ZML Didaktik / Innovative Learning Scenarios

Identifies, Power and Online Communities (Wenger: Communities of Practice)

Posted on: March 4, 2014

Cleaning up my blog I stumbled upon a post of summer 2012 which I didn’t finish – and which remains interesting to me  until today. This post describes one discussion during the BeTreat workshop of Etienne and Bev Wenger.

We discussed our identities as members of online communities. Our basis of discussion were  the 3 distinct modes of belonging (chapter 8, section: Identity, Wenger: Communities of practice)

  • Engagement – active involvement in mutual process of negotiation
  • Imagination – creating images of the world, seeing connections, extrapolating from experiences
  • Alignment – “coordinating our energy and activities in order to fit within broader structures and contribute to broader enterprises”

1. Identities and power

E: people reflect more their institutional identity than their individual identity.

Role of community keepers – who should be in this community. F.e. if managers are here we cannot learn together.

Approach for constitution of a community “who ever wants to come can come” could be problematic.

D: How much can I negotiate and how much can I develop my identity in a special community?

E: learning theory of power, f.e. claim of competence by defending a theses – in this learning is about power as well  – for example in communities it is important to have competences. F.e. if some members read a special book and others don’t. How can they negotiate the understanding of this book? Do you accept my claim of competence? Power is in the micro-moments of practice. We are used to think about power in institutions = “big” power.

S: there are persons in communities who grab for power – what power is that?

E: vertical and horizontal power, we always see this  two dimensions of power. Horizontal power is always in learning. To submit  a paper – peer review – there is always power.

J: If learning has power, for example BEtreat has some power?

E: we cannot see that BEtreat has power, it is an event. But there is power here in the group, power to include or exclude.

2. What is special about engagement in the virtual context?

E: identification through imagination – in online communities imagination has to do a lot of work to assume how the other members are. I can imagine a lot of thinks about others. Its important as common ground to create a common identity.

Engagement, imagination, alignment are less obvious in an online setting

J: my strongest working experiences are online. Maybe because my communities of practice are online. I like asynchronous, I can engage, I can choose how close or far I am – I have time for reflection. I like to stand back, slower respond time.

S: that’s the negotiating part. That’s the strength of online communities.

J: it is easier to manage your identity online, it’s easier what I allow people to see of my identity.

E: I can manage the distance – that is negotiability. It’s protective.

Understanding a person purely through what they are saying online – it was surprising how intimate this contact could be.

J: working online closely with people

C: people do have a tendency – online is equalizing – people who may not talk f2f

D: There are target groups who are not used to work with computers. Online environment didn’t work for them.

It’s important that learners know if it’s an online course or a f2f course. It’s a matter of managing expectations.

B: Does a f2f community do better when they include online parts? I think yes. It allows more alternative perspectives to express each other. At least as debriefing.

C: stage of readiness  – are we early adopters?

f2f and online seeing as same mode. Over time it will become more normal to do online trainings.

E: is a poor with participants in online communities: It is the way he operates, with a schedule. “I have no way to schedule – online is always open, I couldn’t write a short blog post, …”

D: It is possible to schedule online activities. … but …There is not one place where should I be but multiple places

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