I had a modest, but telling, learning experience the other day. It isn’t remarkable in any way, but it hints at what might be achievable and how learning will occur more often in the future.
John Connell is one of my Facebook friends, although we have never met face to face, but we read and comment on each other’s blogs. I have added the virtual bookshelf application to my Facebook profile, and it displays Everything is Miscellaneous as the book I am currently reading. John saw this (I think this is what happened anyway), and posted a message on my wall suggesting I look at the David Weinberger/Andrew Keen face off at the conversation hub. I did this and found it very useful for crystallising some of the thoughts I had been having around the RAE. I also watched the Clay Shirky video, and blogged about this.
An OU PhD student saw my post and contacted me about metaphor, we had an email exchange where I gave some references I had and they gave me some links too, with a paper in mind that I might write.
If you look back at that exchange there are lots of telling elements about this sequence, which I think will come to characterise much of how learning occurs:
i) It used a number of different technologies, which were of my choosing. Facebook (extended through my selection of apps), blogs, email – not a one size fits all system.
ii) It was largely informal, with hooks out to the formal.
iii) It involved people I trusted but who had never met.
iv) I didn’t feel like a student or a teacher at any stage, it was a peer dialogue, through which learning occurred.
This is a fairly trivial example, and one might argue that it is not ‘deep’ learning (whatever that is anyway). This is true to an extent, but view this is in a context that isn’t geared towards learning, and is still in its infancy. Imagine an environment (by which I mean a social environment, not a VLE), where the emphasis is much more on learning, where I am actively seeking knowledge rather than stumbling across it. The power of the network and these type of learning experiences then becomes much more substantial.