Thoughts on Learning in the Collective…

My first thought as I read and researched for this week’s blog post, was the Borg from Star Trek.  Perhaps I have managed to date myself a bit, but I find myself thinking, “Resistance is futile”.  Colin, a fellow blogger shared a clip during our twitter session.

According to Wikipedia, A “collective identity is the shared sense of belonging to a group.  It is conceptualized as individuals’ identifications of, identifications with, or attachment to certain groups.”

Douglas Thomas and John Brown elaborate further by saying that the collective is the “collection of people, skills, and talent that produces a result greater than the sum of its parts,” (A New Culture of Learning, 2011).  People are actively engaged in the process of learning; furthermore, the participants are people who belong in order to learn, (Thomas and Brown, 2011). 

Khan Academy has a great clip on the idea of learning in a collective.

The video clip discusses how our closest relative, chimps, are able to communicate by showing.  Chimps are able to convey movements observed in the present.  In other words, chimps communicate but their communication is limited to the present.  The chimps’ knowledge does not build and move forward.  Humans have symbolic language and are therefore able to learn, and through experience, gain information that can be passed on to the next generation.  Not only is information passed on to the next generation but humans are able to learn from the collective and build on that information.  So, new information is being experienced when humans learn through the collective, (Khan Academy). The internet has given us the opportunity to participate in the collective in a whole new way. 

 Claudio Garaycochea explains one way the collective can be used on the internet to allow your knowledge base to grow in a specific area.  Imagine what you could learn about web design or interior design if you had a web PACKAGE “with the best tools, having any of these within a moments reach?” (Garaycochea, 2011).  Garaycochea poses the questions, “What would happen if experts from different industries were to create PACKAGES with the best tools, having any one of these within a moment’s reach?”  He goes on to discuss a project called “CustominzeInternet” which seeks to do just that. 

I like the idea of having PACKAGES available to learn from the experts, but I find the collective can be valuable just by working in a group with individuals who have different strengths.  For instance, teachers working together to plan a unit.  Some teachers are really good at incorporating new strategies, while other teachers have a great deal of experience with classroom management.  We can learn SO much by listening to our colleagues! 

Next week I am going to work with Colin and Chris on a Minecraft lesson for our own children.  I am super excited to work with other people.  My son is probably even more excited than I am; he continues to amaze me each time he plays Minecraft.  What really baffles me is his interest in working with teachers.  He loves when teachers are willing to work with him on Minecraft; he really loves when they will follow him and let him show them around.  Imagine what we could learn if we viewed our students as part of “the collective”.  One of my favorite parts of teaching is learning.  I love the chance I have to constantly learn new things.  Being a part of the collective certainly helps me achieve my goal of being a lifelong learner. 


Wikipedia. Retrieved from

Khan, Sal. Retrieved from

Garaycochea, Claudio. (2011). Improve the use of the Internet through collective intelligence. Retrieved from

Thomas, Douglas & Brown S., John. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.



11 thoughts on “Thoughts on Learning in the Collective…

  1. I checked out Claudio Garayochea’s post, and when I think of his idea of putting the best known ideas in one place I keep coming back to Wikipedia, which sticks around for me in this regard precisely because it is community edited and works _just_ well enough. For instance:

    I love your perspective of students as being part of the collective. Once you get a classroom asking questions together that can’t be answered with a Google Search, everyone could join in. Thanks also for the link to the Kahn Academy video, it’s been a few months since I’ve been on that site so it’s nice to check back in.

    • Colin,

      Prior to this class I did not pay much attention to Wiki. I felt that it would not be accurate because “anyone” could edit the entries. Through this class I have learned the true value of Wiki, because Wiki has the ability to account for change I think it is a very valuable resource. As you mentioned also, Wiki does embrace the idea of learning as a collective.

    • I second that, Colin…great blog. I loved a statement towards the end. ‘Imagine what we could learn if we viewed our students as part of “the collective”’ is so powerful! This is absolutely where it’s at. Great Khan Academy video as well, thanks for sharing!!

  2. Sara, you blog got me thinking about a few things. I also, shared the Khan academy video on my blog and found it very interesting and it really shows how human knowledge can grow and evolve over time through our various modes of communication. I also thought about how I use collectives to search for any ideas with issues I may be having with my kids or issues in the classroom. I had never thought of those as a collective before but reading your blog brought out those ideas for me.

    • I have always found that I can learn more from other educators than I can from just reflecting on my own teaching practices. I remember my first year of teaching, I thought I was going to change the world and lives of kids all on my own. Boy was I wrong! I certainly still try to make a difference in my kids lives, however that cannot be done alone. I think Colin mentioned in his blog that we don’t learn in a vacuum. Well, we don’t teach in one either. I am a much better teacher than I was 8 or 9 years ago because I have had the opportunity to work and collaborate with outstanding educators.

  3. Connecting “Collective learning” to the a Borg makes me not want to do it!!! EVIL!!!… but you’re definition of “a place of belonging” is wonderful. Everyone wants to belong somewhere. Belonging to a group that learns is remarkable. Very nice!

    Good luck on your Minecraft challenge! My computer doesn’t have the right specs for such a challenge, but my 4/o is playing on the Xbox with me. It’s adventurous!

    • Tiffany, I couldn’t help myself. My husband is a big Star Trek fan; in fact, our family ends up watching it whenever he does. So, I just had to mention the Borg.

      I am super excited about Minecraft. As, Chris mentioned, Colin is an excellent teacher. I am also excited to learn more about Minecraft.

      • Be warned– Once you have a project in your head on Minecraft, you may get hooked. I have a hard enough time getting my husband off of it (he learned it very quickly when I brought it home for research).

      • My laptop is at least 6 years old and has already had it’s hard drive replaced once. I initially tried downloading Mojang’s PC version, but the lag was far too much for me to do anything.

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