Thursday, January 22, 2009

"I think, therefore I am" contrasts "We participate, therefore we are"

John Seely Brown, innovator, scholar and scientist weighs in on the differences between the older modes of knowing and CNL modes. Brown contrasts Cartesian individual learning, “ I think, therefore I am” with “ We participate, therefore, we are” mode of learning which allows us to link together to be and learn with one another in a group. In Mind's on Fire: Open Education, the long tail, and learning 2.0, John Seely Brown and Richard Adler contrast the two modes in this way:

The emphasis on social learning stands in sharp contrast to the traditional Cartesian view of knowledge and learning—a view that has largely dominated the way education has been structured for over one hundred years. The Cartesian perspective assumes that knowledge is a kind of substance and that pedagogy concerns the best way to transfer this substance from teachers to students. By contrast, instead of starting from the Cartesian premise of “I think, therefore I am,” and from the assumption that knowledge is something that is transferred to the student via various pedagogical strategies, the social view of learning says, “We participate, therefore we are.”

This perspective shifts the focus of our attention from the content of a subject to the learning activities and human interactions around which that content is situated. This perspective also helps to explain the effectiveness of study groups. Students in these groups can ask questions to clarify areas of uncertainty or confusion, can improve their grasp of the material by hearing the answers to questions from fellow students, and perhaps most powerfully, can take on the role of teacher to help other group members benefit from their understanding (one of the best ways to learn something is, after all, to teach it to others).

Today and in the future, we have technology in place that allows us to direct our own CNL into and with a community of practitioners in learning in any field that will permit us to participate in their endeavors

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