This piece in Inside Higher Ed argues that there are intellectual nodes that are fruitful sites for discussion across the disciplines, and that those nodes might also be a location for learning (or at least teaching). Grinnell College has been having discussions about what the right nodes are, and how they might influence learning there. I read this just after participating in a workshop about community building, one of the points of which was that cities and brains also function best when they have healthy, well-connected nodes. (See Steven Johnson's Emergence for a great discussion.)
Lots to consider about nodes. Here are some of my questions:
1. Does Grinnell have the right nodes? If you asked students what the intellectual nodes of their learning are, what would they say?
2. How are discussions like the nodes discussion more/less fruitful than those that are directly about curriculum and programming?
3. What are the other key types of nodes for learning? What are they physical nodes? Who are the people that act like nodes? Do they deserve the same sort of care and attention that intellectual nodes do?
4. In an age focused on connection, what about this point, made by philosopher Alain de Botton, that we may need fewer nodes (at least if online connections can be considered nodes) and more fasting--limiting our intake of ideas in order to improve our thinking and our lives?