Monday, 11 March 2013

Collective Wisdom: Using Aboriginal Knowledge as a Guide to Openness

Interesting how sense making converges. Not only rhizomatically but layered and scaffolded. Currently I am enrolled in three courses, ETMOOC, Aboriginal Worldviews and Education (AWE) and WomenLearningTech. I am also reading the Half Life of Facts. Last night we had a wonderful etmooc chat around K-12 open education discussing ideas about what does being open mean, the potential pitfalls and barriers as well as the opportunities openness brings to us and our students. This morning while looking up some information for a quiz in AWE I came across these words in the section about personal knowledge from Marlene Brant Castellano in Updating Aboriginal Traditions of Knowledge (2000) "Aboriginal knowledge is rooted in personal experience and lays no claim to universality. The degree to which you can trust what is being said is tied up with integrity and perceptiveness of the speaker...His observations would not necessarily be accepted uncritically, nor would they be contradicted or dismissed. Rather, they would be put in context." ( I added the bold) This ties in directly with many of the topics we discussed last night, that of building a 'brand,' (I hate that term for carrying my identity forward! Please someone rescue us from becoming part of a marketing campaign!) based on integrity and perceptiveness, building trust and relationships online and the need for placing observations and ideas in context.

I also like the idea that you can be critical of an idea without being dismissive or contradictory. "The personal nature of knowledge means that disparate and even contradictory perceptions can be accepted as valid because they are unique to the person....In other words, people do not contest with one another to establish who is correct-who has the 'truth.'" And after reading Half Life of Facts and seeing how teaching science in elementary school can be changed in a blink of an eye (Pluto is not a planet, Bernoulli's Principle does/does not explain lift) what is 'truth' and who has ownership? And how long does 'truth' last? Perhaps that is an aspect of openness that also needs to be discussed.  Even in science, light is both a wave and a particle and the principles of flight can be explained through Bernoulli's Principle or Newton's laws of motion. Why must, as I have said before, there always be a right answer? This means that we all have the opportunity to pursue making our own truth and knowledge and by each of us sharing and respecting other views we grow together. Within aboriginal knowledge, "collective wisdom is arrived at by a process of 'putting our minds together,'" which seems to mirror the actions we take within the ETMOOC community on a regular basis. I know that I have been enriched by the process of creating collective wisdom, both in my thinking and in my new friendships.

If you do anything this week, please take an opportunity to read this wonderful article. There is also a section on oral tradition, and experiential learning that turns our discussion of literacy on its head as aboriginal knowledge considers the literate approach to knowing one dimensional.

"'I can't promise to tell you the truth; I can only tell you what I know.'"


  1. Hi Karen,
    Great post. I enjoyed reading about the connections between your Moocs. I now have another tab open with Marlene Brant Castellano's article. Your comments about being"critical of an idea without being dismissive or contradictory" remind me of a tweet on #etmooc this week that urged people start sharing now, before it is perfect. Once you have shared it others can help make it better.

    I like your idea of more than one right answer, that everyone makes their own truth. We did a group problem solving activity at a meeting this morning. I had never done group work for math before and I liked it. After about ten minutes they wrapped up and said there was no right answer, that it was a activity about problem solving. Some were uncomfortable that there was no "right" answer. I liked the idea, how the process can be more important than the outcome.

    Let's keep putting our minds together, even after etmooc.

  2. I used to teach Philosophy for Children One of the key ideas was that once an idea was put out for discussion,everyone could comment and shape the idea. But first others would have to clarify that s/he understood what the originator of the idea meant. Through discussion all might come to a different conclusion but all had to respect each others' contributions. Too often, I feel, we dig our heels in and don't really listen to each other.
    I also, don't like the idea of building a brand for myself - it seems to indicate immutability - I like to think of myself as always in flux - learning and changing.
    Thanks for a thoughtful post.

  3. ...building a 'brand,' (I hate that term for carrying my identity forward! Please someone rescue us from becoming part of a marketing campaign!)

    Until I heard Bonnie Stewart disparage the word "brand" in her etmooc session, it never occurred to me that the word would be so strongly associated with the distasteful side of aggressive or deceptive marketing. I understood "personal brand" to be exactly what Bonnie was promoting when she spoke about cultivating our online identity. (in fact I think I mentioned "my brand" in the chat just before the rant about commercialism started - oops)

    Do you think we can repossess that very useful, concise word? Can it be rescued from its negative identity by using it defiantly, especially where the wholesome meaning is obvious, (e.g. "Dave Cormier's brand of rhizomatic learning..." or "The connectivist brand of MOOCs") or with a disclaimer (e.g. "so-and-so is quickly branding herself as a committed collaborative learner, not with slick advertizing but by contributing significantly to the discussion in ...".

  4. Jim I am not sure if we can. It is so ubiquitous within the advertising/marketing world that the meaning has shifted, just like the word gay once upon a time meant happy but no longer is used in that way.