Knowing Knowledge: January 10 - 30, 2007

After the discussion . . .

After the discussion . . .

by Derek Chirnside -
Number of replies: 4
Hey thanks George and Paul . . .
I enjoyed the hour online, this is just a few comments to debrief my mind before I'm off to enjoy the rest of the day.

I was a bit overwhelmed with the sudden flurry into the high level theory/theories of learning.  Even the concepts behind constructivism need to be revisited often.  And I forget!!

I found Bill's blog, and these lists of knowledge:
http://billkerr2.blogspot.com/2006/12/what-should-schools-teach.html
I quote:
From anthropological research of over 3000 human cultures, he presented two lists, the first were universals, the things that all human cultures have in common. This list included things like:
  • language
  • communication
  • fantasies
  • stories
  • tools and art
  • superstition
  • religion and magic
  • play and games
  • differences over similarities (?)
  • quick reactions to patterns
  • vendetta, and more
He then presented a list of non universals, the things that humans find harder to learn. This list was shorter and included:
  • reading and writing
  • deductive abstract mathematics
  • model based science
  • equal rights
  • democracy
  • perspective drawing
  • theory of harmony (?)
  • similarities over differences (?)
  • slow deep thinking
  • agriculture
  • legal systems
Schools ought to be mainly about learning the hard to learn things.

I have yet to think what I think about this pair of lists.  Is it a useful lne of enquiry?  Too simple?  Tools like wikis and blogs affect us so much - some have strong elements of the hard.  Really hard.  Try to manage delicious, firefox, a threaded discussion and an RSS feed and you will know what I mean.

As I said, I liked the diagrams in George's book . .    [are they a language?]  The question usually arises in my mind: OK, what now?  In an organisation/network, how do we exist, live, relate? - say wearing hats such as teachers, or learners, or administrators.
This is my personal preoccupation here. I sometimes exist in a huge organisation of people.  How should I live?


I find again the huge value of a short synchronous sessions, and enjoyed things, fragmentary as they were at times.  My kids were making coffee down the corridoor for $2, $4 with cake.  Bruce next door is currently writing the worlds best chat and came in to look.  Why, Oh why does Elluminate have only such a micrioscopic input window?????  We are building in a form of quoting and threading to try to avoid the intertwined nature of usual chat.
I have more to say, but duty calls.  Have a nice day/night everyone.

In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: After the discussion . . .

by Bill Kerr -
hi derek,

More on alan kays ideas here, I think he's very important to this discussion

I think George is saying that connection is more important than content as a generalisation.

But how can we generalise about content like this? Some content (easier) is learnt spontaneously and other content (harder) requires some form on instruction.

I'd prefer to say that there is a continual tension between connection and content and that sometimes one is more important and that at other times the other is more important. We shouldn't generalise about it. "If we are going to talk about learning then we should talk about learning something", Seymour Papert.

How are we going to teach model based science, abstract maths, democracy and slow deep thinking? It won't happen by just connecting and sitting back.
In reply to Bill Kerr

Re: After the discussion . . .

by George Siemens -
Hi Bill - thanks for the Alan Kays reference.

I agree that content (knowledge?) is learned in different ways. I've been following a discussion on the ITForum on wisdom...and it's obvious that "becoming wise" takes much longer than learning how to label parts of a cell. While I wouldn't place myself in the category of wise quite yet, I do find that I have more balanced, nuanced comprehension of events than I did when I was 18.

Much of my thinking with connectivism has been centered on a certain type of knowledge - i.e. knowledge that is rapidly forming, short half-life, abundant, etc...in that space, I have maintained that the connections, not the content are the value point. Which is not to say that content is not important...it is...but it's often the by-product of a connections we form (whether we co-create, dialogue, or individually create and build on each others work).

In terms of the wider issues of "deep smarts", you raise a key point - one that is currently not served well by any learning theory. While different theories provide for "deep learning" (behaviourism doesn't...), the success of deep learning has not always been stellar. We may know how deep thinking should occur...but in our distractionist society, we are readily drawn by "shiny objects" and forget the important elements. I'm drawn to JSB's view of atelier or studio-based learning in this regard...where knowledge isn't simply about knowing about/what, but learning "to be". This concept is especially important in democracy. Our turnout (in Canada) for elections is a sad commentary. I should think that few rights should be more highly cherished than to choose. And yet, someone, our educations system is not providing for those values - regardless of views of how learning happens...
In reply to George Siemens

Re: After the discussion . . .

by Bill Kerr -
thanks George

I think once you acknowledge that different knowledge has varying durability then that notion invades all learning spaces, including the ones you had in mind when developing connectivism theory. eg. concepts like machine to machine communication (XML or whatever), aggregation, tagging, folksonomies may become irrelevant in the future but are sufficiently durable for now to be given more long term emphasis than other questions such as "is wordpress or blogger better?" (important but shorter term). I'm not arguing for some sort of absolute fundamental knowledge but that domain expertise does require being clear about deeper concepts, compared with more ephemeral concepts. Content / pipe is a dialectic, it doesn't always fall one way.

wrt smarts the the death of genius page,  argues (citing new scientist) that:
1) hard work, focused effort (effortful study), is most important
2) supportive environment, mentoring is also very important
3) natural ability (genetics) has some importance but is not so important as the first two

I teach chess and find myself often advising "slow down", "think", "don't play the first move that comes into your head". Also notation of games and going through them trying out different variations and taking notes  is a good way to learn. If we have the notion of "slow deep thinking" from alan kay's list then that provides guidance that this sort of teaching worthwhile. I know chess players who are "better connected", eg. play more regularly, but don't improve much because they don't do what is required to improve.

thanks for studio based learning reference
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: After the discussion . . .

by Nancy White -
Derek, I'm missing a universal there - chocolate, no? ;-)