Minds on Fire

John Seely Brown is a pioneer in the realm of the computing, working as Chief Scientist for many years at Xerox PARC, which was the incubator of many of the most common place technologies we use today. JSB is also passionate about education and collaboration.

Recently, he co-wrote an article for EduCause, entitled Minds on Fire. (1.4MB PDF link!)

Below are a couple passages that got me excited. They’re more exciting in context, so I invite you to read the full article at JSB’s site, as linked above. (hyperlinks below are of my own insertion to help illustrate)

On Social Learning,

Compelling evidence for the importance of social interaction to learning comes from the landmark study by Richard J. Light, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, of students’ college/ university experience. Light discovered that one of the strongest determinants of students’ success in higher education—more important than the details of their instructors’ teaching styles—was their ability to form or participate in small study groups. Students who studied in groups, even only once a week, were more engaged in their studies, were better prepared for class, and learned significantly more than students who worked on their own.

On collaborative, open to the world learning,

An example of how the power of participation can be harnessed within a single course comes from David Wiley at Utah State University. In the fall of 2004, Wiley taught a graduate seminar, “Understanding Online Interaction.” He describes what happened when his students were required to share their coursework publicly:

Because my goal as a teacher is to bring my students into full legitimate participation in the community of instructional technologists as quickly as possible, all student writing was done on public blogs. The writing students did in the first few weeks was interesting but average. In the fourth week, however, I posted a list of links to all the student blogs and mentioned the list on my own blog. I also encouraged the students to start reading one another’s writing. The difference in the writing that next week was startling. Each student wrote significantly more than they had previously. Each piece was more thoughtful. Students commented on each other’s writing and interlinked their pieces to show related or contradicting thoughts. Then one of the student assignments was commented on and linked to from a very prominent blogger. Many people read the student blogs and subscribed to some of them. When these outside comments showed up, indicating that the students really were plugging into the international community’s discourse, the quality of the writing improved again. The power of peer review had been brought to bear on the assignments.

This is why I’m working on designing and creating software and techniques to enable social interaction that encourages learning.

  • http://bokardo.com/archives/learning-20-the-threat-and-promise-of-social-interaction/ Learning 2.0: The Threat (and promise) of Social Interaction – Bokardo

    [...] I hadn’t heard that idea articulated clearly until I read this post over at Brian Christiansen’s blog about social interaction in learning environments (I used [...]