Friday, August 26, 2005

Spontaneous Groups

by Rob Reynolds

... thinking about the natural selections of groups in education. No one made any of these kids or parents sit where they did. No one made them choose the instrument they play. And no one made me sit with these other parents. Through a variety of decisions and choices we all ended up with self-selecting communities. It happened naturally and with little real thought.

This is what we human beings do. We socialize. We get into groups of people who, at some level, seem to resemble us. We do it consistently. We do it naturally.

Rob went on to say,

that's why technologies that support learners' tendencies towards self organization are so important. Blogs and wikis allow users to create their own clusters (joining and unjoining) whether those clusters make any sense to me or not, and whether I think those are the ideal clusters for learning or not. As these groups or clusters form spontaneously, their communication and the information they share become an important part of the learning environment.

Of course, if we're smart, we'll realize that this happens with or without our permission, and we'll actually embrace the energy and learning potential inherent the phenomenon.

That got me thinking. Should we assist the students to organise their groupings (and that in a way will interfere with natural process)? or should we just leave it for them to occur naturally?

A lot of the Blogs and Wikis are available free, e.g. the blogging platform of this one is from Blogger which is free to anyone. We don't exactly need to provide the technology or platform for the students. They, when required, will find the platform and use the technology. As Rob noted correctly, back channels, with or without the help and notice of the teacher, occur naturally and such back channels are a very important part of the learning process. The question is whether teacher should or should not do about the back channels, and if yes, what to do about them.

I find this quite similar to the discussions of "formalizing informal learning". Once you formalise the informal learning, is it still informal learning? How would this process interfere with the original informal learning's effectiveness?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Free the Curriculum

Jimbo Wales, writing as a guest blogger in lessig blog, is in the process of revealing his list of 10 things that will be free. Being the "Wikipedia guy", his first prediction is free Encyclopia, as in wikipedia.

His second prediction is free the curriculum:
a complete curriculum (in all languages) from Kindergarten through the University level.

I will be very concerned, as shared by a comment made by Bill Korner, that if this "complete curriculum" is ONE unified curriculum and "in all languages" means that ONE curriculum being translated into different languages.

James Schmeling commented that such an effort must include licensure and certification. I don't think so. Learning is a personal experience. Curriculum resource is only part of the material to create the experience. Learning can exist without external motivation such as certification AND some will require certification too. I don't see any of the two named by James as essential to the Free the Curriculum effort.

There are many people pointing out existing efforts to provide free textbook and curriculum. I have a quick visit to some of the suggested sites. Some look promising, but mostly very small scale project at this time.