Communities of Practice – an audio reflection

As part of Module 2 of INF537 we are invited to think about Communities of Practice (CoP)…. Here I share my “thoughts and experiences with ‘Communities of practice’ – theory and real life observations” in a podcast (since the 1:30 on flipgrid was way to short).

Communities of practice must be one of the oldest forms of social learning around. Etienne Wenger and his co-authors and associates provide us with a useful definition and framework with which to describe and investigate CoPs. In the podcast embedded below, I discuss my understanding of this form of social learning and investigate the extent to which a Facebook group for school librarians: Int’l Library Connection functions as a CoP.

Listen to my reflection here… This is my first attempt at creating a podcast, part of my personal challenge during INF537 to be a participatory learner and share my thoughts as a connected learner.

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

 

Lessons from the project that did not happen

Following our first INF506 online meeting I came up with what I thought would be an easy social networking project:

At school we have a monthly-meeting book club, the members of which are all staff or faculty members (current and past) of our school. The club is informally led by one of the school librarians. Communication between members happen by email. Newly motivated by the workings of the INF506 Facebook group I wanted to explore the possibility of moving the book club’s communication and interactions from the email format to a closed Facebook group.

Initial investigations seemed positive. I found Facebook profiles for 49 of the 52 members of the email mailing list on the first try. With the agreement of the librarian organiser of the group, I sent out an email message to inquire about the interest in moving the communication to Facebook. I explained my proposal, listed some pros and cons and waited only seconds before the first positive response came…

The NO said: No, I do not want this.

The YES, BUTs should really count as NOs. Both respondents indicated that they will go along with a Facebook group, but…

… I really try to stay away from Facebook as it “sucks me in”.

… I really try to keep work and private lives apart and book club is school-related and Facebook is private.

The YESs were just that: YES!

I was surprised by the large number on NO RESPONSEs, since almost all of these have Facebook accounts. I have to reason that these are

mostly “WHATEVERs” and probably some that did want to seem negative by saying NO.

On reflection, here is what I learnt:

  • Email is a ubiquitous part of our school community, there is no way you can NOT open your email account multiple times a day. You do not have to go look for the messages, they find you. Even taking into account the huge rise in social media communication, email is still our most used format for digital communication channel – best for transactional information, broadcast communications an passive notification according to Becker (2016), Kallas (2018) and Canhoto (2017) provides similar arguments.
  • Because of Facebook’s ranking, it decides for you which posts you will see first, and the book club messages may go unnoticed. Finding these messages will need active and timely participation, and you may still miss the message if you do not scroll down far enough or if you get distracted along the way.
  • People choose which platforms serve which purposes intentionally, for example to keep different parts of their lives separate.
  • Don’t fix something that is not broken.

With all this in mind, I do not think that the closed Facebook group is in fact the best solution for the book club,
which does not even have a problem…


References

Becker, M. (2016, June 27). Facebook vs. email: Why email reigns supreme (and always will). Retrieved March 15, 2019, from The Business Journals website: https://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/technology/2016/06/facebook-vs-email-why-email-reigns-supreme.html

Canhoto, A. (2017, July 20). Mailing list vs Facebook group crib sheet [Blog post]. Retrieved from Ana Canhoto website: https://anacanhoto.com/2017/07/20/mailing-list-vs-facebook-group-crib-sheet/

Kallas, P. (2018, July 14). 11 Reasons Why Your Email List Beats Social Media. Retrieved March 15, 2019, from Dreamgrow website: https://www.dreamgrow.com/11-reasons-why-newsletter-beats-social-media/

Knowledge network effectiveness, a facebook group as example

 

The Int’l School Library Connection (ISLC) group on facebook acts as a knowledge network.

Having read Puch & Prosak’s article titled Designing Effective Knowledge Networks, I will comment on my interpretation of their principles to the above mentioned mentioned facebook group.

The ISLC group is a collection of individuals who connect through the facebook platform to invent and share a body of knowledge related to international school libraries. The focus is on developing, distributing and applying knowledge about the running of school libraries, associated policies and procedures.  Facebook provides a web-based platform where existing membership of the social media platform is now extended in a more specialised closed group (membership must be applied for). The shared interest is school library matters and the common goal to find solutions to problems and share good practice – more conceptually providing a vehicle for knowledge diffusion and a forum for interpersonal connectivity.

The main goals seem to be to facilitate connectivity, learning, and support of individual members’ work and needs.

Members seem to identify with the network and its aspirations, readily sharing their connections, resources and experiences. Community members share (and comment) on stories and anecdotes or ask for resources or advice. The contribution by members set a tone of safety, making it “ok” to show vulnerability and speak personally and boldly.

Although there is evidence of a leader, the group seems mainly self-organised.

The leader – and founder – of the group maintains a strong visible presence and acts as a role model, inspiring members. She is also the gatekeeper to grant membership to the group.  She seems to understand how online convening serve to build cohesion, connectivity, collaboration and engagement. A core group of very experienced librarians can also be identified and seen to contribute to discussions and requests for help on a regular basis. These act as a secondary level of leaders, although it is possibly a natural extension, flowing from their experience rather than an intentional design factor.

The nature or a Facebook platform does not leave much freedom for design of the network and its interactions. One of the big disadvantages is that created knowledge remains difficult to “mine”. There seems to be an attempt to tag with #tags, but this is inconsistently modelled and only partly successful. This is a clear example where intentional design principles can improve the functionality of the network.


REFERENCE

Pugh, K., & Prusak, L. (2013). Designing effective knowledge networks. MIT Sloan Management Review, 55(1), 79-88. Retrieved from http://niura.es/intranet/uploads/designing-effective-knowledge-networks.pdf