Guest Post: The Peeragogy Handbook

Note: For the next 12 weeks I’ll be sharing this Digital/Edu space with some excellent professionals in the area of learning and innovation for one weekly guest post. In addition to helping bring new voices and ideas to our readers, this will help me as I finish the first draft of my forthcoming book, The Test, on the past, present and future of testing in public schools, to be published by Public Affairs in 2015. My first guest post comes from Howard Rheingold, an eminence grise in the realms of future learning styles and practices.

The Peeragogy Handbook is a peer-created and peer-maintained online resource for peer learners. The Web is a cornucopia of texts and tools for motivated self-learners, from YouTube and Google to Big Blue Button and Open Educational Resources. Never before has so much knowledge and so many communication media been available for learners. The Peeragogy Handbook is a resource for those who have the motivation and the access to online texts and tools, but who could use some help with group peer-learning pedagogy. The Peeragogy Handbook was created by a network of more than 30 volunteers around the world — and is open to anyone who wants to enlarge and improve it.

The Peeragogy community grew out of a Regents’ Lecture that I (Howard Rheingold) was invited to deliver at UC Berkeley in January, 2011. My lecture was about my experiences using social media to teach social media-related subjects at UC Berkeley and Stanford. My pedagogy grew more and more student-centric each year, partially because of the hierarchy-flattening tendency of online blogs, wikis, and forums, partially because I learned how to talk with students about how their learning experience could be improved, and partially because my classroom encounters led me to discover the work of Dewey, Vygotsky, Freire, Postman, Illich and others who have advocated student-centric, collaborative, inquiry-based learning for many years. The idea of enabling students to take more responsibility for and power over their learning — including helping the instructor redesign the course as it unfolds — is not a new one. What is new is the rich (if unevenly qualified) repository of knowledge as near as a search engine or a web-browser, even to those with poor brick-and-mortar schools, and the new and free or inexpensive means for peer communication via forums, blogs, wikis, chats, audio, and video.

While much of public education reform and improvement is directed at helping less motivated learners catch up, the Web is full of self-learners, from Instructables to P2PU. If you want to learn how to do something, YouTube is probably the best first place to look. My own trajectory as a teacher has been to learn how to support students in becoming active co-learners, something that schooling has immunized many against through schoolroom emphasis on compliance and absorption of material broadcast to them by authorities. At one point, following the path of inquiry, after 7 years teaching blended courses that combined three hours of face to face meeting with multiple online discussions between class meetings I asked myself what it would be like to teach voluntary learners wholly online, without the face to face element. ( Pursuing that same line of inquiry led to the question — can the teacher be eliminated? That is, can a group of self-motivated peers create and convene their own courses? While many self-learners are skilled in finding resources for themselves and in finding others to help them learn, what is now called for is a body of practical knowledge about how groups of peers can convene courses or learning spaces, find and qualify learning resources and activities, create syllabi, select online media, share the labor of facilitating conversations, assess their learning. At the end of my Regents’ Lecture, I invited those who were physically present and those who would view the video of my lecture or respond to my appeals on social media to join me in an effort to create a Peeragogy Handbook.

The convening of the Peeragogy Handbook community of co-creators was itself an exercise in Peeragogy. Volunteers from Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Mexico, UK and USA who had never met began to experiment with online meetings, wikis, forums, shared note-taking media, and collaborative documents. Eventually we agreed upon media and methodology, creating a process for nominating, drafting, editing, illustrating, translating, and publishing chapters. When we felt that we had a critical mass of useful and vetted material, we published via a Public DomainWordPress version at

A new edition was published on January 1, 2014, as a contribution to Public Domain Day.

A variety of free PDFs, wikibooks, and inexpensive paper versions can be found by searching on “Peeragogy Handbook.” Translations have become available in German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Content creators, editors, illustrators, and translaters are invited to join the effort to expand the handbook and expand access — instructions for joining the community are included in the handbook. Or drop in on the Google + Community.

POSTED BY Anya Kamenetz ON January 9, 2014

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