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Communities of Practice and their Technologies



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Communities of Practice and their Technologies

  1. 1. Communities of practice and their technologies [email_address]
  2. 2. What are communities of practice? <ul><li>People who share questions and burning issues about their work. They share a domain. </li></ul><ul><li>They find ways of coming together to talk about those issues they identify with. They form a community. </li></ul><ul><li>Over time they develop a language, tools and ways of doing things. They share their practice. </li></ul><ul><li>And in so doing, they learn. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Why communities of practice? <ul><li>‘ 80’s and ‘90’s - companies invested huge resources in databanks for storing and retrieving information. Databanks were underused as people still just ask Patricia when they want to know something. </li></ul><ul><li>A realisation that knowledge lies not merely in computers and information, but inside people and their conversations. People need context to help make sense of the information and to understand why it matters to them. Knowledge is able to “walk out the door”. </li></ul><ul><li>Meanwhile in Education new paradigms of learning emphasise social interaction and context for constructing knowledge, not transmission of information. </li></ul><ul><li>The concept of communities of practice took off. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Technologies: a changing mindset <ul><li>One of the aims of the WWW was to provide information. For example through personal webpages and professional information providers, including organisations. </li></ul><ul><li>With the development and advance of recent technologies e.g. wikis, blogs, podcasting, filesharing, that model is challenged and community driven services are rapidly gaining influence. </li></ul><ul><li>The transformations are not driven by technologies but by a mindset that encourages people to take part in developing their own structure and content i.e. co-designers of their own online experience and learning. </li></ul>
  5. 5. A communities of practice view of technologies <ul><li>Technologies can help support a community’s domain, community and practice by helping the community: </li></ul><ul><li>express a common identity, project what a community stands for, and be a place for negotiating burning issues. (Domain) </li></ul><ul><li>experience togetherness and connectedness, see connections between people, and help people get to know each other in relevant ways. (Community) </li></ul><ul><li>reveal the context for ongoing exchanges, accumulate knowledge over time, and provide access to a community’s stories, tools, solutions and concepts. (Practice) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Reframing some myths <ul><li>Excellent technology will never make a community of practice. However, bad technology can break one. </li></ul><ul><li>Technology is not a destination. It is an ongoing part of the learning journey. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Passport to Freedom: a communities of practice analysis <ul><li>There is a strong domain and identification with burning questions and common challenges. </li></ul><ul><li>There is a developed sense of community, togetherness and diversity, and assuming of leadership roles. This gives a sense of conviction and potency. </li></ul><ul><li>Least developed is mutual engagement and sharing of practice-in-context across time and space. Shared practice is framed mostly by production of documents and face-to-face events. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Passport to Freedom: observations by a technology steward <ul><li>Most people with very basic digital literacy skills; very few using RSS feeds. People concerned with lack of time teaching themselves. </li></ul><ul><li>Use of technology for sharing information products is the prevalent mindset. </li></ul><ul><li>Harnessing technologies (e.g.blogs) to project what community stands for (to policy makers, funders, general public) is unexplored. </li></ul><ul><li>Using technologies for sharing context and providing access to community’s stories, solutions and concepts outside face-to-face events is unexplored. </li></ul><ul><li>Use of technology for social networking is unexplored. </li></ul><ul><li>There are specific challenges in the prison service e.g. iron firewalls and no access to emails that would require particular inventiveness from a technology steward. </li></ul><ul><li>A wiki portal, content-based e-learning platform and message board has already been developed by German partners. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Questions for consideration: <ul><li>What existing resources within the Passport to Freedom network could be used for helping people improve their basic digital literacy skills? How could these be shared? </li></ul><ul><li>To what extent are people in the Passport to Freedom network committed to engaging in a shared online space? </li></ul><ul><li>Who are the potential online facilitators, community builders and technology stewards in the Passport to Freedom network? </li></ul><ul><li>What resources are available for training and supporting the facilitators, community builders and technology stewards? </li></ul><ul><li>What existing technologies are there in the network and in what ways could they be supporting communities of practice? </li></ul>
  10. 10. Acknowledgements: Thanks to Etienne Wenger, Nancy White and John Smith for sharing their work and conversations about a book they are writing on Communities of Practice and Technologies, to be published in 2007.