Echoes of Social Learning

Often, when discussing learning, words such as “interaction”, “collaboration”, “sharing” pepper the discourse.  And of course, as any language teacher well knows, there is the regular “pair work” and “group work”. There is little pair work here. And up to now, no significant group work.  My dreaming weaves have  been silent, invisible. Or have they?

Does silence signify not learning?

In our days of constant chatter through media and our immediate social environments,  I do believe that there is a place for silent reflection when one is learning. This may not hold true for all, but certainly I need time to process information, thoughts and links.  True, I have been busy with my daily duties and tasks, have been reading, curating and sharing with others articles, web tools and platforms which I find interesting, useful and definitely creative.  I have also been attending workshops, a conference and am tentatively trying to catch up with a current MOOC.  Nevertheless,  within my momentary silences, I have also been wondering, questioning, learning.  Hence I  turn to a blank screen in order to seek a sense of possible balance between facts and fictions, links and hyperlinks.

One issue which has been circling in my mind is how communities of practice take place and evolve. Being active in classrooms and regarding each class as a culture on its own, CoPs are not necessarily a complete novelty to me as certain characteristics of CoPs tend to overflow into dimensions of classroom culture.  What is new (or rather, at this point, relatively new as CoPs are not a new concept nor practice in 2011), is how information is disseminated, codified and validated with the widespread use of media channels in contrast to a more “conservative” perspective of classroom culture. (Please note that when I refer to “conservative”, I refer to studies of classroom culture before the wide-spread of the internet and social media).

In CoP – Addressing workforce trends throgh new learning modelsEric Sauve explains that “CoPs are distributed groups of people who share a common concern, problem, mandate, or sense of purpose. They can be used to facilitate the informal knowledge transfer that drives leadership development, productivity, and innovation.”  It seems to me, that in today’s rich landscape of communication (Web 2.0 platforms, tools and the many options individuals have to join different communities and participate actively online and in the world), that this leaves few excuses for educators to sit back or lie in their shell, not participating, not adding to the flow of dialogue and on-going change. If educators themselves are not courageous enough to take the step forward and be active in an age of open learning and open resources for all, what skills will they be transfering to students? What learning practices will students acquire and adopt for their present and near future?

CoPs, in my view, are closely connected to social learning, even though social learning is not necessarily a “new” phenomena – people have always learnt socially. However, being able to connect, to share best practices, to raise issues and participate in open discussions is new through the tools and platforms now available. This process provides a dynamic synergy which wasn’t always possible before the advent of social media. Lucy Marcus portrays this connectiveness eloquently in her article What it Means Today to be “Connected”, when she states that “Connecting with people and innovative ideas is more important than ever.”

For it is not only the connection with others (i.e. one’s network or connections) but the flow and exchange of ideas which is essential for learning and change to take place.

There are issues which blur when reflecting on educational processes and learning. There are blurs between best practices  and engaging in social media. There are blurs between good teaching and attempting to cover up poor pedagogy with technology.

Attempting to question these areas are part of learning.

They are part of my learning.


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