We have ample evidence that a proportion of students do eventually “get it”. And once they complete their course and get into practice, a substantial majority get it. But it’s not clear how we get them to get it, if you see what I mean. We seem to be trying to teach the unteachable (the ideas, not the students). Atherton J S (2011). Jenny Mackness blogged about this research on light bulb experiences.
I wonder if networks do make students ‘get it’ better or sooner than teachers in a classic setting? “Sitting next to Nellie” is a way of connecting to people who know and to knowledge.
For Etienne Wenger, learning is central to human identity. A primary focus of Wenger’s more recent work is on the individual as an active participant in the practices of social communities, and in the construction of his/her identity through these communities (Wenger et. al 2004). In this context, a community of practice is a group of individuals participating in communal activity, and experiencing/continuously creating their shared identity through engaging in and contributing to the practices of their communities.
A Community of Practice is a tight-knit social construct, and the concept of network has challenged the concept of a tight-knit social construct. Networks are loosely organized structures in which people do not necessarily collaborate or communicate directly. However, the question is what role networks play in relation to learning. A conclusion of this debate is that there exists a form of social interaction – social networking – that learning theories have difficulty explaining. More questions arise: What kind of relations support learning, and, specifically, how do networks support learning? … Learning takes place through problem-oriented activities, in which students are directed at solving a problem or achieving a goal.
“…Within cooperative online learning a central challenge is to enable students to follow the work of their colleagues. If students are unaware of the activities of fellow students, they might not make use of each other. This problem is reinforced within online education, where students do not meet face-to-face….” This problem in network learning has to be solved in the network. The network exists thanks to technical possibilities like social media. The possibilities of social media have to be used by students in the network to foster transparency and awareness. This is still a problem ”… Discourse and interaction won’t happen that easily if course participants are too dispersed over different spaces. …” .The problem is not the dispersion, the problem is students did not learn to connect. A forum is not the solution, people connecting to people is the solution.
One practical and technical solution is to make use of pingback to connect blogging students.
In cooperative online learning students must be encouraged to share. “If you don’t share you don’t cooperate, you don’t learn”. Learning is not reading a text twice. Learning is to manipulate information, play with information, until the the light is shining, a connection is emerging, knowledge is being made.