Peeragogy is a flexible framework of techniques for peer learning and peer knowledge production. Whereas pedagogy deals with the transmission of knowledge from teachers to students, peeragogy is what people use to produce and apply knowledge together. The strength of peeragogy is its flexibility and scalability. The learning mind-set and strategies that we are uncovering in the Peeragogy project can be applied in classrooms, hackerspaces, organizations, wikis, and interconnected collaborations across an entire society.

A group of people, inspired by Howard Rheingold, even wrote a handbook about Peeragogy. The writing of the book was peeragogy-in-action.

This group, Metacaugs, can be considered as a bunch of peeragogists. Just as during the start of the Peeragogy Handbook project, one can feel a state of creative anarchy. Several projects collide and/or inspire each other, many different tools and platforms are being used, modifief or abandoned.

In this post I’ll try to use the Handbook so as to order my thinking about this project. Of course it’s a very personal reflection: while the group members share common interests, they have also their very own projects. My project is to develop an online peer-to-peer course about the impact of the technological acceleration on society.

Here I will use a template to formulate a pattern for my personal project in this group:

  • Title: Setting up a practice to study the impact of technological change on society

  • Context: Rapidly changing technology creates opportunities but also huge challenges for humanity. How can we keep pace with these developments while doing something useful for mankind?

  • Problem: These issues are being studied at universities, in a kind of an academic bubble. In order to find creative solutions, we need diversity: academics working with many other professions and students to explore the issues at hand. Also, it’s not just reading and memorizing, it’s also about doing and co-creating, learning to master tools. That is a foundational part of the practice (hence the use of the word ‘practice’ in the title).

  • Solution: Peeragogy offers a number of patterns - which can and should be tweaked - which can be useful to build such a group and a practice. A pattern is anything that has a repeated effect. In the context of peeragogy, the practice is to repeat processes and interactions that advance the learning mission. Frequent occurrences that are not desirable are called anti-patterns!

  • Rationale: Peeragogy is very flexible - it can be used in schools but also for self-organizing groups of adults. Finally, it is great fun.

  • What’s Next: Analyze what we’re doing here with Metacaugs in the framework of Peeragogy, then gradually involve more people to join the practice. We’ll co-develop a curriculum for the course, this will be reflected in blog posts and eventually longer essays or even books or videos. The creation of the curriculum is totally part of the course itself. Doing this patterns will emerge and other groups can use these patterns for developing sub-themes or totally different themes.

  • The practice has the following ingredients: synchronous online meetings where we discuss the writings of relevant authors, experiment with tools and platforms, and have meta-discussions about our proceedings. Group members report about how they apply what they learn in their own projects, others give feedback. This continues on asynchronous forums, we visualize using mindmaps, analyze by developing a lexicon, context to key concepts, and we analyze and visualize discussion positions using a state of the art system called Qiark. Of course we also blog about all this.

A quiz

In Convening a Group the Peeragogy Handbook suggests a quiz: Those taking the initiative should ask themselves the traditional Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How (as a journalist I do like these questions).

  • Who will participate? Will people stay or dip in and out, and what would that mean for the course? Can it be made resilient enough to survive that? For instance, when the activity involves reading a book, short summaries can help people to pick the discussion up again.
  • What skills are involved? What do people expect to learn, should they already have some specific skills? In this project a relatively high classical literacy (reading and writing) can be useful, but could it be redesigned in such a way that this barrier to entry is removed? Skills which we’ll learn: mindmapping, mark down code, a basic understanding of GitHub as a collaborative tool, a more in-depth understanding of Slack and similar platforms as communication hubs, setting up synchronous online conferences, and learning how to organize peer-to-peer learning.
  • When: is about the time we expect to need for different roles. In this case a weekly activity is recommended: reading a book chapter on your own and take part in an online discussion of about one hour. So a rough estimate would be two hours for a basic participant who follows along. Including activities such as blogging and learning to use different tools, this could be more - maybe three hours.
  • Journey or destination: is there an end result or is this a never-ending story? It seems preferable to have sub-projects with a specific time-horizon (one can read a book and devote one week for each chapter).
  • Tool and platform choice: while we may experiment a lot, we need some fundamental tools which provide stability. So we should take decisions about mindmapping software, forum software, videoconferencing infrastructure, and platforms for the blogs and lexicon. At this point in time we use GoToMeeting for the conferencing, Slack for the forums, GitHub for lexicon and blogs and MetaMaps for the mindmapping. We also experiment regularly with Qiark as a tool to gather and analyze ideas.
  • Linearity vs Messiness: this whole experience not only allows for feedback and meta-discussions but requires it. The upside of this is creativity and awareness, the downside a feeling of confusion as there seems to be no real leadership and the feeling might be that everything can be questioned all the time.

Please feel free to comment on this project, which is my personal one but also corresponds to a lot of what we’re doing at Metacaugs right now already. We discussed previously a book by Thomas Friedman, Thank You for Being Late, following a lot of these patterns. These days we’re discussing Whiplash, a book by Joi Ito and Jeff Howe, but as explained we do at lot more than just reading texts.