#CCOW, Illich and Me

The following is posted in the #CCOW online forum in response to Chapter 6: Learning Webs – Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling society (Chapter 6). New York, NY: Harper & Row – from Ivan Illich’s Deschooling society, and Karen Brennan’s questions:

How do these tweets exemplify the types of interactions that Illich desired?
How do Illich’s visions of learning align (or not) with your own?
What peer interactions within the workshop have you found most useful or interesting or surprising?


As Karen noted, Illich was indeed prescient with his views on learning opportunities and networks. Several times his words evoked Maker Spaces; MOOCS and similar online learning opportunities; unconferences; the systems of ratings and reviews on amazon, netflix, many online stores; etc, and even Toys from Trash of Arvind Gupta.

As the posted tweets highlight, we are learning due to our own interests and motivations, getting feedback from (and sharing with) one another, as well as expert guidance and assistance when needed. For us, as adults, this is truly self-motivated learning. This is how humans learn from the age of newborns through early childhood – by using “abundant play” to explore and learn about their world, and they do it because they have an inner “want” to learn about their environment and to survive in that environment.

As an adult, my learning has been intentionally sought and all self-motivated. It has been interest-based for both personal and professional reasons. I have long thought that the best professional development is personal learning.

Illich describes a type of learning that I have only rarely seen at the high school level. Twice I had the benefit of being the faculty adviser to students pursuing independent study projects that were based exclusively on their interests, which they were fully responsible for defining, and which they would not have “learned” within the confines of their normal school experience. Both students were inordinately successful with their projects, to no small extent due to their self-motivation and passion, the guidance they had from experts, the networks of people (in person and online) with whom they interacted and shared, and their sharing back to various communities (as newly minted experts) during and at the conclusion of their projects.

There is no doubt in my mind that, at least in most schools within the United States, our adherence to traditional schooling has done a tremendous disservice to our children. As Ken Robinson has said, we teach the creativity out of our children somewhere in elementary or middle school. He also talks about the importance of “finding your element”. There are also many powers-that-be that refuse to acknowledge the impact poverty and socio-economic class have on our children and our school systems. Illich’s approach is radical to those who fear losing control of our educational system, because that system helps to keep certain groups in power, and because many people are change-averse. I have not fully thought out my idea of an alternative educational system, but from my 31 years of teaching, I do know what such a system would not include.

In discussing this reading with my husband, he mentioned a quote by Buckminister Fuller that can be condensed to “Let the tool change the people”. Those words could be describing Scratch and CCOW. The tools of Scratch (a learning environment freely available to anyone with a computer and Internet access) and the CCOW community (wherever you find it – on Twitter, in the Forum, in the Scratch online community, any of the other online sites, and even at the upcoming gathering at Harvard) combine to change each of us who participate. This forum (and Karen’s guiding questions) get us thinking about our approach to learning and teaching. As we use the tools and think about expanding their use beyond ourselves, we are changing. For after all, all learning is changing – changing the neuronal connections in our brains, which in turn changes how we think (and eventually act).


One thought on “#CCOW, Illich and Me

  1. ~ T ~

    Toys from Trash is so cool! and so is CCOW and other links you always bring up. Not only I get a good reading, but also lots of good links to more good reading and doing!

    thank you.

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