Posted by: Richard Schwier | January 30, 2008

Social learning setting minds on fire

Here’s a good one for you:

John Seely Brown and Richard Adler (2008). Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0.

I’ve long been a fan of John Seely Brown’s work, and he has produced another strong article here that makes the case, once again, for social learning. But this is a fresh read, and chocablock with examples and grounded in research.

His central premise is that we are moving from a Cartesian view of learning (I think, therefore I am) to a social view of learning (we participate, therefore we are). The most profound impact of the Internet, an impact that has yet to be fully realized, is its ability to support and expand the various aspects of social learning. He sees it as a movement from “learning about” to “learning to be”.

That is a familiar refrain for many of us, but take the time to read this article if you buy the general argument–more importantly, if you don’t buy the general argument. You’ll feel better for it, because this article doesn’t seem to wallow in condemnation of the past, but rather offers an optimistic view of where we are headed.

The original World Wide Web—the “Web 1.0” that emerged in the mid-1990s—vastly expanded access to information. The Open Educational Resources movement is an example of the impact that the Web 1.0 has had on education. But the Web 2.0, which has emerged in just the past few years, is sparking an even more far-reaching revolution. Tools such as blogs, wikis, social networks, tagging systems, mashups, and content-sharing sites are examples of a new user-centric information infrastructure that emphasizes participation (e.g., creating, re-mixing) over presentation, that encourages focused conversation and short briefs (often written in a less technical, public vernacular) rather than traditional publication, and that facilitates innovative explorations, experimentations, and purposeful tinkerings that often form the basis of a situated understanding emerging from action, not passivity.

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