Quote: “Peer-to-peer learning is amplified by emerging technologies that shape the collective nature of participation with those new media.” (50) This quote sums up my understanding about Chapter 4. Chapter 4 defines collectives as a collection of people, skills, and talent that produces a result greater than the sum of its parts. It’s also a content-neutral platform in which people participate in order to learn from others. The authors seem to feel that the opt-in nature of digital collectives makes them a particularly good environment for learning.
Question: I’m not sure what the authors mean by, “Teach a man to fish, and feed him as long as the fish supply holds out. But create a collective, and every man will learn how to feed himself for a lifetime.” (53) It is far from obvious to me that a man will learn to “feed himself for a lifetime” from joining a collective as “collective” has been defined—for example, a blogging community with a common interest.
Connection: Thomas and Seely Brown state that, “Once a particular passion or interest is unleashed, 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.” (52). This reminds me of Will Richardson’s story, in his book Why School?, about how much his son Tucker had learned by connecting with a network of new friends to develop Minecraft strategies. Tucker had done this without any parent support, driven by his own enthusiasm for the game.
Epiphany: High school students get much more out of extracurricular activities than meets the eye. Much like the college students the authors describe on page 51, these students get hours of additional immersion in the learning environment.
Quote: “The learning that happens through blogs, social networks, and other new media may be deeply grounded in experience and personal expression, but it also arises from the contributions of multiple people and voices. Expertise and authority are dispersed rather than centralized, and once a digital space hits a point of critical mass, it is very likely that some member of the community will have valuable expertise to share about a given topic.” (71)
Question: Why do the authors feel that classrooms are necessarily “public” rather than “collective” spaces? (58) They seem to assume that in classrooms students do not participate or have any interest in the subject matter; they merely “sit in isolation, privately writing down notes, taking examinations, or listening to lectures” out of compulsion, and with no desire to learn. (58)
Connection: The authors describe blogs as “by their very nature…tentative works in progress. They have the character of playfulness….They can be experimental in nature, used to test and refine ideas.” (64) For me, the blog format—public, written prose, potentially read by employers, experts, etc.—imposes a seriousness of purpose that removes the element of play. The authors even include quotes that “the blogger can get away with less” (65), and “Information put out on the blogosphere is investigated, challenged, and debated.” (65) My Pinterest page, however, is another story. The corkboard format and colorful imagery make it whimsical and fun.
Epiphany: “Because learning with digital media occupies a space that is both personal and collective, people can share experience as well as knowledge. Here, people are not just learning from one another, they are learning with one another.”(67) I’m finding this to be the case with by 20% (fitness) project, which is connected to one of my Pinterest boards.
Quote: “For most of the twentieth century, the explicit was both abundant enough and important enough to sustain an entire system of educational practices…. The twenty-first century, however, belongs to the tacit. In the digital world, we learn by doing, watching, and experiencing…In a world where things are constantly changing, focusing exclusively on the explicit dimension [of knowledge] is no longer a viable model for education.” (76) I don’t agree with the authors’ view of the twentieth century as a time of slow change, but I believe this quote accurately summarizes this chapter. This chapter emphasizes the difference between explicit knowledge and tacit (experiential) knowledge, or learning by doing.
Question: Why do the authors feel that “teaching tends to focus on eliminating…the student’s imagination,” and that “most models of education and learning have almost no tolerance” for students’ different ways of learning? (79)
Connection: The authors echo Sir Ken Robinson when talk about the importance of passion. They note, “when students feel passion for a topic, they will seek out the tough problems, rather than the easy ones, and work harder to solve them. And best of all, they will have fun doing it.” (80)
Epiphany: I can integrate more inquiry-based learning into my history lessons by asking students to tell me not what they know, but what they don’t know and what questions they have about the topic. See 82-83.