Web poaching: an approach to learning

My experience with this blog has led me back to some reflections on approaches to learning. The reigning deep versus surface paradigm worries me for several reasons.

Firstly I don’t like the essentialism inherent in the metaphors. It sounds too much like saying: good and bad learning or real and false learning. Similarly dividing approaches to learning up into two competing paradigms buys into the type of dichotomous thinking that leads to what these critics themselves would label “surface” learning. I know the research is pretty buoyant across studies but with the broad sweep of their terms I suspect it might be a case of seek and ye shall find. But thats another story…

I think a range of other terms used in tandem and in combination provide a richer way forward: connected learning, interactive learning, meaning-making approaches, focused learning, rote learning, memorisation, atomistic learning, assessment-focused learning etc.

In a simple sense blogging could be seen as encouraging a “surface” approach to learning, in that it entails fast skating across the surface of the web. And there is a sense in which it is still not regarded as a serious learning project by many for this very reason. However my recent experience would suggest that it can provide a very focused, meaning-mapping experience of learning.

1. It is continuous and cumulative – the blogger commits to post over a period of time.

2. It is transparent – it is not committing to get it right all at once.

3. It is reflective.

4. With linking as its heart and soul it creates networks of connected ideas – it is focused but interdisciplinary.

5. It creates a learning environment – the sidebars create a context for continuing expansion of the project

6 It is interactive and invites commentary from others.

7. It creates subjective and personalised maps of meaning but always measures these against the work of others.

If I had to choose some kind of metaphor for this approach to learning I might use Michel de Certeau’s notion of the reader as a nomadic “poacher” (Practices of Everyday Life: 174). gathering up meaning from the fields of others. Interestingly in this analogy de Certeau is contrasting “accumulative” writing with the more fluid process of reading.

Writing accumulates, stocks up, resists time by the establishment of a place and multiplies its production through the expansionism of reproduction. Reading takes no measures against the erosion of time (one forgets oneself and also forgets), it does not keep what it acquires, or it does so poorly, and each of the places through which it passes is a repetition of the lost paradise.

In a way blogging brings together these economies of reading and writing.

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