Week 7.2

Anjana made a good point on my blog here in reply to my insistence that community building is vital to learning. For personal reasons I have a strong bias towards building community that might distort my reasoning but I’ll skip that. What I can be open about though is that we have fractured knowledge into tinier and tinier units to the point that everything has its place but no part in the whole. At this level how can we know something even matters beyond being a “required subject”? Who do we consult? The teacher, the school authorities, accepted wisdom that “learning is good”? Why should we trust a closed system to be truthful about itself? And no, this isn’t about bad intentions and the dark powers of evil, just a question on why we value the word of the institution that by doing things their way will lead to knowing?


As Anjana says, “We are normally trained in going to read, hear and look at something (video, book, webpage…etc) to ge he knowledge we need but not to work in groups and less to work in a learning community to get it.” This is true, this is how we are trained but are we ever trained in the ability to independently verify this knowledge we get? Community is one way to test knowledge, pass it around, defend it, jump on it ‘till it goes flat, do anything you can to persuade or criticize and you might actually come close to knowing.


The net releases us from the narrow flow of “verified” that education has given us. Outside the rare critical thinking courses offered in some institutions, education itself has taught us to accept uncritically the word of “the one who knows” with minimal questioning. In a world where content is everywhere / always, without community reflection we are vulnerable to the first thing that sounds right.

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  • Jim Sullivan  On October 21, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    I love your last sentence!

  • Anjana  On October 22, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    Wow Scott good connections, really good points!! In this information society and technological world, we need to face the teaching and learning focusing in other skills more connected with practicing, exploring, pondering, critical thinking, discerning, than only reading, watching, listening and memorizing without any own reasoning .

  • Rachele DeMeo  On October 22, 2012 at 3:11 PM

    I personally feel like I get a lot of knowledge and information from talking to others who have tried out the tools I’m considering using. I’ve been trying to figure out whether I should use Dropbox or Google Docs (now “Drive”) to hyperlink information from my class/handouts for students to access. By asking others (via POT Facebook group page) and colleagues, it’s helped me know more about each. Learning from others, in my opinion, is essential to discovering knowledge.

  • Sou Lackkaty  On October 24, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    Thanks for linking the article to the uses of twitter. I especially like the one about asking open-ended questions for students to respond to (#24). I think this keeps them thinking about the subject. And in the case where they have to write an essay on the topic, it leads them to look at their topic from different perspectives. Then this will make them want to do more research.

    Which number do you like? And, how will you use it to benefit your class?

    • scottx5  On October 24, 2012 at 9:17 PM

      As a course designer my role in the actual presentation of the online material is very restricted. That said, our instructional design department does have the odd visit from students who are unsatisfied with the course material and changes can be built in to match their suggestions.

      To me the major problem isn’t in presentation or content but the identity of students who feel so disconnected from their education they won’t even make suggestions. To many of our students the idea of school being a community they belong to is not there. Without the sense of mattering, the content is an abstraction with no place in their world–no application. Even the concept of learning is an abstraction when there’s no place to discuss, compare, or even a place where someone would ask you what you thought.

      Regardless, community is the key. We need people with expectations and the desire to learn in spite of what schools have become. The first step is to reinstate the idea that the exchange of ideas is way more important than “knowing” things that will only help you pass a test.

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