Compartmentalisation is helpful for filing. Grouping objects or indeed ideas that are similar can help to identify commonalities and differences. Such classification was a vital component of the development of science. Great waves of activity in this area have happened since the Enlightenment, producing Dictionaries and Encyclopedia. It was of course the process that enabled Darwin to create his theory of evolution.
However, putting people in boxes is largely to be avoided. Indeed I can say I see no merit in it whatsoever. It smacks of lazy thinking. Society likes shortcuts, marketers like generalisations but they are always dangerous. Wherever possible, we should attempt to step out of the boxes others would like to impose on us and exercise our freedom to interact with others, coaxing them out of their box too.
As educators we need to understand the world from many different perspectives and support others to do “out of the box” activities. The Connected Educator movement embraces the possibilities offered by connecting with others working in different contexts. Social learning or Connectivism describes an approach that requires open-mindedness and interaction. Reporting on her experiences of the ALT Conference 2015 Catherine Cronin describes how this community of learning technologists (already a diverse group of tech professionals, educators, academics, librarians and more) came together both physically and virtually to learn together.
There is a great deal of compartmentalisation in academic activity – it serves a purpose: helps to filter extraneous noise from the data, define our terms of reference and focus debate in order to create new knowledge. However, we must take care not to become too entrenched in one way of seeing the world, engaging only with those who understand our language and our culture. As the complexity of our world grows we need to collaborate with others who have a specialism, learn from them and co-create new ways of understanding the challenges that face us. That begins by considering all potential collaborators as equals, not by staying within hierarchies and divisions of the past.
Unless you believe that the future is hidden in one of these little boxes?