Connective Knowledge tag cloud from ManyEyes

I finally read David Wienberger’s latest book, Everything Is Miscellaneous –the one everyone was buzzing about awhile back. While I admit to a catalogically geeky fascination with the evolution of knowledge organization, the aha! that I took away from the book relates to how we learn, how we ingest real meaning from bits of knowledge, and how randomness feeds that meaning. The key to learning is connectivity.

Our society’s traditional notion of knowledge acquisition is that it’s a solo affair, as Weinberger posits in the chapter on Social Knowing. Most of our educational system is built on that assumption—just consider the weighty standardized tests imposed on high schoolers, where each student sits in a cone of mental isolation and searches for the relevant bits of information swimming around in her solitary brain. One of the great challenges of online learning is how to socialize self-paced learning, which by nature fits with the solitary model.

Steven Downes’s essay on E-Learning 2.0 (Oct 2005) suggests the potential for online learning to break out of the isolation ward and into the rich sphere of socially networked learning.

“What happens when online learning software ceases to be a type of content-consumption tool, where learning is ‘delivered,’ and becomes more like a content-authoring tool, where learning is created? The model of e-learning as being a type of content, produced by publishers, organized and structured into courses, and consumed by students, is turned on its head. Insofar as there is content, it is used rather than read … And insofar as there is structure, it is more likely to resemble a language or a conversation rather than a book or a manual.”

The success of Learning 2.0 had as much to do with the social interaction among the participants as it did with the exploration of the cool tools. As we design instruction for staff development, let’s focus on the connectivity between people, whether electronic or f2f.

btw, if you don’t have time to read Weinberger’s book, you can spend 57 minutes watching the video –the YouTube generation’s version of Cliff Notes.