From connected learning to P2P learning

With kids in your life, certainly you’ve heard of tutorials and instructional videos on YouTube. But of course they’re not just for kids, and it’s exciting to think about all the learning, from guitar lessons to algebra to DIY plumbing, that goes on all over the Web and mobile platform – self-directed, -customized and -paced learning. Tutorials are there for people to learn just about anything their hearts desire, anytime, anywhere and at any point in their lives.

“Self-learners know how to go to YouTube, they know how to use search, mobilize personal learning networks,” writes best-selling author, thinker and educator Howard Rheingold (though it helps to have some good instruction in media literacy or, I’d add, to read his book Net Smart: How to Thrive Online). But “self” is the operative word in self-directed learning. “How does a group of self-learners organize co-learning?” Rheingold continues in the Foreword of Peeragogy.org.

The kernel of a handbook

Apparently, just as Linus Torvalds did with his Linux kernel in 1991, Rheingold and others put the kernel of a handbook, Peeragogy.org, on the Web late last year so that they and anyone who wanted to join them could answer that question. They were writing the manual for peer-to-peer learning as they were collaboratively figuring out the methodology, practicing without the preaching. co-develop the methodology for learning together “in the wild.” This is definitely connected learning, as the network of educators of that name would define it, including the part about employing connected digital media so that physical location is no barrier. But this goes beyond self-directed learning outside of school.

“What’s missing for learners outside formal institutions who know how to use social media is useful lore about how people learn together without a teacher. Nobody should ever overlook the fact that there are great teachers,” writes Rheingold. “But it’s time to expand the focus on learners, particularly on self-learners whose hunger for learning hasn’t been schooled out of them,” which has happened for a lot of kids.

The new ‘flipped classroom’?

In some ways, P2P learning is the next step beyond connected learning, but things aren’t that linear anymore. Some interest communities – writers, musicians, gamers, etc. – have been learning collaboratively since before social media, in newsgroups, guilds, caves, etc. The Peeragogy community is just focused on the how-to, the methodology of effective collaborative learning, and Peeragogy.org is their open-source, evolving handbook – for anyone who wants to join them as they create, organize and learn as they go. But no one’s saying it can’t be done in school.

Teachers might enjoy being a peer too, trying peeragogy in their classrooms, “flipping” them in a different way, with students co-learning and -teaching inside the experiment inside school. The only rules to how it’s done are co-created by the peers. Homeschoolers and learners can try this at home too. It’s exciting to see what connected learning enables.

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