open ed

Experiments with P2PU

I first learned about P2PU this past May at the Northeast OER Summit.  P2PU is about facilitating peer learning, and several (so far mostly public) libraries are incorporating P2PU learning circles into their programming.  I’m still not really sure what learning circles look like.  Coming from the land of traditional higher ed, it’s (sadly) hard to envision what it looks like when people get together to learn without a gradebook in sight.  But that’s what makes this so interesting to me.  I want to learn more about what those intrinsic motivations look like, what practices facilitate this kind of learning, and then see how this might change my traditional academic library practice.

The first sentence of the P2PU mission statement seems to cast them in opposition to traditional higher education: “P2PU is a grassroots network of individuals who seek to create an equitable, empowering, and liberating alternative to mainstream higher education.”  But fresh off of Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Generous Thinking, which prompted me to think harder about ways to make the work we do accessible to the public, I don’t see it that way.  It seems to me that there’s potential for faculty participation in learning circles to be a good conduit for better communication with and connection to the local community.  Also, I met Grif Peterson, Chief of Stuff (aka executive director) at P2PU at the Summit, and, far from being averse to partnering with higher ed folks, he emphasized that he was happy to help us explore new P2PU projects in our own context.

My first experience with a learning circle will take place this September, and guess what, you’re all invited.  Yes you, literally anyone is welcome, that’s the point!  Deb Baker, library director at Manchester Community College, recently had the idea to get an OER learning circle started – and now it’s a reality.  If you’ve got a couple of hours free on Thursday afternoons in September, join in, (learn more and sign up here.)  You’ll certainly learn a bit about OER, but you’ll also learn about learning circles, which I confess is my own main motivation.

I’ve also just signed up to attend a workshop on facilitating P2PU learning circles that is taking place at the Boston Public Library in September.  More learning circle reflections to follow, but in the meantime, leave a comment and let me know if you see any potential applications of the learning circle model to your own work.

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