Friday, February 22, 2008

Deschooling Web 2.0

I was in colleague's office this morning rambling about Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society. If you don't know who he was, he was a radical intellectual in the 60s and 70s and very popular with the alternative schooling types. One or his ideas is that schools are made to contain knowledge rather than share it. This is why school rooms in fascist, communist, and capitalist countries all look the same. Anyway, Charlie Crawford sent me a note this morning pointing to Chapter 6 which contains Illich’s “Four Networks” which is about the decentralization of knowledge but actually is also a good description of the ideal web 2.0 learning community (i.e. MERLOT and possibly some aspects of the future Tacoma Challenge?).

1. Reference Services to Educational Objects-which facilitate access to things or processes used for formal learning. Some of these things can be reserved for this purpose, stored in libraries, rental agencies, laboratories, and showrooms like museums and theaters; others can be in daily use in factories, airports, or on farms, but made available to students as apprentices or on off hours.
2. Skill Exchanges — which permit persons to list their skills, the conditions under which they are willing to serve as models for others who want to learn these skills, and the addresses at which they can be reached.
3. Peer-Matching — a communications network which permits persons to describe the learning activity in which they wish to engage, in the hope of finding a partner for the inquiry.
4. Reference Services to Educators-at-Large — who can be listed in a directory giving the addresses and self-descriptions of professionals, paraprofessionals, and free-lancers, along with conditions of access to their services. Such educators, as we will see, could be chosen by polling or consulting their former clients.

The thing that is so ironic about this is that Illich was not too keen on technology, but technology seems to be what is facilitating this vision now.

The purpose of the Challenge isn’t to be a reference service, but it could certainly be a hub where students share their learning experiences and connect to people and resources. The podcasting project and the blog tools in Drupal can facilitate this. In ancient Greece, the paideia, was not just one institution, but the whole community. The Challenge, and other open source content management systems, can be this connection.

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