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Affinity Groups

Designing for Rhizomatic Learning

Overview; Last week I discussed what I described as ‘designing for discontinuities’ outlining what I had learnt about rhizomatic learning from engaging in MOOCs. Jenny Mackness has added some parallel reflections in her blog post Between a MOOC and a hard place too. This week I am going to look at how we will try and implement what we learnt from those reflections on the values of social discontinuity for learning and the strength of weak ties in networking. The key element in implementing rhizomatic learning in WikiQuals will be in supporting the process of self-organised ‘affinity groups’. This will develop the earlier idea of using Affinity Partners, rather than supervisors (or teachers), to support the learning process.

Affinity Groups; The idea of the Affinity Partner is to be empathetic to the learner. A key aspect of WikiQuals is trusting learners to follow their interests and to determine for them selves what they want to learn. The affinity partner rather than supervising acts more as a critical friend moderating the work of their WikiSqolar. However having an Affinity Partner still reflects an individualised mode of studying. Following the discussion with Tony Hall on social learning it seemed to me that we need to develop groups within the WikiQuals group process and if allowed Sqolars to be part of differing affinity groups, not based on subject interest per se, but on more human impulses this would be a useful development. It would also be a good way of integrating andragogy into the WikiQuals process, which is a key part of the Open Context Model of Learning.

The Q of Social Intimacy; In Imagination Jonah Lehrer quotes the work by Brian Uzzi on the social intimacy Read the rest of this entry

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Designing for Discontinuities

The Strength of Weak Ties

Learning Conversations; A key factor in the practical emergence of the current community of WikiSqolars has been the Everything Unplugged group who meetup every Wednesday for learning conversations. This exhibits the key quality of sociality, from which I see self-organised learning emerging, and have recently been having discussions about social learning, which Tony Hall is passionate about. The recent conversations have covered a range of topics which have, implicitly, helped me with my thinking about the post-institutional principles that inform the WikiQuals project. It has made me realise that what the current WikiQuals group needs to engage with, over our next cycle of activities, are the discontinuities of learning.

We are Rhizomatic; I recently took part in the excellent #fslt MOOC (first steps in learning and teaching) run by Oxford Brookes University, partly organised by Jenny Mackness who has been involved in organising and thinking about MOOCs for sometime. As I made clear in early discussions, I get the OO (Open Online) aspect but I don’t see the point of the MC (Massive Courses). I don’t think that learning scales like a product sells because learning is about engaging in social processes. I’m beyond being interested in the pedagogy of subject based-courses; subject-based study is not about learning it is all about *delivery*. However reflecting within the group on various MOOCs that we have been involved in recently has helped us at Everything Unplugged think about what appears to be the rhizomatic quality of (our) learning. Over the last few weeks I think we’ve come to an understanding that, as a group, we are rhizomatic in terms of our learning behaviours. The current global rush to MOOC everything is much more about extending the grip of institutionalised education.

Discontinuous Connections;  Read the rest of this entry

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