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John Gray, Principal of the Newark & Sherwood College and member of the Information Society Forum wrote: I was interested to see you write on your Web pages (Setting an example? Notes on the IS Forum 1st Report) that:
"As long as people are brought up in the 'schooling' paradigm of rarefied, expert-given knowledge, most people will find it difficult to take the initiative to seek out information they need...
If the investment required to modify the 'schooling' paradigm is too costly and time-consuming, why not consider by-passing current educational institutions in the quest for suitable structures to incite and assist the learning necessary for the Information Society?"
What do you think needs to be done to by-pass institutions in this way?

People learning

As mentioned elsewhere, talking about "learning" without conjuring up visions of school and the like is difficult because the word is full of connotations closely bound to institutionalised learning. Learning is not the only activity in life, despite attempts of advocates of life-long learning to colonise many of our activities with their pre-packaged wares. Yet personal growth and learning is something that goes on throughout life. And it does so without the necessary intervention of schools, colleges, universities, night-schools, ... What can be done to help the individual take responsibility for his or her learning without creating new institutions that once again usurp the individual's power to learn?

One possibility is already being developed via the World Wide Web: the provision of information and points of view about specific subjects as a potential stepping-stone for personal exploration. This is particularly interesting because material is not necessarily pre-digested by people who claim to know better about how and what others should learn. An interesting aspect of the Internet, as an extremely decentralised system, is that anyone can provide content without imposing it on anybody else. Improved search systems would be a great help. This raises the thorny question of criteria for the quality of material. How do you distinguish between subtle sales talk, deliberate falsification and the stimulating expression of less vested interests? Empowering individuals to learn means having faith in their capacity to decide what is best for them. The reputation of specific sources and word of mouth could help in the search for quality material. The launching of various quality labels would be another way.

Reading and thinking about an issue is all very well, but talking or writing to others helps too. Amongst other things peer exchange would help identify reliable and stimulating sources of information. Ivan Ilych in his book "Deschooling Society" published in 1971 suggested setting up a network that would allow people to get in contact with others interested in the same subject so as to exchange ideas and share knowledge. Why not encourage the creation of on-line "clearing houses" using linked databases and search engines so that individuals can place small ads to "meet" others interested in discussing a book, a TV programme, a political decision, a text they have written, a particular subject... Beyond curiosity as a prime motivation, one would imagine that the ever increasing value placed on knowledge on the job market would also stimulate participation. Measures would presumably have to be taken to avoid abuse of the system. As for the discussions, they would take place elsewhere.

Alan McCluskey

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learning + networked society + dossiers + extra
home + what's new + index + comments + rss feed

ISSN: 1664-834X Copyright © , Alan McCluskey, info@connected.org
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Created: August 29th, 1996 - Last up-dated: July 7th, 1997