Learning IS Social. It Just Is.

The term Social refers to a characteristic of living organisms (humans in particular, though biologists also apply the term to populations of other animals). It always refers to the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence, irrespective of whether they are aware of it or not, and irrespective of whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary. #

In the next paragraph, the article, at least as it exists today, pretty much makes my entire case: #

In the absence of agreement about its meaning, the term “social” is used in many different senses and regarded as a fuzzy concept #

See, my contention is that learning is communication, and that communication requires language, and that language is socially negotiated. By that, what I mean is that words are just sounds.  Sounds that convey meaning.  And they are arbitrary.  We call cups “cups” not because they possess any inherent cupness, but because, over time, and due to popular usage, the word “cups” came to be linked with the concept of a particular kind of container that you put things, usually liquid, but sometimes cakes and other things, into. #

As well, a primarily social view of learning also overlooks many of the affordances of technology. I can learn (learning defined as actuated or actionable knowledge) from a computer program, an intelligent software agent, or a contextually appropriate learning resource (i.e. when I need to do the task, the learning resource is mediated by technology). #

Each of those items that he’s giving as examples of ways you might learn, are things, like books, that were made by other people.  Someone wrote the computer program, or the intelligent software agent, or the resource.  Those items, like books, were created in and of a social process.  People make technology, or learning objects, or what have you, whether they’re putting words on pages or building hardware.  These items are a conversation, to a degree, between author and reader.  George is a smart guy, and a good teacher, but I wonder if he forgot that when he wrote that post. #

  1. If you don’t believe me, then think about the word “Google.”  It used to represent a really big number.  Then a company.  Now an action.  Language changes over time as people use words differently. I find that fascinating. []
  2. George mentioned feral children on Twitter today.  “How do they use language to learn?” was his question.  I’m still thinking that there’s a language piece there, on some level.  But I’m still thinking. []
  3. Writing is one of my favorite technologies, and the one that I find the most fascinating, be you a writer with an iPad or a pencil or a keyboard or a telephone or whatever. []
  4. Turns out, according to folks like Rosenblatt, that rereading a text results in a different transaction every time you reread.  Because you’re a different you when you read the text again.  Isn’t that interesting to think about? []
  5. But you probably are.  There is nothing new under the sun. []
  6. You might fail.  But you might not. []
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