Synchronous or asynchronous communication and learning?


We hear today, at a distance, in real time, broadcast on Radio, that TXT has overtaken the spoken word on the phone. I email by preference, though will TXT rather than speak usually because I feel I have time to compose my thoughts, can sometimes duplicate the message or a variation of it to several members of the family and then take stock of the responses as they come through – I don’t have time for chat. I avoid chat unless it suits me to chew over a topic, go round in circles and indulge the other speaker and me.

So how does this apply to learning? What is best face–to–face or at a distance, synchronous or asynchronous? The answer I understand is all of these, that interaction by whatever means available helps the learning process compared to working alone. You can think it through with a.n.other; you can share doubts and admit that yiu don’t ‘get’ the most trivial things and have it explained or expressed by somoene that at last makes sense.

‘Get it from Nellie’ is the expression I got from an 85 year old at the weekend, a long retired senior partrner from PriceWaterhouse. He believes in trainees, in the apprentice, the articled clerk, the junior picking it up from the senior. So simple, so obvious, yet where does this occur in education? I’ve only come across it between partners where one is a couple of years ahead of the other on an MBA programme and can give all kinds of guidance. We don’t see A level students helping those at GCSE, or one year group helping another as undergraduates. The system of a qualified PhD as lecturer or supervisor follows this model though. I found it worked a bit a primary school too with 10 and 11 year olds helping out with the youngest. Is there something of the extended family in this? Is there something of a more traditional, manageable community too of elders and others?

Social learning is about sharing, passing on and explaining. It should be less about indoctrination though, to what degree they can in Germany prevent by law any kind of religious upbringing until the young person has a say or thought on the matter is another things – you bring them up as agnostics or atheaists and that is what they’ll be.

There’s the need therefore to ‘get it out’ to express your ideas, to state where you are at, to be corrected or believed, vindicated or shot down. Knowledge doesn’t simply aggregate like coral, rather it feeds on the vibrancy of responses from others.

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