Collective Wisdom: Using Aboriginal Knowledge as a Guide to Openness

Interesting how sense making converges. Not only rhizomatically but layered and scaffolded. Currently I am enrolled in three courses, ETMOOC, Aboriginal Worldviews and Education (AWE) and WomenLearningTech. I am also reading the Half Life of Facts. Last night we had a wonderful etmooc chat around K-12 open education discussing ideas about what does being open mean, the potential pitfalls and barriers as well as the opportunities openness brings to us and our students. This morning while looking up some information for a quiz in AWE I came across these words in the section about personal knowledge from Marlene Brant Castellano in Updating Aboriginal Traditions of Knowledge (2000) “Aboriginal knowledge is rooted in personal experience and lays no claim to universality. The degree to which you can trust what is being said is tied up with integrity and perceptiveness of the speaker…His observations would not necessarily be accepted uncritically, nor would they be contradicted or dismissed. Rather, they would be put in context.” ( I added the bold) This ties in directly with many of the topics we discussed last night, that of building a ‘brand,’ (I hate that term for carrying my identity forward! Please someone rescue us from becoming part of a marketing campaign!) based on integrity and perceptiveness, building trust and relationships online and the need for placing observations and ideas in context. 


I also like the idea that you can be critical of an idea without being dismissive or contradictory. “The personal nature of knowledge means that disparate and even contradictory perceptions can be accepted as valid because they are unique to the person….In other words, people do not contest with one another to establish who is correct-who has the ‘truth.'” And after reading Half Life of Facts and seeing how teaching science in elementary school can be changed in a blink of an eye (Pluto is not a planet, Bernoulli’s Principle does/does not explain lift) what is ‘truth’ and who has ownership? And how long does ‘truth’ last? Perhaps that is an aspect of openness that also needs to be discussed.  Even in science, light is both a wave and a particle and the principles of flight can be explained through Bernoulli’s Principle or Newton’s laws of motion. Why must, as I have said before, there always be a right answer? This means that we all have the opportunity to pursue making our own truth and knowledge and by each of us sharing and respecting other views we grow together. Within aboriginal knowledge, “collective wisdom is arrived at by a process of ‘putting our minds together,'” which seems to mirror the actions we take within the ETMOOC community on a regular basis. I know that I have been enriched by the process of creating collective wisdom, both in my thinking and in my new friendships. 


If you do anything this week, please take an opportunity to read this wonderful article. There is also a section on oral tradition, and experiential learning that turns our discussion of literacy on its head as aboriginal knowledge considers the literate approach to knowing one dimensional.


“‘I can’t promise to tell you the truth; I can only tell you what I know.'”

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