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The Cartesian method of learning views knowledge as a substance, pedagogy as a knowledge transfer

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John Seely Brown, professor at USC, spoke at MIT and said, “We learn through our interactions with others and the world and there’s no more perfect medium for enabling this than an increasingly open and organized World Wide Web.” To learn more about his talk on “Relearning learning” please watch the video below from MIT World – a free and open site aimed at distributing intelligence to the world: Relearning Learning – Applying the Long Tail.

The Cartesian method of learning views knowledge as a substance, pedagogy as a knowledge transfer. A more social view of learning approaches knowledge as a socially constructed (others inform others) – we learn through our interactions with the world. Advocates of social learning might not be surprised then that one of the strongest determiners of success at Harvard is how fast you develop a collaborative study group. These study groups also exist virtually.

Dewey, in “Democracy and Education” warns of the dangers of informal to formal learning. He argues that students learn best in environments free from constraints and natural to the learner. Based on this notion, you might reflect on moments where you have seen counter culture classrooms with bean bags, couches, open spaces for learning where students can move freely around the room in a more relaxed manner. The educators who designed these classrooms had educational progressives like Dewey in mind.

Based on the philosophy of Dewey, the beliefs of John Seeley Brown, and the idea that study groups are essential to success and can take place virtually, what type of online learning environment would best meet the needs of virtual study groups? What would the role of the teacher be in managing and facilitating these groups?

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