Downes on Groups vs. Networks….c l i c k !

Suddenly, I’m starting to get it. I read and dissected and put into a table (as I’m wont to do, too bad I didn’t see this first, but there’s value in the doing…i stuck it at the bottom of this post) some big ideas from Stephen’s talk in NZ about groups vs. networks. But then, his more personal account, That Group Feeling really brought it home:

In particular, Downes writes (my emphasis):

To put it most simply, groups are based on passion while networks are based on reason. Groups meet our need to belong and to survive, while networks meet our need to connect and learn and to know. In a group, passion drowns out reason, in a network, reason drowns out passion. In places where passion and emotion should not prevail – when building bridges, say, or launching space shuttles – groups should not prevail. In places where passion should prevail and is even an asset – in team sports, in family bonding – groups should prevail.

When we look at learning, therefore, and when we ask which model should prevail, the group model or the network model, we are asking fundamentally what the role of our educational system should be. Should it be to foster an emotional attachment to a group, be it a nation, religion, or system of wealth distribution?

This might be a freaky idea for some educators. We are kind of the “nice guys” of the Ivory Tower. I spent a few years working in/around a Teacher Education program, and found it full of loving, caring, passionate people who were concerned with doing their job (teaching) through relationships, community, the GROUP!

Through the lens of defining groups as above, is this appropriate? Is it appropriate for elementary school? middle school? secondary school? post secondary school? The focus on the group in early education (preschool, elementary school), seems to be based on the assumption (maybe correct) that kids will “like school” and therefore will want to go, and will therefore learn. At some point along that continuum (say, between middle and secondary?), there is kind of a bait and switch – grades become more critical, exams become higher-stakes.

What would it look like if we started with a network model from the beginning, instead of the group one?

Groups Networks
Defining Characteristics Unity, sameness, defined by its values.  Groups define standards. Groups define belonging. Diversity, “to each his own”.
Technologies that support… Broadcast/mass media technologies, static content coming from a central sourcepre internet: television, radio, newspapers, books

internet: corporate websites, podcasts/vodcasts (sometimes)

technology that encourages diversity vs. conformity, allows individuals to express themselves. 1:1, not one to many (sometimes many to many)pre internet: phone, writing letters

internet:  personal emails, personal home pages, blogs, MySpace profiles,  Flickr.

Leadership groups require coordination, leadership or a leaderPeople picture groups, but not their actual role in the group. They picture them in terms of the role they would like to play in the group. It’s a philosophy of aspiration rather than a philosophy of reality.

This is something that socialists need to look at because socialists appeal to groups. They appeal to the worker, but nobody wants to be a worker.

Networks require autonomy – each individual in a network operates independently.  But not alone. You define your vision, what’s important to you, your values & interests.Interaction in a network isn’t about leaders and followers. It’s about a mutual exchange of value.

People don’t follow, they don’t do what they’re told in a network. They interact. They make their own decisions.

Learning Technologies LMS  (Learning *Management* system) = there is a manager, person responsible for the learning, everyone else followsLearning design = the learning is organized, sliced, diced, flaked, formed. Follow or you’re not a learner. E-portfolios, PLEs (the autonomous/network answer to LMS).based on a radical concept: students can learn autonomously.
Openness Groups are closed, require boundary that defines/distinguishes members and non.Groups have memberships, (which has its privileges), logins, pwds, authentication, blood type passes, control of vocabularies, standards, jargon, in-jokes, etc. Networks are open.Networks require all in the network able to send & receive in their own way, and w/o being impeded (by barriers, copyright, etc)
Distributive/Distributed Groups are distributivemoney, information, power, everything flows from the center, an authority, and it’s distributed through the members. Networks are locus of knowledge, no place that knowledge, money, etc flow from.

Rather, knowledge, money, information, anything that is exchanged in a network is distributed across the entities of a network.

Knowledge… Resides in experts, is transmitted among members of the group. is emergent, is a property of the network as a whole.

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