As part of MOOC MOOC I’ve spent a lot of time looking at Venn diagrams or c0ncentric type pictures. Within pictures such as these – maybe I am too visual – there is an inevitable structure given to data or events in our case student networks or zones of development of knowledge. Now fatigued by these structures, I see instead the ying yang pattern instead, suggest that the rings and venn diagrams are not rigid, but continually in flux.
Instead of the peace of the ying yang, I am drawn to seeing Maiden Castle, an iron age hill fort in Devon. The fort is a basis of concentric rings, each being surrounded by a wall or a moat, designed to defend the castle as much as possible. The castle is now mostly grazed by sheep, so like all things it was eventually over run.
So these castle walls, and their eventually fall made me thing about what these rings do or achieve? Without becoming stuck in Occam land and dividing everything up into nice areas. An action like this strikes me as negative, but imagine we mix the castle and it’s rings with the bucket theory of the mind – where does that leave us?
The inner ring / bucket is our knowledge, but we appreciate what we now (in knowledge based economies) is a key part of our commercial worth and identity, and we don’t know is a veritable here be dragons outside the safety of our castle walls. In many ways this is a perpetual siege, we are besieged by threats of new knowledge, whilst at the same time defend our knowledge for our own good.
Ergo, education takes on the shape of something use to defend ourselves. Learning is a risk, not 1812 Napoleon to Moscow, but risk, require logistics and courage. Logically if we extend arrangements, a pax education to our friends then we can share and trade our knowledge between them. We can manage the risks and costs of learning by trading our knowledge with others – the bigger the network, the more we know, the less in theory we need to learn, or proactively try to learn.
The network we have around us makes both a safe space for us to learn, and also facilitates the fact this is possible.
Now imagine the castle with no allies. The space outside its walls is hostile. To learn even the simplest thing is a risk. There is no defence, and learning anything may jeopardise all the knowledge there already is. You could imagine this castle being rather set in its ways, or alternatively full of questions and lonely. When we praise the network benefits of a course, or the networks we gain from it, I wonder what we say to those who don’t gain that? Are five friends better than the top grade?