Content vs. DOing

D'Arcy Norman says Content is not enough (via Nancy McKeand):

Content is the least important part of education. What is far more important is what takes place between and among the students. The activities of the community of learners. What they actually DO with the content and with each other.

Great content IS important, but only if there is also a functioning and active community working together to learn, create and share. Otherwise, all that takes place is content dissemination. And that’s not education, open or otherwise.

How did Norman come to the conclusion that content is "the least important"? Perhaps by reacting to those classrooms in which students sit as passive receptacles, never using the content being disseminated. Obviously, that is "not education." Still, let's consider the converse: students DOing whatever without content. Would that be education?

Both content and DOing are important, and both need each other. DOing, however, does not always takes place collaboratively. I may read a book or, better yet, go to a conference in which I sit in the audience, listen, and take back some tidbit of content that I apply to my own work. My DOing, in this case, is not one of "working together" (although social constructionists would say that my DOing is the result of many previous instances of social interaction.) In this case, the dissemination of content was more important than what didn't take place between me, the other members of the audience, and the presenter. And perhaps we might not call it education, but it was learning.

Learning does take place in communities, too. But simply sharing and working together doesn't guarantee that learning will take place. Think of the many committee meetings that most complain about as a waste of time. The nature of sharing and working together is crucial, too.

Arguing whether content or DOing is more important is a fruitless endeavor. Depending on the purpose, the time, the place, and the individual/people, one or the other might take precedence—but both are essential.