“Learning in the context of peer interaction is engaging and participatory. Research shows that among friends and peers, young people fluidly contribute, share, and give feedback to one another, producing powerful learning….Although expertise and roles in peer learning can differ based on age and experience, everyone gives feedback to one another and can contribute and share their knowledge and views.”
E-mail, social networks, social-media, fan-communities, crowd-sourcing: if there is one obvious aspect of technology and digital culture that needs to be infused into learning it is learning among peers and communities of interest. Nowhere is the value of learning among friends and people who share similar interests more apparent than in things that are not formally taught in school.
For instance, how does one learn to be a spoken word poet? In Chicago organizations like Young Chicago Authors and Kuumba Lynx, or the annual city-wide competition such as Louder Than A Bomb, there is a strong youth spoken word poetry scene.
While schools work to develop reading and writing skills, these communities provide a culture of people with shared influences and the chance to perform in open-mics around the city.
“Every slam, every performance, is a learning experience. It makes you feel more full, like you just connect with more people as you learn more things.”
At a Kuumba Lynx session young people are learning from each other, offering constructive feedback, and pushing each other to improve. Adults in the room are seen less as teachers and more as peers contributing to experience and knowledge.
“Every slam, every performance, is a learning experience. It makes you feel more full, like you just connect with more people as you learn more things,” says Kuumba Lynx member Seejahari Saulter-Villegas.
At a spoken word performance like Louder Than A Bomb, young people educate one another through poetry. Performers use this medium to learn through, to teach what they know or believe to other young people in an expressed form.
So, why isn’t there more of this in learning? In the case of Kuumba Lynx, it is a not coincidence that something like spoken word has a strong culture. Spoken word is a lifestyle as much as it is a skill or discipline. Culture is by nature social and without it, how is social learning supposed to happen?