Peer-to-Peer Learning in the Collective: a #digped Discussion

On Friday, May 3 from 1:00 – 2:00pm Eastern (10:00 – 11:00am Pacific), Hybrid Pedagogy will host a Twitter discussion under the hashtag #digped focused on the notion of the learning collective, an idea put forward by John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas in A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Collectives, the authors point out, are different from communities, especially in that they “are defined by an active engagement with the process of learning.” The conversation curated and archived via Storify.

Brown and Thomas argue that technology has changed the nature of learning in collectives. In a culture now defined by the way we connect with one another, how we share, what we share, and how that sharing becomes participatory (evidenced equally by sophisticated online collaborations as much as by the ever present, banal, entirely spreadable meme), connecting and working together is no longer only a practice, it is quickly becoming a habit, a mode, a preferred behavior.

Pedagogically, the collective both poses certain dilemmas — such as the evolving role of the instructor, the ambiguous nature of assessment, the difficulty of maintaining the course as container — and offers certain benefits — the introduction of non-competitive research and writing, the opening of democratic communities of learning, and a fuller participation and ownership from students in their own educations. For many teachers, the question of how to modify our pedagogical approach can create anxiety, uncertainty, and even resentment toward a shift in the culture of learning that we’ve had little control over, that’s come at us from outside our own domain; for others, this new landscape appears inviting, exciting, and full of possibility.

But the truth is, our worry or our excitement about learning (and teaching) in the collective may be moot points: we are already part of this connected culture. Our teaching is fed by it and feeds it, even without our noticing. We can begin to see the Internet not as a library of information, but as a collection of people, a community of learners and mentors who share their process and knowledge through the artifacts found there. In other words, whenever we go online, we join the collective (in an immense sense), for there we are not interacting with, culling, or researching text/image/artifact, we are clicking through to the people who wrote/produced/created — and who are writing, producing, creating — the Internet itself.

When we come to recognize the Internet not as an array of sites and pages but as people, all facing outward, facing each other — as they might in a classroom — we glimpse the learning environment we’re a part of, and that we’ve been a part of for decades. The pedagogy we apply, then, becomes a pedagogy of the collective, an invitation to the vast mass to think, discuss, and share.

Our discussion Friday, May 3, will seek to explore some of Brown and Thomas’ main ideas from “Learning in the Collective” (Chapter 4 of their book), especially the implications for pedagogy — the need to change the way learning happens, peer-to-peer learning, and participant pedagogy. We will look at where learning happens and where teaching happens within the collective.

Some questions in advance of our discussion:

  • What technologies are most rapidly changing the way learning happens online? How do you — or do you — integrate these tools into your teaching? How do you — or do you — integrate them into your digital life?
  • How are learners beginning to supply the latest information, especially social information, and how do new modes of circulation encourage critical practice and collaboration?
  • Peer-to-peer learning poses a number of challenges to the traditional educator. What becomes of the teacher when peers teach each other? What is the difference between a mentor and an instructor? How can learning be assessed when it happens rabidly, and without supervision?
  • How can we create collectives that work to specific ends, creating learning that is directed and meaningful?

Add thoughts and questions below in advance of the conversation and join us on May 3 at 1:00pm EST (10:00am PST). For those unable to attend this week, Hybrid Pedagogy’s #digped occurs on the first Friday of every month. Our next #digped conversation will occur on Friday, June 7, 2013, same time, same place. If you have suggestions for future topics, feel free to add them to the comments below or tweet to @hybridped.

[Photo by qthomasbower]

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