The open connectivism courses that are run by Stephen Downes and George Siemens are rich with examples of emergent learning and whether or not intended, the design of these courses can promote emergent learning.
The CCK11 Elluminate session on Friday last (4 th Feb – recording here) was an example of this. Stephen found himself moderating the session on his own (George couldn’t make it), with 40 participants – the majority of whom were reluctant (and actually always are reluctant) to take the microphone – no doubt for a number of good reasons. So for the most part Stephen found himself on his own talking to 40 faceless people.
What is so interesting about these Friday round up sessions is that there is no planned agenda. Participants are asked to come to the session with topics/questions for discussion that have arisen from the week’s work, but we are not asked to post these questions in advance – so there’s no way the facilitators – in this case Stephen – can know what is coming at them or whether they will be able to answer the questions raised. This requires such a different approach to ‘teaching’ – a different mind set about what it’s all about and a different view of the meaning of learning.
Through this ‘openness’ a variety of different topics can be discussed. There were a couple of points that struck me from Friday’s session.
First that we learn by pruning unused connections. This is really counter-intuitive for me.
And second and even more interesting was the fascinating discussion by Stephen about breaking apart the meaning of words from what they represent. He took the example of the word ‘Paris’ and showed that this means different things to different people. It could mean the city Paris, or Paris Hilton, or plaster of Paris etc. If it means city to me then my understanding of ‘city’ is based on all my prior experience which is different from anyone elses. That would also be the case for any of the other meanings of Paris. So around each possible meaning there is a network of meanings and around each of those a network and so on. This is enormously complex and unique to each person. So here is the crunch:
If this is the case then it must be impossible to transfer one person’s network (understanding) to another person.
This seems so obvious, but if it is then why does the transmission mode of teaching still exist?
I attended the session with no idea that I would come out of it with this very strong message about why a transmission model of teaching is unlikely to be successful. It could be that no one else recognised this as a possible message. It is unlikely that Stephen knew he was going to be talking about Paris before the session began.
So Friday’s session was for me an experience of emergent learning in action.