Identities, Communities of Practice (CoPs) and knowledge skimming creating rich opportunities for learning

I was reflecting upon some of the earlier readings, in particular Teaching in Higher Education (Jawitz, 2009).  I became quite interested in situated learning theory and its role in the distribution of knowledge amongst communties of practice (CoPs) versus knowledge skimming in NGL.   It seems that NGL is patient and open to knowledge skimming and boundary participation where communication is enhanced and practices can be brokered across multiple boundaries much more efficiently then say face to face communities (Pawlowski & Robey, 2004; Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002).

Wenger (1998) discusses the link between participation within a CoP and a source of identity – what does this mean then for knowledge skimming?  For example, if I am juggling multiple layers of knowledge and a ‘member’ of multiple communities or networks, where I am sitting on the peripheral, how then will this impact my identity within the CoP and affect my membership?  As well as this, how can I ensure that other members benefit from my participation?

If identity is built around social engagement, as the article suggests, then I wonder if ‘renegotiation’ occurs at a higher rate in online communites because of the type of, or lack of ‘true’ social engagement.  If learning and identity is further shaped by engagement in the workplace – what does this mean for NGL and online communities?  Furthermore, can identity be further shaped by existing on multiple CoP boundaries?

In reading Andrew’s blog on community I couldn’t help but wonder whether the term ‘online communites’ will hold true in the future and whether Wenger’s definition of CoPs will need to evolve.  According to Wenger there are three components that identify CoPs; domain, community and practice (Wenger-Trayner, 1998).   Our NGL definately is supported by Wenger’s tripod but I need to research further and think about the future of the term ‘online communities’.  If, in the end, a lot of online communities are little more than a collection of collaborative tools then what does this mean?

I also wonder how emerging technologies and constructivist models will alter the way we approach the concept of community, identity and knowledge sharing.  As synchronous and asynchronous technologies evolve, to either reflect the way we learn or shape the way we learn, then this will be an interesting space to play in.  But in the end, I guess as long as these technologies create rich opportunities for dialogue and collaboration then it’s going to be an exciting ride.


Jawitz, J., (2009).  Academic identities and communities of practice in a professional discipline, Teaching in Higher Education, 14:3, 241-251, DOI: 10.1080/13562510902898817

Pawlowski, S., & Robey, D. (2004). Bridging user organisations: knowledge brokering and the work of information technology professionals. MIS Quarterly, 28(4), 645-672.

Wenger-Trayner, E. (1998). Intro to communities of practice. Retrieved 03 08, 2014, from Wenger-Trayner:

Wenger, E., McDermoot, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: a guide to managing knowledge . Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

About Paul Size

Currently studying a Masters in Learning and Development at the University of Southern Queensland.
This entry was posted in Communities of Practice, Me as a student, Me as a teacher. Bookmark the permalink.

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