Monday, December 06, 2004

Blogs, tomorrow's learning, and why I blog

I've been gradually trying to whittle down an extended backlog of items in my aggregator. One side effect with the aggregator in Radio is that posts begin to bump into one another in interesting ways. Patterns suggest themselves and I'm on my way to one answer to why I blog .

Halley reposted something she wrote two years ago addressing the seemingly perennial question of what is a weblog. It's all worth reading, but the reasons that caught my attention were:

4. It's telepathic training wheels -- that is, it's a very early stage on the way to the REALLY big next big thing -- brain-to-brain telepathic transfer. Bye bye telephone, bye bye writing, bye bye fortune cookies, bye bye every other way you used to communicate. Blogs open up people's minds, you travel the road with them, see it all through their eyes. It's all we've got now, but soon enough we'll all be in bed with each other, embedded with each other I mean.

9. A weblog is my head, open to you, day and night, at your convenience. Come on in. Please take your shoes off at the door, I hate having to vacuum after you leave.

10. A weblog is watching brains at work, especially watching brains with the ultimate prosthetic device -- everyone else's brain and the whole net connected. Weblogs let you watch people learning at lightning speed. Awesome to witness.

posted by Halley at 3:28 AM | link

That links very nicely to several recent posts sitting in my aggregator, all pointing to a report from Australia on the internet and self-directed learning. Here's one quick summary and pointer from Stephen Downes:

Linking Thinking: Self-directed Learning in the Digital Age

This is a remarkable report, much more revolutionary than it may appear at first glance, and worthy of detailed consideration. The author argues, in essence, that the internet enables a great deal of self-directed or informal learning, that learning in this way is viable, that there is an increasing demand for it, that government and institutions can do little to control it, but that it serves not only an economic role but also is a foundation for civil society. In order to support self-directed learning, two major things must be in place: universal access to the internet, access that goes well beyond merely placing computers in libraries and shopping malls, and access to knowledge and information, a vast amount of which is in danger of being captured from the public domain and commercialized. Via elearnspace. By Philip C Candy, Department of Education, Science and Training, August, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Today 9:23 PM

One of the compelling features of blogging tools is that they virtually eliminate the barriers to publishing and to creating a record of what you are learning on your journey around the web and through life. Their organizing principles are "just good enough" to be useful and the collective norms loose enough to help most of us get over having to be perfect or having to have the right answer. That makes them potentially powerful tools for learning.

What we each need to learn is idiosyncratic. The trappings of formal learning environments need to be approached with extreme caution. Learning needs to get back to play to succeed. The simplest possible tools, i.e. blogs and wikis, are what we most need to dip into the learning stream and take part. Explorers keep journals primarily for their own benefit, but the rest of us get to benefit vicariously from their generosity.

I want to come back to this line of thought. For now, let me end by pointing to the range of possible learning activities that become possible with a access to the net. At one end we have:

The Wiki Game

Slashdot has the scoop on The Wiki Game.

Social Media
Today 7:20 PM

Nerdish to the nth degree, perhaps, but it illustrates the learning (and fun) the becomes possible when you make the links in an encyclopedia something you can click on and follow. I know that Ted Nelson still disagrees , but this is close enough to the Xanadu he wrote about to meet my needs.

At the other extreme (along some axis), we have:

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs.


If you want to learn computer programming you can't go wrong with an education provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's "Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science". Unfortunately, a MIT education isn't available to everybody.

What if you could get a MIT education from the comfort of your Aeron?

MIT's "Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs" course is available as a series of video lectures by Hal Abelson and Gerald Jay Sussman, and it's all online!

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs has been MIT's introductory pre-professional computer science subject since 1981. It emphasizes the role of computer languages as vehicles for expressing knowledge and it presents basic principles of abstraction and modularity, together with essential techniques for designing and implementing computer languages. This course has had a worldwide impact on computer science curricula over the past two decades.

The course leans towards the Lisp programming language, but the information presented in the lectures is valuable to programmers of any language.

The course requires a high level of commitment. There's just under 22 hours of lectures spread across 30GB of MPEG video (DivX videos are also available).

Visit Site

It's little wonder that so many institutions are flailing about trying to make sense of this world. It doesn't take a major clue to realize that the established order is threatened from many directions.

A closing thought. One of the reasons that I have become an advocate of Personal Knowledge Management is this organizational and institutional disruption. It's not that I disagree with Denham's contention that knowledge is largely a product of social processes. It's that I don't think individual knowledge workers should simply trust that the organizations they belong to at the moment are willing and able to make the necessary investments in effective knowledge creation, capture, and exchange processes. If you happen to belong to such a farsighted organization, great. But you really need to be looking out for yourself as well.

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