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ONL 162

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Community of practice as a learning context

Wenger (1998) states that, we cannot design learning, but we can design for it. I like this and it makes me wonder what would be a good or usable design for learning. Is it a question of physical, social and digital environment, maybe all of them and additionally a question how we design the course from didactic or pedagogical point of view. When we design collaborative learning process we need to take into account each of these. Teaching is a matter of creating environments that supports learners’ efforts to construct meanings (Borko & Putnam, 1996).

Couple of years ago we held a course for university teachers and it was called Teacher as a developer. It was designed to last for one year and it was designed on the idea of collaborative learning (e.g. Heron, 1996; Reason, 2002; Sahlberg, 2000; Hakkarainen, Lonka, & Lipponen, 2004; Lakkala, 2010; Muukkonen-van der Meer, 2011).

In the course the collaborative learning was embedded in the community of the small group (study group), the whole group of the course as well as the community in which the course participants were working. The main focus in designing was on the process facilitation and the structures, but the content was not determined beforehand. The idea was that the students would start to produce the content based on their needs of their teaching competence but also based on the educational developmental needs of their working environment. The students were informed about the pedagogical design and approach of the course. (Hirsto, Lampinen & Syrjäkari, 2013.)

The participants engaged in intensive, self-regulating and long-term small-groups, which can be described in terms of community of learners (Leve & Wenger 1991; Wenger, 1998, 1999). They took care of the cohesion, interaction and climate of their group in order to secure a systematic and productive progression of the group work. They also set their goals, planed their studies, constructed their knowledge, and reflected on and evaluated their learning as well as group processes together. (Hirsto, Lampinen & Syrjäkari, 2013.)

The participants had two strong communities of practice (Wenger 1998, 1999) in which they build their teacher identities, those of their disciplinary context and the teacher education context (the course). Wenger considers “brokers”, those that belong to many different communities of practice, as the ones who are the most creative. In this sense these university teachers have potential of being or becoming creative in developing teaching in their teaching contexts.

We had great results and learning outcomes in the course which I could discuss later in the next post. But if I reflect on this to ONL162 course I can see some similar processes going on. I’m part of the PBL-group but also a member of the big ONL community but my working community is acting a great part of the learning context. These are different communities of practices but they are connected to each other in my personal learning. The interesting part is that I meet my course mates only online. Would I even recognize them on the street? Could a community of practice work only online? Maybe yes and maybe that’s actually how it happens because of good design. We are well facilitated with meetings, webinars, tweetchat etc. which support the feeling of belonging but they also engage at least me with learning. It might be frustrating sometimes but maybe it is part of the learning and collaboration. I can also see communities of practice only online. If someone is active e.g. in Twitter she will develop her reputation and slowly enter the core of the community of practice. I can recognize it and support her position and reputation by following her. Clever design. 🙂

 

References

Hakkarainen, K., Lonka, K. & Lipponen, L. (2004). Tutkiva oppiminen.  Järki, tunteet ja kulttuuri oppimisen sytyttäjinä. Helsinki: WSOY

Hirsto, L. (2004). Long-term learning-groups in higher education: practical and theoretical perspectives. Paper presented in the SIG Higher Education -conference of EARLI, Stockholm, Sweden.

Hirsto, L., Syrjäkari, M. & Lampinen, M. (2012). Teacher students’ perceptions and expectations on tutoring long-term collaborative learning groups. Paper presented in the ECER-conference, Cadiz, Spain.

Hirsto, L., Lampinen, M. & Syrjäkari, M. (2013). Learning outcomes of university lecturers from a process-oriented university pedagogical course. TRAMES – A Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences, 17(4), 347–365. http://www.kirj.ee/23009/

Lakkala, M. (2010). How to design educational settings to promote collaborative inquiry: Pedagogical infrastructures for technologyenhanced progressive inquiry. University of Helsinki, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, Studies in Psychology 66:2010.

Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Muukkonen-van der Meer, H. (2011). Perspectives on knowledge creating inquiry in higher education. University of Helsinki, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, Studies in Psychology 75:2011.

Heron. J. (1996). Co-operative inquiry. Research into the Human Condition. London: SAGE.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice. Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

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Open or not to open in education

Some university teachers are encouraged to share their material digitally not only for their students but also for the public in Internet.

This is not easy for teachers and sometimes they are not willing to share their material on the net. There might be couple of reasons for this. Teacher might think he has used plenty of hours for preparing the material and is afraid someone would copy and use it – as their own material. He might think he wouldn’t like others benefiting from his work. However teachers who have inherited slides or material from a professor claim that it is very hard to use this material since it is done by someone else and might be done with a different kind of logic. Still they can use the slides but they feel uncomfortable to use them as such. Second reason not to share material might be fear. Teachers are scared of shareing the material for some reason e.g. they feel they cannot control the material, they are afraid of mistakes they have made in the material or they are afraid of criticism. Learning to use cc-licenses might help with some of the fears teachers have. By adding cc-license they can at least try to control their material and tell users what is allowed to do with this material.

At the same time a lot of material is shared in the internet. Texts and photos are remixed, reused and shared again. We see memes in social media and I suppose at least some of the photos are copyrighted. There is a discussion about copyrights in Finland. A blogger showed some examples how the cities in Finland communicate in their social media channels without thinking of copyrights e.g. one of the departments in the city of Helsinki showed video clips in their Twitter stream taken from a Finnish television show and another city made a meme of a movie clip. I suppose it is so fun and easy to take and remake video clips that communicators forget copyrights.

Openness is based on the idea of democracy but as it has been seen, open courseware, open internet, open data etc. are mainly found and used by those who are undergraduates or they have a degree, so they must be good learners (Weller, 2014). Althought, we have open courseware, material, software etc. they are not accessible to some people who would benefit from them. I think this an interesting question and topic to think about and I wish to have more time to read Weller’s book. And what about teachers, should they share they knowledge? If I consider all the problems we have nowadays I wish we could share knowledge and experience and use them to solve the problems.

Weller Martin (2014)The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory

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Who am I?

I’m participating in ONL 162 and I’ve been asked to introduce myself in my own blog. My name is Maija and I come from Helsinki, Finland. I work as an educational developer at Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering, however, my background is in educational sciences. My work includes teaching, teaching development and teaching competence evaluation – I don’t even try to elaborate each of those. E-learning, digitalization, online learning etc. are very popular and hot concepts at my university at the moment and I’d like to work out how I could approach those topics from different points of view. As the photo shows I like horseriding but I’m happy to drive a car also – I like to use different kinds of tools, methods, media and to find my own way to teach and facilitate learning.

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