Tipping my hat to John Seely Brown's vision of the future university
Gently nudged by Steve Song, I am re-reading John Seely Brown‘s “The Social Life of Information (google books)”. Below are a few excerpts that are very relevant in the context of the www.peer2peeruniversity.org. If you replace “videos” with OER, this sounds very similar to the kind of learning communities P2PU is trying to create. Especially the role of the tutor – not as someone who necessarily knows much more than the others — but as someone able to facilitate the learning process, who is part of the group, makes a lot of sense.
– Copying this by hand – all typos/errors my fault –
Putting learners in contact with “the best in the field” has definitive value. Peers turn out to be, however, an equally important resource.
An early attempt at distance teaching by video revealed this quite unexpectedly. Jim Gibbons, former dean of engineering at Stanford, taught an engineering class to Stanford students and engineers from HP. When it became impractical for the engineers to attend, Gibbons started recording the class and sending the video to the engineers. The engineers would watch these tapes as a group. At regular intervals they would stop the tape and discuss what Gibbons and the class were talking about, coming to some sort of collective understanding before going on.
To Gibbon’s surprise, the engineers, though they had lower academic credentials coming into the course, consistently outperformed the classroom students when tested on course material. This finding has proved remarkably robust, and other courses using this “TVI” method have had similar comparative success.
Gibbons has been careful to note, however, that the success did not simply result from passing videos to learners. The name TVI stands for tutored video instruction, and the method requires viewers to work as a group and one person from that group to act as a tutor, helping the group to help itself. This approach shows, then, that productive learning may indeed rely heavily on face-to-face learning, but the faces involved are not just those of master and apprentice. They include fellow apprentices.
The ability of a group to construct their education collectively like this recalls the way in which groups form and develop around documents, as we noted in chapter 7. Together, members construct and negotiate a shared meaning, bringing the grup along collectively rather than individually. In the process, they became what the literary critic Stanley Fish calls a “community of interpretation” working toward a shared understanding of the matter under discussion.
TVI is not an easy answer. As Gibbons and his colleagues argue in one discussion, “The logistics of creating videos, organizing training for small groups, finding and training tutors, etc. can be daunting.” For many individual learners, of course, the logistics of finding a group–which in Gibbon’s approach precedes finding a tutor because the tutor comes from the group–can also be daunting. So colleges and universities play a critical role in providing this sort of access.
His video on tinkering, picks up on some similar ideas. Well worth watching!
John Seely Brown: Tinkering as a Mode of Knowledge Production