Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Commons - pedagogy for 'human beings'

Last week I read Mohamed Amine Chatti's post comparing the ideas of Wenger on a Community of Practice with his ideas on Learning as a Network. It made me realise that it is time for me to put together my thoughts on learning on online networks. Chatti explains that in a CoP there is a central 'hub', the community, where through social interaction, participation and communication with others in the community, people move from the periphery to the centre of a community and that this process makes that people learn. Learning in his LaaN would be different as it would be more an individual process. The learner would determine the activity and the people who he or she  communicates with and might help in his or her learning, rather than that the social participation in a particular community would be at the heart of the learning.
Other views of teaching and learning have emerged over the past few years. Weller explained the idea of a 'pedagogy of abundance' in which people learn informally in an environment of  easy access to an abundance of information and conversation with people facilitated through technology. Kenway (2001) discussed the need for direction from adult educators as it is not just enough for technology to be there and used, or for that matter for attempts to be made to make the use of technology more effective, eg through intelligent aggregating and recommender systems, but for  people to look critically at technology and what technology does to change our lives and society. Wheelahan discusses a   'pedagogy of human beings' as in the uncertain and complex times in which we now live different forms of knowledge determine our lives and should all form part of the learning we do, where they might influence our formal education, or our lives in the workplace or at home. Technological change has not been the only change in post-modern society!
This morning I received a link to the periodical of CASAE, the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education in my inbox, in which one of the articles took me back to the thinking of Ivan Illich  in which he proclaimed that technology helped to facilitate the 'closure of the commons' (1991, p51.).  The restriction of people in society to determine what happens to the world in which we live. Illich’s vision was to see people take ownership of the learning process, rather than institutions controlling their education. In order for agency and participation to return to the learning experience, Illich (1971, p. 2) called for ‘the possible use of technology to create institutions which serve personal, creative and autonomous interaction and the emergence of values which cannot be substantially controlled by technocrats’.
Silke Helfrich (2010, p3) argues for people to re- claim the commons; 'to take our lives in our own hands, and to protect and widen what is common to us, instead of witnessing its enclosure and privatization.' she emphasises that the commons trans-sect all issues in society, and could ensure that all knowledge is brought together, and no longer is fragmented as it currently seems to be (Midgley, 1991) . Would we  live more wisely by making connections to all disparate issues that have slipped away from our control at a time that multinationals and banking institutions seem to have been in charge and determined the direction, rather than representatives of the people? Helfrich questions who really owns the world in the super-complex times that we now live in and states that: 'The commons enhances self-determined rules and commonly developed & controlled open technologies instead of proprietary technologies which tend to concentrate power within elites and enable them to control us' (2010,p3).
Why do I write this on a blog related to a Personal Learning Environment?
It is so easy when designing and developing a technological innovation to only look at how the technology will increase the effectiveness to the user, rather than to also think about the wider implications of its use. When developing a PLE would it simply be enough to develop a useful tool, and to work with partners to achieve knowledge transfer to achieve a high-spec product development, or should it be of paramount importance that the wider community is served in the words of Illich:
1. To liberate access to things by abolishing the control which persons and institutions now exercise over their educational values. 2. To liberate the sharing of skills by guaranteeing freedom to teach or exercise them on request. 3. To liberate the critical and creative resources of people by returning to individual persons the ability to call and hold meetings – an ability now interestingly monopolized by institutions which claim to speak for the people. 4. To liberate the individual from the obligation to shape his expectations to the services offered by any established profession- by providing him with the opportunity to draw on the experience of his peers and to entrust himself to the teacher, guide, adviser or healer of his choice. (Illich, 1971, p. 103)

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