do we “…need to dump school subjects to succeed”?

I am reading Chapter Ten, Social Ties: Networking Together (here) from Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks (2006).

He writes

…The other mechanism we seem to be using to avoid drowning in the noise of potential chitchat with ever-changing strangers is that we tend to find networks of connections that have some stickiness from our perspective. This stickiness could be the efficacy of a cluster of connections in pursuit of a goal one cares about, as in the case of the newly emerging peer-production enterprises.

It could be the ways in which the internal social interaction has combined social norms with platform design to offer relatively stable relations with others who share common interests…

I am struck by two things

  • how much I am playing catch-up with what the implications of networked individuals and communities mean
  • how I realistically manage the flow of information that comes at me everyday from my online connections

I have written before about intelligent filtering (here), but I do not think I have fully grasped the importance of this digital literacy both for myself and for my role as an educator.

I am working on this at a personal level, experimenting most recently with TweetDeck (here),  as I further filter my Twitter feeds – now  I am wondering about it’s significance as an educator.

When will we get an opportunity to teach such ideas in our very busy and very traditional practice?

How are we to develop personal learning networks and fine-tune them, so that we receive the best information, allowing us to re-create and further knowledge so that we develop meaningfully networked communities and in turn a smart economy.

Will we (particularly in Ireland) need to move from a subject-based approach to education, to one in which competencies are central – one of which is what Benkler describes as the …efficacy of a cluster of connections.

It would be interesting to see how a maths or science student might develop for example, a Twitter stream to support her study of a particular topic. The student might both create the stream if none existed and then develop it as others (perhaps her teachers and classmates follow it).

Ewan McIntosh, provocatively blogs about this in his most recent blog post (here) Brave New World: dumping school subjects to succeed.

I know this would cause serious debate amongst my teaching colleagues – drop History? drop Art? drop Religious Education? drop Irish? – our jobs are predicated on our teaching-subjects – perhaps some serious consideration needs to be to thinking outside this particular box, in order to leverage real wealth (human capital) and new ways of thinking from what we teach.

Benkler, Y. 2006. The Wealth of Networks: how social production transforms markets and freedom. Yale University Press: New Haven and London.

This book is available online here.

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