Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Not what you know but who...

Followers of mine may be aware that I'm currently working on the design of a world-wide network of Moodles for a group of international schools. The first Moodle is to be implemented in Poland, a country with very strict data protection laws. The upshot of those laws is that it's far easier to install the server in the Polish school. So we've identified the hardware and, for the sake of consistency across the rest of the group, we're going to be installing RedHat. We receive some pricing strategies from RedHat and as we're checking over subscription costs there is mention of "2 sockets" - in brackets - on the quote.

Not that it mattered particularly but my colleague and I wondered what, exactly, "2 sockets" meant in this context. So we did the obvious: have a look on the RedHat website, followed by Wikipedia. Neither really helped so we then we widened the net to generally Googling for any information on sockets. Not surprisingly we just got a lot of information on TCP sockets and electric wall sockets (and we were guessing it wasn't anything to do with those).

The next step of our quest interested me from an educational point of view: we had a competition between us to see who could get the answer first. My colleague went immediately to Skype to speak to one of our technical guys in Poland. I went straight onto one of the IM chat rooms I'm involved in (Prosody, in fact). I happened to learn only yesterday that one of the regular visitors to the Prosody chatroom works for RedHat and he was able to give me an answer straight away. Our guy in Poland knew the answer, too.

As it turned out (and I guess lucky for the sake of office harmony) we both got the answer at about the same time.

What's the point to this story? Well basically that the two of us sat in the middle of England had no idea what "2 sockets" meant with regard to a RedHat server installation but in our social group we managed to get an answer within about 60 seconds. What I am thinking is that this is, I suppose, a pretty clear example of learning in a peer group.

Then this afternoon I read a recent blog post on the new TDM blog (here) in which Derrin Kent mentions "We CAN learn without any teacher / course, though. We CAN learn without a formal course. We can do this alone or in peer groups." Which is true... because we did this morning.

Derrin also says "But…. we are unwise to learn without recording what it is that we are learning." Which is also true... but that isn't necessarily why I'm blogging about it now.

But I'm also minded to mention that there is nothing new in this idea of learning in a peer group. As the popular saying goes: it's not what you know that's important. It's who you know that matters.

Is it true that it's not the social group itself that's important but who is contained in it? How is it possible to ensure that your social group contains the person who is going to know the answer to the problem you haven't had yet? What do you think?

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