Monday, January 30, 2006


Tens, or maybe hundreds of thousands of years ago, man figured something out. He realized that if you took a buddy with you hunting, your odds of success were greatly increased. If you were poking what you hoped was your next meal with a sharp stick, and your future meal happened to knock the stick out of your hands and jump on top of you, it was nice to have a buddy to poke HIS sharp stick at your meal, in hopes that you might be able to escape.

Learning is the same way, although there are no sharp sticks, and less carnage (usually).

I came across a very interesting looking course over at MIT OCW. It's called cognitive robotics. I'm interested in robotics, I'm interested in cognition, so the topic appeals to me.

So, why am I blogging and not teaching myself the finer points of cognitive robotics? Well, because I have a million other things to do, but also because I don't have anybody to 'go with me'. I need a buddy, preferable several of them. Sure, it's nice to have access to a content expert, but with MIT OCW, you don't get that, and besides, there is a magical formula that will tell you a magic number (I've discovered neither the formula, nor the number), in which you would rather have X number of interested novices, instead of one expert. I'm sure I could learn a lot about Napoleonic Warfare from Bernard Cornwell, but give me 25 interested amateur historians, and I bet I learn more. Maybe it's because then learning is more a journey of discovery instead of a passive data transfer.

The point of this whole post is that I was in a meeting where we talked what kind of interaction is needed to supplement the 'content' on OCW sites. I'm sure there are no quick answers, but it seems to me that what might be useful is something that facilitates this concept of pairing folks with similar interests so that can go out and tackle the topic together. But this is bigger than any OCW. If I choose to tackle cognitive robotics, I'm not going to tie myself only to MIC OCW, I'm going to utilize the entire internet. So it seems that learners need a central gathering place, a place where folks interested in learning can find others with similar interests and then go out and tackle the topic together.

The benefit of a central gathering place is that if a person goes to MIT's site to discuss cognitive robotics they are tied to only those who visit that site. They don't get interaction from folks in other OCW environments, or just other learning environments. And if you Google cognitive robotics, you will find places with good content, but no discussion, or sites are only interested in selling you things, or experts talking about things that are incomprehensible to novices, or other places that aren't specifically related to the 'learning'.

It seems then, what is needed is a place where learners can gather, find, tag, and post links related to their topic of interest, and then begin to help each other learn the topic through discussion and research.

So, somebody out there reading this blog, go ahead and whip up that site, and then let me know about it. I'll start the cognitive robotics thread.

1 comment:

UnPhiltered said...


This flickr URL is from Brian Lamb and Alan Levine’s “Beyond the Blog” presentation ( It shows an example of blogware publishing via RSS. Here’s the URL to the blog pictured, In essence, the blog becomes its own aggregator, and updates automatically.

Now I suppose you could create such a blog, using established RSS feeds and Google News in the area of cognitive robots. Sounds like far too much work. What is a little javascript to some is multivariate statistics to me. What I want is a search engine that is an uber-aggregator. It would list all current RSS feeds for the topic, any existing communities, and bundles it all into a nice OPML file. Perhaps a nice little button that says, “build a community”, and the search engine exports the OPML file into my brand new blog. Can’t your OCW people contact the Google people and get this bippy worked out?