Shorna Broussard, Maureen McDonough, and I hosted a roundtable discussion at the 2008 International Symposium on Society and Resource Management (ISSRM). We had a diverse group, and it was an enlightening discussion.
Shorna began with a review of peer learning. A few notes from her discussion are as follows. She described peer learning as:
- Interactive, mediated by non-professional teachers.
- Supplementing, not supplanting, the important role of natural resources (and teaching) professionals.
- Open to all, non-hierarchical, and everybody’s both a teacher and a learner: Everyone gains from participating.
- Purposive, deliberative process with clear outcomes: Not just talking.
- Includes an emotional connection, beyond just information gathering.
Shorna then discussed some social network theories. At this point, we opened the floor up for a discussion of the group’s experiences, questions, and learnings about peer learning and social networks in the private woodlands arena.
A few high points:
- The Army Corps of Engineers’ GETS (Good Enough to Share) site is a space where good ideas can be shared, and drawn upon, to solve problems that might have arisen elsewhere. Forums like this allow users / learners to both share their knowledge and learn from others using targeted searches and a simple interface.
- One common challenge is to get natural resource professionals to share what they know. In some cases, professionals can feel less important than other participants (because the learners are supposed to drive the process), and fail to share their technical knowledge. This is quite a reversal from the traditional setting in which the professional is, in effect, the only source of information.
- We heard about several Extension programs in which the participants literally build the agenda onsite, then work through it. One example of a program like this are the Massachusetts Woods Forums.
Much of the discussion was about exciting ideas that will take some time to flesh out and act on. Check back for more posts following up on this discussion