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?


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