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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

WikiQuals Accreditation

“Solve the problem that annoys you most” 

Developing post-hoc accreditation processes; is the purpose of WikiQuals because high-stakes assessment (of education) is seen as the only valid social measure of learning; We disagree!

Introduction; We have been asked a question within the PhD group and consequently had some scholarly, and not so scholarly, discussions, concerning whether we should accredit the WikiQuals Ph.D or not. In part this is because we have had a very generous offer of some kind of twin track accreditation from an HEI in London (a doctorate by publication) and in part  because the purpose of WikiQuals isn’t yet fully clear to everyone. So I shall deal with the issue of post-hoc accreditation in a little more detail in this post.

Formal Learning; My main reason for developing WikiQuals, which grows out of the “formal” part of the Emergent Learning Model, derives from previous experiences I’ve had of discussing alternative modes of learning developed from various projects using CMC / CSCLICT / ICLT / e-learning / edtech etc., with policy makers let alone alternative learning theories such as constructivism and connectionism.  They always have one simple response, before they go on to dismiss anything just for it being new, namely “Ah yes collaboration is all very well, but how can you test what people have learnt individually?” Or put another way “but what about the high-stakes assessment” (in your bright new idea about learning). Basically all proposed changes in education which emerge from analysing how learning works are dismissed by using the trump card held by the system itself concerning the allegedly enduring value of individual assessment, or exams, if you want to *really* prove that the learning matters in the “real world”.

Network Society; Whilst I think that this issue is in fact a political one about the power and value of existing hierarchies, yet more of what Ben Hammersley calls the clash between hierarchical people and network people in the 21st century, I also think you should, to quote Philippa Young at the University Project workshop on WikiQuals, “solve the problem that annoys you most“. And being told that collaborative, or any other learner-centred learning, isn’t valid because it doesn’t have a high-stakes assessment process at the end of it to prepare you for an enduring life of stress, is what annoys me the most. So here is one possible solution.

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