I was struck by how difficult it is to choose the wording for questions like the one that George Siemens tossed out to get people thinking about education and the future.
What do you think learning will look like in ten years?
There are a bunch of qualifications I would like to add to that sentence, and so many eventualities that could come in the way of a move in any different direction. But I don’t think there’s a better way to ask it… The history of the public education system is replete with examples of people’s agendas, fears, ignorant well-meaningness, hopes and dreams controlling what might have otherwise been a more positive vehicle for making a ‘better’ society. That’s not to say that it is currently ‘bad’, just that it tends to move with the prevailing winds.
We all have different ideas of what learning is, and what it’s for. Some of us think of it as primarily normative… a way to sculpt a society in our image (and this is not necessarily bad… we do need a consistent vehicle to pass on the mores that we hold dear). The funny thing here is that this is one of the few places where the arch-conservative and the hippie-liberal come together… they would both like to (and have before… indeed… this was the original purpose of the public education system) use the school system to train for ‘moral rightness’ or ‘social justice’. On the other end there are those that believe that life is a gigantic DACUM chart… that learning is a process of checking off competencies that can be assessed and measured through national testing. Neither of these positions really gets at the true complexity of the violently ad hoc ‘learning’ concepts we carry around with us today. There is something decidedly repugnant in the Orwellian idea of a sculpted society and the only convincing argument I’ve heard in favour of standardized testing is “what else are we going to do?”
In the face of all of this indecision and uncertainty, I’m going to take a different path from my normal one. I’m going to be optimistic. I’m going to imagine what I might like learning to look like in the future. I’m going to be focusing on a couple of things… one is the community of practice model of learning (See posts here for emergent training communities) and the other is the ‘focus’ of the learning. I certainly don’t mean to claim that no one is doing this now… indeed, I think of edtechtalk as my main learning community. And as for focus, there are many people who are starting to focus on concepts and letting plain literacies follow along when they are needed.
Community Education – why edtechtalk works for me
Imagine a group of very busy folks trying to keep up to date on a field that is constantly changing. We have six groups of folks who get together once a week and present the best that they’ve been able to put together that week. We have a much larger community of people who are involved in finding stuff, submitting it to the group pile and participating as guests/members on the live shows. i am personally responsible to the show I do… and free to participate (as is anyone) in the rest of the work done in the community. Now, we use bunches of newish tech to get this done, but I don’t think of that as particularly important… it’s fun, but not essential. I get to stay current by hanging out with my friends online. It’s a pretty good deal… and its sustainable. It has that feeling of a conversation at a conference (minus the airfare and other expenses) but I get to have it at least once a week.
Where is the focus?
When a learning community has a strong idea of what its there for… and all the people who are there have self-selected themselves for that particular kind of learning, staying focused is not particularly difficult. People come to the community with something in mind. In the case of edtechtalk, the focus is on learning and technology… The skill set that is needed to participate effectively in that community is gradually acquired through the act of participating.
The learning community that I’m trying to model tomorrow is one where we have self-selected ourselves to learn about how to be better community ‘joiners’. The different focus on this came from a conversation with Stephen Downes on a panel at the POM conference last week. I had asked Stephen how someone was supposed to learn a complex task without formal education. He responded by saying that they could go out and find people on the internet who knew how to do it and learn from them. My response to this line of argument is always the same “easy for you to say, you do this all the time, but how does someone unfamiliar with learning communities get comfortable with joining them?”
You could, I suppose, simply keep trying to join communities until you got better at it. I decided that it might be more interesting to look at what a community could do to work through the idea of ‘proper community joining and forming’. It requires people to be open about how they feel about the ways that people are talking to them. It requires people to choose the kind of education they want and then be responsible for brining good work to the table. It would mean that learning is something we commit to, when we need it, and, indeed, when we find it. It’s decentralized, and the personal assessment model looks like “this works for me.” The group assessment model kind gets turned on its head. The rest of the group needs to tell the leader for that day how well they’ve picked up what they were trying to get across.
My goals for the session – Assessing the ‘leader’
It is important, in this kind of assessment that people are honest. Giving positive feedback where it is not deserved can poison any community. Kind but direct criticism is the best way to ensure that everyone stays happy and productive in any community. Indeed… this is one of the primary responsibilities of every member. So, following are a list of my goals… I hope to hear back from you on how I did 🙂
Live meeting #6 â€“ Snowclones, ClichÃ©s and Memes
The purpose of this meeting is to discuss how snowclones, clichÃ©s and memes affect community participation. My proposed goals are:
- grasp the terms by using them
- follow an example of snowclones, cliches and on to memes from start to finish
- participate in that example
- discuss how awareness of language affects the ability to participate in a community
- develop a list of strategies for discovering local language use in a community
- using that information to choose if a community is right for you
- participate in a new community