A Journey Through Technology

Week 5: What are your thoughts about “learning in the collective”?

on February 18, 2017

To answer this week’s question, I need to think a bit about what “learning in the collective” really means.  “In communities, people learn in order to belong. In a collective, people belong in order to learn.” (Thomas & Brown, 2011, Kindle location 622) In my mind, this means that a community is a group of people with common interests not intended for learning from each other, whereas a collective is a group of people brought together with the intention of learning from each other.

An example that Thomas & Brown discuss in A New Culture of Learning is the use of blogs as collective learning. Throughout this Master’s degree program, a majority of my classes have involved using blogs as a source of learning between the students in the class. The aspect of the blogging isn’t in just writing each week, but instead what is done after students write their posts each week. Blogs being part of a learning collective requires a “combination of the active and passive…forms of participation” (Thomas & Brown, 2013, Kindle location 644). It is the interaction that occurs within our blogs that lead to a learning collective. Another example of blogs as learning collectives comes with Bill Ferriter. He writes about his experiences using blogs as a learning collective to help him with professional growth, both by reading the blogs of other educators and by writing on his own blog. (Ferriter, 2009)

I think it is important for people to be able to easily share knowledge and information with each other and learning collectives allow for this. “Because of how we can communicate and share knowledge, we can tap into a vast information network assembled by millions of humans, living and dead.” (Christian, 2009) But how should “learning in the collective” be organized? Is it just a group of people coming together and sharing information, teaching each other and learner from each other?

Castelijns et. al, (2013) describes six phases of a collective learning cycle: Defining an ambition, Collecting information, Interpretation of the information, Deriving consequences, Acting, and Evaluation of product and process. (Castelijns et. al, 2013, p.378) These could be useful steps to take if trying to organize a new learning collective, however I don’t think that every collective would have to follow these exact stages.

A final thought I have about “learning in the collective” deals with another quote from Thomas & Brown. “Almost every difficult issue we face today is a collective, rather than a personal, problem.” (Thomas & Brown, 2011, Kindle location 719) This makes me wonder that if more collectives were used for solving our problems today, maybe more solutions might be discovered.


Castelijns, J., Vermeulen, M. and Kools, Q. (2013) ‘Collective learning in primary schools and teacher education institutes’, Journal of Educational Change, 14(3), pp. 373–402. doi: 10.1007/s10833-013-9209-6.

Christian, D. (2009) Khan academy. Available at: https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/big-history-project/early-humans/collective-learning/a/collective-learning-part-1 (Accessed: 17 February 2017).

Ferriter, B. (2009) ‘Learning with Blogs and Wikis’, Educational Leadership, 66(5), pp. 34–38.Available at http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb09/vol66/num05/Learning-with-Blogs-and-Wikis.aspx (Accessed: 17 February 2017).

Thomas, D. & Brown, J. S. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Kindle Edition.


6 responses to “Week 5: What are your thoughts about “learning in the collective”?

  1. Natalie says:

    This is the first class that I have created a blog so it is all very new to me. Before, I thought that blogging was just writing things down and posting them to the world. I can now see, as you said that it is the interactions we have with each other and the learning that takes place that makes it a unique collective. We can easily communicate with each other and share knowledge that really touches on “people belong to the collective in order to learn”. I was also thinking about our reflection process as well, we have to reflect on our process of learning of how we learned and not just what we learned. I think we could definitely discover more solutions to problems if more collectives were used. We may think that our problems are our own, but there are others that may be struggling with the same problem. Just being able to connect through those online communities could really make the difference.


    • Sarah K says:

      The classes for this degree are also the first for me that use a blog. I have learned so much from reading classmates points of views on things and I really like getting to read through everyone’s blogs each week. I could see blogging working in a variety of high school classes, though I don’t know how effective it would be in chemistry, the main subject that I teach. It is nice to use as a problem solving tool, though. If student could easily communicate together to discuss problems they are having I could see this working in chemistry.


  2. Tristan says:

    I was really having a hard time wrapping my mind around the quote from the book “In communities, people learn in order to belong. In a collective, people belong in order to learn.” that you used in your first paragraph. I like how you described how you thought about it, it makes a lot more sense to me now.

    You said you wonder if more collectives were used for solving our problems today, maybe more solutions might be discovered. On a small scale, I think that’s why groups that help people who struggle with addictions have such a positive role in people’s lives. It’s a group of people that are meeting for a common purpose, they don’t know each other that well, as time goes on they get to know each other better, but they talk about what is going on in their life and people offer suggestions and advice based on their personal experience. These people can come together to help offer solutions to others and through that advice can help themselves know they are having a positive effect on someone else. On a much broader scale, I think about all the problems in the world that do not have a solution yet. How many actual people are solving these? In comparison to the entire very population, a very small amount. While I realize it wouldn’t be possible to involve the citizens in everything that is going on because it would probably just cause chaos, confusion, and unnecessary fear, it is interesting for me to think about what if they included more people in coming up with solutions. Would it make any difference? Would anyone that’s not part of the political world care? Would our world be a better place? If we are as humanity a collective, I wonder we do so many things uncollectively, when learning from others and using all of our ideas to come up with a solution is what helps us learn and grow. That may have gone a whole different direction than what you were thinking about when you made your statement, but that’s what I got :).


    • Sarah K says:

      I love the direction you went. I wonder if trust isn’t the biggest issue prevent more collective learning to solve world issues. I don’t know if this quote was in the reading this week, or if it just kept popping into the my head, but it makes me thing of “the sum of the parts is greater than the whole”. If humanity can work together we can achieve more than working individually.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. unicyclepro says:

    I still wonder if learning “collective” is really a new idea? Apparently, it’s not. I don’t know why there is a new term for a centuries old idea. It sort of reminds me of how pedagogies, methods, and “new” teaching styles seem to have cycles. Sometimes we “label” it differently, and other times, we are “reminded” of one. I like your last comment about difficult issues we face. If we really are using our collective, we should have NO issues with change or problems in todays world, especially in a digital/tech world. We can reach “globally” and it’s amazing. This was not true 30 years ago. We had to write letters and mail them to communicate, (I suppose you could call them on a phone, but not everyone had one!) and we had to rely on newspapers, magazines, radio shows, and news casts to get global information. It is truly instant sharing these days!


    • Sarah K says:

      Some of the stuff I read this week looked at collective learning going back to ancient times. I don’t think its as much a new idea as it is becoming easier to achieve. With the click of a mouse you can connect with people all around the world. I wonder what is keeping us (humanity) from coming together and doing more global collective learning? We have the tools, do we just need more people to hop on board?


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