"For a couple of thousand years, learners could trust the authority of the texts that were vetted by editors, fact-checkers, publishers, librarians, teachers."
Not quite. But also, for a couple of thousand years investigators have questioned the authority of culturally approved texts of various kinds and so knowledge has advanced, though some of those investigators paid a price for their questioning.
Here's a story the illustrates the kind of thing I have in mind when I talk about authority in connection with knowlege and why I think it needs to be explicitly addressed when talking about knowledge on the internet. It's a story about Wikipedia editing. Like many, I use the Wikipedia as my first source on lots of things and I recognize that many of the articles are excellent. I also recognize that there are problems w/ the Wikipedia.
A late colleague of mine, who was an expert on manga, was working on the main Wikipedia article on manga several years ago. This is a man who, by that time, had read 1000s of manga volumes, published articles on manga, was an editor at Mechademia, and was working with his wife on a collection of articles on manga and anime. He knew his stuff.
Now, the fact that encyclopedia articles are not to involve original research ("NOR" in wikimedia-speak, "no original research") means that, in some sense, they're easy. You don't have to have any original ideas; all you have to do is summarize existing knowledge. But that can be very difficult and demanding for any topic that is varied and complex, like manga. Just what goes in to a basic article on manga? How do you organize the material? How do you make the article short enough to be readable in a single sitting and yet detailed enough to be useful?
My friend had experience in such matters. Few manga fans do. And they drove my friend away from working on that article. Of course, that's not what any of them intended to do. They just just wanted to get their favorite this or that included in the article but they lacked the perspective and discipline to see the limitations of their knowledge.
But he gave up on that Wikipedia article because those other editors kept interfering. There was no way he could assert his expertise. The Wikipedia does have mechanisms for dealing with edit wars, but, as far as I can tell, those mechanisms weren't designed for situations like this. There doesn's seem to be an institutional mechanism for recognizing that some people have greater subject matter knowlege than others.
And, here's the point, Howard, in the context of this course I'm afraid of making assertions like I've been making in this comment, especially those I made in the previous two paragraphs. I fear that these assertions go against the ethos of this course and that they are unwanted. I fear that I will be branded as one of those nasty old autoritatian types who don't respect students.
I understand why there has been so much discussion of trust on the internet. I'm not sure why there's been no discussion of authority. But I've been trying to put it on the table. I don't see how you can understand what's happening in any pedagogical situation, good or bad, unless you think about authority. That's certainly not the only thing you need to think about it, but you do need to think about it and do so explicitly. Otherwise you're consigning it to the realm of unstated assumptions.
And that leads directly to unstated assumptions about the scope of the principles being taught in this course. You may well know, Howard, that "cooperative learning isn't all there is to it, nor is it appropriate for all subjects or learning contexts." I assume most post people here know that as well. But since there has been little explicit statement to that effect, the appropriate scope of these principles is another of those things that exists in the realm of unspoken. And, in bringing the issue up, I felt and continue to feel that I've violated some unspoken norm.
Maybe I should just walk away and say no more.