamic,
  • based on the assumed equipotency of its participants,
  • organized through the free cooperation of equals

Task wise it can be thought of as:

  • the performance of a common task (peer production),
  • for the creation of a common good (peer property),
  • and with forms of decision-making and autonomy that are widely distributed throughout the network (peer governance).

Peer to peer culture may describe a new evolving type of community that is relevant to learning, especial where knowledge is in development.  It is likely important for collaboration and Collaborative Inquiry and it may warrant a prominent place in the Connectivist’s framework.  As I see it, equipotency is an important key to peer network organization.  Strong and weak ties, expertise, authority, and other forms of discourse based power can exist within and can influence network activities, but like Hagel Brown and Davison’s emphasis on serendipity, value creation can not be easily predicted and does not always emanate from expertise or strong network ties. Networks must be open to the unexpected contribution of any node in the network.  This is the basis of equipotency and peer to peer value creation networks.

Collaborative Inquiry: Collaboration as a Method to Increase Research Capabilities

Catherine Lombardozzi has blogged about Collaborative Inquiry, a topic I’ve been skirting for  a while with terms like: learning networks, un-conference, collective intelligence, distributed decision making, distributed cognition or connectivism.  I think this basic idea is a natural part of web 2.0 thinking that is collaborative in its core nature. I also think it is a way to tap into the knowledge flows associated with Hagel’s Power of Pull thinking and is also just a good way to address knowledge areas that are in flux as opposed to stable and well established.  Less and less of our practices are stable today and this is a natural way to gain knowledge and direction.

To extend this idea I’ve been thinking about why you would want to choose a collaborative research structure over a more traditional set up, and I’ve put my ideas into this concept map.  It’s not a finished product; just beginning thoughts.

A Comparison of Individual and Collaborative Research

Individual Collaborative Research Comparision - Why would you choose collaborative research methodology

How Might Schools Prepare Us for “Real Life”

Michele at the Bamboo Project got my interest with a post about: How School Screws Things Up for Real Life.  My take on her main point:

(S)chool does a really terrible job of preparing our young people for “the real world” by setting up some seriously unrealistic expectations.

Let’s summarize this way:  people expect school to prepare them for their work life, but fail because the social structures and expectations, “the rules of the road if you will”, are completely different.  It’s reasonable that this “hidden curriculum” is important, but I think that there is even more involved.  It’s something that goes to the very purpose of schooling and I’ll begin with this list:

  1. Skills are more important than Content.  Schools put too much emphasis on content recall instead of things like analysis.  Most students do need an understanding and recall of some content, but skills are more important, especially skills like analysis.  Many specifics that Michele lists can become issues because novices often take their world at face value (i.e., their first impression).  Analysis prepares us to look deeper and begins with problem framing, exploring different way of looking at a problem in order to find an acceptable way to communicate and to guides one’s actions.  This is the essence of maturity and something important to workers and employers and it leads me to a 2nd point.
  2. In early life, Maturation is more important than Knowledge.  Our lifetime is generally divided into 3 periods.  Schooling, working, and retirement.    Because schooling is first, it’s natural to assume that what is happening at this time is maturation.  Instead of trying to cram everything they will need to know into one’s first 22 years, an impossible task to begin with, strive instead for helping students reach maturity in their capabilities; to be their best possible self.  The ability to act with whatever capabilities one excels, along with promoting emotional, physical, and personal wholeness, is much more important than what content one knows.  This is how we should be measuring students.
  3. Graduates don’t need certificates; they need resources.  It make no sense to think that one’s learning needs end with graduation at age 22 or there abouts.  John Hagel has suggested that knowledge today is found in flows, and if we want to be successful, we need access to these knowledge flows.  It also makes no sense that one’s developmental influences (their school) should not be a participant in this flow.  Students should graduate with more than a certificate, they should also have an active personal learning network.  I can think of no better transition process than to build a learning network in school that can be carried into later life.  Imagine if an employer was not only hiring a school’s “product”, but also an entire knowledge network resource.  It is the essence of this 2.0 networked world that artificial boundaries to accessing resources are being eliminated.  Let’s make schools part of this boundary breaking

This is not an exhaustive list.  What other ways of educational reform could help us function better or healthier in life?  What should schools look like; what should be their purpose?

New Forms for Pedagogy: Another Take

Developing Creativity through Lifewide Education by Norman Jackson considers the inadequacies of the structure of higher education and claims that;

(E)duration that is dominated by the mastery of content and cognitive performance in abstract situations, (it) is not enough. . . . (Quoting Douglas Thomas and John Seeley Brown)  “What is required to succeed in education is a theory that is responsive to the context of constant flux, while at the same time is grounded in a theory of learning”.

And it’s not just educational practice.   The problems also extend to research based knowledge generation.

Paradoxically, the core enterprise of research – the production of new knowledge – is generally seen as an objective systematic activity rather than a creative activity that combines, in imaginative ways, objective and more intuitive forms of thinking.

This critique of knowledge generation also fits with the ides of my last post inspired by Jay Cross.   If your context is rather stable, than knowledge generation that emphasizes objectivity and systematicity will work relatively well.  But if one’s situation trends towards a contextual flux in a complex multi-demensional variable field, then systematic objectivity may be useful for verification of experimental data, but not for generation hypotheses and theories, the things that lead and guide inquiry.  Current methodological thought treats the creative generation of hypotheses and theories rather cavalierly considering their central place in inquiry.

Norman list 8 propositions for a new curricular approach.

In order to facilitate students’ creative development for the real world we must create a curriculum that –

  • Proposition 1 : gives them the freedom and empowers them to make choices so that they can find deeply satisfying and personally challenging situations that inspire and require their creativity. A curriculum should nurture their spirit: their will to be and become a better more developed person and create new value in the world around them
  • Proposition 2: enables them to experience and appreciate knowledge and knowing in all its forms. And enables them to experience and appreciate themselves as knower, maker, player, narrator and enquirer
  • Proposition 3 : enables them to appreciate the significance of being able to deal with situations and to see situations as the fundamental opportunity for being creative. They need to be empowered to create new situations individually and with others by connecting people and transferring, adapting and integrating ideas, resources and opportunities, in an imaginative, willful and productive way, to solve problems and create new value.
  • Proposition 4: prepares them for and gives them experiences of adventuring in uncertain and unfamiliar situations, through which they encounter and learn to deal with situations that do not always result in success but which do not penalize ‘mistakes’ or failure to reach a successful outcome
  • Proposition 5 : enables them to develop and practice the repertoire of communication and literacy skills they need to be effective in a modern world
  • Proposition 6: encourages participants to behave ethically and with social responsibility promoting creativity as means of making a difference to people or adding value to the world
  • Proposition 7: engenders a commitment to personal and cooperative learning and the continuing development of capability for the demands of any situation and the more strategic development of capability for future learning
  • Proposition 8: helps them develop and explain their understandings of what creativity means in the situations in which they participate or create, and values and recognizes their awareness and application

More broadly, how do we do this?  I’ll fall back on Hagel, Brown and Divison’s Power of Pull framework.

  1. Tap into knowledge flows, especially through Web 2.o technologies such as Personal Learning Environments or community wide collaborative research projects.
  2. Find a trustful, creative and knowledge flow filled environments (both virtual and physical).  Places where serendipity is more likely to strike.
  3. Rather than scalable efficiency,  strategize for scalable connectivity, scalable learning, and new possibilities for performance.
  4. Tap into people’s passion.  You could say, manage by helping people find inspiration.

People might say; “this does not represent the real world”.  I would counter that their real world was the 20th Century.  That world is now fading, and as they say, the new world is here, it’s just not evenly distributed,

The Focus of Education

American Design Schools Are a Mess, and Produce Weak Graduates by Gadi Amit

In this fast company article Gadi says:

The first five years in a designer’s career are absolutely critical and the true educational experience. A young designer must appreciate that opportunity to mature while on the job and take nothing for granted. A willingness to do anything and everything he or she can to get experience and learn, from the ground up, should be reinforced by the schools.  . . . — your first job is your true MA, your best chance to establish a career path, your opportunity to work on the coolest projects . . ..

First a revision to the thoughts behind my posts of 11-23 and 11-12.   Schooling and development are very important and much of the structure to our educational institutions is appropriate.  We need to introduce students to traditional ways of thinking and knowing and then help them find new ways of thinking and knowing.  But this is the beginning of education, not the end.  Students, and indeed, all of us need support as we address real world context and achieve Morin’s contextualization principle of knowledge.  This is what Gadi is referencing, contextualization from the ground up.  This is where we need personal learning networks in the broadest of conceptions.  Peers, mentors, coaches, customers, digital acquaintances from around the world, textual friends from our readings; we need all kinds of help to find our ways and we need institutions, learning structures, designed environments and the like to help us achieve this type of learning network.

This is the task assigned to us by Hagel and Brown: to find a new common sense for how to operate in this 21st Century Economy.

The Cultural Economy Moment: Reading Terry Flew’s Article

Terry Flew (2009). The Cultural Economy Moment? Cultural Science, Vol 2, No 1.

Terry is charting an expanded course for research in cultural economics.  (If I’m understanding correctly) His main points are:

There is no longer an effective way to separate culture from economic activity, especially in terms of “the information and knowledge economies, fostering creativity, embracing new technologies, and feeding innovation’ (Throsby, 2008: 229).  Most current discussions of economics and culture fail to account for this view in a way that moves research forward in a productive way.

He recommends 4 areas for collaborative interdisciplinary research to develop the discussion:

  1. Value of information – . . . “who has it, how it is distributed, how it is produced, and how it is used”.
  2. Value of networks – Networks are a primary means of coordinating behavior (along with hierarchies and markets) and also of coordinating ideas.
  3. Motivations for participation and collaboration in online social networks – . . . “an information-driven economy with digital technologies at its core places a premium upon non-market activities with non-pecuniary motivations, as it values a non-proprietorial approach to information as a metapublic good, with many implications for intellectual property, labour markets, the formation and maintenance of networks etc.”
  4. The relationship of culture to the wider economy –  “many economists and policy makers have not only failed to adequately register the rise and growth of the creative industries, but have failed to understand their changing relationship to economy and society”.

In summing up Flew says:

there is much potential for collaboration but . . . some serious rethinking has to be done in relation to the one-dimensional caricature of economic discourse that is found in many influential analyses in the field.


Throsby, David (2008) ‘Modeling the Cultural Industries’, International Journal of Cultural Policy 14(3), pp. 217-232.

#PLENK2010 The Elements of a Network Learning and Development Platform: A Beginning

I’ll begin today by summarizing my last post, orient this post toward an educational view and consider what it might mean in terms of the practical elements of a network learning platform.

Summary of My Last Post

When we look at our everyday activities and the communities where those activities are embedded, what becomes important in enabling our actions is not rarified decontextualized content knowledge, but rather the knowledge and understandings that are fashioned between us.  We are shedding the industrial era hierarchal rule based structures because they no longer fit the complexity we face, a complexity that now require collaborative ways of working.  We are also switching from a focus on the prediction and control of behavior to the joint pursuit of emergent practices and from what is the case on the ground, to what values we ought to pursue on behalf of our customers.  Learning in this view does not have a measurable essence, but it can have a use, which can become meaningful when it enables joint action.  It’s an approach to Dewey’s learning by doing that centers cognition in collaboration.

The Practical Side

Time to get concrete.  How do you help people not only learn, but also develop their capabilities?  Previous educational world-views are looking unsustainable and it’s only increasing given the trends toward what David Jones calls The Commodification of Knowledge.

(The) fundamental problem that I see in this (commodification) response is a limited and incorrect view of higher education.  . . . It’s a market driven, techo-rational approach that assumes a traditional analyse, design, implement, evaluate cycle that fails to understand the full complexity of what is required and the changing nature of surrounding environment.  . . . It assumes that there are people who are smart enough to predict what “consumers” will want from the University.

This is similar to the problem of push as described by Hagel, Brown & Davison (henceforth HBD) and their answer to my question is similar to David’s suggestion: Focus on what you do well, build a learning network around that, and allow the emergent practice to grow. Sounds like a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) supported practice.

So what are the elements on which to build a high functioning PLE?  What do you need to develop and grow your practice?

Need # 1 The Network(s)

Build a diverse, visionary and engaged learning network.  HBD suggests that you find the smartest people in your field (what you do well) to include in your network.  Get into their networks, learn what problems they’re attempting to solve (presumably the same problems you are or will encounter) and work jointly on solving them.  The time to build that network is now.  It’s too late to start when a pressing need arises.  I think there needs to be sufficient similarity to allow connections to form in any network, but there is also a need for diversity.  Achieving high levels of both is an important goal.

Need # 2 – The Environment

You can not predict where the next important idea or resource will come from in HBD’s world of “pull” learning; serendipity plays a great role.  This means that your daily environment is almost as important as any wider, but occasional network.  This fits in with an idea (mostly from Richard Florida) that we want to be in diverse, vibrant and exciting environments.  This isn’t pie in the sky thinking.  If you’re in a field that needs innovation (and what field doesn’t today) a diverse, vibrant and exciting environment is a worthwhile business investment.

Need # 3 – A MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)

I see this concept serving many more and differing goals than is possible in a traditional course.  At one level it is a people curator, a natural network supporting device.  It’s is likely where the “smartest people in the room” will be (except that in a world ruled by serendipity, many people may become the smartest person at one time or another).  It is a place where the field leaders can connect with people and network their leadership role without becoming overwhelmed by the demands of the network (at least I hope the leadership in this course would concur).  People involved will have many differing goals, but I think that a MOOC will be most beneficial when it is understood as something larger in purpose and more connected with the world and with people’s everyday activities than a traditional educational course.  There may also be other forms in the future that fulfill a similar role, but this seems like a good start in defining a network learning platform.

Need # 4 – Access to a Network Weaver

A Network Weaver is

(S)omeone who is aware of the networks around them and explicitly works to make them healthier (more inclusive, bridging divides). Network Weavers do this by connecting people strategically where there’s potential for mutual benefit, helping people identify their passions, and serving as a catalyst for self-organizing groups.

There are many potential roles in a network, but one of the most valuable may be that of a connection propagator in a fluid network that is able to change with the needs of its members.

Not a Need, but maybe an adjunct: The Un-conference

An unconference is a facilitated, participant-driven conference centered on a theme or purpose. . . . (and that tries) to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as high fees and sponsored presentations.

I’m looking at the concept of the un-conference as networked, distributed and collaborative open research.  More focused and directed than other network forms, but one that may help to round out the different types of network learning and development platforms that serve important purposes in people’s practices.

This is Only a Beginning

This is a beginning list and I would welcome any additions and ideas.  I don’t consider myself an expert, but I’m strongly interested in better understanding this project we’re involved in as a new type of learning and development platform.  Comments encouraged!

#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