Posts Tagged ‘“community of practice”’

The concept of a Learning Community for Students (LCS) parallels and links to the idea of a Personal Learning Environment (PLE). The PLE envisages learners exploiting existing services to enhance their learning process. I’ve witnessed directly this happening as some of the more ‘tech savvy’ students harness the advantages of Web2.0 technologies. Whilst the services provided by these Web2.0 technologies aren’t necessarily directly aimed at education, they do provide many opportunities for personal organization of tasks that are directly beneficial for institutionalized learning. So one element of what the vision for LCS wants to achieve is to consider how a student body as a community can corral existing services to directly benefit learning as a whole, through coordination of technology not centrally provided by an institution.

Key to the LCS philosophy is the idea that students must now develop their skills to enable them to rapidly make use of new technologies as they emerge to meet their needs in different areas of their learning and social activities. It is believed that students who develop additional skills to use technology beyond institutional provision are more open to further learning opportunities, placing the them at a distinct advantage over their peers. So they need to engage with the idea of using a technology for a limited period and adapting to newer, more useful technologies as appropriate. This is why a community approach is essential; no one individual is capable of identifying the tools of most use to his/her activities any more, and by sharing experiences with the rest of a learning community everyone should benefit. (This community approach can be witnessed already succeeding in many areas of Web2.0 technology.) So the community would share information about what tools are useful, explanations of how to use the tools at the basic level, and also examples of how tools can or have been used for learning or research.

Also, arguably the complexity of these technologies is increased for the individual, which can be overwhelming; it is hoped that by structuring an LCS with an intuitive front end some of these feeling can be alleviated, (and also some of the seduction of the technology at the expense of deep level learning sometimes encountered by the more tech savvy students can be tempered). Therefore, it is envisaged that through an LCS students will empower themselves to use informal learning resources beyond what is provided by a university. This develops an emphasis centred on the individual learner’s needs and capabilities of a student, provides accessible learning opportunities without time and place constraints, prioritizing of the social elements of learning by using effective tools aligned to existing behaviour, and continuation and consistency of resources beyond graduation. It is also debated that a shift towards personal ownership of technology increases engagement and alleviates problems of accessibility, usability, learner mobility and pedagogical integration. This is a departure from the traditional approach where institutions coordinate the infrastructure of learning technology for use by the learner. And for an LCS to be successful it must provide a means of accessing and harnessing Web2.0 in a way that matches students’ existing patterns.

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