This post completes my look at the Connectivism Special Issue of IRRODL e-Journal (International Review of Research on Open and Distance Learning) Connectivism: Design and Delivery of Social Networked Learning (Vol 12 (3)). The first half of this 2 part review is here.
Three Generations of Distance Education Pedagogy by Terry Anderson and Jon Dron
Interconnecting Networks of Practice for Professional Learning by Terry Evans & Julie Mackey
I see these 2 articles as related. First, Terry A. & Jon have a great insight, that the design of distance education has been driven by technological development, but I don’t think they takes it far enough. There is substantial infrastructure and 19th Century technology dedicated to higher education, but the technological infrastructure of distance education has pretty much been just bolted on to that traditional infrastructure. The changing needs of learning cannot be met with the infrastructure of the past. Many of the limitations of connectivism that Terry A & Jon presents are rooted in the fact that connectivist networks are not yet well developed. Many of the participants in those courses do not interact outside of the course, making it necessary to re-create an interactive network for each implimentation. Imagine if the entire university infrastructure had to be re-created for each course.
Terry E & Julie discuss a similar problem in the way that Higher education is organized by pointing out the philosophical contradiction between social cultural / situated learning beliefs.
A problem with institutional perspectives of socially constructed learning is that the zone of interaction is usually confined to the online course community. . . . This insular view of community, bounded by course curriculum and timelines, is problematic for professional learning and highlights a tension between the underlying philosophical stance and the pedagogies adopted by universities. A central tenet of sociocultural epistemologies is that learning is vitally situated within the context of its development and that “understanding and experience are in constant interaction” (Lave & Wenger, 1991, p. 51). As Lave and Wenger (1991) describe in their theory of social practice, there is a “relational interdependency of agent and world, activity, meaning, cognition, learning, and knowing” (p. 1).
The biggest challenge in redefine the integration of working and learning is to change the traditionally idea that learning and working are separate activities. Learning happens in the university and is separated from work activities. That is no longer the case today. Another problem is the growing gap between the knowledge services higher education offers and the knowledge needs of professional practices. Hagle, Brown & Davison (The Power of Pull) state that the pace of change is outpacing our knowledge infrastructure. Their advocacy of pull learning models could be implemented by professional communities supported by higher education and online services in a connectionist pedagogy, but traditional practices in higher education seem hard to break. All of these issues can be related to the 19th Century infrastructure of the university as compared to today’s changing learning needs.
So what would make more sense. The basic technology and web infrastructure are already available and waiting to be appropriated by professional dialogic communities of practice and inquiry. The infrastructure we lack is the organization of professional communities that would be a natural home for professional learning. I do believe that this also entails dovetailing the organization of universities and professional organizations with new digital infrastructure. The university could act as a gateway to and an enabler of this community, but currently higher education remains separated from professional practice. Students could be ligament peripheral participants in this community. Knowledge development could be accelerated through cooperative interaction that is supported by advanced communication and mash-up applications. One technological need is advanced filtering tools that will coordinate network activity and keep everyone in the flow of knowledge at their chosen and appropriate level. Long-standing core participant will act as peer reviewers and validators of activity, except they will act in a dialogic fashion rather than current monologic practices.
Of course, this is all sometime in the future. Here’s a great article about self-reinforcing powers in business management and there are just as a many barriers in higher education. So, until that day finally dawns – May you live long and prosper!
Referencing Sfard (1998) (I favorite article of mine), Rita points out that Connectivism is inline with the theories that expect learning to accrue through participation. She points to the PLENK course (Personal Learning Environments and Network Knowledge) and to the struggle that some learners have with developing the participation skills to support their PLE. Inline with the participatory idea, enabling Legitimate Peripheral Participation could solve these problems, but first we need to strengthen ongoing online learning communities.
I find it interesting that the largest block of leaders were 55 years of age and older. Learning goals may have a significant impact on participation and it may be interesting to investigate individual participation goals further.
EduCamp Colombia: Social Networked Learning for Teacher Training by Diego Ernesto Leal Fonseca
Diego presents a case study that describes a successful workshop whose implementation was modeled after the concepts of a Personal Learning Environment, the Unconference, over the shoulder learning in software. These are 3 concepts that I hope to study in more detail. The article mentioned many practical aspects of organizing an event
The EduCamps have served as a testing ground for the exploration of ideas concerning the design of learning environments. The results suggest the experience has an important impact on the perception of attendees about technology and its possibilities as a learning tool, but there are questions that remain open. . . . It is clear that the workshops have the potential to be a trigger for the development of a community of practice around the social software platforms explored, which helps participants to sustain and enhance the connections they create during the workshop. However, this potential currently remains unrealized.
Once again the question of how you can foster the development of professional ongoing online communities of learning remains an important question.
Frameworks for understanding the nature of interactions, networking, and community in a social networking site for academic practice by Grainne Conole, Rebecca Galley & Juliette Culver
Grainna, Rebecca & Juliette describe the application of a social networking site named Cloudworks. The site has been used for workshops, courses, as a discussion space, to facilitate reading circles, for open reviews, to aggregate resources, to explore practice design, and to find expert consultations. They were able to analyze site usage through 4 frameworks: Communities of Inquiry, Communities of Practice, Activity theory and Actor-network Theory. What I would really like to are case studies where professional oriented learning communities move onto these types of platforms and how to strengthen and develop the potential of these communities through social applications.