When Learning Isn’t Vulnerability

Darren Draper, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Jan 29, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Darren Draper critiques the recent "learning is vulnerability" argument offered by George Siemens and Audrey Watters, among others, but I think he mistakes what "vulnerability" means. Draper asks, "have we consigned ourselves to a world where learning must be networked, must require community, and must embrace the vulnerability of students? I hope not." He adds, "there are many times when learning (i.e., studying, practicing, being taught, and experiencing) takes place without an audience and with minimal communication strain on the part of the learner." Well, true. But consider. Draper writes, "Learning is no more vulnerability than eating might be." Quite so. But every time we eat, we are vulnerable. Not 'vulnerable' in the sense-of-community kumbaya sense. But vulnerable in the sense that we might be poisoned, suffer indigestion, eat too much, find the food distasteful, and any of a hundred other discomforts. Any change creates vulnerability because it introduces something from outside the system into the inside, and that introduces the possibility of some sort of failure - failure to adapt, failure to learn, failure to digest, failure to grow.

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