Nice article in Educause by John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler titled “Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0” which is another great conversation starter for those who still may not have a basic understanding of these shifts. It’s written more toward the higher ed audience, obviously, but there is still a lot of resonance for the K-12 set.
There are many familiar themes here, but a couple came a little clearer for me. First, the idea that while this is still about being able to find information in many ways, the Read/Write Web makes it more importantly about finding people.
The latest evolution of the Internet, the so-called Web 2.0, has blurred the line between producers and consumers of content and has shifted attention from access to information toward access to other people.
I was on an Elluminate session for our PLP project yesterday with Brian Smith and he made the point that he’s no longer as apt to do a Google search as he is to do a del.icio.us search when he’s looking for information, and I find myself doing that more and more as well. I know that’s still about information, but now it’s becoming more about information in the context of the network. It’s people with an interest in a particular topic making a decision about the usefulness of a resource, and, in doing so, making themselves available for connections.
I also liked the way the authors described the the importance of participation in this world:
Mastering a field of knowledge involves not only â€œlearning aboutâ€ the subject matter but also â€œlearning to beâ€ a full participant in the field. This involves acquiring the practices and the norms of established practitioners in that field or acculturating into a community of practice.
They talk about the apprenticeships that can now be found online, citing the open source software community as an example. But most critically, they highlight how participation is now a part of gaining mastery instead of an outgrowth of it.
But viewing learning as the process of joining a community of practice reverses this pattern and allows new students to engage in â€œlearning to beâ€ even as they are mastering the content of a field. This encourages the practice of what John Dewey called â€œproductive inquiryâ€â€”that is, the process of seeking the knowledge when it is needed in order to carry out a particular situated task.
That’s certainly been borne out in my own experience.
There’s more here, obviously, and I think it’s well worth the read. Bottom line is that we have to prepare our students to be much more active participants in their own learning, and that we have to help them experience the value of being embedded into communities of practice that can sustain their lifelong learning needs.
Technorati Tags: johnseelybrown, learning, education, communitiesofpractice, plpnetwork
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Britt Watwood says
I suspect many of us were blogging about this article yesterday (I did)
This ties in directly with the recent work on PLEs – personal learning environments. As the authors note, online social networks are impacting learning. Their example from David Wileyâ€™s Utah State University course where students were required to share their course work through blogs .. and the student work subsequently improved when the greater world started linking to student blogs – this really caught my eye.
Leveraging these social tools into our instruction not only increases student facility with the skills they will need in the workplace, but increases the likelihood of the learning shifting from teacher-directed learning to passion-based learning. As you note, it becomes learning undertaken because the student WANTS to learn and be a participating and contributing member of a community.
So I second the call to others to check out this article!
Dani Wilkin says
Educators should emphasis the importance of participation. If a student participates in class, in return they understand the material better. There are many students who are just too shy or scared to answer a question in front of their peers. In the past, some of my classes had participation as a grade. This forced students to think about the different topics discussed, instead of just sitting around listening to what everyone else had to say. By being involved in class, I feel it is important for the student and teacher. The teacher will see the student is putting forth the effort to want to understand the material.
The incline in technological advances has allowed students to act together on-line through blogs, wikis, skype, and other on-line advances. I feel educators should use devices, such as these, to benefit themselves and their students.
Mike Maloy says
I’ve always been the listener. Then, when I took the chance to participate I wanted to add something useful and meaningful, not just parrot what someone else had already said.
What I’m starting to realize is that by participating I may not be adding something “new” or spectacular, but I might pull others, with whom I have personal connections, along with me as I learn. I’ve had some good conversations with those people.
I’m learning to share, even if what I have to share isn’t all that original.
Ben Wildeboer says
I enjoyed your emphasis on the participatory nature of the network. I’ve been reading blogs and using other online tools for some time now, but only just recently have I really started making an effort to become a participant. I started my own education blog and vowed to comment on postings that I particularly enjoyed, disagreed with, or raised questions for me.
As I’ve become more of a participant, it’s dawned on me more than ever that this is a skill that would be valuable for our students. While being able to effectively use Google or other search engines is a valuable skill, how much more powerful would an effective learning network be? A tool that allows you interact directly (even if it’s asynchronous) with experts & professionals blows the lid off Google.
What steps can be taken to encourage the school filterers to allow these tools through to our students. Currently del.icio.us is blocked where I teach, as well as pretty much any site that mentions the word “blog” (ok, not quite, but what’s the reason behind blocking the edublogs.org domain?).
Britt Watwood says
Great point, Ben. I currrently teach a graduate course called Instructional Uses of the Internet, which actively uses delicious. My students who are all K-12 teachers have to go home to get on delicious because their districts block it at school. We are trying to get that lifted but it is a bureaucratic nightmare. I was watching Mike Wesch’s video from the ELI conference last night and was reminded again that the old rules of appropriateness are sometimes falling behind the times.
Ben Wildeboer says
I think the best we can do sometimes is to actively engage in discussions and experimentations on how tools like del.icio.us, blogs, wikis, etc. are extremely effective learning tools in the hands of a capable teacher. Given the push towards constructivism (at least in my region), I have to believe that the filterers and blockers will relent at some point.
However, I think it will require teachers in each district to actively push their administrators in that direction (something I haven’t been too good at). Eventually the movement will reach critical mass, but hopefully it’ll happen within the next year or two as opposed to the next 20.
Eric Sauve says
Especially this part – “I know thatâ€™s still about information, but now itâ€™s becoming more about information in the context of the network.”
I think one of the concepts that still have to really gain exposure (related to the above) is the area of collaborative filtering. This is essentially the process you describe around social bookmarking.
While Facebook has popularized social networking, the same has not been true for Amazon.com and collaborative filtering. From a finding information in the context of a network perspective, the later seems to me very very important.
Jim Lerman says
Thanks so much for this great cite, Will. Can’t wait to dig into it.
Just came across something else that readers might be interested in, although the thinkers are from a much more macro (read systemic and policy) point of view.
Check out my blog post: http://jlerman.wordpress.com/2008/02/03/what-might-the-future-look-like-for-american-education/
For a link to an online book published by the National Commission for Teaching and America’s Future called
“Building a 21st Century U.S. Education System.” What’s in the book, and not in the book, make for some very interesting discussions.
Gary Stager says
I sure wish that smart people like John Seely Brown would find new terms instead of using existing ones, like “open education,” to mean something completely different than the original intent.
We don’t need more confusion or less precision in our conversations about education.