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Learning: communities vs. courses (4) – learners’ skills and motivation

Another turn on Learning: communities vs. courses – 1, 2, 3: George Siemens summarises the discussion in Learning Ecology, Communities, and Networks. It’s a great overview (and it’s very good to have someone rethinking and summarising bits of distributed ideas), but I’m thinking on implementation challenges.

I wouldn’t come back to my concerns that some educational goals may not work with community dynamics, this time it’s about learners themselves, as “The simple fact of membership in one or seventeen networks specifies little about content of knowledge and nothing about degree of mastery” (Spike Hall). This point links the discussion about learning in a community with another stream on learning with weblogs.

Spike Hall notes that introducing weblogs as a learning tool is not about the technology, but about “passing over the deuterolearning (aka meta-learning and learning-to-learn) torch” and lack of meta-learning skills of students. He also adds that we are likely to overlook it:

I thought I might mention this because those already deep into a) weblogging / journaling, or b)research and development, as two examples, are already deep into self-directed growth and may take their own skill for granted. This taking-for-granted sets up a certain blindness to the total set of attitudes and skills that go into high levels of active and self-directed learning. And this blindness, in turn, can render the teacher/developer incapable of isolating and teaching the subskills and attitudes that are involved.

Sebastian Fiedler continues:

Though I certainly see the potential of personal Webpublishing to be turned into “a major self-uplift machine” (actually a good part of my paper for BlogTalk 2003 was trying to examine the possibility to conceptualize personal Webpublshing as a powerful tool for self-organized learning), I keep bumping into missing “subskills and attitudes” of adult learners whenever I try to integrate personal Webpublishing practices into formal course settings.

Sebastian points that it’s difficult to change existing learning habits and attitudes of adults and that there is a variety of ethical questions around it. At the end his asks:

What can we really do to promote more self-teaching and self-organized learning?

Can personal Webpublishing practices support a development into this direction?

Or do we need to treat some “attitudes and sub-skills” as explicit pre-requisites for turning personal Webpublishing into a tool for personally meaningul learning?

I would add: Can we decide being a self-organised learner is a good thing for someone who is comfortable learning in other ways? It’s quite a paradox: we want learners to be self-directed and this is one small thing we will decide for them… I believe that reflection and meta-learning skills are increasingly important in our days. My questions is: how do we facilitate others going there without forcing them?

Coming back to learning in communities: given the lack of structure and guidance in communities it’s personal meta-learning and communication skills that make learning possible. And, as Spike Hall notes, those who have these skills tend to take them for granted and expect that everyone will learn given the opportunity to do so. I don’t think so and I don’t have ready an efficient and ethical roadmap of developing these skills.

Related: earlier post on Developing reflexivity.

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2003/10/17.html#a805; comments are here.

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