What are learning communities?
The term learning community is used to describe every imaginable combination of individuals with an interest in education (DuFour, 2004).
DuFour (2004) argued that there are “big ideas” educators need to reflect critically on the concept of professional learning communities. I use these big ideas to understand the concept of learning communities by reflecting to my own experience as an educator.
Big idea #1: Ensuring that student learn
I am an academic advisor for 10 students. Instead of just giving them advice, I create a learning community among us. The students share with me their learning difficulties, and we design strategies to overcome the difficulties. All individuals in the learning community is committed to share knowledge, help and motivate each other, so that they can learn better. And the result is quite good, the 10 students are able to exceed 3.0 GPA for last semester.
Big idea #2: A culture of collaboration
Within our faculty, we had our academic meeting twice a semester. Faculty members will discuss and formulate an integrated learning-teaching process. I taught a course with another faculty member, together we formulate our learning objectives and learning outcomes for the course. We also collaborate with other faculty members teaching other courses that related to out course, and develop collaborative assessment that gives us the most authentic and valid ways to assess student mastery. In this way, we believe that all faculty members belong to a team that focuses on student learning.
In conclusion, the term learning communities is new for me as an educator. But when I reflect toward my professional life, it is not that new anymore. And I agree with DuFour’s statement that learning community is a powerful new way of working together that profoundly affects the practices of schooling.
DuFour, R. (2004). What is a professional learning community? Educational Leadership 61(8), 6-11. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may04/vol61/num08/What-Is-a-Professional-Learning-Community%C2%A2.aspx accessed on 15-05-2013
Social pedagogical networks: What are they? What are some tools that build them?
Social software is the term used to describe the range of easy-to-use authoring tools available on the web that enables group interaction and collaboration. In my understanding, social pedagogical network is a range of social software used by teachers and students to enhance the learning process.
When I reflect to my own experience, I use some of social software to build a social pedagogical network to deliver the courses that I taught.
Learning management system: I use Moodle to house most of the materials used in my course. Moodle act as the spine and students’ first point of call.
Blog: Blogs are great tool for students to record the development of projects and reflect on their learning. And what make it social, readers can add comments.
Wiki: Wikis are excellent tool for student to create collaborative projects, and teachers can comment on student work in progress.
Social media: Social media are used for socializing with friend and groups with similar interest. It can be used for project-based and collaborative learning learning in educational settings.
Media sharing: Media sharing such as YouTube (video), Slideshare (presentation), or flickr (photos) are rich with educational content shared for learning.
As a faculty member in a teacher education institution, I highly value social pedagogical networks because of its capability to support teacher candidates collaborating on their projects, sharing resources, and reflecting on their practice with others in online communities.
Theory into practice: Which learning communities and social pedagogical networks support the theories?
The term personal learning environment (PLE) describes the tools, communities, and services that constitute the individual educational platforms learners use to direct their own learning and pursue educational goals (Educause, 2009).
Reflecting to the previous topics, we have learned about learning communities, social pedagogical network, and theories underlying the two concepts. From my point of view, PLE is where it all intersects.
My PLE, for example, incorporate (1) the tool and service – a learning management system (LMS) provided by the university and a blog where I can post my reflection on what I have learned; and (2) the community – my fellow course mates on social media and discussion forums where I can use uses to post or answer questions, provide context, and illustrate processes.
Chatti (2007) referring to Wenger and Siemens argues that learners are members in multiple knowledge communities including learning communities (LC), communities of practice (CoP) and communities of interest (CoI). Therefore, central to his definition of a PLE is the integration of communities. PLE refers not to a specific service or application but rather to an idea of how individuals approach the task of learning.
Chatti, M. (2007). Personal environments loosely joined. [Blog] Mohamed Amine Chatti’s ongoing research on Knowledge and Learning. Retrieved from http://mohamedaminechatti.blogspot.com/2007/01/personal-environments-loosely-joined.html accessed on 2013-05-15
Educause (2009). 7 things you should know about Personal Learning Environments. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7049.pdf accessed on 2013-05-15