Choose your own path and collaborate!

I read Graham Atwell’s post Cartoon Planet – A Pedagogy of Change a few days ago. I set it aside to study later because I knew there was lots to reflect on. I’ve now found time to do this and there has been one major learning point. Prompted from the quotes below, I’ve been able to think through the two major themes of Web 2.0 learning – Personal Learning and Collaborative Learning in a more coherent way.

The below 4 quotes give insight on this:

“Whilst young learners in the 21st century are seen as being increasingly independent, simultaneously group skills are more important than ever before.”
“The ‘educational shift’, grounded on social and personalised pedagogies, as advocated by most of the literature, is still in progress (Williamson and Payto, 2009).”
“The construction of new knowledge through collaborative and cooperative activities, which are personally meaningful to the learners, are core to a pedagogy of change (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2007).”
“Learning relies both on granting the individual an active voice and creating an environment for collective listening and mutual support (UNESCO, 2002).”

These quotes crystallises the issue for me. Everyone can pick and choose their collaborative path. Look at how social networking works, everyone chooses their friends on facebook, they each join the groups they want and communicate with each set of people separately. The choice is entirely theirs and everyone has different connections. Groups can be subject specific or a particular social context or grouping. I think network is a more helpful word here than community. But what’s most important is that the learner is creating their network for themselves.

Let’s think about education. Well, let’s face it, it’s not set up to cater for this type of freedom. Any group work is strictly controlled and limited, be it physical or virtual. With this control, you can compromise achieving what’s “personally meaningful to the learners”. This has the best chance of coming when you give a level of independence. The learner creates and chooses their own path. Downes’ and Siemens connectivism course delivery shows what can be done (it’s a pity I’ve pretty much dropped off this (next year maybe)). I think control is at the heart of what education is all about so this is tough nut to crack. But it’s worth recognising that by controlling how students learn, you can inhibit their ability to learn – both now and in the future.

This has ended somewhere different to where I expected. I had intended to highlight how important the personal and collaborative elements are to my ‘informal’ learning in the blogosphere. I have created my own bloglist which gets refined all the time; I study them, as well as the odd article; I do my job and learn things; I collaborate by talking to a couple of key colleagues; I collaborate in the comments of blogs; I reflect on all this and blog myself. The most important part of this for me is the reflection. Previously, I never found time to reflect and this is the missing elements for lots of people. The other things can happen naturally, if you are lucky, but standing back and reflecting often gets lost.