Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Knowing as Distributed in the World.

Just finished reading the latest handout "Cognition and Learning", by Greeno, Collins and Resnick. Phew! Quite dense.

One section that resonated for me appeared earlier in the article, under title "Knowing as Distributed in the World." (For another interesting article on this idea, read this. [pdf])

I think "distributed knowledge" has ramifications for how we see groups or teams working and learning together. If intelligence and knowledge is situationally located, this may explain why some groups of students (or workers, in a business context) work extremely well together, and may be more productive than another similarly constituted group. The consequences of "mixing up" a group, or changing the membership randomly (and/or often) might be poor team and individual performances. A Distributed Knowledge perspective might give us some insight into why this might happen.

Reading this section also makes me think of how we often structure both learning environments and assessment practices, particularly in high school. We used to seat students in rows, ask them to take individual notes, and discourage "chit-chat". Recently, we have been moving towards encouraging "think-pair-share", studying with a partner, and working in cooperative learning groups. Ironic that we still test students as individuals, without access to any of the tools, artifacts or books, or the communities and practices that surrounded them in their learning environment. Hmmm.

In the "real" world (teachers always say this, what does it really mean?) individuals often access the knowledge that is distributed across an office setting, asking co-workers or consulting various information sources (manuals, web, notes) without having to hold "the sum of all knowledge" in his/her head.


(For another article, read this. [pdf])
Interesting mention of "situated learning" on a New York School District webpage.