A new article by Etienne Wenger, Beverley Trayner and Martin de Laat has just been linked to on Etienne’s Facebook page.
Wenger, E., Trayner, B. & de Laat, M. (2011). Promoting and assessing value creation in communities and networks : a conceptual framework. Centrum. http://www.social-learning-strategies.com/documents/Wenger_Trayner_DeLaat_Value_creation.pdf
This is very timely given the online course about communities of practice in HE that I will be working on with colleagues from Oxford Brookes University tomorrow.
The new publication by Wenger et al. is true to its title. It presents a framework and toolkit for assessing value creation in communities and networks. But perhaps of interest to those who follow discussions about the differences between groups and networks in relation to connectivism, will be the introductory section (pages 9-13) where the authors discuss their understanding of the terms ‘community’ and ‘network’ – how these are similar, different, overlap.
I, like many others before and after me, once asked Etienne Wenger – ‘What is the difference between a community and a network?’ His response at the time was – ‘All communities are networks, but not all networks are communities’. It is interesting to see this thinking expanded and further explained in this recent publication.
In line with this evidence of changing thinking over time (which we also see in relation to connectivism), it is interesting to read Chris Kimble’s article - Communities of Practice: Never Knowingly Undersold – written in 2006 – but still relevant to these discussions. This acknowledges the ambiguity surrounding the meaning of the term ‘community of practice’ and discusses the reasons for this and how the term ‘community of practice’ has been interpreted and understood differently over time.
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Next week (May 18th 2011) I will be working with a team, George Roberts, Rhona Sharpe, Joe Rosa (from Oxford Brookes University) and Andy Coverdale (University of Nottingham) to present a one day online course bearing the title – Benefits and challenges of communities of practice in HE
This will be interesting because I have never worked in BigBlueButton before, although I had a ‘practice’ meeting today so had a chance to become a little familiar with the technology. BigBlue Button is an online conferencing platform. It is similar to Adobe Connect, but lacks some of the functionality of Elluminate.
I have been tasked with doing a 10 minute presentation on MOOCs (this might be controversial as I have rather strong opinions about what is and what is not a community of practice – enough said ) and also to design a 45 minute activity about the challenges for communities of practice in Higher Education. This will be interesting because, as yet, BBB does not have a voting system and does not allow for participants to write on the whiteboard – so planning for online interactivity is somewhat limited. I will have to put my ‘thinking cap’ on, as I know from experience that the most ‘fun’ sessions are those where participants can take control of their learning. I would like to try and avoid falling into the ‘teacher talks too much’ trap
So lot’s to think about, especially since I am currently working with two research groups, one on emergent learning and the other on autonomous learning – so hopefully I will have learned something from those which will be reflected in what we do in the online course.
I really need to try and ‘put my money where my mouth is’
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Posted in Research, tagged Research, siemens on May 5, 2011 |
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There’s an interesting discussion on George Siemen’s blog about the problem with literature reviews – http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2011/05/01/the-problem-with-literature-reviews/#comments
As we have seen from the comments on his blog post, anyone who has had to write a Masters or PhD dissertation recognises the problem. Maybe even some under-graduates come up against it too.
The points made include:
- A literature review is tedious to produce and read – I don’t think this is a given in all aspects of a literature review. Coming across a good paper can be highly stimulating.
- For a given topic very similar reviews will turn up in a variety of papers. I would agree with this. I have certainly seen this quote from Etienne Wenger ‘Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly – http://www.ewenger.com/theory/index.htm’ cited in many papers and I have used it myself. Some authors simply write in a way that is difficult to improve on
- Literature reviews look backwards and don’t bring new ideas to the table – Yes of course – the nature of a review is to look backwards – but the review might lead to new ideas
- Literature reviews follow existing streams of thought – Yes, that is to be expected – it’s what’s said/written after the review that is important. When I read journal articles I usually read the Abstract and Conclusions first. If I find them interesting I then try and find out whether anyone else is also interested and what else has been said about the topic.
- A literature review is a controlling, heritage-preserving system. Again – I don’t think this is a given. I think it depends on whether you take a glass half full or glass half empty view of literature reviews. They can be stepping stones to ‘greater things’
And George finishes up with this:
Perhaps what we need is periods of writing without literature reviews. Write for the sake of having a new or novel idea. Grad students in particular would benefit from periods of writing for newness. Who cares if someone has had it before? Who cares if it doesn’t line up with existing research? Sometimes, we need to get passionate about a new idea or dream of a new creation. A literature review is a paint-by-numbers scheme that tells us what has been done and gives us a sense of which little areas our research can fill in. In times of change, we need a blank canvas to guide our thinking, not a largely-filled in “normal science” view of the world.
I personally find digging into the literature can be stimulating. However I do find it very time consuming and also that I need to get ‘steeped’ in it to get anything useful out of it. I can’t just dip in and out. I need a concentrated period of uninterrupted time to follow through from literature review to literature review to get a feel for what the general consensus of opinion is, what the evidence base is and from that what do I think of the ideas.
Perhaps it’s not the literature review that is the problem, but how people interpret them and react to them. I personally find that I need to review the literature even if I don’t write about it. How do I know that my idea is ‘new’ or ‘novel’ unless I have had a good look round first? In fact it is usually the case that someone else has always already thought about what initially for me might be a ‘new’ idea. I have my doubts about whether genuine ‘new’ ideas exist.
A literature review prevents me from ‘jumping in with both feet’ and ‘getting egg on my face’ – making claims that can’t be substantiated, offering opinion instead of evidenced ideas. Even with a literature review I still fall into these traps. George has written – Grad students in particular would benefit from periods of writing for newness. Who cares if someone has had it before? – I think this must be a ‘slip’ because obviously we can’t be writing for newness if someone has had the idea before.
So overall I think I am in favour of literature reviews for the learning process – and somehow we need to find ways of sharing and evidencing what we have found with our readers without our writing becoming tedious and boring as a result.
Perhaps what is needed is not to get rid of literature reviews or the process of reviewing the literature, but to explore new ways of presenting the information gathered from literature reviews that would more readily engage and inform readers. I suspect though that it will be difficult to break the traditional patterns of presentation, and I’m not promising to be able to do this myself
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