This booklet is designed to introduce you to our fun, exciting world of peer learning and peer production!! You may already be familiar with these terms, or they may be new to you. Either way, don’t worry!!!
If they are new, consider the following 2 examples.
Peer learning: Joe Corneli needs to get from the suburbs of Chicago to the north side of the city. He gets on the commuter train and transfers to the purple “L” at Davis Street in Evanston. He plans to change to the red line at Howard Street, but the train says “Loop” and he asks another passenger whether it will stop at Howard. She says it will, but that he can save an hour of his time by riding express to the city and then coming back two stops! Joe makes it to his meeting with Charlie with plenty of time to spare.
Peer production: Two cavewomen see lightning strike a tree and produce fire! Walking up to it they notice the heat and think “Wouldn’t it be nice to have fire for our family at night!” Once the rain clears, they find some dry sticks and start working together to figure out how they can use them to start their own flame. After hours of trial and error, BOOM they’ve got fire! The news travels fast. :)
Peeragogy is an approach to learning and working together on projects ranging from the mundane to the monumental. Peer learning and peer production are probably as old as humanity itself, but they take on new importance in the digital age.
The Peeragogy Project is an informal learning project with members worldwide. Three members of the project share their welcoming messages below.
Paola Ricaurte Quijano: Welcome to the Peeragogy Project! We are a group of enthusiastic people who love to learn and are trying to find the best ways to learn together.
Lisa Snow MacDonald: Welcome to peeragogy! It’s kind of a weird name, but it’s enormously powerful in providing a fresh understanding of ways of working together.
Dorotea Mar: Your contributions will be really welcome if you participate respectfully and harmoniously with other peers. It can change your life and improve your wellbeing and make everything better.
Paola Ricaurte Quijano: Hi! I’m Paola, I’m from Ecuador. I work at Tecnológico de Monterrey, a private university in Mexico City, and I love to learn with everybody!
Dorotea Mar: Hello. I’m in Berlin now and I really like the peeragogical atmosphere of collaboration and I think we are really improving ways of collaboration and peer production, so that’s why I’m here.
Lisa Snow MacDonald: Hello. This is Lisa from Los Angeles. My background is media psychology and I’m interested in peeragogy as it relates to business.
What is peer learning/production?
PRQ Well, peer learning. learning with peers, learning from peers and trying to make things together or make things happen together. I think that for me, the most important thing I’ve learned from this experience is that you can achieve more when you work together and set goals together.
LSM I think what peeragogy does is it allows us to recognize the value of those connections. A lot of other ways of working are more individualized. It goes back to a concept of 1 + 1 = 2, which is very rational and very measured and is kind of a dominant way of thinking in our society today, whereas peer to peer learning and production recognize the value of those connections. You may not be able to measure it with a yardstick, but we understand that there is value in those connections. So it’s basically acknowledging that when it comes to learning/collaborative environments if constructed the right way if working well it can be 1 + 1 = 3 or 1 + 1 = 4. That type of situation, which is really different from the way we’re used to thinking about things. And I think that’s really the value of what we’re doing and the potential of what we could hopefully unlock.
More specifically, what is peeragogy and/or what is the Peeragogy Project?
PRQ This is a project that began spontaneously. We didn’t have a plan at the beginning. We just talked about the things that concerned us the most. What do you need if you want to learn with others, how to learn better? what do you want to learn? Where do you want to learn? When do you want to learn? Basic questions that can be answered in many ways. We don’t have a strict line. We have a map, maybe, but a map that can be walked through by many different paths. Paths that you choose can be related to the people you are working with. I think it’s been a great experience for us. As Lisa said, we have been recognizing the talents and strengths of every person that has contributed to and participated in this project.
LSM OK. I’ll take my best shot with this. Going back to what I said earlier and building off what other people have said. Because we don’t have a good mental construct of how this works, and measurement is difficult. We haven’t learned how to measure these connections. I think what peeragogy and the Peeragogy Project can do is it can establish what people have said about focusing on the process. It can help people understand the process better. Because this lack of structure can be uncomfortable for people. We need to understand when that discomfort is acceptable, so they don’t revert and become counterproductive participants in the process. The map analogy that Paola just mentioned, is really good too. It’s not about providing a direct path. If you’re on a trip trying to get from LA to Chicago, there’s many paths you can take. It’s making sure you’re monitoring your resources and you’re taking care of things along the way. You can drift off-course. One plus one can equal zero if things don’t work out well. So, what peeragogy and the Peeragogy Project can do is to provide some structure and framework around the unstructured way that things can be done. People trying to make sure their methods are constructive and beneficial now have some guidelines and things to watch out for.
“When I started using social media in the classroom, I looked for and began to learn from more experienced educators. First, I read and then tried to comment usefully on their blog posts and tweets. When I began to understand who knew what in the world of social media in education, I narrowed my focus to the most knowledgeable and adventurous among them. I paid attention to the people the savviest social media educators paid attention to. I added and subtracted voices from my attention network, listened and followed, then commented and opened conversations. When I found something I thought would interest the friends and strangers I was learning from, I passed along my own learning through my blogs and Twitter stream. I asked questions, asked for help, and eventually started providing answers and assistance to those who seemed to know less than I. The teachers I had been learning from had a name for what I was doing — “growing a personal learning network.” So I started looking for and learning from people who talked about HOW to grow a “PLN” as the enthusiasts called them.”
How do you do peeragogy?
DM I think I do a lot of peeragogy and I’m very happy about it because I learn so much from my group and from myself in this group that I like to apply it to other projects that I’m in or things like coworking and coliving projects. Especially the principle of mutual respect that still remains after a very long time. And the way we relate to each other is really nice.
The main principle is mutual respect and openness, and the process. And in each detail, there is value that we believe in.
Let’s say how we manage the Peeragogy Page or Community (See “How to Get Involved,” later in this chapter.). These seem to be details, but they’re actually really important. So if we pay attention to all these, every little thing matters, and this is how I do it. I try to be very mindful in all interactions.
When he joined the Peeragogy project in 2012, Charles Jeffrey Danoff did a brief selfevaluation about what makes him interested in learning:
Context. As a student, I resisted being groomed for some unforeseeable future. I’d rather work toward a specific goal.
Timing and sequence. I find learning fun when I’m studying something as a way to procrastinate another pressing assignment.
Social reinforcement. Getting tips from peers on how to navigate a snowboard around moguls was more fun for me than my Dad showing me the proper way to buff the car’s leather seats on chore day.
Experiential awareness. In high school, it was not fun to sit and compose a 30-page reading journal on Frankenstein. But owing in part to those types of prior experiences, I now find writing pleasurable and it’s fun to learn how to write better.
PRQ I think peeragogy is more like a mindset. I think we have to change the way we interact with others and the way we understand the parameters of learning. For example, I’m a teacher and, of course, my teaching practice promotes collaborative, creative learning. So, I expect my students to take responsibility for their own learning by making decisions about most aspects of the learning process; to program their own learning goals. They need to learn to effectively employ the environments (like whiteboards), the activities, and the assessments. I’m trying to give my learners the tools to decide how, what, and why they want to learn. For me, it’s been a very interesting experience. Learners often find it unfamiliar to make their own decisions about the process in a formal environment. At the beginning of the semester, students are given everything and usually just follow guidelines and criteria. I have been trying to change this dynamic. Students feel insecure, because they really do not know how or what they want to do. So, that process of making decisions together becomes very rich and very meaningful.
Alan Schoenfeld: “What (exactly) are you doing? Can you describe it precisely? Why are you doing it? How does it fit into the solution? How does it help you? What will you do with the outcome when you obtain it? ” 
When do you do peeragogy?
DM I think I’m always practicing it. I really like that during the weekly hangouts we don’t usually have rigid agendas. We just get creative and let ideas connect and flow. And whatever happens it’s the right thing. We just work together and somehow the right things happen. I think we’re always doing peeragogy when we pursue activities and projects in open, collaborative ways without imposing too much structure or heirarchy.
PRQ I agree with Dorotea. The where and when questions are related. If you’re thinking about where, you’re thinking about when. So if “where” is everywhere, and “when” is always, I agree. Anywhere, everywhere, all the time. It’s an ongoing process. If you believe in peeragogy as a way of doing things or making things happen, you cannot switch back and forth betweeen two different personas and say, “I’m not working with peeragogy now,” or “I am applying peeragogy now.”
LSM I’m familiar with the business world where there are distinct personalities. For example there are people who tend to be more collaborative just by nature, who tend to adapt and to prefer a peeragogical model. Other personalities are less so, and that’s why what we’re doing here is valuable. In practice, there’s seldom a conscious recognition of these different styles of working. In a business environment, there are different motivators, different personalities tossed together, all united by a single goal. So understanding peeragogical vs. heirarchical practices, and raising the differences to the surface, could be very valuable in pursuing the goal of making people’s lives better in the business environment.
DM There are many collaborative projects that aim to do something similar to this, but, in a sense, focus on different aspects of the process, and maybe not on such an abstract level as we might.
Some people have natural peeragogical tendencies, and some people are less transparent in the way they do things. For me, peeragogy is really beneficial, especially for collaborative projects. Everybody works and learns differently, so if everyone became increasingly aware of how they and others work and learn, of how peergogy functions, and how it all fits into a bigger picture, many tasks would not only be more efficiently done, but also much more enjoyable. It’s also beneficial if everyone focusses on a bigger picture instead of focussing only on their part of it, and if attention is drawn to all that could be done in a peeragogical way.
“If I were an instructional designer in a moribund training department, I’d polish up my resume and head over to marketing. Colearning can differentiate services, increase product usage, strengthen customer relationships, and reduce the cost of handholding. It’s cheaper and more useful than advertising. But instead of just making a copy of today’s boring educational practices, build something based on interaction and camaraderie, perhaps with some healthy competition thrown in. Again, the emphasis should always be on learning in order to do something!”
Why do you do peeragogy?
PRQ Why? Well, as said before, I believe in peeragogy. I believe it’s a good way to learn. Maybe it’s the best way. I think I wasn’t aware of that before joining the group. I have always been a selflearner, I have been working mostly alone. After I began working with the group, I understood that you grow working with a group. You achieve things that you aren’t able to achieve alone. I think there’s a growing awareness of the value of collaboration in every setting and environment. There are more and more learning communities around the world where people are also learning that making decisions together and working together are the best way to be in this world! I think as we live through hard times, we increasingly need a sense that we are not alone and that we cannot solve problems alone.
How did you join the Peeragogy project?
PRQ After taking Howard Rheingold’s course on Mind Amplifiers
in 2012 we were invited to join this group. There was no plan,
just an open question of how to best learn with others.
That’s how it began. We had lots of sessions and discussed a wide range of issues. The Peeragogy Handbook (http://peeragogy.org) was the product of that process. We’ve been working with the Handbook, releasing a new version every year and trying to figure out what might be the best way to go forward and what the future of our collaboration as a group/team might be.
LSM A couple friends of mine were involved in P2P learning. They were invited to a conference at UCI. Howard was at the event and they were familiar with him and his work. We ended up in an obscure classroom and he started talking about principles that were peeragogy related, while I don’t know if it provided much value to my friends, it sounded a lot like what I saw in business and he mentioned the group. So after that, I met everyone here and it’s been pretty random.
DM I think many paths led to my involvement. I have a lot of academic experience and was doing research on Open Science. I had always wanted to improve the way things work and somehow I wanted to do it more creatively. I resonated a lot with the Peeragogy Project on many levels, so somehow I just joined, I think it was serendipity of some kind.
This interview was conducted on December 15th, 2014. The transcript was edited. You can watch the whole interview online at http://is.gd/peeragogyworkbook_interviews. (49 Minutes)
We’ve given you some examples but this wouldn’t be a proper workbook without an exercise. Pick at least one thing you’re good at and one thing you want to improve on from the selection below (or write in your own alternative answers):
- Worker, Team Member, CoManager, Manager, CoLeader, Leader
- Reviewer, Editor, Author, Content Processor, Content Creator,
- Presentation Creator, Designer, Graphics, Applications
- Attendee, Participant, Coordinator, Project Manager, Planner
- Mediator, Moderator, Facilitator, Proponent, Advocate, Representative, Contributor , Activist,
- Create, Originate, Research, Aggregate
- Develop, Design, Integrate, Refine, Convert
- Write, Edit, Format,
- Acquisition of training or support in a topic or field;
- Building relationships with interesting people;
- Finding professional opportunities through other participants;
- Creating or bolstering a personal network;
- More organized and rational thinking through dialog and debate;
- Feedback about performance and understanding of the topic.
Visuals by Amanda Lyons (http://visualsforchange.com/). Booklet by Charlie Danoff, Paola Ricaurte Quijano, Lisa Snow MacDonald, Dorotea Mar, Joe Corneli and Charlotte Pierce.
Prepared for Public Domain Day 2015 on January 1st, 2015.
See https://github.com/Peeragogy/Peeragogy.github.io for the “behind the scenes”.
- Schoenfeld, A. H. (1987). What’s all the fuss about metacognition? In A. H. Schoenfeld (Ed.), Cognitive science and mathematics education (pp. 189215). Hilldale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.