Monday, December 5, 2011

Darwin's Paradox

Image by USFWS
Last night I jumped into Steven Johnson's book Where Good Ideas Come From, The Natural History of Innovation. The book begins with a great discussion of 27 year old Charles Darwin's struggle to understand the significance of the coral reef located at the Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean. Johnson is able to construct an outstanding visual representation of a very inquisitive individual standing on the edge of an idea. Darwin observes the the flora and fauna of the island and realizes that few species exist but examines the reef to discover a vast array of life. Johnson states on page 5,
"In Darwin's own words, stumbling across the ecosystem of a coral reef in the middle of an ocean was like encountering a swarming oasis in the middle of a desert. We now call this phenomenon Darwin's Parodox: so many different life forms, occupying such a vast array of ecological niches, inhabiting waters that are otherwise remarkably nutrient-poor."
 Darwin realizes that the corral reef is not a geological event but an ecosystem created by millions tiny organisms; an innovative story about the persistence of life.

When I began reading this book I could not help but think about my experiences using social media. I was able to relate my time looking from the outside of a personal learning network (PLN) to Darwin as he studied the creatures within the reef. At first glance I didn't quite understand but I knew I was on the edge of a good idea just like Darwin staring into the sea. The learning ecology or PLN I have been able to participate in, connect with and develop is just like the coral reef - created by all the tiny organisms.

George Seimens states in his American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) article that,
"If the ecology is healthy, it will permit networks to flourish and grow. If the ecology is not healthy, networks will not develop optimally. The task of educators and trainers is to create and foster a learning ecology that allows learners to quickly and effectively enhance their existing learning."
That is why I am here - to advance my existing learning. Every connection is an opportunity to learn. Today I am the learner.

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