Friday, October 21, 2011

Self-directed Learning of Individuals and Groups

For the past 11-12 years,  I have been absorbed by learning about, and participating in, the incredible expansion of options for finding  and expressing, sharing, debating, etc.,  observations, news, knowledge, criticism, etc. online. And in the accompanying individual, group, institutional and societal efforts adjust to the now free means to locate, create and communicate knowledge to self, group and the general thinking public.

As my competence with web-related skills grew so did my  belief in the positive possibilities that open up with blogging. Something special was going on; one-to-one, one-to-group, one-to-all communication  and knowledge building efforts were now easily undertaken by those  technically or situationally under-equipped for the task.  As a case in point,  I found it to be empowering for me as a learner and as a teacher. But, this was just the beginning; there were broad-scale implications which could alter the social and technical ecologies within which  thoughtful and not-so-thoughtful individuals, institutions, societies, nations , etc.,  existed.

The impact was not simply on interpersonal, organizational or academic efforts. An expanded capacity for public, reflective individual or group learning (with the possibility for content-interested and/or qualified strangers to sign on to existing efforts) can have broad implications for a quantum shift in how we think, solve problems, and productively work with each other to make new and useful knowledge.*

Initially, blogging offered comment possibilities for individual blogs. Then came group blogs, private and public--- also with response capabilities for a defined or an open public response. Groups, first informally and then deliberately, created blogs ... purpose-built blogs that had been opened to the public or to a tightly defined group. "Suddenly" the notion of geographic or organizational limits on joint problem solving -- being told by bosses/leaders or the local "knowledge/belief culture" what will be solved and when -- became  antiquated. Knowledge creation and problem solving efforts could involve interested strangers and forbidden (by family, organization, country) collaborators. Work toward the creation and dissemination of locally uninteresting or forbidden knowledge-making  was now possible.**

     For example, the actuality of  new enabling forms of communications has allowed the formerly oppressed and 
     disenfranchised to organize and sustain  revolutions in Libya and Egypt, to speak up and organize in the US and,
     quite probably to resist and "out" , here and abroad, the many hypocritical, ineffective and illegitmate aspects of
     the US presence and policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

     In Libya Gaddafi could not shut down a resistance by newspaper censorship and displays of army and police
     power and brutality.

        Communication and organization--using, for example, blogs, twitter, etc. -- was sufficient, evidently even in
        the face of the usual bullying displays. There were cell phones and blogs to enhance communication and
        resistance, He no longer had the near absolute power  to stifle or shut down revolutionary organizations
       (without taking the country totally off the power and  communications grid). I am guessing here, but the web,
       generally, and the use, specifically, of  blogs,  twitter, email with easily disguised location and idenity probably
       had something do with the strength, persistence and, ultimately, success of the revolution.

It's taken us awhile but we are now seeing that our blog-based efforts to share, reach out, communicate and include others in our content building concerns can have quite positive results ---sometimes with implications for grand, even revolutionary change.
All of this because of the ability to recruit the involvement of strangers, those not part of our normal circles,  as collaborators in knowledge-making efforts which have no appeal -- or which are even forbidden -- in our immediate surroundings.

* Please excuse historical inaccuracies --- this passage is no doubt historically sketchy. -- but is sufficiently accurate to serve as an illustrative stand-in for the transition that actually that took place.
**Yes, it is a double-edged sword, benefit wise. But more on that another time.


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