Nice article in Educause by John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler titled “Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0” which is another great conversation starter for those who still may not have a basic understanding of these shifts. It’s written more toward the higher ed audience, obviously, but there is still a lot of resonance for the K-12 set.

There are many familiar themes here, but a couple came a little clearer for me. First, the idea that while this is still about being able to find information in many ways, the Read/Write Web makes it more importantly about finding people.

The latest evolution of the Internet, the so-called Web 2.0, has blurred the line between producers and consumers of content and has shifted attention from access to information toward access to other people.

I was on an Elluminate session for our PLP project yesterday with Brian Smith and he made the point that he’s no longer as apt to do a Google search as he is to do a search when he’s looking for information, and I find myself doing that more and more as well. I know that’s still about information, but now it’s becoming more about information in the context of the network. It’s people with an interest in a particular topic making a decision about the usefulness of a resource, and, in doing so, making themselves available for connections.

I also liked the way the authors described the the importance of participation in this world:

Mastering a field of knowledge involves not only “learning about” the subject matter but also “learning to be” a full participant in the field. This involves acquiring the practices and the norms of established practitioners in that field or acculturating into a community of practice.

They talk about the apprenticeships that can now be found online, citing the open source software community as an example. But most critically, they highlight how participation is now a part of gaining mastery instead of an outgrowth of it.

But viewing learning as the process of joining a community of practice reverses this pattern and allows new students to engage in “learning to be” even as they are mastering the content of a field. This encourages the practice of what John Dewey called “productive inquiry”—that is, the process of seeking the knowledge when it is needed in order to carry out a particular situated task.

That’s certainly been borne out in my own experience.

There’s more here, obviously, and I think it’s well worth the read. Bottom line is that we have to prepare our students to be much more active participants in their own learning, and that we have to help them experience the value of being embedded into communities of practice that can sustain their lifelong learning needs.

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