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Archive for November, 2008

Terror in Mumbai

It is a heartbreaking moment for all of us. Terrorists, coming by the sea route, have wrought havoc on the city of Mumbai, our financial capital. They have killed scores of people and injured many more. Many still remain hostage to them across different locations in the city. An angered community has lashed out at what it calls inept political management while at the same time lauding the many brave soldiers and policemen who lost their lives and those that are continuing to stage an offensive even as I write this post.

In such a time of distress, as has happened in India, as has happened across the world, a plethora of emotions are being voiced – anger, frustration, grief and helplessness. It is a time when one hopes that everything will be alright, that public memory will be a tad longer this time, that governments in the South Asian region will accelerate the pace of the attack on terrorism, that politicians will not be able to inflame tensions or garner political mileage and that somewhere, somehow educators will start playing their part in encouraging an environment where our society and others start reflecting and acting on the core issues – demystifying and encouraging collaboration throughout the communities they work with every day.

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Mark Elliot talks about Stigmergic collaboration. Stigmergy, a term coined by Pierre-Paul Grasse in the 1950s with his research on termite behavior, describes self organization of complex tasks by collective inputs of a large number who are responding to changes in their local environment through small simple actions.

The concept of stigmergy therefore provides an intuitive and easy-to-grasp theory for helping understand how disparate, distributed, ad hoc contributions could lead to the emergence of the largest collaborative enterprises the world has seen.

There are four findings of Mark’s Ph.D. research that he provides:

  1. Collaboration is dependent upon communication, and communication is a network phenomenon.
  2. Collaboration is inherently composed of two primary components, without either of which collaboration cannot take place: social negotiation and creative output.
  3. Collaboration in small groups (roughly 2-25) relies upon social negotiation to evolve and guide its process and creative output.
  4. Collaboration in large groups (roughly 25-n) is enabled by stigmergy.

I think this is an important way of looking at stages of evolution of learning formations insofar as it describes scale as a dimension for differentiation for those stages.

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I have been writing over at my other blog, http://learnoscck08.wordpress.com and thought I would reference some posts here as well. It’s nearing the end of the Connectivism MOOC and it’s been a ride!

Enjoy reading and do write in with comments!

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