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Learning at its Best, Philosophical Meanderings

On Networks

“A good educational system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives, empower all who want to share what they know know to find those who want to learn it from them; and , finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known”

-Illich 1970, p.75

An introduction….

A goal over the last 4 years has been to contribute to the design of a multi-sited and networked project based learning “ecology”. A learning ecology that liberates learners and stakeholders from the administerial and structural barriers in education while enmeshing critical, democratic and ubiquitous learning into educational spaces.  This type of learning takes facilitation and human understanding, it is messy, and not neatly packaged into the 80 minute school block or the demands of standardized and nationalized curricular structures so often associated with the traditional school( More on this can be found in myriad posts on my blog….).

Last year I co-designed and facilitated the Global Civ pilot program, a design based research project that took this vision to task. The work was difficult, mired in socio-economic imperatives and took a truly networked community. I found that community as I took some time for my doctoral studies and delved into the study and praxis of design research methods, the sociology of education and networked learning.   Along the way I collaborated with many: old mentors in person and spirit (specifically Ed Brazee a 20+ year democratic education practitioner, James Beane and Michael Apple) and new friends (specifically Rob Greco Leigh Blackall and the undergraduates I facilitated in networked learning). This CoP never ceased to inspire and push me to follow my passions and design.  This spring  Michael McCabe of the Kornerstone SchoolMonika Hardy of the Innovation Lab (in of all places the Front Range in Colorado….one of my childhood places), and others have inspired me with their passion, work and collaboration in an amazing ways.

So, inspired by interactions with amazing humans and their projects I can see that networked learning, both face to face and in online spaces is working.  I’m happy to be part of the Cooperative Catalyst as another step towards networking with the individuals and learning ecologies that are weaving a mesh of deep learning ventures.

Here’s to our hearts, minds and hands.

About Thomas Steele-Maley

I believe we live in networks. My networks see sustainable and resilient local communities learning together with ubiquity. Thomas currently serves as a praxis weaver for a mesh network of learners and their projects.


2 thoughts on “On Networks

  1. Welcome, Thomas!

    What does learning look like in the systems you observe and build, and how is that learning similar to and different from that which happens in a traditional school?

    All the best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | July 19, 2011, 8:24 am
  2. Hi Chad,

    Thanks for the response and thoughtful/broad questions. I have been a part of many designs in education both in the traditional school/classroom (secondary) /course (university) and and in settings that are dynamic and networked. I would have to say that my design and praxis has always favored and facilitated integrative, networked and participatory spaces where I co-plan with learners in socially relevant project based learning. In schools and Universities, “my classes” where democratic meet-ups that agitated the deep learning that was happening in online and community spaces. In my recent work, learning happened 24/7 and mostly in the field (wherever there was wifi or 3G or a good conversation and project). Learning in these spaces shows passion, confusion, messiness, noise, emotion (lots of emotion), inquiry, freedom, fear, empathy, activism, ubiquity (14 year old’s posting about poverty at 3am and so many more instances)….As for comparisons….I have studied the US traditional school/system extensively from history to the history of reform and seen traditional school models in action. No need to toss the standardization, instructionist, and institutional softballs here….

    Posted by Thomas Steele-Maley | July 19, 2011, 10:05 am

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