Two thoughts

Two thoughts, relating to how learning is changing, have been the focus of my thinking over the last several days.
First – “Content is a conduit for conversation”. Content – in classrooms, newspapers, or mainstream media – is intended to be consumed, passively, by the end user. We read newspapers, and beyond sending a letter to the editor, we are largely not engaged. We read and reflect on what someone else has written. When we purchase music or a movie, we are again passively engaged – involved, but not contributing. Classrooms are similar… to varying degrees – the instructor lectures, learners listen. Now it is unrealistic to expect that all learners want to be highly engaged. Many of quite content to listen to a song, and have no desire to contribute to it…but they may have a desire directly engage with the artist. Or after viewing a movie, they may desire to connect with others in order to carry on dialogue (besides Snakes on a Plane :) ).
We are much more active in our content – we desire the ability to move beyond content and toward conversation. In our world today, content is a conduit for conversation. We use content not as an end, but as a means to a greater end – often connecting with others. 43 Things does this well…so does U of Manitoba’s Virtual Learning Commons…or other sites like,, and flickr’s tag cloud. Each one of these sites adopts an approach to content that is in keeping with how people view content today – not something to be consumed, but rather, something to be discussed. Content is not an end itself, but a means to forming connections with others. I wonder how well we understand this as educators when we design our courses…
Second – “The more complex our knowledge spaces, the more we must rely on technology to present patterns”. As I stated in Knowing Knowledge, things have changed in the context and characteristics of knowledge. The abundance of what we encounter on a daily basis requires that we “off-load” onto a network of people and technology. We are not able to “keep it all in our heads”. Technology plays a particularly valuable role in presenting emerging patterns. Consider the link to flickr’s tag cloud. In order to gain an understanding of what people are talking about, as evidenced in their tagging habits, I would have to review an enormous amount of photos. Instead, flickr provides a cloud of what people are doing/talking about. Instead of trying to recognize what’s happening, we can move toward “what does it mean”. The same holds true for sites like digg – where the aggregate of many activities provides an overview for what individuals are doing, thinking, or talking about.

One Response to “Two thoughts”

  1. Nathan says:

    Hey George;
    I just wanted to say that google reader seems to be mangling all of your linebreaks. Your text shows up as one un-differentiated mass of text instead of a number of different paragraphs.