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Friday, January 26, 2007

Donald Clark - Dumbness of Crowds - Hmmmm

I generally agree with what Donald has to say, but on this post, I think he's right about collaboration vs. independent work, but draws a bad conclusion: Donald Clark Plan B: Dumbness of Crowds.

First - I tend to agree with Donald that most Web 2.0 activities are more independent actions of individuals than true collaborative work (team work) on a work product.

But - I think Donald's missed the point that you can have independent activity that builds on itself to form a type of collaboration. This is true in most project teams. You don't have everyone work on the same part of the document at the same time. Rather, you divide the work, and bring it together.

Donald has missed some things. For example, he asserts - "Even Wikipedia is written by separate individuals, not collaborative groups." Okay, sure, there are individuals contributing to an article, but if several people edit the same article (such as the definition of eLearning 2.0), is that somehow not collaborative? I don't get it Donald?

Another quote from the post:
I’ve never really bought the idea that I’ll learn from a group of learners who know as little about the subject as me. I don’t force my twin son to learn
French from his equally poor French-speaking brother, and am now convinced that much of what passes for groupwork in primary and secondary school classrooms is just chaos.

Donald - do you think you'll learn French without speaking it with other people? Have you been in an MBA course that uses case studies? Yes, you do need intelligent individuals to discuss the case with. But, wow, I think you've really missed something.

I also wonder if Donald's bias is shared out there.

I'll be very curious to see if Nancy White or Stephen Downes respond to this. They'll likely be even more animated in their response.

5 comments:

Clive Shepherd said...

Donald may be drawing on David Freeman's provocative The Idiocy of Crowds, which I reviewed in my posting Me>We V We>Me (http://clive-shepherd.blogspot.com/2006/11/mewe-v-weme.html) back in Nov 2006. Although I think we should be cautious about embracing collaboration as 'always good', I'm broadly with you on this Tony.

Downes said...

I'm in broad agreement with Donald Clark's points, including the ones you take issue with.

First...

"Rather, you divide the work, and bring it together."

This model depends on some coordination to divide the work. The individuals doing the work are therefore not autonomous; at a minimum they have to do the part they're told to do.

This is not a network. It is a type of collaboraton (top down hierarchy collaboration).

"if several people edit the same article (such as the definition of eLearning 2.0), is that somehow not collaborative?"

No. Again, the difference is between co-ordinated activity and autonomous activity. This is what Clark was hitting on with each point.

"...do you think you'll learn French without speaking it with other people?"

That's not what he said. He was talking about two French-learners collaborating. He was not promoting some sort of isolationist alternative (why do people always assume the only alternative to collaboration is isolationism?).

A much better way to learn French is for a French-learner embed him or her self in a community of French speakers (and (what always seems to be the hard part) convince that community to continue speaking in French).

Notice how this creates connections, but preserves autonomy.

Placing two learners together like that is to manage their learning, and not very effectively (at a very minimum, there should be an actual French speaker there to help both learners as they founder).

"Have you been in an MBA course that uses case studies? Yes, you do need intelligent individuals to discuss the case with. But, wow, I think you've really missed something."

This needs to be explained. Is it not possible to understand a case study without being required to share your time with people who may or may not know what they're talking about?

Why can't a person learn hat is needed for an MBA by developing his or her own network, rather than working with some people assigned by an instructor?

"I also wonder if Donald's bias is shared out there."

Don't understand this. I didn't see any bias in the post, just an opinion.

Anonymous said...
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Tony Karrer said...

Stephen,

I must have misunderstood what Donald said. I would agree that it requires coordination to divide the work. To me that's collaboration. I took Donald to mean that he didn't believe that was collaboration. Did I miss something? You seem to say that in your suggestion that it is top-down hierarchy collaboration?

Unless I missed something - it would seem that Donald said that collaboration is often inefficient means of learning and doesn't really exist that often.

David Wilson said...

Tony - I agree with your interpretation. Here's my response.

David