#PLENK2010 Thoughts on Fiedler and Väljataga’s Paper, Personal learning environments: concept or technology?

I agree with Sebastian and Terje’s paper on this point:

“The development of Personal Learning Environments represents a significant shift in pedagogic approaches to how we support learning processes” . . . “(and it) is not a separate space on the internet, it is an essential part of the users’ workspace”.

As S&T point out, many people are already experiencing a self-directed life in the digital realm, often with an essential PLE workspace, and they are finding that traditional institutional power and pedagogical relationships are incompatible with this new world.  Just from a practical point of view, PLEs are usually embedded in users workflow and daily routine.  Classroom activities are not and can seem contrastingly irrelevant to one’s daily activities.

In addition to the specific socio-historical incompatibility that Sebastian and Terje point out, I also think that there are more incompatibilities lurking behind the academy’s veil.  Higher Education pedagogy was never intended to be vocational training in line with the expectations of most students.  (Professional schools with substantial practice components, like medical schools with residency requirements are the exception.)  Higher education was designed to make a class distinction, whether you were headed for the nobility or the clergy.  Higher education in modern times made entry into business management or the military’s officer corp the primary path for graduates.  Those with less education were expected to do the grunt work.  This changed when college degrees became common and the diploma no longer assured one of entry into a “high class” well paying job.  To that extent, higher education no longer serves the same goal and people are not willing to submit to something that no longer has a traditional end-game.  In contrast , PLEs are a natural adjunct to one’s everyday activity systems and in some ways may prove more directly relevant to people’s life goals when compared to traditional pedagogical forms.

I also agree with their concluding remarks:

A simple collection of potential resources (artefacts, natural objects, people) does not make a “personal learning environment,” if there is no personal model of intentional learning activity in the first place, or if people run on out-dated models from previous times.

So we need to move toward a learning model that is appropriate for the digital realm, one that re-envisions how learning functions in our everyday lives and how we are able to grow our ability to act in productive ways.

P.S. A small pet peeve.  I don’t like the way they refer to (adult) learning.  We can speak of adult activity systems, adult expectations for learning, or how learning occurs in adult activity systems, but I’ve never seen a convincing explanation of how the process of learning differs by age.  See Wikipedia’s critique section on andragogy.

Knowles himself changed his position on whether andragogy really applied only to adults and came to believe that “pedagogy-andragogy represents a continuum ranging from teacher-directed to student-directed learning and that both approaches are appropriate with children and adults, depending on the situation.

#PLENK2010 Knowledge is for Acting; Schooling is for Development

Premise: Knowledge Enables Acting, While Schooling Leads Development

  1. The ability to act in specific contexts is limited by one’s capabilities and by one’s ability to acquire knowledge that is an appropriate fit to that context.
  2. Schooling is not about acting in specific situations, but is about developing capabilities along a specified developmental trajectory as a foundation for future action.

In light of this weeks discussion of PLE in the classroom I will restate my view that we should make a distinction between learning and knowledge on one hand and development and capabilities on the other and the differing purpose served by each.

Learning and knowledge are for acting in specific contexts. Useful knowledge is highly linked to the situations for which it is devised and it makes no sense to attempt to acquire that knowledge before you are in the situation.  Inevitably, the knowledge gained in this way will not be a good fit for the situation.  Learning and knowledge is therefore inherently tied to acting and is a lifelong need.  Knowledge, to be useful, must be fit to the contexts where it is used.

Schooling is for the development of human capabilities. Using language, calculating, participating in debates, discussing important cultural topics, engaging in scientific experimentation, etc. . . .; these are all capabilities that schooling should develop in students.  We know what they look like beforehand, we know of processes to build these capabilities and we can assess successfully acquired capabilities.  Yes, studens will need to acquire specific knowledge to complete the actions specified by our assessments and classroom activities, but that knowledge will be incidental to the assessment or activity.  Using the capability in new situations will require different knowledge (even if it is only slightly different) every time.  My point is that assessing a students capability and developmental trajectory makes sense.  Assessing the knowledge he/she has acquired does not, because that knowledge will not be relevant to the student’s future; although their developmental trajectory will be highly relevant.

Knowledge is important for acting and PLEs are needed.  From birth, until we take our final breath, we need to acquire knowledge in an ongoing manner.  PLEs should be part of schooling because their development is an important capability. Likewise George’s (4) student centered items in this list are (I believe) about capabilities not knowledges.  The problems come when we mistakenly take knowledge as the reason for schooling instead of capability development.  It is usually not particularly hard to acquire the knowledge we need in any given circumstance if we already posses the requisite capabilities.  Unfortunately, most educational assessments are oriented toward measuring knowledge when they should measure capabilities and the developmental trajectory the student is following.  If they would do that, they would be a much better guide for teacher’s practices.

#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 Networks as Joint Social Spaces: A Foundation for Pedagogy

I. The Pragmatic Philosophy Part

According to Wittgenstein and Bakhtin, words are instruments of meaning, but that meaning is only realized in the context of their use, not from any kind of essence.  (See my previous post for direct quotes and a fuller treatment)  I believe this radical pragmatic concept also applies to logos – understood here as language, conversation, proposition, principle, reason, analogy, etc. . . , and I would include knowledge.  That is, knowledge is only fully understood and becomes meaningful in the context of its use and in its position between speakers.

II. The Biological View

Organisms interact and adapt to their environments through structural coupling (Recurrent interactions leading to a congruence between systems.), with other organisms through social coupling, and with other humans through linguistic coupling in a process of co-ontogenic (co-developmental) coupling (Maturana & Varela). Taking place in social network spaces, it explains our psychic experience as:

. . . the semiotic expression of the contact between the organism and the outside environment.  That is why the inner psyche is not analyzable as a thing but can only be understood and interpreted as a sign. (Volosinov as quoted in Shotter)

Furthermore, this sign is not in the head of an individual, but in the network that is the social space for creating joint expression and experience.  Our psyche is not in us, but is distributed throughout our cultural historical background and in our shared social spaces.

In this way, we are just like words, we develop (ontogeny) and are defined through our associations with others.

Because, who we ‘are’ between ‘us’, determines who and what we are to ‘our world’, (and who) and what ‘our world’ is to us. . . . And who we are to each other is up to us to care about. That is why it matters. (Shotter p. 206)

III. A similar critique of Education

Learning does not have a meaning that can be measured by a certification or a test of its essence, but it can have a use and it can take on meaning through the process of joint action.  Consider this description taken from Steven Johnson’s  Where Good Ideas Come From

  • A new idea is a new network of neurons firing in the brain.
  • But most such ideas are only partial.  They become complete when we work on them jointly with others.
  • The process of linguistic coupling extends and completes our new neuronal networks and joins them with other new neuronal networks.  These semiotic actions, when at their best, can seem mysterious or even divine in their function.

For something seems to be at work in the activities between people.  The activities are not just repetitive, they grow, they develop, they are creative, they make history; . . .  A ‘double divinity’ seems to be hidden in our joint actions; a ‘creator’ and a ‘judges’ that resides in the sensus communes, that is, ‘in’ its shared ways of ‘seeing sense’ and ‘making sense’. (Shotter, p.205)

IV. So – With a Full Understanding of the Importance of Networks and Community;

What Would Education Look Like?

I’ll answer this question by looking at some vision of education in my next post.

#PLENK2010 – Theory, Validity and Relativism

Thanks George; a good question I’ve been pondering for a couple days.

First issue; I’ll try to get to a better understanding of how I use of the term belief.  I’m thinking pragmatically here about how I act in most everyday situations, not in an idealized logical theoretical way.  In this context, I use the term belief not as an ill-formed or unsubstantiated theory, but more as a gestalt of everything I know that relates to the context in which I’m about to act.  Some of that may be informed by knowing that we’re not even conscious of drawing upon at the time we’re deciding and acting.  (Thinking of JG’s reference to intuition.)  I think that well founded theories are important, and hopefully, we get them into our gestalt beliefs in a way that will influence our actions to advance whatever practice we are engaged in.

Second issue, I’ll try to get at the relativism issue implied by your question.  Even though I love discussing theory, my primary concern has always been with practice.  (You might say, Phronesis informed by Pragmatism.)  Where I think Boghossian is arguing from first principles to achieve a version of a valid philosophical theory, I’m attempting to achieve the best practice possible by combining the best of all concepts and theories, as I understand them, that can move me towards that best practice.  I need well founded theories, but I’m interested in them in instrumental ways.  Now, that does lead me toward a relativist’s path, but I don’t argue for relativist first principles.  Not all viewpoints are equal and our arguments can be substantiated, but there are limitations to our thinking and knowing that should also be acknowledged.  I favored Joseph Margolis‘ explanation in grad school and I’ll go back to that now.

(According to Wikipedia) Margolis lists 5 themes in philosophy that have been gathering momentum since the time of Kant. (Emphasis added)

  1. Reality is cognitively intransparent. That is, everything we say about the world must pass through our conceptual schemes and the limits of our language, hence there is no way of knowing whether what we say “corresponds” to what there is; what the world is like independent of our investigating it;
  2. The structure of reality and the structure of thought are symbiotized. That is, there is no way of knowing how much of the apparent intelligibility of the world is a contribution of the mind and how much the world itself contributes to that seeming intelligibility;
  3. Thinking has a history. That is, all we take to be universal, rational, logical, necessary, right behaviour, laws of nature, and so on, are changing artifacts of the historical existence of different societies and societal groups. All are open to change and all are the sites of hegemonic struggle;
  4. The structure of thinking is preformed. That is, our thinking is formed by the enculturing process by which human babies become adults. The infant begins in a holistic space which is immediately parsed according to the norms and conduct and language she is brought up in. By taking part in the process, we alter it, alter ourselves, and alter the conditions for the next generation;
  5. Human culture, including human beings, are socially constructed or socially constituted. That is, they have no natures, but are (referentially) or have (predicatively) histories, narratized careers.

I don’t see this as a strong version of relativism that offers no possibility of making arguable judgements (I don’t know where he is now, but back in the 90s Margolis was willing to acknowledge that some of these, especially the social construction parts, could be open to argument).  It’s just that theories, judgements, scientific findings and the like are definitely limited by our cognitive abilities and situatedness.  As an example, one of my favorite topics is validity, which I conceive of as the degree to which evidence and theory support specific practices (I draw this from test validity, not philosophical validity).  You can make a judgement about the objectivity and correctness of a conclusion or test, but no matter how strong the evidence, validity never reaches 100%.  I must posses an openness to look at things in other ways, which also can be stated as, I expect science to progress by giving us better ways of understanding what we once thought differently about.

P.S. I generally thing of theoretical validity as how a theory is substantiated in a general sense.  Usually this will include the requirements of being predictive, descriptive, and testable, but I’ll usually judge that according to the context of my judgement, not in a prescriptive sense.

#PLENK2010 Is There “Meaning” in Connectionism?

In the comparison between connectivism and constructivism I’m searching for a different approach and more clarity.  The topic I will begin with is the place of mind, meaning, and interpretation as it’s found within the cognitive revolution and philosophy; and how these topics relates to connectionism.  Don’t think of this as established thought, but rather as an intellectual expedition trying to follow in the footsteps of some old textual mentors.

Meaning: The Basis of the Cognitive Revolution

Meaning and mind were listed as the central purpose behind the cognitive revolution in an account given by Jerome Bruner in the opening to his book, Acts of Meaning.

That (cognitive) revolution was intended to bring “mind” back into the human sciences after a long cold winter of objectivism” (p. 1).  “Its’ aim was to discover and to describe formally the meanings that human beings created  out of their encounters with the world . . . to prompt psychology to join forces with its’ sister interpretive disciplines in the humanities and social sciences (p. 2).  . . . And so today one finds flourishing centers of cultural psychology, cognitive and interpretive anthropology, cognitive linguistics, and above all, a thriving worldwide enterprise that occupies itself as never before since Kant with the philosophy of mind and science (p. 3).

He goes on to explain his disappointment with computational models of cognition that were becoming ascendant because he saw them as replacing the construction of meaning with the processing of information, what he calls profoundly different matters.  He even laments the distributed, “bottom up connectionist networks” of his day (1980s) because he saw them as falling into the same sort of problems as the stimulus response models that had no place for mind and meaning.

The Construction of Meaning; not of Knowledge

To be clear, the constructing of knowledge is not the central concern in this version of constructivism, but instead it is with the construction of meaning in dialogical processes that occur within the interactions between people.  Knowledge, like it’s component words, can be thought of as fluid, and can change according to the context.  It was clarified by John Shotter who said in his book Cultural politics of Everyday Life:

The trouble is, in science as in logic (as also in psychology), because we mistakenly “compare the use of words with games and calculi which have fixed rules” (Wittgenstein‘s Tractatus, 1953, no. 81), we always think that words must have stable, unequivocal, already determined meanings.  But in the openness of ordinary everyday life, in comparison with the closed world of logic, this is precisely not the case.

To state now explicitly the well-known Wittgensteinian slogan: in everyday life, words do not in themselves have a meaning, but a use, and furthermore, a use only in a context; they are best thought of not as having already determined meanings, but as means, as tools, or as instruments for use in the making of meanings – think of words as instruments for use in the ‘making’ of meanings. . . .  (p.78-79).

Two additional points:

  1. This account is dialogic, but I don’t think it would require representations (Something I believe Stephen strongly does not believe in representation somewhere in the mind).  It draws on prior instrumental learning, but not as representation (as analogous to hard drive storage).  Instead it is instrumental and draws on conversational tools as habits or ways of acting.  It could be thought of in this way – our acting and (dialogical) thinking are becoming more complex, and this results in an increase in knowledge complexity as a byproduct of our thinking and acting.  (I pair dialogue and thinking because most thinking is language dependent and language is always directed toward someone even in the soliloquy of our inner speach.)
  2. It is in this sense that negotiation, as I primarily use it in constructivism, is a negotiation of meaning, not of knowledge or definition.  I think it’s better to think not of an argument or a competition, more as a method of discovery of meaning that occurs in a dialogue between people.  I think of this in two ways.
    1. First, the way in which language is used (acted out) is critical to the establishment of it’s meaning.  Bakhtin used a quote from Dostoevsky to illustrate this where the actors in a dialogue are limited to the same one curse word, but used six times where each word, as is uttered, takes on a different meaning; six different meanings for the same word.  Similar to what Shotter said, the meaning is not in the word but in it’s usage.
    2. Second, in dialogue, once we have spoken, we have to wait to see how our utterance is interpreted by our counter-party before we can go on.  We can speak, but it’s like the meaning is in the hands of our dialogic partner.  I think it’s what Wittgenstein meant when he said that we don’t reach for certainty, but rather for the ability to go on and continue the dialogue.  Katerina Clark and Michael Holquist give a similar account of the psychological implications of this dialogic way of looking at things when they quote Bakhtin saying:

(T)here is no reason for saying that meaning belongs to the word as such.  In essence, meaning belongs to a word in it’s position between speakers . . . meaning is realized only in the process of active, responsive understanding. . .” (p.232)

These textual friends are talking about everyday life, not science.  I think their point is that everyday life is the real world and science has its place only in supporting that everyday world.  Too often we try to elevate science beyond its instrumental purpose and think of it as the real world rather than the abstract shadow that it is.

A Temporary Conclusion

So. . . I think maybe that this idea of a meaningful psychology or a meaningful education is compatible with the  type of connectionism we are discussing, but it’s not for me to say, at least not on my own.  If it is, maybe it should prevail over constructionism because it can help us to leave constructionism’s baggage in the past and make a new start.  Anyway looking forward to more conversation next week.

#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.