Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Learning in Communities

Stephen Downes assembled a great little guide to Learning in Communities a couple of weeks ago. It's another one of those things that I skimmed while I was too busy, but luckily saved for later digestion. My current interest in learning communities is whether to (or how to) integrate student planning portfolios and learning communities. A few gems I need to internalize:
  • "a group of people can create a more complete understanding than a single person working on his or her own" This is obvious, but I tend to prefer working alone, so I need constant reminders of this truth. Your ability to establish context for new information is often entirely dependant on the people you're working with.
  • "a community generates a sense of commitment not created merely by an individual working on their own with the content. As Rheingold notes, 'People everywhere seem more interested in communicating with each other than with databases.'" I've sometimes thought of comparing this with the value of having a workout partner. By sharing responsibility, you increase the commitment level. Rheingold's quote reminds me that no matter how good the data and navigation in our services, people still want to connect with other people.
  • "content and communication must form a seamless whole"...this seems most difficult to me. Within the context of a single application, perhaps it simply means that when you're communicating, you need easy access to data, and when you're looking at content, you need easy access to communication channels.

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