What I used to think I knew isn't helping: adventures in higher ed open source

Scalable Peer Learning

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A colleague of mine in the teaching and learning center is fond of bursting bubbles with a simple claim: “We already know what the best way to learn is – it’s not a mystery. It’s the private tutor.” In a world where most of the advice and best practices hinge upon what are essentially strategies for managing the activity of large numbers of people, leading with that point can be a bracing way of recognizing “good teaching principles” for the pragmatic tradeoffs they are. I was reminded of this when I came across John Hagel’s use of the phrase ‘scalable peer learning’ in his breakdown of the Big Shift.

Technology hype has become such a pervasive danger to clear thinking that even technologists are usually better off starting from the luddite’s vantage point. But every now and again that healthy, self-critical practice itself wears a rut – like it has for me recently – that one needs to climb out of. Technology is just a tool, I say. It’s about mechanical efficiency, and like all tools, when used inappropriately it just  gets in the way; what’s more, it is most often used inappropriately … and so on, until I start asking myself: why do I work in this field again?

It’s good to be reminded, from time to time, why technology might have such a deep role to play in spaces like learning and collaboration in general. ‘Scalable peer learning.’ Tightening down the pragmatic superstructure (like the management techniques of traditional teaching) in order to draw nearer to what’s essential, what’s most powerful, and maybe in the process achieve something qualitatively different.  The Web did not create the world of sterile mechanisms deflecting us from our real goals – we had that already – but its particular mechanisms may help us get closer.


Written by khomotso

August 9, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Posted in elearning

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