Reading, reading

Posted on October 12, 2020

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“Peer-guided learning at scale” is the current chapter in Justin Reich’s _Failure To Disrupt._

He contrasts personalizing content vs. personalizing the learning experience, again constricting adaptive tutoring as adapting the pace of learning and contrasting this with having the entire learning experience adapted to the student as they could “leverage online networks to explore their own interests.” He states that the “twin visions” are “in some sense irreconcilable.”

I wonder if that’s a function of what we do with technology, or what we do with education. Who are the students sitting at the desks plowing through the “at your own pace, except ALEKS tells you what it has to be” exercises, vs. the students “empowered to choose their own topics of study and demonstrate their understanding through different kinds of assessment”? Hmm. Hmmm. Can I go back to Andratesha Fritzgerald and Antiracism and UDL?

Good grief, **why** can’t we do both?

… but now I read the name Stephen Downes and yes, it’s the person I saw at the OER conferences, who wrote about content as a “MacGuffin” — a somewhat arbitrary Thing That Gets People Together… that learning happens by being accepted into a community more so than by studying a topic. (All kinds of tangents about the exclusive nature of those communities are brewing in the brain.)

Next I’m reading that yes, the technology infrastructure for the online versions of these communities has a learning curve; some places have tutorials but some institutions try to put in infrastructure. (Then there’s Laura Gibbs.)

And now it’s Monday and there are so many dimensions to this reading. For example:

“When sociologist Jal Mehta of Harvard University and educator Sarah Fine of High Tech High Graduate School of Education studied dozens of highly lauded high schools in the United States that approached instruction quite differently, they found that many of them pursued a similar version of ‘deeper learning,’ a set of interrelated competencies … Mehta and Fine characterize deeper learning as the intersection between three important learning outcomes: mastery, identity, an creativity. When students experience deeper learning, they develop mastery of deep content knowledge in a domain. They also experience a shift in identity where the learning activity is a part of who they are rather than something that they do – the shift from ‘learning to swim’ to ‘being a swimmer.’ ”

First, what’s a highly lauded high school? Culturally/ sociologically, do the students know they’re “going to a good school,” and what is the impact of that on the whole “identity shift” ? Where do high stakes test scores fit in this picture? The “High Tech High Graduate School of Education” … it’s in California… just what is it?

Later: “One of the signature design challenges of peer-guided learning environments is to figure out how to make them more accessible to novices without turning them into instructor-led learning environments.”

My personal hypothesis: people who succeed in peer-guided learning … have an instructor on the scene, whether on the side or in the form of people who have the roles (formally or informally) of being “welcomers.” I’m remembering the amazing community at LDOnLine — and the LM_NET community, with its very explicit rules.

… and FINALLY he mentions Stack Overflow, in passing…. stating that computer languages change so fast that people need to be in a network such as Stack Overflow. Was it a conscious choice *not* to explore that environment more deeply (perhaps for fear of the community’s hostility)?

OK, I’m going to let this stuff process in the back of my mind and … look at that “repeated retrieval” thing, because peer-guided learning does include practice 😉

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