Thursday, January 12, 2012


In A New Culture of Learning  Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). The New Culture of Learning, the authors extol the benefits rather than the difficulties of the relentless pace of change that we are all experiencing.   In their eyes, A growing digital, networked infrastructure is amplifying our ability to access and use nearly unlimited resources and incredible instruments while connecting with one another at the same time (p. 17).

Two essential elements they focus on for purposes of learning are collectives and imagination. I'm going to comment a little on collectives and save imagination/play for another day.
In collectives constant interaction among group members, with their varying skills and talents, functions as a kind of peer amplifier, providing numerous outlets, resources, and aids to further an individual's learning (p. 51). ... But equally important is the ability to add one's own knowledge to the general mix.  That contribution may be large, such as a new website, or it may be a series of smaller offerings, such as comments on a blog or a forum post.  It may even be something as trivial as simply visiting a website.  But in each case, the participation has an effect, both in terms of what the individual is able to draw from it and how it shapes and augments the stream of information (p. 52).

This concept of learning through a collective sounds similar to George Siemen's theory of Connectivism which he posits in A Learning Theory for the Digital Age.  In this 2005 article Siemen's says, The starting point of connectivism is the individual. Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to individual. This cycle of knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain current in their field through the connections they have formed.

In rereading Siemen's article I discovered that Siemen's actually refers to John Seely Brown.  He comments that John Seely Brown presents an interesting notion that the internet leverages the small efforts of many with the large efforts of few. The central premise is that connections created with unusual nodes supports and intensifies existing large effort activities.  And Siemens concludes, This amplification of learning, knowledge and understanding through the extension of a personal network is the epitome of connectivism.

As I participate in several of the courses offered by Electronic Village Online (EVO) 2012, I find that I am learning through interacting with the participants in each course.  I can see that the participants in each are eagerly forming collectives.  As Thomas and Brown say, Unlike a classroom where a teacher controls the lecture, the organic communities that emerge through collectives produce meaningful learning because the inquiry that arises comes from the collective  itself (p. 54).

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