"PerlMonks is an example of a emergent, self-organizing system that promotes learning without overt management in a large, distributed community mediated by the global Internet. In what is essentially a self-directed learning effort, PerlMonks participants organize their own learning around authentic, real-world problems which they choose."I poked around on the PerlMonks site and indeed there is ample evidence of an incredible learning environment for techies who are immersed in Perl and related technologies. It appears to be total gibberish to anyone who is not -- this is a very focused and active community with a well-defined purpose. It does offer tutorials for beginners, but the level seems more advanced overall.
The paper connects the type of learning to constructivism:
"Seen from the perspective of learning system design, PerlMonks encompasses some useful constructivist conditions for learning. A few conditions evident within PerlMonks (many more are embedded) include: (a) authenticity, (b) real-time quality, (c) distributed knowledge creation, (d) social construction of knowledge, and (e) induction into a learning community through staged participation."This all got me thinking about how the same general topic is treated it 43 Things, where I found that 109 people want to learn Perl and 12 of them have written entries about the goal. Most of those are quick statements of intent, but others are more interesting. 50 other users have reported completing the goal and 18 of those have written posts either encouraging or discouraging the pursuit of the goal. Only one "expert" offered a link to an online resource -- their class outline and notes from an introductory course. Almost nobody received any comments on their entries except one pretty girl who got five in a group that seems to be mostly guys (coincidence?).
If you type "Learn Perl" into Google, the related 43 Things goal page is one of the top results, and PerlMonk shows up at about result 350. Isn't that odd? The coverage of the topic on 43 Things is minimal, without much reference to the actual programming language, while PerlMonk has been around at least five years longer, has an active tech-savvy community, and covers the topic in unbelievable depth. Perhaps this says more about the Google ranking system than anything substantive about the relative value of the two sites, but it's still interesting to me.
There's something ephemeral about goals -- they can be whims or or indications of an interest that may never be followed up. The type of learning that takes place on 43 Things may be less focused teaching the content of the learning goal (like "Learning Perl"), and more focused on the process of learning about and deciding which goals you should actually pursue. Instead of answering the question, "How do I learn Perl?", it's helping answer questions like:
- Why should I learn Perl?
- Who else is learning Pearl and what are they saying about it?
- What related programming languages might or should I be learning instead (or together with it)?
- If I was going to learn Perl, where would I start?
- Would others recommend that I pursue this goal?