John Seely Brown on Stolen Knowledge

Stolen but unfinished. Prodded by Maish’s eLearningpost, this evening I re-read John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid’s wonderful article, Stolen Knowledge. More than ten years old now, yet people are still absorbing the message. I gained new insights from my return visit.

… the best way to support learning is from the demand side rather than the supply side. That is, rather than deciding ahead of time what a learner needs to know and making this explicitly available to the exclusion of everything else, designers and instructors need to make available as much as possible of the whole rich web of practice-explicit and implicit-allowing the learner to call upon aspects of practice, latent in the periphery, as they are needed….

[Internet Time Blog]

And, prodded by Jay, I just did the same.

The quote that opens the paper is also worth highlighting:

A very great musician came and stayed in [our] house. He made one big mistake . . . [he] determined to teach me music, and consequently no learning took place. Nevertheless, I did casually pick up from him a certain amount of stolen knowledge.

[Rabindrath Tagore quoted in Bandyopadhyay, 1989: 45]

Why is it such a hard step to give up on the notion of control? Or, put another way, why do organizations and schools insist on forcing certain content down people’s throats? You might want to take a look at Roger Schank’s thoughts about learning in this context. Take a look at Coloring Outside the Lines : Raising a Smarter Kid by Breaking All the Rules or at Designing World-Class E-Learning.

Or if you want things in a real nutshell consider the following bit of wisdom from Calvin and Hobbes:

Calvin and Hobbes for 27 Nov 1992