Ideas while travelling on the way….

Collective Learning

Setup for the Live Presentation:

Some of the earlier technical glitches seem to be diminishing.  For this session, I was not able to attend the live version, so my subsequent comments are based on the recording.  Unfortunately the recordings listed are only the audio version.  At least there did not seem to be major connection problems.


Two questions immediately come to mind when the term “collective learning” is mentioned: What is it? and Why use it?  Littlejohn answers the “why use it” question first.  The answer is simple: for the betterment of society.  Complex problems can only be addressed by using specialized expertise which can only reside in many individuals.  No one individual has all the tools necessary to address such problems on their own.

The “what is it” question was addressed in a more roundabout way.  Instead of strictly defining collective learning, she showed what the process looked like.  It begins with connecting.  Through connecting with other people, individuals can consume each other’s knowledge, from that added knowledge they create new insights and then contribute the new knowledge to the community.  As others join this process, called CHARTING, it continues as more and more connections and contributions are made.  She cites Paavola and Hakkarainen description: “A kind of individual and collective learning that goes beyond information given and advances knowledge and understanding: there is collaborative systematic development of common objects of activity.”

This type of learning needs certain background conditions if it is going to succeed.  People need to be willing to participate and what they produce must be open so that others can use it.  Learning resources will be more open when individuals and institutions see the benefits of making them.


My first reaction to this was that it seems too optimistically idealistic.  But then it may not be necessary for every member of society to buy into the model for it to work.  I am also put off by the term “collective, ” but that may just say something about me.  When I hear the term, I think of are the Borg from Star Trek, Next Generation.  All individuality is lost for the sake of the overall goal.  But this is not what Littlejohn is advocating.  If I understood correctly, it is only individuals (or perhaps individual institutions) who can connect and eventually make contributions.  They do this to address situations that they as individuals see.  The entire process, however, is a delicate one.  Individuals must see the advantage and be willing to take the risk.  If the result is positive, the cycle may grow, but if someone takes contributions and treats those contributions as personal property the entire process may stop.  To think that this will not happen is the optimistic idealism I mentioned earlier.  One does not have to look far in the world of open source software to see both the benefits and great accomplishments, as well as the perils and resulting disillusionment that can and do happen.


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