Last October, I posted some recommended reading that complemented one of my classes on gamification. I’ve since started writing chapter summaries (here is the first one) so people can “preview” some of the great books out there and hopefully end up reading them!
Here is this month’s chapter summary. The full chapter is available for free on Sasha Barab’s web site and I highly recommend it.
Chapter 2: From Practice Fields to Communities of Practice by Sasha Barab and Thomas Duffy (2012).
There are a range of opinions and positions within the constructivist and situativity communities regarding even the basic concepts laid out in this text. The term situativity is now more commonly used than constructivism, and it alludes to the fact that knowledge is situated through experience. There have been radical shifts in thinking in recent years that have resulted in the study of social and cultural factors that influence learning.
Situative perspectives typically consider the practice of and learning of a subject to be closely related processes, rather than two independent focuses. The text explores how to create a more supportive learning environment for students and what it means to learn as a member of a social group or community. These concepts are considered within the school environment, and it is assumed that the learner’s perception of the school environment will influence their overall learning experience.
Past learning approaches were built with the assumption that learning allows the learner to acquire knowledge, which is essentially a series of symbols. Cognitive activity utilizes the symbols to perform computations, which we define as thinking. Current learning approaches consider the value of social participation and the influence of anthropology on the overall learning experience. The framework provided by social interaction creates valuable context for knowledge.
Without context, learning provides abstract knowledge that is not easily applied to problems outside of the classroom. Rather than teaching abstract concepts, it is more effective to engage a learner in authentic tasks that use the skills and concepts being taught. It can be helpful to group learners in terms of the practice fields that apply to them, and then engage them in working on real-world problems within that field.
Problem based learning (PBL) focuses on capturing a real world problem that can be analyzed and solved by the learner. Cognitive apprenticeship is an approach related to PBL that involves a learner working alongside and observing how an expert in their field approaches and solves problems.
For a problem solving exercise to be fully useful, the learner must be actively engaged, feel the problem is worth solving, and the associated thinking skills must be coached and modeled. The dilemma must be ill structured and not overly simplified. The setting must be social and collaborative. It’s important that the learning environment not over emphasize scoring and grades. If student success is purely measured on the individual’s ability to perform well on exams, learners may form communities of practice (“nerds,” “burnouts,” etc.) based on levels of performance rather than academic interests.
According to the text, communities of practice should focus on the development of self through engagement in the community. Communities should be comprised of individuals who share practices, beliefs, and understandings. They should work together over time in pursuit of common goals. Because the group stays together long term, incorporates new members, and solves many problems, shared experience is established and an ecology of learning comes into existence.
Senior members influence and pass along knowledge to junior members, who have the opportunity to absorb not just information but the processes used by senior members to solve problems. Once a group member becomes versed in a task, they are able to pass knowledge along to more junior members, and the junior members may pass their opinions or findings back to the person who taught them, creating a cycle of learning. It is healthy to bring in outside experts to enhance the group’s knowledge and provide outside views, so that the group doesn’t become overly invested in a specific set of opinions and skills. There is a distinct difference between a group of people who come together temporarily to solve a specific problem, and a community of practice, where individuals receive value from long term shared experience.
Community members should depend on each other, work together, and recruit new members so the community is able to continue over time. It is sometimes necessary to negotiate the meaning of the group. If community members disagree over the purpose of the community, evolution may occur. This is a constructive process that ensures the community of practice continues to be of value to its current members.
A member’s participation in the community will eventually influence and become intertwined with their sense of self. This means the community of practice may provide the learner with much more than knowledge – it may in fact provide the learner with self esteem, confidence, and a sense of belonging, which may positively influence the learner as well as their ability to contribute to the group. If a community isolates itself from the rest of the world, its framework and influence may become weaker. A community that regularly interacts with the outside world will recruit new members and benefit from ideas developed by other communities.
The process of learning can influence an individual’s sense of identity if the process takes place within a community with which the learner identifies. In addition, learning within a community of practice allows a student to understand what it may be like to work in a related field, and decide whether that is something that would appeal to them as a career. The problems or assignments provided to the learner are a means to an end in the sense that they allow the learner to fully explore the subject at hand and its value to them as an individual. The goal of learning should be to produce knowledgeable users rather than usable knowledge, as the text states.
The post Recommended Reading Summary: A Chapter of “From Practice Fields to Communities of Practice” appeared first on eLearning.
In October, I posted some recommended reading that complemented one of my classes on gamification. I’ve since started writing chapter summaries (here is the last article) so people can “preview” some of the great books out there and hopefully end up reading them!
Below is this month’s chapter summary. Google Scholar features most of the chapter for free. For the full text, here’s a Springer Link, which is free with subscription, or you can purchase the chapter or book.
Chapter 9: “Like, Comment, Share: Collaboration and Civic Engagement Within Social Network Sites,” by Greenhow and Lee, in Emerging Technologies for the Classroom: A Learning Sciences Perspective.
Social media and social networking sites allow individuals and groups to collaborate and learn together. Social media has a different impact on the learning experience, compared to technology that is often utilized in the learning environment. Students often use technology in the classroom for independent study or for research purposes. Social media on the other hand supports research while also encouraging a learning process that is rich with peer to peer interaction. Teaching and learning practices benefit from the collective knowledge that social technology provides.
Social media practices can facilitate new forms of collaborative knowledge construction. It encourages civic engagement in broader communities of practice. And social media can encourage an environment of trust, where individuals share information about themselves and their interests. Establishing a level of trust within a social group can make the learning process more effective. And cultivating a professional network can lead to opportunities above and beyond the learning experience.
A social networking site (SNS) is a web-enabled service through which individuals can maintain existing ties and develop new social ties with people outside their network. Other examples of social media include media-sharing services like YouTube and Flickr, collaborative knowledge development through wikis, and creative works like blogs and microblogging.
There are opportunities to use social networking in both formal and informal learning settings – meaning social networking can be used regardless of whether learning objectives are determined for an experience. Cultural and technological trends have sharply increased the amount of interest in social media, and access to technology is increasing as well. Social network sites can bridge the gap between the formal learning environment of the classroom, and informal environments like afterschool programs or communities of practice. They can also help instructors better understand the interests and backgrounds of their students, making it easier for them to cater to the students as individuals.
Social media can facilitate learning experiences through debate, allowing students to compare their opinions against those of a broader community. It can also allow students more direct access to communities outside of their familiarity, such as people in other countries or industries. This access can provide students with context and a better understanding of how the information they are learning applies to the world as a whole.
Students can use social media sites they are familiar with outside of school – Twitter and Facebook for example – to discuss what they are learning and gather information. Using familiar social media tools may allow students a greater level of comfort during the learning process. Instructors can also use specialized applications, such as learning management systems, to provide a more structured environment. Instructors can use students’ activity feeds to monitor levels of engagement and adjust the curriculum accordingly.
The use of social media and social networking sites to facilitate learning aligns with the constructivism approach to learning design. Students, teachers, and other parties take a flexible role within the social media space, often acting as mentors and mentees within the same setting. All participants are encouraged to express interests and creativity, and collaborate to reach a collective goal.
Social media supports the exploration of realistic, complex problems because learning is taking place in the real world. Learners can provide feedback through multiple channels and post questions or comments whenever they feel the need. Research can be self driven and may incorporate multiple social media platforms if the learning environment allows it.
Using social media to facilitate a learning process comes with obstacles that educators should address in order to ensure the learning experience is successful. It’s important that social media be applied with intention and vision, if it is meant to facilitate specific learning objectives. Administrative vision and planning are critical.
Also critical is addressing online privacy and security concerns that relate to student usage. Students may need to be taught how to responsibly and ethically use social media platforms. The school culture must be accepting of collaboration and group activities in order for social media usage to be effective. The evaluative environment in particular should emphasize digital literacies and competencies that align with the use of social media.
Instructors may choose to overcome challenges by partnering with library media specialists who have a greater familiarity with technology integration and information technologies. It may also be beneficial to involve youth workers and other adults who can assist in extending instruction into the community. Instructors may need to persuade school administrators to change policies involving social media – or instructors may choose to have students only use technologies outside of school hours.
Instructors may find it useful to prove the effectiveness of social media by collecting data related to learner engagement and the effect on desired outcomes. Results can be shared with administrators and other parties in order to generate discussion about how a school’s policies and educational approaches should evolve to accommodate changes in technology.
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The post Recommended Reading Summary: A Chapter of “Emerging Technologies for the Classroom” appeared first on eLearning.