Social Learning

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= We participate, therefore we are


Definition

Social learning is the development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes while connected to others (peers, mentors, experts) in an electronic surround of digital media, both real-time and asynchronous.

(Harold Jarche).

Description

John Seely Brown:

“The emphasis on social learning stands in sharp contrast to the traditional Cartesian view of knowledge and learning—a view that has largely dominated the way education has been structured for over one hundred years. The Cartesian perspective assumes that knowledge is a kind of substance and that pedagogy concerns the best way to transfer this substance from teachers to students. By contrast, instead of starting from the Cartesian premise of “I think, therefore I am,” and from the assumption that knowledge is something that is transferred to the student via various pedagogical strategies, the social view of learning says, “We participate, therefore we are.”

This perspective shifts the focus of our attention from the content of a subject to the learning activities and human interactions around which that content is situated. This perspective also helps to explain the effectiveness of study groups. Students in these groups can ask questions to clarify areas of uncertainty or confusion, can improve their grasp of the material by hearing the answers to questions from fellow students, and perhaps most powerfully, can take on the role of teacher to help other group members benefit from their understanding (one of the best ways to learn something is, after all, to teach it to others)." (http://www.johnseelybrown.com/mindsonfire.pdf)


Discussion

1. Mimo Ito:

"What characterizes learning in settings where kids are engaging in popular, networked, and viral new media cultures?

First, there is very little explicit instruction, and learning happens through process of peer-based knowledge sharing. People engaged in a practice seek out information or knowledgeable peers when it becomes relevant to their work, and in turn, they help others when asked. Although there are people acknowledged as experts, they are not framed as instructors.

Secondly, rather than working to master a standard body of material and skills, participants in these practices tend to specialize. Much like we see in academic life, there are opportunities to develop status and a role as an expert in a particular, often narrow specialty. Alternately, this can involve developing a particular style or signature in creative work. It is not about trying to acquire the same body of knowledge and skills as all one’s peers in a given community of practice.

Finally, these environments are based on ongoing feedback and reviews of performance and work that are embedded in the practices of creation and play. These groups also have contexts for the public display and circulation of work that enables review and critique by their audiences. Competition and assessment happens within this ecology of media production and consumption, not by an external mechanism or set of standards. In other words, individual accomplishment is recognized and celebrated among peers in the production community and other interested fans, providing powerful motivation for ongoing learning and achievement.

We can see these dynamics at play in a wide range of settings; these are not processes that are exclusive to new media engagement. New media becomes significant when it enables kids to have greater access to these specialized practices of peer learning, knowledge sharing and amateur communities of creative production." (http://digitalyouth.ischool.berkeley.edu/node/114)


2. Jane Hart, on social learning in the enterprise:

" Social Learning is about creating and sharing information and knowledge with other people using (often free) social media tools that support a collaborative approach to learning.

Social Learning is fast becoming recognised as a valuable way of supporting formal learning and enabling informal learning within an organisation (something that has been overlooked for far too long). The use of online communities and networks, where employees are encouraged to co-create content, collaborate, share knowledge and fully participate in their own learning, is helping to create far more enduring learning experiences." (http://janeknight.typepad.com/pick/2009/12/my-year-in-review.html)

More at http://www.jarche.com/2010/01/social-learning-in-the-enterprise/

Example

John Seely Brown:

"“Because my goal as a teacher is to bring my students into full legitimate participation in the community of instructional technologists as quickly as possible, all student writing was done on public blogs. The writing students did in the first few weeks was interesting but average. In the fourth week, however, I posted a list of links to all the student blogs and mentioned the list on my own blog. I also encouraged the students to start reading one another’s writing. The difference in the writing that next week was startling. Each student wrote significantly more than they had previously. Each piece was more thoughtful. Students commented on each other’s writing and interlinked their pieces to show related or contradicting thoughts. Then one of the student assignments was commented on and linked to from a very prominent blogger. Many people read the student blogs and subscribed to some of them. When these outside comments showed up, indicating that the students really were plugging into the international community’s discourse, the quality of the writing improved again. The power of peer review had been brought to bear on the assignments.” (http://www.johnseelybrown.com/mindsonfire.pdf)


More Information

Learning 2.0

Federating Social Learning Theories