Saturday, December 22, 2007

From Me to We

From Networked Learning in a Networked World (courtesy of Weblogg-ed) "The problem of the edublogasphere (and actually the whole blogasphere) in the context of learning is that people in the sphere do not - at least often - form any groups (an entity of individuals with an objective)."

It seems to me that formalized 'group network learning' and 'online collaboration' only happen when something is a stake. A larger purpose or project is needed as a focus to draw people together.

I've experienced this reality in more than one way:

1] In working with students and mentors with David Neils at, one of the realities that came to light was that mentor-protege relationships are most effective when a project acts as the focus for the interactions. Diverse experiences and ideas necessarily contended with one another, and constructed with one another.

2] In leading teachers through an online course, focus questions were indispensable in launching meaningful discussions. Our online work was narrowly focused. Questions that encourage variable viewpoints are not always easy to come by. (Individual bloggers often align with like minds, missing out on such challenging interactions.)

3] In collaborating to develop common approaches to lead teachers to the use of e-learning tools in Ontario, my regional colleagues and I found great traction in developing sharable resources through Wiki documents. Our online work had a clear purpose.

Each of these online interactions was meaningful because something was at stake, amplifying motivation for all participants.

When Will Richardson shares "My learning has a general focus and direction, to be sure, but it’s trajectory is determined by whatever is in my aggregator or on my screen at the moment."

This thought affirms for me my discovery that independent learning and exploration through chosen feeds/channels is effective for creative tangential discovery; but not for 'product'ivity. For a product to result, a team has to come together with a common goal (be it a conference, presentation, paper, resource...).

'Individual network learning' may not be an oxymoron... it may simply be the way individual online voices seek content from their networks: downloading for incentive to upload. (e.g., the Blogger whose livliehood depends on individual posts/presentations; the student trying to complete a research paper.)

'Group network learning' on the other hand, has many contributing via upload, so that in the end, the group has something worth sharing with the world via downloading! (e.g., The Future of Learning in a Networked World conference; Open Source software development; Wikipedia).

My four year old at his first soccer game had the wisdom to network before moving towards a common 'goal'. I wonder how many of the individual voices in the blogosphere are yearning like I am, for collaborative projects in which to vest their mutual interests... Project-Based Learning anyone?!


Will said...

Thanks for making me think, Rodd. And in many ways, I think you are right about the differences between individual network learning and group network learning, though there is some overlap. The striking thing for me is while you are yearning for those collaborative projects, I tend to shy away from them. I like the freedom to contribute what I will where I will. Not saying that the collaborative projects can't be important and highly satisfying. But it is weird on some level how I find myself struggling with them.

Thanks for reading and pushing.