Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bring in others to help

Among many other things floating around these days, we are living in the age of crowdsourcing.  What is that?  As far as I am concerned, it basically means getting help from others. They can't help if they don't know what is going on so there has to be.  The recent issue of Time's list of 100 influential people included the Finnish-American Linus Torvald, famous for creating a computer operating system that is open-source.  His making the entire basic code of his system available to any and all who wanted it was a major marker in many of today's government and technological projects in which basic information is completely available to all.  

Some of the most fun moments of my teaching came in arrangements when there was one or more other teachers in the classroom with me.  If you are looking for someone to obey, a king or a mommy or a life-saving physician, you don't want contra-diction.  You just want diction, a message of what to do that you can carry out.  However, everything changes and over time, we find the king is now too old or too ignorant or too furious or too ambitious to be a reliable guide.  Mommy's view gets to be debated in adolescence and sometimes ignored in adulthood.  The best physician may be too frightened or too conservative or too adventurous and so we may want "a second opinion".

Costello needed Abbott (apologies to younger readers), the quarterback needs the linemen, the marrieds rely on each other.  Multiple heads, multiple opinions, multiple methods, multiple teams make for more progress, more ideas, better results. Thought on American education methods has tried to emphasize the learner's mind instead of the teacher's directions for more than 100 years.  These days, more effort has moved from the learner's mind to the learners' minds, in groups.  Some people are introverts and don't like to speak in groups, especially off the cuff.  Susan Cain, in "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking", shows how much higher education and training emphasizes group work and leadership qualities that enable people to make the most of each other.  

The birth of conscious group thinking, in the West, usually considered to have started with the Greeks, is often discussed in terms of "dialogue", possibly the most famous being Plato's account of Socrates asking an uneducated slave boy questions that lead the boy to state the Pythagorean theorem relating the sides of a right triangle.  But actually it is "multilogues", group discussions that are our best tool for arriving at good ideas and finding their limits and flaws.  However much one may find difficult one's mate's comments, however much the author resists or resents the editor's changes, other heads often lead to improvements.

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