Friday, December 30, 2011

Cultivators -v- hunter-gatherers

We are evolving from being cultivators of personal knowledge to being hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. - Carr

This is another quotation from The Shallows that I've thought a lot about over the holiday period.  From a personal point of view I disagree with this.  There are times when I am a hunter-gatherer, for example when I want to buy something.  Recently when I decided to buy a new external hard drive I searched online to see if it was better to order it and have it delivered using Amazon, or if it was cheaper to drive to a shop and just pick one up.  I also searched to see where the nearest store was that had them on special offer and then used Google maps to find out how to get to the store.  Just like the hunter-gatherer, this was something I needed that day.  The information didn’t need to be stored anywhere in my long-term memory – after buying what I wanted I was probably never going to use that information again.

Most of what I use the internet for, however, is connected with my role as a teacher.  The people I follow on Twitter are mostly educators, the links I follow via their tweets are ones that make me think deeper about teaching and learning, or they are ones that point me to online resources or apps that I can use with my students.  The blog posts I read push my thinking in new directions or offer me a different perspective.  This is definitely a case of cultivating my own personal knowledge.  Nobody at my school is encouraging me to do this, so it is purely for myself and it has taken me deeper and further as an educator than any other form of professional development in the past 3 years.

To me, what you get out of your online connections is very much determined by what you put in.  The hunter-gatherer doesn’t invest much in the local environment – he takes what he needs to eat that day and probably roams around over a large area as he does it.  The cultivator on the other hand invests a lot into a small patch of earth.  He’s concerned with the quality of what he grows there, he nurtures his crop.  With a PLN it’s the same.  You have to put something in in order to get something out.  It involves giving as much as it involves taking.  

Photo Credit:  Sour Cherries by Audrey Attribution 

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