Sunday, December 28, 2008

World Without Walls: Learning Well with Others | Edutopia

I have been experimenting with using Diigo to improve my blog workflow.  Part of that improvement plan is to use worthwhile articles as touchstones for my own thoughts.  Diigo makes this plan simple although the commenting is never easy.  Today's blog is a commentary on Will Richardson's World Without Walls: Learning Well with Others | Edutopia.

Welcome to the Collaboration Age, where even the youngest among us are on the Web, tapping into what are without question some of the most transformative connecting technologies the world has ever seen. These tools are allowing us not only to mine the wisdom and experiences of the more than one billion people now online but also to connect with them to further our understanding of the global experience and do good work together. These tools are fast changing, decidedly social, and rich with powerful learning opportunities for us all, if we can figure out how to leverage their potential.
  • If this is true (that we are entering the Collaboration Age) then what are the implications for such 'non-collaborative' dudes like me. What does it mean in my life both professionally and personally? I have to say that collaboration is what is missing in my university life. In high school I worked with students in drama classes and that seemed to scratch that itch very happily, but in higher education the isolation can be even more profound, especially for non-tenured staff teaching five courses a semester. - post by tellio

Our ability to learn whatever we want, whenever we want, from whomever we want is rendering the linear, age-grouped, teacher-guided curriculum less and less relevant.
  • My question is this: is collaborative work supplanting curriculum, is it supplementing, is hybridization occurring, or is this something as yet undescribed, inchoate, and emergent? Messy, yes? I think that we can safely say that with access to larger circles and greater resources that the curriculum is turning into a many armed spiral with each student at its core. - post by tellio                                                  
Working together is becoming the norm, not the exception.
    • Somebody needs to point me to a place where this assertion is quantified. In my life I don't find this to be true except at the household and family level. At the tribal level not so much and at the organizational level, hardly at all. - post by tellio
The Collaboration Age is about learning with a decidedly different group of "others," people whom we may not know and may never meet, but who share our passions and interests and are willing to invest in exploring them together. It's about being able to form safe, effective networks and communities around those explorations, trust and be trusted in the process, and contribute to the conversations and co-creations that grow from them. It's about working together to create our own curricula, texts, and classrooms built around deep inquiry into the defining questions of the group. It's about solving problems together and sharing the knowledge we've gained with wide audiences.
    • Great a definition with criteria! Good on ya, Will. 1. We will bowl with strangers who share our passions and learning goals. 2. We will collaborate in safety. 3. These collaborations will crystallize around various threads in networks--expeditions/quests. 4. We will co-evolve as we talk and create together. 5. What we will create is the road of our own learning, a circuit that spirals out and then back around the 'deep inquiry' we are sharing. 6. These collaborations will solve problems and share results. Sounds like large scale science as it is being practiced today. Where are these models and how can we adapt them to learning lives. 4. - post by tellio

I believe their best, most memorable, and most effective teachers will be the ones they discover, not the ones they are given.
    • This is the basic idea behind 'unschooling' and has its intellectual heritage in John Holt and Ivan Illich and Paolo Freire. This was the credo I lived by when my wife and I raised our children at home. - post by tellio
More than learning content, the emphasis of these projects is on using the Web's social-networking tools to teach global collaboration and communication, allowing students to create their own networks in the process.
    • I would like to see some follow-up of these students as they take these skills into their personal and learning lives. - post by tellio
The complexities of editing information online cannot be sequestered and taught in a six-week unit. This has to be the way we do our work each day.
    • I think that the idea of role modelling may have jumped this shark. First, the suggested role here is way wider than any ever contemplated by organizational charts anywhere. In fact, most teachers would say, "This is way above my pay grade." Second, the role suggested here is more like that of a parent or an elder or a guru. None of these is democratic enough to suit the collaborative model Will suggests earlier. Third, we have to decide what is developmentally suitable for learners. Last, to do this "at every turn, in every class" is neither realistic or necessary. Part of the problem of schools is this relentless, misapplication of workflow efficiency. I say add back the interstices. We need the silent gaps, the lube of pointless conversation, and the joy of pointlessness. - post by tellio
The process of collaboration begins with our willingness to share our work and our passions publicly -- a frontier that traditional schools have rarely crossed.
    • School frontiers? That is an oxymoron. Schools are mostly interested in their own imperatives. I don't think that they are interested in pushing into any direction that ultimately threatens those institutional imperatives. Rarely crossed? Nicely understated. They are 'traditional' schools by virtue of having never crossed them. That is why I think that when conditions arise, most schools will fold like a newbie at Texas holdem. - post by tellio
Look no further than Wikipedia to see the potential; say what you will of its veracity, no one can deny that it represents the incredible potential of working with others online for a common purpose.
    • A stone has potential, too, but until someone picks it up and uses it (perhaps to throw it through the crystal palace of traditional schooling) it is pretty much useless. I know and appreciate the work some people are doing to lay down the parallel tracks for a new learning space. Will is pointing to one of these new spaces. To my mind it is no specific place, but rather anywhere people gather to learn. Our role is to go where the learners are and ask them how we can help. - post by tellio
The technologies we block in their classrooms flourish in their bedrooms
    • OK, this is the crux. Either we go where they are or we go away. If they ignore us like they do now, then the effect is the same. We are dead teachers lecturing. You say, "Class dismissed," and look up to see they are long gone and there is chalkdust on all the desks. - post by tellio
Anyone with a passion for something can connect to others with that same passion -- and begin to co-create and colearn the same way many of our students already do.
    • How can we make this as second nature as going to school for twenty years has become? There are very few societal supports for such a 'structure' but we must take advantage of those that are there and we must make sure that no one (Google and Facebook to name two) get their hands on the wheel alone. - post by tellio
I believe that is what educators must do now. We must engage with these new technologies and their potential to expand our own understanding and methods in this vastly different landscape. We must know for ourselves how to create, grow, and navigate these collaborative spaces in safe, effective, and ethical ways. And we must be able to model those shifts for our students and counsel them effectively when they run across problems with these tools.
Yes, we must prowl around this new 'Serengeti'. Yes, like Odysseus, we need to be skilled in all ways of contending in this sea of terror and delight. Yes, it must be clear to students that we are learners on a continuum and that respect is earned by not only walking the walk, but in making the road as we walk it with them. - post by tellio

Thanks, Will for being my touchstone. 

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