Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community
David Wiley has posted a thoughtful and deep article on biological models of self-organization. The bulk of the paper is devoted to an examination of three forms of biological communities: mycorrhizal networks, transitory superorganisms, and stable superorganisms. From these Wiley derives "important principles of association that can be applied to group learning, and show how each of the three biological systems provide insights into three types of learning groups": communities of practice, activity groups, and Online Self-Organizing Social Structures (OSOSS). This is great work, persuasively argued, and thoughtfully written.

Of all three forms of organization, Wiley concludes, "There also has to be a legitimate need for the individuals to aggregate in order for associations to function mutualistically. This is important to bear in mind when designing learning activities involving group work. A legitimate need for group activity is essential for a successful outcome. In addition, they type of role taken on by members of the group must be considered. In transitory superorganisms, individuals specialize in function to solve a problem, whereas in stable superorganisms, members sharing a common environment bring in whatever resources they can find for the benefit of the community as a whole."

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Mar 30, 2021 11:53 a.m.