Sunday, September 25, 2011

EDUC 578 Post #2-Communities of Practice

     According to Wenger, Communities of Practice are "formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavor".  To put it simply, he argues that learning happens collaboratively and not individually.  This theory suggests that formalized education is not the optimal learning environment and that students would better learn from others in these different communities of practice.  He distinguishes communities of practice from regular communities by stating that there is a common "domain", which involves a commitment and a shared competence.  Wenger suggests that these communities come in all different shapes and sizes; therefore they can be big, small, in person, online, etc.  Situated learning is connected with communities of practice, because it emphasizes that education is more than "learning by doing" or "experiential learning".  This theory further emphasized that formalized education is not the ideal means for learning. 
     In the inFed article, the author expresses that with communities of practice and situated learning there is a de-emphasis on formal institutions such as schooling.  I see the de-emphasis but I don't know if I agree with completely getting rid of school altogether.  I think that rather than looking at eliminating the formal institution of school in favor of just communities of practice (assuming all children would even voluntarily participate in them), we should use the formal institution as a means to achieve learning through communities of practice.  In Wenger's article he dicusses the difference between internal and external learning through education.  He notes that internal is the learning that takes place within the four walls of the classroom and external is the learning that occurs beyond those four walls, out in the world.  Why not teach and learn within the classroom in a way that is meaningful so that students can take what they learn and apply it in life?  Students will learn more that way and then in turn would be better members in these communities of practice.  In a way, classrooms can become their own communities of practice as long as the teacher recognizes and understands that learning is not one-way, we all teach and learn from each other.  This would take away the assumption that learning is something that individuals do and that learning has a beginning and and end.  There is an assumption in the inFed article that "teaching" only recognizes this assumption of learning having a beginning and and end, but I disagree with this because I believe that the purpose of teachers is to give students a means to recognize their potential and open their minds to many different things, which does not at all support the position that there is an end to learning.   
     The article that I found, which does not completely support communities of learning is Enhancing Education:  Formal vs. Informal Education  This article suggests that there are benefits to formal education, such as an ongoing learning process within the classroom vs. activities done in after-school programs which are limited to one day because of the changing nature of participants each day.  This article also notes that teachers have a formalized education in teaching, standards, and developing curriculum, vs. people who do not have such training.  This does not discredit those that don't have teaching education as a means for children to learn, but those that do have the experience are better equipped than those that don't.  This article connects with the theory of communities of practice because the theory suggests that people learn better in informal learning situations, which might not be the best option for some students.  Some students need more of a structure and basis that will help them become more successful participants in communities of practice on their own later in life.
   This theory of communities of practice ties in nicely with our Personal Learning Network because we are actually participating in a community of practice by creating one.  The theory of communities of practice suggests that technology expands the possibilities for community, because we are now connected with people all over the world, vs. just people that we know and can see in person.  The inFed article also suggests that we begin in communities of practice in a sort of "peripheral participation" into "full participation", which can be mirrored in our PLN as well.  When we create our PLN, we being as "lurkers", which can be viewed as peripheral participation, and once we grow our network and gain more information, we will start to fully participate and develop our own networks of learning.

A note on my PLN:
*This week I enhanced my blog by changing settings such as the background, text (yes, I ventured into the "advanced" section!), layout, etc.  I also figured out how to add the Class Blogroll, added a picture, completed my second page "About Me" section, and am now adding a third blog.  I also "followed" the rest of my classmates and figured out how to see when they post new blogs.
*I explored Diigo some more and made sure to add the links to the webpages I found for my first assignment, added the link from this assignment and linked up with the rest of my classmates.  I also went into the Learning&Teaching group and I read an article and everyone's comments, then I commented myself!  
*I also wrote my first tweet, but I still need to upload a picture so I'm not an egg and need to figure out how to post a link within the tweet.


  1. Sherilyn,
    When reading your post, it got me thinking about what a "teacher" is. This day and age, anyone and everyone is a "teacher" if you share knowledge to someone else, but when we think of the formal educational profession, what constitutes as a teacher? There are a diverse array of individuals that come into education, and not all of them hold credentials or even have formal training. Thus, what keeps us, those getting of Masters in Education, from those people on the internet "teaching" our students? I guess this rubs me the wrong way because i became an educator to teach students not just content, but how to be a respectable, motivated, citizens of society but I am getting grouped with others that make a youtube video of how to solve an equation. I think with this we need to reevaluate what the word teacher means and what their purpose truly is. I think formal education needs to be balanced with informal education, however formal education has many benefits for students to learn not just content skills, but life skills. (Sadly not all teachers in schools are effective or motivated to teach these skills). Anywho thanks for allowing me to rant on your blog.

  2. I agree that not all teachers are effective or motivated to teach life skills to students. I actually read an article (and commented too) that Jeff posted on Diigo about what students are saying about education and one student said that teachers should also get a degree in counseling. I thought this was very intriguing, because it suggests that students really want you to help them in their personal life and give them life skills and we really need to respond to that and help these students in any way we can.
    No problem about the rant, I actually agree completely! I want to know that all this time and money I'm putting into my education in order to become an amazing teacher is recognized that that I'm not being "outed" by someone on youtube who didn't have the same training. I guess that we have to look at it as there are learning opportunities everywhere and we can always learn from/teach others, but we have the skills from our training that puts us in a position to really reach students and teach them in a more formal way. I don't know if that helps!

  3. I agree with you that schooling is still an important institution that needs to be kept. One because I've always been that kid who loves school. My mom and dad would have to drive me to school on Saturdays just to show me that school was not in session. But more importantly, just as you have mentioned, formal and informal education go hand in hand. As educators, we need to find ways in which we can enhance and enrich learning by taking advantage of both forms of learning. We need to be open minded and creative in finding ways in which we can bring informal learning into our classroom along with challenging our students to make applications and connections with what they learned in the classroom while they are around and about in the real world.

  4. Hi Sherilyn!

    I agree with you that I see the de-emphasis on formal learning, but I don't think we need to get rid of formal learning all together. I feel that there needs to be a foundation of learning, which serves as the formal environment and there needs to be a relation to students every day lives, but we can't just have one kind of learning by itself.

    I also thought your article to be interesting. I bookmarked it in Diigo so that I can fully read the article later! The reason that I thought the article was so interesting is because I worked for an after school program in East Los Angeles for 5 years and I can the arguments of formal in-class learning vs. the informal after-school learning. As an after-school educator, we often got lots of criticism from the "regular day" staff because we could be so unconventional in our activities and learning experiences. We often we considered "baby-sitters" or even a place where students just play games. But in reality, many of our "classes" were out of the box learning experiences that related to what the students were learning during the regular school day. For example, I taught a class called "Gross Science" and we did unconventional science experiments that would be considered "gross"! Students were engaged in the informal learning experience and it reinforced what they had been learning during school. I know that we weren't the "regular" after-school program, but we had staff that were trained to write their own lesson plans and curriculums and meet with the regular school day teachers (well, those who were willing to work with us) and we had a regular set of students that would come after school every day. It was a lot of work, but it was beneficial to the students!

    Thanks for your post!

  5. First, I love that you advanced your blog! Yay! I liked your article that you found. I agree with the idea that formal and informal learning need to be connected. They shouldn't necessarily be separate entities. We should find a way to combine them to create a more enjoyable learning environment.