I’m much more excited about CCK08 this week since things are finally moving toward application.

Gina writes about social objects.  I’m not sure I like the term, because I think people will understand the object as being the enabling technology, which it isn’t.  Instead it’s more the point of common focus for members of the network. I was talking to Blanche Maynard about this earlier this week. During the course, the course itself (or perhaps the desire for a grade/academic credit) holds the network together, but what happens after the course is over? In order for the network to continue to contribute to learning , it needs to persist. Maybe that persistence is mostly a matter of how much value the network generates for the member nodes, combined with a dash of “Do I like the nodes in the network, and do I want to hang out with them after the course is over?”

Lisa mentioned Rousseau and put together a very nice chart comparing his and Locke’s approach to education.  The bit I found most intriguing was this from Locke:

Do you wish to get an idea of public education? Read Plato’s Republic. Those who merely judge books by their titles take this for a treatise on politics, but it is the finest treatise on education ever written.

I am now adding The Republic to my to-read list, as soon as I finish Phillip Pullman.

Lisa then goes on to write…

There are good ideas here whose implementation has been interrupted by the advent of industrialized education, which I consider to be the real culprit in poor instructional design. The perceived necessity of educating the multitudes, and the rise of mandatory education in the West, has created our current system…(my emphasis)

It’s easy to blame the “industrialization” of education for the system’s present woes.  I’ve done it myself from time to time.  After all, if we all had just a handful of students, everything would be better, wouldn’t it?

It’s important to remember that when the kind of education Locke and Rousseau describe was the norm, the proportion of the population receiving it was much smaller than the proportion of the population in modern “industrial” education, at least at the higher levels.  The outcomes maye have been better two hundred years ago because the student body was much more select. The institutions at which both Lisa and I teach didn’t exist 50 years ago. They attract students, who, a generation ago, would have been considered “not college material.”, so I was surprised to see her refer to a “perceived need to educate the masses.” Why is the need only a perceived one?

Even if high level skills aren’t strictly necessary for a particular job, it’s generally accepted (perhaps without enough questioning) that critical thinking/reasoning/etc. skills are good to have.  Lisa makes a good point that much of the way we do education these days may not actually help foster the high level skills we claim are the impetus for educating people in the first place.

She then answers the question, “In many ways the theories of connectivist learning are designed as a tutorial system without a tutor. ”  This sentence jumped out at me the first time I read it as hitting thr nail on the head. Now as I think about it, I wonder if rather than their being no tutor, there’s a multitude of tutors as big as your network, each guiding you through the bits they know more about than you do.  It’s kind of a “professoriate of all learners” to paraphrase Martin Luther.

Big networks may be important to this model.  As your network grows, the likelihood that everyone in it is as ignorant ( I don’t mean the term pejoratively- perhaps unaware would be better) of a given topic diminishes.

Now, how do we design learning resources to make that happen?