Friday, June 23, 2006

Learning Communities

I've been digging into the concept of learning communities today and had good luck in Stephen's topic page for learning communities. Some good finds, which were mostly review, but still valuable:
  • Stephen's Learning in Communities article for Australian Flexible Learning a couple of years ago. Good learning communities foster better learning, a sense of commitment to the community, learning beyond the content, and reduce the workload of experts in the community as people help each other. He also shares eight points on what makes a learning community successful.
  • George Siemens' article on Learning Ecology, Communities, and Networks was also good to read again -- it's clear and practical, with some interesting examples. I'm realizing that my research focus is very narrow, captured by one small sentence in his paper: "Exploration, decision making, selecting, deselecting are all preparatory activities before we even enter the learning experience (the learning experience being defined as the moment when we actively acquire the knowledge that is missing in order for us to complete the needed tasks or solve a problem)."
  • I like the characteristics of a good learning environment in Distributed Learning Communities: An Alternative to Designed Instructional Systems (Word doc) --"distributed control; commitment to the generation and sharing of new knowledge; flexible and negotiated learning activities; autonomous community members; high levels of dialogue, interaction, and collaboration; a shared goal, problem, or project that brings a common focus and incentive to work together."
The question I'm grappling with is whether 3245 people sharing a learning goal like "learn Japanese" in 43 Things is a learning community by existing definitions. One guy in there even built his own learning object and shared it. If it does fit the definitions, then 43 Things has hundreds of learning communities, which is remarkable, really.

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