Learning Communities, Learning Selves

[451 words]

I realize that it has been months since I last posted to this blog. My scholarly work, my time-wasting, my disorganization and my shifted focus took me away from the Open Learning initiative that was at the origin of this blog. That does not mean that I have not been thinking about open learning or that I have any intention to abandon this blog. On the contrary.

I recognize that I am not likely to have any readers. Still, I want to think systematically about open learning and about learning in my own life and how those two distinct foci overlap or intersect. I want to document and archive my thinking as I reflect on these realms. And, eventually, I want this record of work and reflection to be available publicly to potential collaborators.

I have said this in a number of venues, but I want to record it here:  Human beings are nothing if not “biological learning machines.” That is, human beings — pretty much all samples of our species, Homo sapiens sapiens — have evolved to do primarily one thing: we are learners. Our primary motivation is to seek pleasure and one of the greatest pleasures for us is to seek novelty, to figure it out, to puzzle over it, to play with it, to discern patterns and to using that thinking to improve our performance relative to that puzzle or problem, then to move to a more advanced level. In some ways, I understand perfectly well why “gamification” is so effective in educational circles. It appeals to exactly this penchant in human nature.

That said, I believe that another significant aspect of human nature is our desire to cooperate, reinforced by the “evolutionary rewards” that cooperation and social organization have wrought. (I use the term “evolutionary rewards” to designate those junctures in natural history where particular biologically/genetically programmed behaviors led to furtherance of our particular hominid species, many of which seem to be related to socialization, cooperation, transmitted information that confers survival, thriving and dominance advantages.)

The title of this particular blog has its origins in this tension: individual propensity for individual learning, which can confer an individual/competitive advantage, and the collective propensity for collaboration, cooperation and group domination (as opposed to individual competitive advantage). [Pondering — as opposed to pandering — about the relationship between individual vs. collective learning.]

I increasingly believe in the power of collective learning, which includes exchanges and development of discourse and ideas that may be uncomfortable for particular human beings, but that when put together with “the wisdom of the crowd” can be very powerful and forceful.


In short, I think that there is a biological argument in favor of collaboration and democracy.


More to come.