How Social is Computer Supported Collaborative Learning
Stephen Downes is blogging from the ITI conference in Logan, Utah. There are some great captures from presentations about the social and technical aspects of distributed learning. I really enjoyed his post about Paul Kirschner's keynote address, "How Social is Computer Supported Collaborative Learning: Do Off-task Interactions Exist?" I would like to know more about how Kirshner defined off task interactions. I tend to see them as productive "affordances." I think he does too, thus he does not classify them as off topic, but I wasn't sure from the notes. Here is a snippet. Read the whole thing.
"Interaction and community does not occur, either in physical space or online, merely because a space is provided. Rather, what is created a set of affordances - possibilities for interaction - and these need to be understood within a social and cultural context. This social aspect of learning is as important as the cognitive, or content based, aspect, and interactions establishing a social or cultural connection - usually dismissed as off-topic - as as important as interactions having to do with content. Another post that I reallly enjoyed was Principles of Resource Sharing by Erin Brewer.
Self-organizing systems occur when local factors at the decision-making level form global systems. We look at them, and assume there must be a hierrchy - that the queen bee or the queen ant is making the decisions. But what is happening is that each member makes decisions independently, and information is shared. This also happens in physics, when there is a form shift, say, from liquid or solid. The 'decisions' are made at the molecular level, and once one molecule shifts, it quickly spreads to all the other molecules.
Small but VERY aggravated note. Blogger keeps losing posts. I worked on this one, hit post and it never loaded. All I was able to recover was the first draft, not the final. This is happening more and more. Time to send email to blogger!
In online communities, individuals may feel they don't have that much influence, but one person making a decision may influence a much larger group.
There are lots of solutions to any given problem. We tend to assume there is one best solution, but - Herbert Simon - there are many solutions, depending on various factors, such as cost, for example.
Small world networks happen naturally. Watts again. It's a lot of individuals that are hooked together, and there are some hubs. This is the six degrees of separation concept. These networks are 'scale free' - they can grow essentially without limitation. They make resource sharing very effective.
If you look at online groups, because the membership is so high, there's a pretty good chance that people will have the resource that you want. It's basically 100% - if you have 100 people or more, if the resource exists, you can get it.