Institution(less) Teaching

I’m very interested in how a group of people might use teacherless or decentralized pedagogical approach with its members.

I could see a system working like eBay or even Napster where everyone pays into the system and the system is supported by a Web-based application accessing a back end database.

One of the failures of Web-based learning environments has been that they have been developed by tech people (at least that has been my impression the couple of times I’ve used them. I did teach one online class and I liked it but the students hated it.) My thought here is that it may be possible to find a non-technology based approach that would be suited to the strengths of a networked environment.

I’ve been trying to take the two information technology buzz words, “Content Management” and “Knowledge Management” at face value. I’ve found it a sort of maddening enterprise.

I read this in the Encyclopedia Britannica under the heading “Information Age spurs economic globalization:”

“Just as land, labor, and machinery had been the capital of an industrial age, information became a new form of capital on modern business.”

Do you know where I might find an explanation of this statement? I never noticed before how cryptic much of the encyclopedia is. My thought is that if information is like a commodity, perhaps your can trade information? Or better set up a barter system and that would actually produce an information economy that would in turn increase the capital (i.e., knowledge) of the organization? But what exactly is information? I can’t find a good explanation of it.

I found some interesting connections in making the following diagram using the metaphor of layers.

layer 1: data
layer 2: information
layer 3: knowledge
layer 4: culture

Some definitions from Webster’s:

Data: For our purposes, “information in numerical form that can be digitally transmitted or processed;” however the first definition is: “Factual information (as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation.”

Information: The communication or reception of knowledge or intelligence; knowledge obtained from investigation, study, or instruction. (My own thought about data to information is that data is essentially binary; information then is the translation of binday into something with a basic meaning — to numeric values, ASCII, etc. Data and Information are too primal as layers to really have much value. Even XML is just “smart” information — it just has handles that can facilitate its use as knowledge.)

Knowledge: The fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association (2) : acquaintance with or understanding of a science, art, or technique

Culture: the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education.

Education then would be a key component of “knowledge management.” Education is defined as “the action or process of educating or of being educated; also: a stage of such a process b: the knowledge and development resulting from an educational process.”

I have this interest then in thinking of Information or Knowledge as a kind of commodity; and then building a system where it can be exchanged. Conceptualize then each block of knowledge being owned by the members of a Web community as owned objects. Someone owns then a nice jar, a handsome blanket, a bag full of glass beads. In the most primitive form of barter, you would trade these things for things you desired. However, if you introduce a community currency — an agreed on value, you can sell your jar, or blanket, or bead for currency and then buy back something else that you desire. Community currencies, since they are not manipulated by a central bank, find their natural value depending on the supply and demand of “objects.”

My thought is that once abstracted, various pieces of knowledge could be traded via an online trading community.

This same Web-based application could also handle registration, booking rooms, and so forth.

Such a system would essentially be peer-to-peer teaching and would provide a framework for communal self-improvement and collective action.

The benefit of such a system is that it would mimic a peer-to-peer network. There are many fussy problems, of course, to this whole concept.

I see the controlling mechanism here — the values that drive and infuse the entire system — coming from metaclasses. For instance, to lead a peer class, for instance, it may be necessary to take a “How to Lead a Peer Class” Class, and in teaching people who to teach, many of the “cultural values” would be instilled into the system.

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