What's Next: The Idiocy of Crowds
Nov 27, 2006
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This article is getting some traction, but it would have been nice had the author taken the time to comprehend the theory he is criticizing. He writes, "The effectiveness of groups, teamwork, collaboration, and consensus is largely a myth. In many cases, individuals do much better on their own. Our bias toward groups is counterproductive." Well, I would certainly agree with him on groups. But that is not the structure Surowiecki describes, nor is it how social networks are characterized per Watts and others, a distinction I have tried to make clear (with indifferent success) in Groups and Networks. Via Seb Schmoller. Total: 3
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Comments

Re: What's Next: The Idiocy of Crowds

I think that it is worth taking some care with regard to learning in teams. It is true that much of the group work that occurs in schools and universities does not guarantee that all participants will learn what is required and that the social loafer can flourish, however, there are a couple of issues that should be addressed. Firstly, some students detest group interaction and find that the interaction hinders and decreases their creativity. Often these people will be operating on what Mathews and Whacker call the "fringe" (see: http://e-learning-engagement.blogspot.com/2004/11/deviance-or-innovation-language-of.html). Their article provides strong reasons for not insisting that these personality types work together in teams/groups. Secondly, groupwork is notoriously poorly managed with little scaffolding and few requirements for teachback of individual research/knowledge and systematic peer assessment. Highly structured techniques similar to those used in Problem-Based Learning (PBL) are an example of how groupwork can be highly successful and offer demonstrably superior results to individual work. In my line of work, properly conceived and structured groupwork builds a sense of purpose and achievement that many school and university students lack in individual endeavours. The effects of the intrinsic motivation that flows from this kind of learning engagement is a powerful influence in learning that is difficult to replicate with individual learning plans. As far as my own individual learning preference, I operate around the "edge" of Mathews & Whacker's model and have a personal aversion to group work, but I see everyday the benefits the majority of students obtain from well conceived and constructed teamwork that it is impossible to ignore. I suspect that many of us who use the blogosphere to connect and learn have personality types that do not allow us to work particularly well in teams and this can colour our ideas in this regard, but for the majority of students the evidence is clear (at least in the PBL sphere) that teamwork offers superior learning results. Best, Scot. [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: What's Next: The Idiocy of Crowds

I think that it is worth taking some care with regard to learning in teams. It is true that much of the group work that occurs in schools and universities does not guarantee that all participants will learn what is required and that the social loafer can flourish, however, there are a couple of issues that should be addressed. Firstly, some students detest group interaction and find that the interaction hinders and decreases their creativity. Often these people will be operating on what Mathews and Whacker call the "fringe" (see: http://e-learning-engagement.blogspot.com/2004/11/deviance-or-innovation-language-of.html). Their article provides strong reasons for not insisting that these personality types work together in teams/groups. Secondly, groupwork is notoriously poorly managed with little scaffolding and few requirements for teachback of individual research/knowledge and systematic peer assessment. Highly structured techniques similar to those used in Problem-Based Learning (PBL) are an example of how groupwork can be highly successful and offer demonstrably superior results to individual work. In my line of work, properly conceived and structured groupwork builds a sense of purpose and achievement that many school and university students lack in individual endeavours. The effects of the intrinsic motivation that flows from this kind of learning engagement is a powerful influence in learning that is difficult to replicate with individual learning plans. As far as my own individual learning preference, I operate around the "edge" of Mathews & Whacker's model and have a personal aversion to group work, but I see everyday the benefits the majority of students obtain from well conceived and constructed teamwork that it is impossible to ignore. I suspect that many of us who use the blogosphere to connect and learn have personality types that do not allow us to work particularly well in teams and this can colour our ideas in this regard, but for the majority of students the evidence is clear (at least in the PBL sphere) that teamwork offers superior learning results. Best, Scot. [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: What's Next: The Idiocy of Crowds

I subscribe to "Inc" so I did read this article in print and my take on it was slightly different. Although he borrowed from the title of Surowiecki's book, the article is more about our business obsession with teams than it is with the wisdom of groups or networks. While he does raise some cogent points, he alludes to research that he never cites, and refers to the oldest of research as if it were cutting edge. It's worth reading but a hallow argument because it locks into one-way-is-right. Certainly, many activities produce better results through the efforts of individuals, but there is still a place for team work and building consensus. Actually, Freedman admits as much in the article. We don't have to choose -- we should be highly productive individuals AND highly productive, cooperative, and assertive team players. We need to be able to work in many configurations these days, including in collaborative ways that Freedman didn't even mention. Still learning, Doug Smith http://www.dougsmithtraining.com [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: What's Next: The Idiocy of Crowds

Balance is vital. The point is that a crowd or mob is a cachophenous chaotic mass of people that make no sense! However, the crowds as gathering on the internet are a far cry from the "mob" that I believe is alluded to. Although one cannot rely solely on the crowd to determine what is important (after all the first post has to come from somewhere doesn't it), it serves as an effective road map. It is an effective tool and to ignore what the masses say is to ignore research itself, for indeed research as done in education is truly the aggregation of the results from a multitude of respondents. I would argue that what we have is by far the greatest research tool that has as yet been created! [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: What's Next: The Idiocy of Crowds

That comment was from Vicki Davis http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com [Comment] [Permalink]



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