Chapter seven on Social learning, ‘push’ and ‘pull’, and building platforms for collaborative learning by Lankshear and Knobel (2011) reminds us that nothing lives in a vacuum, and that certainly holds true for knowledge acquisition. Indeed, the authors begin their analysis early in the chapter by stating that collective social practices “reflects and responds to important social, technical, economic, and institutional changes that have occurred during the same period” (p. 211). Simply put, we all learn best when knowledge has “context,” thus creating meaning from and within our communities, work, and lives.
Lankshear and Knobel use a number of good examples to illustrate this. One being that learning vocabulary from reading a dictionary is vastly different from the situated learning engagement outside of school. I especially liked the example of essay-writing. The authors put forth that one can learn how to write a history essay; but “you cannot write history, do history, or acquire historical knowledge – that is, know history” (p. 212). All too often students are taught literary forms without understanding the context within which they are used. It’s like memorizing how to write a recipe for baking bread without actually ever baking the bread to see it applied toward a desired outcome.
The internet vastly expands this idea of contextual social learning and the authors highlight an important aspect: innovation and productivity on the World Wide Web are an integral part of the participating communities of practice. Basically the online world is one massive learning playground where we all hang out for fun, and not because we have to. It’s a space beyond the brick and mortar of school where mash-ups, modding and designing are happening from the sheer love of doing so. And what’s really cool about this is the reciprocal effect that’s taking place: students are bringing their online connections into the classroom and other educational entities they’re involved with, thus enlarging the learning sphere considerably.
By the time I get to the paradigm shift part of chapter seven where Lankshear and Knobel describe their “push” to “pull” theory, my son’s computer has caught fire and as I write this smoke fills the house. My son takes charge of the situation quickly and contains the flames, then snaps up his phone, logging lightening speed onto his online tech forums as well as texts his very savvy network of nerdy gaming friends. Within seconds he gets six texts back offering up possible solutions. Through sharp analysis and group input, it was determined that the voltage regulation module burned out and the motherboard would have to be replaced.
A very bad outcome, but a nice application for me.
This scenario perfectly demonstrates a passion-driven demand-pull approach where “pull helps us find and access people and resources when we need them. . .” on platforms that “can be seen as combinations of components and resources that help us to access, attract, and achieve: to connect with others, optimize the likelihood of serendipity (fining solutions to problems), and persist with our passions” (p. 228). This means in crisis my son connected to his techy tribe with whom he shares similar interests to gain collaborative support and draw on speedy decentralized knowledge to save his beloved computer that he built with his own two hands.
If this isn’t Schrage’s “relational revolution” in action, I don’t know what is.
Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2011). Social learning, ‘push’ and ‘pull’, and building platforms for collaborative learning. In New literacies (pp. 209-230). Maidenhead, England: Open University Press.