As a student entering the course
I commenced this course with the aim of expanding my knowledge in the area of networks and communities of practice. Networked and global learning (NGL) has been both fascinating and it has challenged not only my understanding of knowledge and how it is shared (Harley, 2008), but also what it means for teaching and the future. It would seem, as David Weinberger suggests, the future of knowledge is unknown as the institutions as we have known them are falling apart.
For me as a student, this has been the most challenging yet most exciting part of NGL. As Eleisha says in her post on Connected learning and Generative themes, ‘One person blogs about something, then someone else takes their idea and furthers it with more literature and soon, so much content is developed, it feels impossible to take it all in. Yet, I feel this is democratic learning at its finest. Students are able to critically evaluate position theory within their context and recognise the biases and assumptions in learning. What a powerful tool for our students to engage in!
One of the benefits of NGL is learning through connecting. As Mari points out, ‘When you are engaging in NGL, you are interacting with various sources of knowledge, that were put “out there” by people, but you’ll probably never get to know the real person behind those thoughts, ideas or information.’ NGL has allowed me to observe my colleagues and model their behaviours which has meant I have learned far quicker and easier than I would have if I had been working in alone (Bandura, 1977; Cherry, 2014).
As a student, I have experienced the benefits of Connectivist pedagogy which have included the ‘aggregation, re-mixing, re-purposing, and feeding forward with the purpose of creating more connected and hence effective learning’ (Downes, 2011). As Stephen Downes’ says, ‘Connectivism as a network-based pedagogy where there are no fees, no barriers of any kind, to participation.’ This has huge implications for future students and teaching practices. For example, one of the benefits of NGL is the rich diversity of opinions one is exposed to and the phenomenon of ‘homophily’ which both Andrew and Deb discussed in their posts.
Communities of Practice
My interest as a student in this course has been in knowledge management and how NGL can add value within an organizational development context. Knowledge management (KM) is a conscious strategy for organisations where knowledge is captured and directed to ensure it gets to the right people at the right time. Duguid (2008), suggests that, if performed well, KM can enable cutting edge performance by empowering and encouraging innovative work practices.
KM is imperative for organisations seeking a competitive edge, because by helping people share and put information into action, organisational performance is improved (O’Dell & Grahyson, 1998). Communities of practice (CoPs) have been recognized for the value they bring in driving performance and innovation (Cross, Laseter, Parker, & Velasquez, 2005), and I think NGL can assist to share what works, steward knowledge and continuously nurture and tap into latent knowledge (Hasanali, Hubert, Lopez, Newhouse, O’Dell, & Vestal, 2002; Kerno & Mace, 2010).
For me success as a student in NGL is about reaching mastery through practice (Wenger & Snyder, 2000). I can see that my skills in the area of blogging have improved considerably because of practice and being part of a community. As Andrew says, ‘I think just experiencing it and practicing and playing around with it was the best course of action and over time I got more of a handle on it and understood how to better use it.’ There are some very skilled fellow students and NGL has allowed me to watch and learn in a supportive environment. However, I have also used the internet to find ways to improve my blogging techniques such as these great sites; 16 top tips from blogging experts for beginners, Blogging tips you should know and Top 10 blogging tips for beginners. Since reviewing these sites I have been able to improve my own site several times.
Eleisha’s post on blogging resonated with me. It’s a risk to put something out there, but I think that unless we risk we don’t grow and that is where I see NGL as useful. It allows us to get instantaneous feedback through practice and move into a deeper level of learning where we stand back from an experience, seek out connections between concepts and contextualise meaning (Rosie, 2000). As Associate Professor Jill Walker says in her post on blogging as a tool for reflection and learning, ‘Blogging combines aspects of thinking-writing with aspects of presentation writing – and it adds in the conversation as well.’ Personal blogs are generally published immediately rather than constant drafting and revising and even though the blogs may not be perfect, they can assist in gaining confidence, participate in networks of other learners and practice writing.
I found that as Annelise points out this course was designed along NGL principles where students are encouraged, ‘to become autonomous learners actively engaged in the global community.’ Blogging has proved a rewarding and empowering experience for me. The feedback has been instantaneous and I found that when working with an authentic audience my motivation and engagement increased. It is coated in a thick layer of intrinsic reinforcement and instantaneous feedback. Through a modelling process, I have been able to pay attention, store information, reproduce information and feel motivated to continue on the blogging journey. Often when a colleague’s blogs were continually referred to I naturally went to check out what was being said and from that experience alone I was forced to reflect on my writing and blogging.
Since July I have learned about the versatility of NGL and how it impacts our lives and those of students on a global scale. I have also understood technology can provide opportunities for CoP members to gather, work virtually and innovate (Mei-Tai, Shyu, Gwo-Hshiung, & Khosla, 2007; Scott, Tomadaki, & Quick, 2007). Through NGL social media can be used to alter frameworks, to shift them towards more learner-generated platforms. When such shifts occur, learners experience authentic collaboration which is learner-negotiated and fully enabled (Cochrane, Buchem, Camacho, Cronin, Gordon, & Keegan, 2013).
Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. New York: General Learning Press.
Cherry, K. (2014). About.com. Retrieved September 4, 2014, from Social Learning Theory:http://psychology.about.com/od/developmentalpsychology/a/sociallearning.htm
Cochrane, T., Buchem, I., Camacho, M., Cronin, C., Gordon, A., & Keegan, H. (2013). Building global learning communities. Research in Learning Technology, 21.
Cross, R., Laseter, T., Parker, A., & Velasquez, G. (2004). Assessing and Improving Communities of Practice with Organizational Network Analysis. The Network Roundtable at the University of Virginia, 1-33.
Downes, S. (2011, May 1). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/. Retrieved September 11, 2014, from Connectivism and Connective Knowledge: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephendownes/connectivism-and-connecti_b_804653.html
Duguid, P. (2008). Prologue: community of practice then and now. In A. Amin, & J. Roberts, Community, Economic Creativity and Organization (pp. 1-10). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Harley, R. (2008). The Fall of the Wall: Beyond Walled Gardens in Higher Education. Paper presented at ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation International Conference: Creating Value: Between Commerce and Commons, 25-27 June, Brisbane. [viewed 28 Sep 2009] http://www.stereopresence.net/news/the-fall-of-the-wall-beyond-walled-gardens-in-higher-education
Hasanali, F., Hubert, C., Lopez, K., Newhouse, B., O’Dell, C., & Vestal, W. (2002). Communities of Practice: A Guide for Your Journey to Knowledge Management Best Practices. Houseton, Texas: APQC.
Kerno, K. J., & Mace, L. S. (2010). Communities of Practice: Beyond Teams. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 12(1), 78-92.
Mei-Tai, C., Shyu, J. Z., Gwo-Hshiung, T., & Khosla, R. (2007, May). Using Nonadditive Fuzzy Integral to Assess Performances of Organizational Transformation Via Communities of Practice. IEEE Transactions Engineering Management, 54(2), 327-339.
O’Dell, C., & Grayson, C. J. (1998). If Only We Knew What We Know. New York: Free Press.
Rosie, A. 2000, ‘Online pedagogies and the promotion of “deep learning”’, Information Services & Use 2000, vol. 20, no. 2/3, pp.109-116.
Scott, P. J., Tomadaki, E., & Quick, A. K. (2007). Using Live Virtual Technologies to Support Communities of Practice: the Impact of Extended Events. Technology-Enhanced Learning Communities of Practice at 2nd European Conference on Technology-Enhanced Learning EC-TEL. Crete.
Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. M. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Press.