Learning, Technology and Community: A Journey of the Self

Stephen Downes has posted summary notes and the PowerPoint slides from a talk by Etienne Wenger at the ALT-C elearning conference in Manchester. Wenger’s ideas on communities of practice were shaped by intensive conversations and interactions with John Seeley Brown, one of the authors of The Social Life of Information. The role of educational technology in the formation of communities of practice is an important concept for our course. Some key ideas from the talk:

A community of practice is a group of practitioners who:

  • share similar challenges
  • interact regularly
  • learn from and with each other
  • improve their ability to address their challenges

Practitioners need a community to:

  • To help each solve problems,
  • To hear each other’s stories.
  • To keep up with change,
  • To avoid local blindness,
  • To reflect on their practice and improve it,
  • To push the boundaries of their field,
  • To think of new ways to leverage their knowledge.

A community of practice is a putting of language on what everybody knows.

This notion of community of practice is a very natural thing, it’s a putting of language on what everybody knows. Practitioners need a community to hear each other’s stories, to keep up with change, to avoid local blindness, to reflect on practice and improve it, to push the boundaries of their field, or to think of new ways to leverage what they know. (From S. Downes notes on E. Wenger’s talk, Learning, Technology and Community: A Journey of the Self.)