Teaching and Learning in a Net-Centric World
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10 Comments

  1. February 28, 2009    

    On one level I’m with you, but on another the phrase “*a* network of practice” is exactly wrong, and I think illustrates the difference between this approach and “personal learning networks.” I don’t think this is just semantics; there is no singular “network of edubloggers,” indeed what I find constantly amazing is when I come across another self-styled edublogger with whom I share absolutely NO points of connection. I’m not offering this as deeply well thought out criticism, more gut reaction (and I am sick with strep throat today), but I do have a sense in which we’ll understand the boundaries and relations differently if we view this from the perspective of individuals rather than collective entities.

    • March 3, 2009    

      I do think it may be a question of semantics Scott.

      I agree that there are MANY types of edubloggers and many ways that one can parcelate the network into smaller and more tightly defined networks. But all self described (or self-styled as you note) edubloggers do have ONE thing in common – they all are interested in education – else they wouldn’t describe themselves as EduBloggers. Now it could be that their conception of education and likely the larger ideas of learning are very different from yours, but I still argue they do NOT “share absolutely NO points of connection” with yourself.

      As another example, there are many types of Canadians, and many share little in common with me or you, but we do share a Canadian context. So in a sense we share a very large Canadian network BUT it probably only gets meaningfully described or enacted in aggregation as a collective.
      However, I take your point that compared to the networks studied in the two studies I covered, Edubloggers are an example of a much more disparate and loosely defined network than those examples.

  2. March 2, 2009    

    Thanks for an interesting discussion!

    One major difference between face to face networks and online networks is the locus of control over interaction and participation.

    Bloggers contribute individually to the group and can do so without regard to any prescribed topic. This allows a rich variety of issues to be presented to the community. Face to face groups tend to focus on one topic at a time, with all members commenting on or contributing to the same topic.

    These styles of interaction presents unique differences. It reminds me of the difference between “parallel play,” in which toddlers play side by side without much direct interaction (bloggers) and “collaborative play,” in which older children directly interact with each other in a joint game or activity (face to face networks). I’m not saying one is superior to the other, because both allow specialized focus and study of topics and meet various needs for examining current issues.

    I think it’s important to include microblogging in the discussion of networks (Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, etc.). In these online sites, members also contribute individually as in blogging, but more like the face to face networks, members join a virtual community and “friend” each other in banding together by common interest.

    I don’t believe microblogging sites should be discounted as trivial or shallow just because of their posts’ brevity or speed — their reach and scope exceed the blogosphere in direct proportion to the number of members in one’s circle of friends and the frequency of visits. An enormous pool of resources, connections, and instantaneous access to information resides in the microblogging universe.

    Some have dubbed the conglomeration of bloggers and microbloggers who focus primarily on topics in Education the “Eduverse.”

    The Eduverse does practice censure by reprimand and comments, as described in the post, but there are also direct ways members banish each other. In blogging, most platforms allow the users settings to monitor comments, so they can be disallowed or deleted. And in microblogging sites, most platforms allow its members to directly ignore, block, or “unfriend” someone who responds inappropriately, offensively, or who even is considered professionally irrelevant. Unlike the face to face networks, these banishments are cast by an individual to another individual, not from the entire group to an individual. That means I might allow Joe Curmudgeon in my network, but you might find him too negative to bear in yours.

    There is rich value in any type of network where like-minded people explore topics together, trade ideas, teach methods, and pool their resources. Personally, though, I prefer the power of the online network because it is ubiquitous and perpetually renewing. I do not have access to many face to face network groups that can meet geographically in my area, but I have instant online access to colleagues around the world through blogging and microblogging.

    My collection of resources, thought-provoking ideas, and connections to experts has grown to enormous, global levels because of my membership in the Eduverse. It is literally a universe of information at my personal disposal.

  3. March 2, 2009    

    Are you describing a social network of practice? Would the way this group communicates and collaborates define this practice? I’m thinking social networking is an important part of this concept. I can go into a room full of people, meet people, make contact with important people in my field and this would describe a form of networking. When I think about a term like network of practice I automatically start thing about the social networking part of the concept because I utilize this way of networking more and more.

  4. March 2, 2009    

    When citing Brown and Duguid in the text, did you mean their
    Local Knowledge: Innovation in the Networked Age (2002) or
    Social Life of Information (2000), the only item in the references?

    • March 2, 2009    

      I was referring to the Social Life of Information (2000) where they define NoP as “networks that link people to others whom they may never get to know, but who work on similar practices” p. 141

  5. Glenn Groulx Glenn Groulx
    March 2, 2009    

    Thank you, Terry, for this informative post on edublogging.
    You wrote:

    “an aspiring edublogger needs to develop the set of network relationships such that their posts are read and responded to – in essence becoming a full member of the NoP” (Terry Anderson, Virtual Canuck blog post, 2009).

    I think that this comment presupposes that the primary role of blogging among established academic edubloggers is to reach a wider audience for professional networking. However, the specific needs and purposes of novice bloggers differ from experts. As a novice edu-blogger, I have maintained an edublog in some form since 2005. I was giving my first presentation to educators about blogs for beginners. uring the conference, I remember having a conversation with Stephen Downes at the This Is IT 2005 conference in Ontario, in which he advised me to use bloglines.com, and I have had an account ever since.

    I realize that developing a readership is a lengthy process; the development of one’s own edublog as a significant academic node takes time and careful planning. Yet cultivating readership is really just one of several priorities. I think that for myself, the primary purpose to maintain an edublog is to develop an enduring collection of field notes, reflections, and concept drafts. For beginners, an edublog should be considered as a concept incubator to practice required academic writing and research skills and attitudes to hopefully contribute meaningfully to a larger academic Network of Practice (NoP) of edubloggers, perhaps on a global scale in future. The initial stage is to practice the edublogging craft, drawing inspiration from model edubloggers.

    Anderson (2009) indicated that those involved in edublogging among academics are more interested in enhancing social capital than in cultivating a wider audience. “Quality contribution was associated with desire for building reputation and increasing social capital; [however], edubloggers who post frequent, high quality contributions did not hold high expectations of reciprocity.

    This supports my experience as a student edublogger. There is a significant difference between bloggers in general, academic edubloggers, and student edubloggers. Student bloggers are far more acutely aware of the consequences of publishing to a community than regular bloggers. Academic edubloggers are far more sensitive to presenting their ideas effectively, and much more cognizant of the fact that the content will be enduring and have a great impact on their own academic credibility. In contrast, bloggers in general, and in some cases, student edubloggers, are far less concerned with their ideas persisting in the public sphere over an extended period of time. (van Dijck, 2004).

    Currently, student edubloggers are not so concerned about the contributions, as they do not consider their own edu-blogs residing on institutions’ learning spaces as enduring records of personal learning. Instead, they are considered disposable, episodic in nature, a hodgepodge collection of learning highlights. Very few of these blogs are commented on by other students. Thus, the majority of these edublogs might consist of superficial personal reflections, a shallow series of clippings, some dead links and some rudimentary drafts posted to fulfill course requirements. These student edublogs are transitory, with a period of activity lasting weeks or months, and seldom last past the end date of a course of study.

    Oftentimes, learners new to blogging expect to respond and comment on (and receive comments from) other students, as well as their instructor. There tends to be a period of anticipation followed by disappointment, in which a learner adjusts their expectations. For the beginning blogger, the audience consists of a handful of other students, all with limited experience of blogging, and the student blogger’s relationship is one of novice to mentor, all highly dependent on an instructor for guidance and encouragement. Thus, the majority of novice edubloggers are mainly blogging to thrash out one’s own ideas to either receive grades on an assignment, or in some cases, for one’s own future review.

    From my own experience, I think that although it is nice to receive comments from other students, it is not expected to be the sole purpose for writing. Initially, for beginner student bloggers, the edublog is to be considered as a drafting board, a writing space for rehearsing the communication of one’s voices, whether personal, public, and academic.

    Even though the posts can lead to reciprocity in terms of comments from anonymous others, it should not be considered the mode of practice, or standard, by which blog posts are measured, and learner participation assessed, particularly for novice bloggers who have just begun.

    Much of the literature on edublogging is emphasizing the necessity of connection, about “…synchronizing one’s experience with others, about testing one’s evaluations against the outside world. Blogging, besides being an act of self-disclosure, is also a ritual of exchange: bloggers expect to be signaled and perhaps to be responded to” (van Dijck, 2004, pg. 7).
    I agree with the necessity of dialogue. Jurgen Habermas (1974) identified the pivotal role of dialogue, and identified dangers of monological self-reflection, which occurs to student edubloggers who receive limited feedback at the initial stages of their learning journeys:
    Self-reflection by a lone student necessitates a split of one part of the self from another part so that the student can provide feedback to oneself at a later time. Yet the self-talk is open to distortions. To prevent this, it is crucial to extend the hermeneutic circle to develop a critical community of conversation. Such a community depends upon dialogical reflection to that expose and remedy contradictions and distortions in thinking. Such a critical community of conversation is guided by an instructor’s scaffolding, feedback that encourages students to stay on track and remain engaged in the process, and not get intimidated by or defensive about working with concepts in a shroud of ambiguity and uncertainty (Habermas, 2004).

    Blogging is an experience, a construction of self, a process that aids in the expression and organization of thoughts over an extended period of time. Self-definition is accomplished as a series of events, of conversations. Edu-blogging is an act of agency, of self-transformation, and it is a combination of blogging-as-action, and blogging-as-artifact. Blogging software is “…a cultural artifact which facilitate a social process in which exchange and participation are conditions to enacting citizenship” (van Dijck, 2004, pg. 8).

    Edu-blogs that outlast the confines of formal instruction serve an additional function: An enduring edu-blog formalizes a running, evolving dialogue and conversation between mentors and learners, providing a narrative stretched across time and experience.

    References:

    Anderson, T. (2009). Edubloggers as a Network of Practice, blog post in Virtual Canuck. Retrieved March 1, 2009, from http://terrya.edublogs.org/2009/02/28/edublogers-as-a-network-of-p

    Habermas, J. (1974). Theory and practice. Boston: Beacon Press.

    Van Dijck, J. (2009). Composing the Self: Of Diaries and Lifelogs, in FibreCulture Journal, Issue 3.
    Retrieved March 1, 2009, from http://journal.fibreculture.org/issue3/issue3_vandijck.html

  6. March 2, 2009    

    Great article and great discussion. Noticed the term “self-styled edublogger” used a few times in the article and comments. Is there another kind of edublogger?

    This article got me thinking about a recent entry by Clarence Fisher on his blog Remote Access in his post, “I’m Done with Edtech.”

    What I got out of his post and the ensuing discussion is that the terms (his example “edtech”) we use can be limiting. I think Clarence mostly took issue with the “tech” part and others questioned the “ed” or “edu” parts as well.

    I like the kind of blogs where someone uses the medium to gather, resources, ideas and reflections as part of their natural learning of any kind. If some other people come along for the ride that is fine. I really appreciate when exemplary learners like Downes and Anderson display their on going learning processes.

    I also agree with Sharon about the value of micro-blogging. I’m finding it is a very powerful way to sample ideas, opinions and resources from a very wide pool of talent and to participate in a wonderful rolling discussions.

  7. Glenn Groulx Glenn Groulx
    March 6, 2009    

    Hi Terry,

    I am a novice edublogger, and as such am a bit reluctant to put myself out there for more seasoned bloggers to read my ideas. Perhaps it is because of a bit of apprehension of how I will be received (or not received). Once you post to an academic community outside the “safe harbour” of an educational institution, you need to be prepared to engage in “gladiatorial battle” with far more experienced voices in the arena of ideas.

    Writing for an elite group of edubloggers takes a lot of skill – yet I am beginning to realize that edublogs have appeal for many learners. Not every edublogger who thrives as a personal blogger, or who blogs within a sharing cirle or sharing community, will be engaged and effective in the more formal learning community involving a wider, more experienced, audience. I would say that perhaps the opposite is true as well. Academics comfortable with rational discourse may not feel equally comfortable participating in sharing circles with a small group of co-learners, discussing feelings, half-formed ideas, impressions, and intuitions. Roles and expectations of participants differ. The type of postings required/expected for these blogging venues also differ, The skills and attitudes attendant to each of these blog spaces would differ.

    The ideas I present here are sketchy, based loosely on preliminary observations from case studies on the use of edublogs, as well as my experiences within the me2u athabasca community. However, I intuit that there is a progression in the scope of blogging over time for learners, and that various skill sets need to be cultivated before:

    1. personal writing space

    This space is meant for the expression of ideas which is shared with an educator who acts as learning companion and mentor. None of these posts are available to the general public, but perhaps a few are sent off as email to trusted sources.

    2. sharing circle

    This edublog acts as a personal writing space, but also acts as a drafting space and sharing space. There are a limited number of other individuals who comment on the blog’s posts, as well as the instructor, offering encouragement and insights. It is this developing synergy that indigenous pedagogues refer to as reciprocity. There is some posting on others’ blogs within the sharing circle, as well as on blogs that are publicly accessible.

    3. sharing community

    There is an ever widening group of confidantes, of kindred spirits, of well-wishers who make suggestions on new directions for exploration. The edublogger invites others into the fold to participate, and encourages still others to come and visit. At some point, starting perhaps with the sharing circle, but definitely more apparent in the sharing community, the edublogger’s motivations shift, and intensify. Such learners now explore others’ blogs and comment on others’ ideas, thus encouraging greater participation and attracting more individuals (experts, mentors) to take part in the discussions.

    4. learning community

    Most learning communities do not have the characteristics of the personal learning spaces, sharing circles, or sharing communities.
    They are recognized as a formal way of exchanging ideas. This is the open arena where ideas are debated, reputations are built, and credibility and academic stature at the national, even global, level is cultivated and defended.

    Glenn Groulx

  8. March 20, 2009    

    Hi Terry, Glen and all others,
    I have really enjoyed the post by Terry and the discussion by all. I think that edublogging can have lots of diverse purposes and forms, but that it has the overall purpose of discussing ideas that will be read by some others — few or many — and may or may not be commented upon, but usually serves the writers and the readers. There is a great advantage in scoping the land for interesting ideas and for social/professional networking potential.

    In the February March online free Innovate Journal, the first page writes: “In Innovate-Blog, James N. Shimabukuro offers a primer on I-Blog basics and issues a call for more engaged, active participants.” I really like the ideas Glenn Groulx has stated in his groupings in the last post and in his own blog writing and ideas to encourage new edublog- learners and how to build a framework about this practice as a teacher/learner.

    I like Terry’s comparisons and his clarity about NoP in which I have become quite immersed through the last while — on ipeace and other blog networks. I have never met the people and yet “peace” is very broad and people can add lots to the site. Jo Ann

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