Blog #3: Defining the Landscape

On a personal note, I love to run.   I love the running community.  Individuals who come together to share, nurture and support each other on those days when it’s hard to get started or simply keep up.  My community is informal but we share a similar passion, identity and focus.  We learn from each other, with each other and value our relationships.

It was exciting when I read that online communities of practice were part of our focus this week!  How are they built and how are they sustained?  I often think of a community of practice as something that is living and organic in nature; constantly evolving and changing in response to the practice.  Not only is a group of people coming together with shared interests (like us in this course!) but it also needs active participation; sharing, asking/answering questions, listening and connecting on a social level with each other.  For me this translates to an old saying “just because you have built it doesn’t mean they will come”; it takes time.

With today’s web 2.0 technology, information can be accessed quickly and efficiently.  I can honestly say that I historically considered communities of practice as something very formal and very scholarly.  However now consider social websites such as Pinterest or other forums where learners are coming together and sharing similar knowledge; my beliefs have shifted immensely.  As a member of Pinterest I am amazed by the scope and depth of information, ranging from recipes to classroom learning activities.  Check out these stats from 2010:

  • 70 million users
  • 80% are women
  • 35% mobile visitors only
  • 500,000 business users

I am struck that 80% of users have been identified as women; one thought I have is the visual layout with less text than some other sites; I am certainly drawn to pictures before vast amounts of text.  Of interest, Hanson-Smith (2013) cautioned that although the ‘casual socialization’ found in the web 2.0 social applications doesn’t always relate to a community of practice, the capacity of the same applications is important in contributing towards and developing online communities of practice

A final thought centres on Etienne Wenger, a social learning theorist, who was instrumental in carving out the domains of community of practice. He describes how we need to ‘walk the landscape of practice’ when engaging in communities of practice; to know and to identify.  As humans, we have the ‘choice of how much we want to engage in communities”.

Whether that community of practice is being engaged personally or professionally, I believe with the right nourishment, the collaboration possibilities are endless.  Once we ‘know’ as Wenger suggests the ability to impact learners in the workplace or the classroom is limitless.

References:

Digital Marketing Ramblings. Retrieved electronically 21 September 2013 from http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/pinterest-stats/

Hanson-Smith, E. (2013).  Online communities of practice.  In Chapelle, E (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics.  Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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