Sunday, July 24, 2011

Social Networks, Communities of Practice, and Personal Learning Network

Week 8

According to the Merriam-Webster´s online dictionary community is:

: a unified body of individuals: asa : statecommonwealthb : the people with common interests living in a particular area; broadly : the area itself <the problems of a largecommunity>c : an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common locationd : a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society <a communityof retired persons>e : a group linked by a common policyf : a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests <the international community>g : a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society <the academiccommunity>
The word community derives from the word common which is the key word of the definitions above, as you can see.   As very well stated in Merriam-Webster´s online dictionnary a community is every group of persons sharing the same interest, likes, social or economic interest.  Thefore, we as EFL/ESL teachers constitute a community because we all share the same interest for education, learners, technology in some cases, material design in others, assessment, developing learners´s skills, different approaches, in simple terms we share something in common.  
In relation to EFL and ESL  there are very important international communities of practice or CoPs as they are known like TESOL, WikiEducators, Webheads in action, Diigo communities and locally AVEALMEC, VenTESOL´s, ELTnet among others.  The main aim is to get together, share and collaborating for the purpose of growing in knowledge and number.  
Recently, social networks as Facebook and Twitter have been growing rapidly and amazingly they can also be used for educational purposes with our learners outside the class.  These networks can be the means to convey short messages, have our students write and share ideas, send homeworks and giving instructions for delivering projects, etc.  It is also a good way to have them practice the language among themselves and not only with the teacher, and since messages are not long, they may feel there is opportunity for practicing without making many mistakes.  

community of practice (CoP) is, according to cognitive anthropologists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, ¨a group of people who share an interest, a craft, and/or a profession. The group can evolve naturally because of the members' common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally (Lave & Wenger 1991). CoPs can exist online, such as within discussion boards and newsgroups, or in real life, such as in a lunch room at work, in a field setting, on a factory floor, or elsewhere in the environment¨.  While Lave and Wenger coined the term in the 1990s, this type of learning practice has existed for as long as people have been learning and sharing their experiences through storytelling.

Brantlee Underhill, PMI Director of Practitioner Markets makes this interesting interview to PhD Etienne Wenger, an authority on CoPs that I would like to share with you, enjoy it!


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