Cooperative or collaborative learning?

I am getting a bit confused when I read about the use of the terms collaborative and cooperative learning. It seems the terms are used independently and represented as different approaches, or they used interchangeably. For instance,

  • Stephen Downes uses the term collaboration when talking about group work, and cooperation among networks in his latest presentation.


  • Harold Jarche  uses the two terms with collaboration applied to a model of action for informal groups, such as communities of practice, and cooperation with loose networks.

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  • and Terry Anderson and Jon Dron talk about groups being helpful with completion rates and satisfaction, and networks being a support and resource (is this cooperation?). The added category of collectives is a larger community found through social networks that contribute (collaborate?) information and resources.

This is my interpretation of these postings. In general, my understanding of the term cooperation, as lauded by Johnson, Johnson and Smith (1991) in their notion of cooperative learning, is to help each other by working together to achieve something. It also could lead to new ideas and solutions.  In turn, collaboration is an intentional act, as well, to build or create something.

With both terms, I think they are stating the same thing that, either through direct interaction or by sharing our ideas, resources, and understandings in an open and accessible way, we are collaborating and cooperating at some level. For instance, my decision to post through a pubic blog and Twitter is a decision that stemmed from my wanting to connect with my field and colleagues (collective and  network ) by sharing my ideas, offering my honed resources, and communicating/dialoguing. For many years I read in silence and followed a number of people who posted openly. Now I have become an active participant. I feel that I am cooperating and collaborating more to improve learning and question the uses of technology.

Besides, within in nonlinear and informal settings, such as with social and information networks, creating a strict definition counters the point of allowing concepts, words/terms, and discoveries to emerge through collective and dynamic efforts.

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