Social Learning

This week’s reading was Lankshear and Knobel (2011) Ch7: Social Learning, “Push” and “Pull,” and Building Platforms for Collaborative Learning.  The chapter takes a look at the concept of social learning – and the authors take the stance that social learning is truly the only form of authentic learning.

“They suggested that by separating learning from ‘authentic’ activity grounded in physical and social contexts and situations, formal education largely defeats its goal of promoting ‘useable, robust knowledge’.”

These ideas presented in this chapter really rang true to me and my beliefs about the teaching and learning that takes place within my classroom.  My ultimate goal, always, is that my students not only learn the information presented to them well enough to regurgitate it on a test, but also that they are able to apply and transfer their new knowledge to other aspects of their lives and the outside world.  In a very simplified example, if one of my students know the definition of a vocabulary word, but can’t put that word into a sentence that makes sense, they haven’t truly learned the meaning and use  of it.  This chapter went as far as to say that all learning is, in some way, social learning.  I struggled with this concept at first but as I read on I agreed with the authors more and more.  Even if I were to learn something through reading about it in a text book, I am still part of a social learning process as the experts who wrote the textbook would only be able to become experts through social learning – that is they must have worked within a community to learn all that they know and apply that knowledge in a hands on, trial and error way, otherwise they could not be considered experts.

One piece of this chapter that was new to me was the mention of Knowledge Producing Schools. I had never heard this term before and this is what led me on my hunt for other scholarship to read this week.  I came across this article in my search (if the link doesn’t take you directly there, the page the article I was reading starts on is 186) that looks at KPS  as sites for educational and social innovation.  The article’s take on KPS is that they may be the answer for “future proofing” our educational system and making sure that our students are going to be successful members of society as a result of their education.  On page 189 it states that,

“If formal education is to remain a site of critical thinking, collective work, and social struggle, public intellectuals and progressive social forces need to expand its meaning and purpose. That is, they need to define public and higher education as a resource vital to the moral life of the nation, open to working [with] people and communities whose resources, knowledge, and skills have often been viewed as marginal.”

Rowan and Bigum believe that the most important difference between KPS and other educational reforms is that there is an “emphasis on disrupting the traditional relationships that underpin so much of contemporary and past school practices” (192). This includes the relationships between schools and knowledge, schools and teachers, and teachers and students.  It looks at KPS as an opportunity for students to get authentic learning experiences through applying their knowledge to challenges that they must work through.  The authors argue that this will better prepare students for “doing life” as opposed to “doing school” which, to me, makes perfect sense.  I am being forced by the system to care about my kids’test scores, when in reality, it is far more important to me that they be able to apply their knowledge to life outside of the classroom in ways that will make them successful citizens of today’s world and will allow them to spread what they have learned to others through informal learning experiences outside of the classroom.

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