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Groups vs Networks: The Class Struggle Continues

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Stephen Downes presentation to EFest, Wellington, New Zealand,
September 27, 2006

Published in: Technology, Education
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Groups vs Networks: The Class Struggle Continues

  1. 1. Groups vs Networks The Class Struggle Continues EFest, Wellington, New Zealand Stephen Downes, September 27, 2006
  2. 2. The Personalized Web <ul><li>2006 has seen the emergence of the personalized web, the interactive web, the web that places a premium on participation and community. Web 2.0 </li></ul><ul><li>How should the learning sector respond? </li></ul>
  3. 3. The Response <ul><li>The initial reaction from educational institutions has been negative, with access to many of the new applications blocked and banned by administrators. </li></ul><ul><li>But in the longer term we will need to meet the students where they live, learning how to participate in their online world. </li></ul>
  4. 4. The Challenge <ul><li>Can we, when we explore their world, resist the urge to make them just like us? </li></ul>
  5. 5. Danah Boyd… <ul><li>“ The dynamics of identity production play out visibly on MySpace. Profiles are digital bodies, public displays of identity where people can explore impression management...” </li></ul><ul><li>Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.danah.org/papers/AAAS2006.html </li></ul>
  6. 6. Sherry Turkle <ul><li>“We do not feel compelled to rank or judge the elements of our multiplicity. We do not feel compelled to exclude what does not fit.” </li></ul><ul><li>Life on the Screen </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.transparencynow.com/turkle.htm </li></ul>
  7. 7. Groups and Networks <ul><li>“Groups require unity, networks require diversity. Groups require coherence, networks require autonomy. Groups require privacy or segregation, networks require openness. Groups require focus of voice, networks require interaction. ” </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=35839 </li></ul>
  8. 8. Rethinking Learning http://static.flickr.com/109/252157734_9e6c29433b_b.jpg http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4126240905912531540&hl=en
  9. 9. Their Natures <ul><li>A group is a collection of entities or members according to their nature; what defines a group is the quality members possess and number </li></ul><ul><li>A network is an association of entities or members via a set of connections; what defines a network is the extent and nature of this connectivity </li></ul>
  10. 10. Groups, Schools, Classes <ul><li>A group, in other words, is a school (of thought, of fish…) or a class of some sort. </li></ul><ul><li>Or: classes and schools are just groups. They are defined as groups. </li></ul><ul><li>Can we even think of schools – and of learning – without thinking at the same time of the attributes of groups? </li></ul>
  11. 11. Again, The Challenge <ul><li>Stanley Frielick kirjoitti 27.9.2006 kello 12:35: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Education and authentic learning, like freedom, is wrapped up with the notion of responsibility and accountability. We need to learn in groups because that's where we form our identities – not in some vast chaotic network where there is no responsibility, no authenticity.” </li></ul>
  12. 12. Elements and Ecologies <ul><li>A group is elemental , defined by mass and sameness – like an ingot of metal (Aside: democracy is a group phenomenon) </li></ul><ul><li>A network is diverse and changing, defined by interactions – like an ecosystem </li></ul><ul><li>Can we achieve order, responsibility, identity in an ecosystem? Do we need the iron hand? (Aside: Solon, learning, justice) </li></ul>
  13. 13. Group Unity <ul><li>A group must be cohesive , united, “ out of many, one ”… “the people, united, will never be defeated…” The melting pot… the encouragement is to conform, to be like the others </li></ul><ul><li>Group technology appeals to the mass : television, radio, newspapers, books </li></ul><ul><li>Internet technology includes: all-staff email, corporate website, portal </li></ul>
  14. 14. Network Diversity <ul><li>A network, by contrast, thrives on diversity … “to each his own” … the salad bowl… the encouragement is to be distinct, to create </li></ul><ul><li>Network technology includes: talking, telephoning, writing letters, personal email </li></ul><ul><li>Internet technology: personal home pages, blogs </li></ul>
  15. 15. Group Coordination <ul><li>Groups require coordination , a leader, someone who will show the way… and to be managed … a group will often be defined by its values (aka the leader’s values?) and then a way to get members to follow, to share the vision, will define standards - members belong to a group </li></ul><ul><li>Associated technology includes the Learning Management System, Learning Design, LOM, etc </li></ul>
  16. 16. Network Autonomy <ul><li>Networks require autonomy, that is, that each individual operate independently according to his or her own values and interests – cooperation entails mutual exchange of value rather than follower and leader – members interact with a network </li></ul><ul><li>Associated technology: e-portfolios, personal learning environments </li></ul>
  17. 17. Group Borders or Boundaries <ul><li>Groups are closed - they require a boundary that defines members and non-members – walls - membership, logins and passwords, jargon and controlled vocabulary, lock-in (staying on-message, speak as one) </li></ul><ul><li>Technology: enterprise computing, federated search, user IDs and passwords, copyrights, patents, trademarks, assertions of exclusivity </li></ul>
  18. 18. Network Openness <ul><li>Networks require that all entities be able to send and receive messages both (a) in their own way and (b) without being impeded </li></ul><ul><li>In their own way: open source software, platform independence, APIs, RSS, communities of practice </li></ul><ul><li>Without being impeded: Creative Commons and GPL, distributed identity </li></ul>
  19. 19. Group Centralization <ul><li>Groups are distributive – knowledge, information, money, etc., flows from the centre – an ‘authority’ and is distributed through to their members </li></ul>
  20. 20. Why Networks? <ul><li>Nature of the knower: humans are more like networks than </li></ul><ul><li>Quality of the knowledge: groups are limited by the capacity of the leader </li></ul><ul><li>Nature of the knowledge: group knowledge is transmitted and simple (cause-effect, yes-no, etc) while network knowledge is emergent and complex </li></ul>
  21. 21. Thank You <ul><li>Stephen Downes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.downes.ca </li></ul></ul>

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