informal learning and the social web

(This is another excerpt from my dissertation. Fits in with our EdTech podcast theme)

Lave and Wenger (1991) define communities of practice as “groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passionate about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis.” These communities were places we could go where one aspect of our self was highlighted because our audience was bounded by others sharing a similar interest in the context. It was a place where it was safe to fully display a specific aspect of our person. An aspect of our self that was flawed, inquisitive, changing, and growing. We could take this risk because of the bounded nature of community as we knew it.  However, now we live in a world of networked individualism where “boundaries are more permeable, interactions are with diverse others, linkages switch between multiple networks, and hierarchies are flatter and more recursive” (Wellman, et al., 2010, p. 160). The social web not only blurs online-offline boundaries but also blurs the lines between communities as well.

John Dewey (cited in Bruce & Bishop, 2008) stated that communities developed “through reciprocal processes of individual and community inquiry” (p. 710). That the individual and the whole reacted off one another with each being molded and doing the molding along the way. In this manner and by working on real-world problems that were important to them each individual in the community learns and grows while simultaneously adding to the collective body of knowledge within the community. In other words, learning takes place in the context of the culture of the community. A context that is now compromised.

Learning is also influenced by culture. (Vygotsky, 1978; Bruner, 1974) “Learning takes places  in a context that is specific to the environment and content information” (Young, 2008, p. 328). “Learning is context sensitive (Bruner, 1974,  p. 6) It follows that learning takes place in a context situated from the learner’s cultural perspective or a cultural context” (Young, 2008, p. 328).

But how are these communities transformed now that they are exposed and overlapping? Can an individual still freely share if the community is open to everyone in their network? Can they still remain passionate about the context if there is risk of consequences from the unintended audience?

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