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March 6, 2002

Communities of Practice - The QUT Approach to Online Teaching Outline of work done at the Queensland University of Technology in the field of communities of practice. The authors identify three major themes in the literature: the relation between communities and teams, the resulting need to change academic work practices, and the need to support, harness and integrate the learning. This is a very organization-centric approach to communities of practice, one that I don't necessarily endorse. It isn't about an organization "harnessing" the learning network: quite the opposite - it's about letting go. A learning community is in the first instance a network of individuals who may or may not form teams and may or may not integrate their learning network with their daily tasks (you have to realize, people are training for their next job, not their current one - if you want to "harness the knowledge" you have to thing about employee retention strategies, not of subverting the learning community for your own purposes). See, this is the distinction between the (incorrect) definition of a community of practice as "a group of practitioners involved in a common activity" as opposed to the much better characterization of a community of practice as "a group of people informally bound together by shared expertise and passion for a joint enterprise." (Wenger & Snyder, 2000). By Halima Goss, Tom Cochrane and Gail hart, Global Summit of Online Knowledge Networks, March 4, 2002.[Refer]

Building Online Communities for Professional Networks Good paper with a useful set of metrics for evaluating the "health" of an online knowledge community. I don't completely agree with all of the indices, though: for example, I do not see a deeper thread as evidence of a deeper discussion - it often simply reflects a back-and-forth exchange between a minor sub-group. What's interesting about this article and the next one (see below) is they both see the need to establish communications and also to store the knowledge contained in those communications in some sort of useful format. That's hard to do - have you ever tried to search through a list server archive for a particular concept? This article also emphasizes the need for facilitation and structured activities. I am inclined to agree - to a point. I think that the operators of an online knowledge community must focus first on the idea that they are providing a service to community members. The need for facilitation, if any, will follow from that. By Janine Bowes, Global Summit of Online Knowledge Networks, March 4, 2002.[Refer]

Best Practice in Community Building and Information Discovery I had a dream last night that the managers of the Global E-Learning Summit website had read my email and fixed their x-small font. No such luck. And it's gretting pretty bad when I have dreams about my newsletter. Anyhow...

This article builds on a couple of case studies to identify some standard approaches to online knowledge and learning communities (I have decided to cease using the hackneyed phrase 'best practices' from now on). Common characteristics of such communities include a group of people with a common interest, a need to create and share knowledge, voluntary participation, and various communications technologies. The key success factors are leadership, relationships and environment. The article includes a good (and standard) illustration of the components of an online knowledge and learning community. By Rob Crompton, Global Summit of Online Knowledge Networks, March 4, 2002.[Refer]

Devices Lend a Learning Hand Naturally people are sceptical, but I think this initiative that gives kindergarten students the opportunity to use Palm Pilots in their studies is a good one. For one thing, it's a lot cheaper than buying them computers. They can use them outdoors. It gets them ready for when they're older and Palms (or their equivalent) will be in everyday use. And even if, as one critic suggested, they are only using them to set up play dates with their friends, well, I use Outlook for the same thing today as part of my job (well, OK, we don't call them play dates, but my work is so much fun they may as well be). By Jennifer Wing Rothacker, Charlotte Observer, March 4, 2002.[Refer]

Introduction to FLE2 Pedagogy I mentioned FLE3, the Finnish open source learning management system, on this list a few weeks ago. With this item I'd like to draw your attention to FLE2's pedagogical model, one that is centered by a distributed network of expertise. FLE2 is based on a problem solving approach, but I don't see why the approach could not be more widely applicable as an instance of whyat I am now calling 'network learning'. Thanks, Howard, for the link. By Muukkonen, H; Hakkarainen K.; Leinonen T., University of Art and Design Helsinki, 2000.[Refer]

Free Curricula License A draft version of the proposed Free Curricula License (FCL) has been released and comments are invited. The FCL would be used by educational content providers to ensure that their works remain "open," in the sense that it can be modified, and "free," in the sense of freedom. Works placed under this License may be copied and distributed, with or without modification, either commercially or non-commercially, and on any media. Send your comments to Chris Hornbaker at chrishornbaker@earthlink.net By Chris Hornbaker and Justin Zeigler, Open Source Education Foundation, March, 2002.[Refer]

Losing Sight of the Content in a Content Management System Useful short article on maintaining the focus on content in a content management system. Some important principles:

  • The simplest and quickest way to find out what your staff need - ask them
  • Give the users less, but better, information
  • Use professional technical writers and editors
  • A permanent process must be put in place to ensure the continued accuracy and coverage of your content.
By James Robertson, Step Two Designs, March, 2002.[Refer]


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