Updated: 6/26/2005; 9:37:04 PM.


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  Friday, October 17, 2003


Was cleaning papers on my table and thought about fields that I had to look at during last two years in my current job...

Deepening my "old" topics:

  • learning: informal and incidental learning, implicit learning and reflection, transfer of learning
  • change management: technology adoption

New topics:

  • KM theories and approachers, KM strategies and methods, CKOs, KM measurement (a bit), communities of practice, social networks, networking and contact management, knowledge workers, personal knowledge/information management, information search and retrieval, information literacy, knowledge mapping, ontology construction
  • weblogs, wikis and other "social software" things
  • research methodology

"Old" topics that I'm not doing much about:

  • e-learning: formal e-learning, technologies (LMS and so on)
  • HRD and the rest of formal part of corporate learning (but I do a lot about "connecting" these things with KM)

Hope I'll be able to build meaningful connection between all these things without loosing focus :)

  Learning: communities vs. courses (4) - learners' skills and motivation

Another turn on Learning: communities vs. courses - 12, 3: George Siemens summarises the discussion in Learning Ecology, Communities, and Networks. It's a great overview (and it's very good to have someone rethinking and summarising bits of distributed ideas), but I'm thinking on implementation challenges.

I wouldn't come back to my concerns that some educational goals may not work with community dynamics, this time it's about learners themselves, as "The simple fact of membership in one or seventeen networks specifies little about content of knowledge and nothing about degree of mastery" (Spike Hall). This point links the discussion about learning in a community with another stream on learning with weblogs.

Spike Hall notes that introducing weblogs as a learning tool is not about the technology, but about "passing over the deuterolearning (aka meta-learning and learning-to-learn) torch" and lack of meta-learning skills of students. He also adds that we are likely to overlook it:

I thought I might mention this because those already deep into a) weblogging / journaling, or b)research and development, as two examples, are already deep into self-directed growth and may take their own skill for granted. This taking-for-granted sets up a certain blindness to the total set of attitudes and skills that go into high levels of active and self-directed learning. And this blindness, in turn, can render the teacher/developer incapable of isolating and teaching the subskills and attitudes that are involved.

Sebastian Fiedler continues:

Though I certainly see the potential of personal Webpublishing to be turned into "a major self-uplift machine" (actually a good part of my paper for BlogTalk 2003 was trying to examine the possibility to conceptualize personal Webpublshing as a powerful tool for self-organized learning), I keep bumping into missing "subskills and attitudes" of adult learners whenever I try to integrate personal Webpublishing practices into formal course settings.

Sebastian points that it's difficult to change existing learning habits and attitudes of adults and that there is a variety of ethical questions around it. At the end his asks:

What can we really do to promote more self-teaching and self-organized learning?

Can personal Webpublishing practices support a development into this direction?

Or do we need to treat some "attitudes and sub-skills" as explicit pre-requisites for turning personal Webpublishing into a tool for personally meaningul learning?

I would add: Can we decide being a self-organised learner is a good thing for someone who is comfortable learning in other ways? It's quite a paradox: we want learners to be self-directed and this is one small thing we will decide for them... I believe that reflection and meta-learning skills are increasingly important in our days. My questions is: how do we facilitate others going there without forcing them?

Coming back to learning in communities: given the lack of structure and guidance in communities it's personal meta-learning and communication skills that make learning possible. And, as Spike Hall notes, those who have these skills tend to take them for granted and expect that everyone will learn given the opportunity to do so. I don't think so and I don't have ready an efficient and ethical roadmap of developing these skills.

Related: earlier post on Developing reflexivity.

  Learning: communities vs. courses (3) - experts vs. novices and competition

Something that I missed in my Learning: communities vs. courses link collection - Martin Dugage on the motivation for learning is the desire to access a community

The traditional professor-student relationship in a classroom setting, with grades, diplomas and the like still makes sense as a prerequisite to entering a learning community. It is a question of managing time and attention. If we start bringing in newbies who haven't acquired the fundamentals required to participate in the learning activities of the community, we might end up annoying the top experts of the community, who might then leave for better places where people will make better use of their precious time.

I guess this comment of Martin comes from practical experiences of facilitating communities in corporate context. There are more insights on "how communities work" in the knowledge management field and sometimes I feel very sad that these experiences are not known or not recognised in educational discussion about communities (lack of interaction between these two fields is my old frustration and overcoming it directs much of my thinking).

Anyway, there is a connection between Martin's concern and Sebastien's recent post on experts and novices pointing to Joe Cothrel observation about opportunities that weblogs provide in enabling novices learning from "gurus" without making them frustrated with depth and scale of interactions. I belive this is the direction worth exploring.

Final comment of Martin:

I believe learning economies (and the web is definitely one) are economies of access and not economies of transaction, meaning that you had rather pay, and very dearly sometimes, to obtain free access to a community of people that you would like to resemble, than for some of the discrete services that the best of these people could offer you. Or to put it differently, you may be prepared to work like crazy to graduate from MIT, but going through MIT's courses without being recognized (a.k.a. branded) as an MIT student is worth far less.

In learning environments, there is always some form of exclusion. C'est la vie.

There are two sides here: people compete (try to get accepted) in communities that provide better learning/networking environments for them and communities compete between each other to get attention of "best" members.

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© Copyright 2002-2005 Lilia Efimova.

This weblog is my learning diary. Sometimes I write about things related to my work, but the views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

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