Learning Like the Web

by P

Illich wrote of learning webs that provide access to people, materials and tools to support interest-driven learning. Open source software communities have demonstrated how self-organized communities of practice can function as learning webs online.

I just spent two days with some of the leading people in the MOOC space. There was much agreement about what a future of learning might look like. And there was much disagreement. We are working on a paper that summarizes the confusion.

The event helped me clarify (a little more) what I think the future of learning looks like. It looks like the web, which is to say it looks like communities of practice online. It is huge, but made up of many small communities, loosely joined. joined.

When barriers to participation fall away, the need for artificial schooling falls away. We can participate in “real” work/science/play rather than learning about it. We can be 9 years old and join a research group on Penguins at John’s Hopkins University. We can share our brain scan results and work with an army of amateurs and professionals to find the best way to treat our cancer. Imagine if we could also watch Salman Rushdie write, help a farmer plant tomatoes, or contribute to ideas for self-driving cars. None of these seem particularly impossible or out of reach.

I am not passionate about a learning future in which the world’s best experts (whatever that means) teach millions … or billions. I am interested in a future in which billions help each other and access the resources they need to increase opportunities.