Thought is as often pictorial or purely emblematic as verbal . . . ~Saleem Sinai in Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

According to Kenneth A. Bruffee (“Collaborative Learning and the”Conversation of Mankind [sic]”

“We can think because we can talk, and we think in ways we learned to talk” (640).  

The premise of Bruffee’s important article is that the practice of teaching composition must account for the indeterminacy of knowledge and its nature as a social artifact by utilizing collaborative learning. Bruffee insists that we accept the fundamentally social nature of knowledge, conversation, writing, and thinking, and that the concept of the individual author or expert is an idea whose time has come and gone.

I celebrate the value of successful collaborative learning experiences in writing classes, yet I wonder if this all-encompassing understanding of thinking and knowledge might be a little reactionary. The process of thinking (words vs images? for example) is not fully understood, and certainly individual differences must count for something. Thinking and communication might exist in different realms. Not everyone thinks in words. Yet the idea of collaborative learning remains very important in teaching writing, and the wiki is certainly a valuable tool for this practice.