Collective Intelligence: A Liberation from the Pedagogy of the Oppressed

I am participating in a MOOC entitled ‘E-Learning Ecologies” from the University of Illinois. This week’s topics covered the themes of recursive feedback and collective intelligence or ‘social learning’. These two topics are the dominant reasons why I chose to pursue a doctorate in the field of instructional technology, so I am particularly passionate about them. As an educator and a graduate student of Education, I always felt unsatisfied with traditional methods of assessment. On one hand, they say that educators should be as objective as possible; using rubrics, and grading individuals based on milestones rather than personal attitude or efforts. This, however,  still facilitates a ‘normative’ standard for which only a few may find success and/or satisfaction. Paulo Freire’s work in critical pedagogy ( portrays an image of a citizen that is used as a depository, and the teacher the depositor. He proclaimed that this style of teaching and learning was institutionalized by governments in order to keep the masses automatized, and complacent,rule-followers and non-dissenters. It also ensures that only a select few succeed and join the ranking of those who then go on to make the decisions for the rest of us– a “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (1972).

“Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people–they manipulate them.” -Paulo Freire (1972)

What the new ‘E-Learning Ecologies’ allows for is social learning, in which we work collaboratively as a group and as such become smarter than any individual. This could be referred to in some ways as ‘crowd sourcing’ ( Cope and Kalantzis, 2016). This concept has also been referred to previously as ‘Communities of Practice’ , or ‘Situated Learning’ (Lave and Wagner).In a community of practice each member of the community sources from the other which negates the need for a ‘single expert of all’ but instead facilitates an environment for ‘many experts’ which collectively work together to create a group that functions as a whole, much like the way that groups of humans used to function long before the concept of the ‘modern’ classroom emerged (E. Wenger-Trayner, O’Creevy, Hutchinson, Kubiak, B. Wenger,2015).

Thomas Malone at MIT discussed in an interview his research which focuses on “how people and computers can be connected so that they act more intelligently than any person, group, or computer ever has before” (McCarthy, 2016).He has found in his work that the group is much more powerful than the individual because the factors that have the most effect on performance is not the individual intelligence of the members, but elements such as ‘social perceptiveness,’ ‘participation’, and ‘gender’ (McCarthy,2016). In other words, interpersonal skills, are much more significant than individual scholastic abilities when it comes to collective problem solving. This is the world in which the ‘holistic qualitative’ becomes the norm (Cope & Kalantzis, 2016).


Perhaps this has been known and understood for a long time, and may be why policy makers, administrators, and society seek to subdue, prevent, and even disqualify these kinds of environments. Take for example the social stigma surrounding online learning, which perseveres in the face of the 6.7 million people which are now taking an online course (Allen and Seaman, 2013). Or those who may discount the information obtained from social media or oppose the use of social media for communication/collaboration altogether. For many, the only acceptable form of learning is still one that is in a traditional space in which one expert deposits their selection of information into the minds of its automatized participants.

We can also speculate that attempts to restrict internet usage and rights at the federal level may be an example of the suppression of ‘collective intelligence’(restoring internet freedom,2017). We have seen many examples of social networking resources being restricted or completely shut down in moments of political crisis in countries such as Turkey by its government (Bulman,2016). With these ideas in mind, it is imperative that we ask ourselves what is it about holistic assessment and collective intelligence that seems to dismay our leaders and perturb our citizens? What are we all afraid of?



Allen, E., & Seaman, J. (2013, January). 2012 – Changing course: Ten years of tracking online education in the united states. Retrieved June 09, 2017, from

Bulman, M. (2016, November 04). Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp blocked in Turkey after arrest of opposition leaders. Retrieved July 17, 2017, from

Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2017). E-Learning ecologies: principles for new learning and assessment. New York, NY: Routledge.

Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder.

McCarthy, A. (2016, November 14). Harnessing the power of collective intelligence. Retrieved July 17, 2017, from

Restoring Internet Freedom. (2017, June 12). Retrieved July 17, 2017, from

Wenger, E., Fenton-OCreevy, M., Hutchinson, S., Kubiak, C., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015). Learning in landscapes of practice: boundaries, identity, and knowledgeability in practice-based learning. London: Routledge.


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