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.
Let me start this reflection with a very honest disclosure: I chose INF506 as the 6th module in my MEd studies because I was looking for a potentially “easy” module at an extremely busy time, both personally and professionally. After all, I have had an (evolving) presence on Facebook for the last 12 years, have been tweeting (sparsely) since 2012, have been blogging (first reluctantly and now enthusiastically) since the start of my studies in 2017, am presenting myself (admittedly half-heartedly) on LinkedIn, had my (dormant) Instagram account hacked, etc. etc. “I know about social media”, I thought. To be fair to myself, I at least I had a specific goal, as I wrote in my first blogpost, namely to explore development of a social media presence for our school library (Wocke, 2019c). What I did NOT anticipate, however, was for this subject to fundamentally and conceptually bring together so much of what I have already learnt during the past two years. It is as if the penny finally dropped, let me explain…
SOCIAL NETWORK THEORY
I used to see social networking as the use of Internet-based social media platforms to connect with people with whom I have something in common (Nations, 2019a). On these platforms I not only connect, but create and publish digital content, share and disseminate information and collaborate in groups. This was my understanding before INF506, as I used Facebook to connect with other teacher librarians through Facebook groups. During research for the charity project, however, I learnt that social network theory emphasises the fact that the links (ties) between members of social networks are of greater importance than the attributes of the members (nodes) of the network. This social capital is the integral value derived from the relationships among members of a social network and is gained through the strong ties AND the weak ties in the network (Wade, 2014; Utz & Muscanell, 2015, p. 421). This concept was clearly illustrated to me through the INF506 201930 Facebook group: In a comment to my post, a member of our cohort – not known to me and therefor a weak tie – introduced me to inTLlead.org, a grassroots leadership network of international school teacher librarians, which has now become an important part of my personal learning network – therefor a strong tie. This insight has positively changed my view of an extended presence on a platform such as LinkedIn, of the importance of forming and utilising weak ties AND of being a weak tie in someone else’s network. It is vital for individuals and organisations to cultivate and maintain accurate online identities and networks to be successful participants in the connected Information Society. Similarly, my perception of “knowledge creation and “learning” in the Digital Era has also undergone significant conceptual changes during my INF506 studies.
SITUATED LEARNING, KNOWLEDGE CREATION AND SOCIAL NETWORKING
Brown (2000) predicted the development of a social, online learning ecology comprising of a vast number of authors, virtual communities of interest groups, that can develop into a “powerful fabric for learning” (p. 19). He further described learning in situ, or situated learning, where learning happens socially, through participation and collective knowledge creation and the WWW becomes “not only an informational and social source but a learning medium” (p. 14). This incredibly powerful insight from 2000 already, is illustrated in Siemens’s anecdote (see below), where he explains that through his early attempts at blogging that he first realised that learning is a network forming process; that the social systems and technology systems that are part of human knowledge have become part of our capacity to know (USC: Learning and Teaching, 2014). His partner in formulating Connectivism as learning theory, Downes, states that knowledge consists of the network of connections formed from experience and interactions with a knowing community (Downes, 2010). Wow. It is during my INF506 studies that all these theories started to make sense. We ALL learn in the social networked environment. Learning – as an action – is changing, becoming increasingly less isolated and more social as a result of our participation in social networks. This is incredibly important for us as educators to keep in mind. The distinction between formal and informal learning is disappearing in this connected environment and MOOCs provide affordable and flexible ways to learn collaboratively in a social networking environment (MOOC, n.d.). Our students learn as much from watching YouTube videos as they do from being in our classes. Learning can increasingly happen on-demand and is more self-directed, because of the ubiquitous nature of information technology. Ohler (2010), explains that this ubiquity has changed our relationship with time and space and created an infrastructure that surrounds us in a continuous, “familiar stream of experience” (p. 78), that we find difficult to unplug from (p. 85). This technology is now so embedded in our environment that it is becoming invisible to us (p. 91).
Social networking is not a passing fad of personal egocentric feeds on Facebook and Instagram, it is a very fundamental part of how we now find information and learn. Conole (2011) argues that to make effective use of the affordances of open, social and participatory media and the networked information environment of the WWW, learners and teachers need the necessary digital skills, guidance and support (p. 305). As teacher librarian in the library of a secondary school, I see this support, as well as leadership in terms of information seeking and knowledge creation, as part of my responsibility and mission. We have easy and free access to Web 2.0 tools, such as blogs and wikis, but because of issues surrounding data and identity security and safety we need to create and choose safe environments for our students in which to develop the necessary digital skills needed to harness the stream of new technologies that keep appearing and create their digital identities (pp. 306-307). Teacher librarians need to take a leading role in educating students and teachers about intellectual property, academic honesty, copyright and creative commons licenses, as teacher librarians we also need to ensure that our school libraries, its resources and services facilitate collaborative and creative learning. Hirsch’s (2013) advice (which I have blogged about here): to create physical and virtual environments that foster and encourage learning, mentoring, collaborating, creativity and knowledge creating (p. 7); that facilitate and support the use of new technologies (p. 13); that seek ways to reach out and deliver service into the community (p. 8), will support learning in the connected environment.
AN OPEN APPROACH TO ACADEMIC DISCOURSE
The changes in academic discourse is the last fundamental insight that I would like to reflect on, because it is important for me as a student, social networker and information professional, but also for our teachers, as life-long learners, and our students who are preparing for further academic study. The new open, social and participatory media clearly have potential to radically transform teaching and learning, where “open” refers to the practice of sharing content as a default (Conole, 2011, p. 205). Social networking facilitates many ways to connect, communicate, collaborate and learn with and from an “open” network of peers, teachers, mentors and resources. Digital scholarship is emerging as an increasingly important way for academics to disseminate their teaching, learning and research (p. 307). The social networking environment enables this to happen in an “open” way. As librarians we need to advocate for and educate about the virtues and vices of important initiatives such as the Open Access Movement and Open Educational Resources (Eisen, 2105; Beall, 2015; “Open Access,” n.d.; “Open Educational,” n.d.).
OTHER STUFF I DID AND DIDN’T LEARN
Having listed my main conceptual and theoretical insights from this module does not really leave me room to reflect on practical learning. My personal practice with and evaluation of social media tools did not change much during these months. I did, however, learn a lot about how incredibly well charities use social media. I also learnt how important it is to choose social media platforms well, according to your audience and purpose, and to tailor content for the particular market and audience. I came across enterprise social networks for the first time and do NOT understand why we as a school “make do” with a one-way communication such as email, when Yammer & company is around.
I thought that through INF506 I would learn how to create an Instagram account for our school library. This sadly did not happen, in part due to the cancellation of the social media project, in part because my creation of a social media strategy for our school library did not entirely convince me of its purpose that (Wocke, 2019c). My gain as a social networker and information professional, in terms of a much stronger conceptual understanding of the information dissemination, knowledge creation and of learning in our social networking world makes up for this in spades.
Beall, J. (2015, May/June). What the Open-Access Movement doesn’t want you to know. Academe. Retrieved from https://www.aaup.org/article/what-open-access-movement-doesn%E2%80%99t-want-you-know#.XPJGC9MzYdU
Brookes, M. (2016, August 15). Connectivism – A learning theory for the digital age [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/vauFOd6XU_Q
Brown, J. S. (2000). Growing up digital: How the web changes work, education, and the ways people learn. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 32(2), 11-20. https://doi.org/10.1080/00091380009601719
Conole, G. (2011). Designing for learning in an open world. New York: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-8517-0
Downes, S. (2010). Learning Networks and Connective Knowledge. In H. H. Yang & S. C.-Y. Yuen (Eds.), Collective intelligence and e-learning 2.0: Implications of web-based communities and networking.
Eisen, M. (n.d.). Emerging Visions for Access in the Twenty-first Century Library: Vol. 119. The Open Access Movement in scholarly communication. Retrieved from Council on Library and Information Resources website: https://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub119/eisen/
Hirsh, S. (2013, October). The global transformation of libraries, LIS education, and LIS professionals. Paper presented at Library 2.013 Worldwide Virtual Conference, San Jose, CA, USA. Retrieved from https://rikkyo.repo.nii.ac.jp/index.php?action=pages_view_main&active_action=repository_action_common_download&item_id=16425&item_no=1&attribute_id=22&file_no=1&page_id=13&block_id=49
Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 9(3), 1-13. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/9.3.4
MOOC. (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2019, from http://mooc.org/
Nations, D. (2019, May 23). What is social networking? Retrieved May 31, 2019, from https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-social-networking-3486513
Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781452219448
Open access movement. (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2019, from Science Direct website: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/computer-science/open-access-movement
Open educational resources. (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2019, from UNESCO website: https://en.unesco.org/themes/building-knowledge-societies/oer
USC: Learning and Teaching. (2014, January 21). Overview of connectivism – Dr George Siemens [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yx5VHpaW8sQ
Utz, S., & Muscanell, N. (2015). Social media and social capital: Introduction to the special issue. Societies, (5), 420-424. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc5020420
Wade, M. (2014, December 4). Social network theory. Retrieved May 31, 2019, from Theories Used in IS Research Wiki website: https://is.theorizeit.org/wiki/Social_network_theory
Wocke, G. (2019a, May 14). How our school library can do social [Blog post]. Retrieved from Gretha Reflecting website: https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/grethaw/2019/05/14/how-our-school-library-can-social/
Wocke, G. (2019b, May 16). Is it a dinosaur, or is it a … library? [Blog post]. Retrieved from Gretha Reflecting website: https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/grethaw/2019/05/16/is-it-a-dinosaur-or-is-it-a-library/
Wocke, G. (2019c, February 27). Learning about social media [Blog post]. Retrieved from Gretha Reflecting website: https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/grethaw/2019/02/27/learning-about-social-networking/
Moons ago, in a faraway snowy land, a school librarian started her ETL 402 quest: to develop a strong theoretical base on which to build a school library that fosters engaged readers and enhance life-long learning (Wocke, 2018, November 11).
LESSON 1: Know your readers In the visually dominated lives of our students the screen has replaced the printed text as the main medium for communication and reading, according to Lamb and Johnson (2010), is not done in isolation any longer (Wocke, 2018, December 19). Printed books alone, are never going to be enough again to ensure that our students are “engaged readers” and according to Hashim and Vongkulluksn (2018) this is a critical component driving student learning and long-term academic success (p. 359). They reason that engaged readers are motivated and self-regulate their reading and apply learned strategies to real-life and out-of-school reading experiences (Wocke, 2018, December 30).
Davila and Patrick’s (2010) offer advice: find out what interests your readers – do not judge their choices, but read their suggestions and facilitate their choice (Wocke, 2018, November 24). Utilising the affordances of ICT to enhance reading – by linking the reading experience to multi-media formats – expanding the reading experience to include social links, extension and exploration opportunities and personalised elements as (Cullen, 2015; Wocke, 2018, December 29).
LESSON 2: Promote
It is vital to display and promote our collections in attractive and interesting ways. We need to organise our libraries in ways that make “browsing” easy and help students over the search hurdle (Cornwall, 2018). Kimmelman (2018) argues that uncluttered, quality collections counter choice overload and presents meaningful options to our patrons. Genrefication, for example, reduces the number of options and positively affects patron self-sufficiency and independence (Wocke, 2018, December 26). We recently implemented this by genrefication of our fiction collections and see immediate benefits for patrons and librarians. We are investigating expanding this further with our non-fiction collection and are looking at BISAC subject headings (2018) as a possible easier way of browsing than the DDC.
LESSON 3: Diversify
Librarians need to maintain diverse collections, not only in terms of genres (did this librarian fall in love with graphic novels and steampunk recently (Wocke, 2018, December 19, Wocke, 2018, November 29)!), but by incorporating cross-cultural and cross-curricular collections (Maclure, 2018, November 19). We must also expand outside of the walls of the library by including ebook and audiobook collections, even if these are not initially very popular, because it is important that we educate our communities to understand and embrace the value of multi-modal and multi-platform experiences as part of developing 21st century literacy (Horsley, 2018, December 27).
LESSON 4: Literary learning The last lesson is one that I did not even know I needed to learn: Literary learning enhances access to curriculum content (thereby supporting student engagement and learning) through inclusion of carefully selected works of literature into content learning. Readers encounter people, places, events and situations that allow them to develop an understanding for perspectives and points of view that may be different to their own experience and understanding (Ross Johnson, 2014, pp. 477-478). I learnt many literature response strategies, such as literature circles, book trailers and story mapping with which to build links between literature and curricular content.
How did the ETL402 quest end? Hopefully never! Much has been done, much remains to do, and I realise that my learning will be a life-long quest.
Complete BISAC subject headings list, 2018 edition. (2018). Retrieved January 27, 2019, from Book Industry Study Group website: https://bisg.org/page/bisacedition
Cornwall, G. (2018, July 22). How genrefication makes school libraries more like bookstores. Retrieved December 26, 2018, from KQED website: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/51336/how-genrefication-makes-school-libraries-more-like-bookstores
Cullen, M. (2015, December 21). How is interactive media changing the way children learn? Retrieved December 29, 2018, from Education Technology website: https://educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/2015/12/how-is-interactive-media-changing-the-way-children-learn/
Davila, D., & Patrick, L. (2010). Asking the experts: What children have to say about their reading preferences. Language Arts, 87, 199-210., 87, 199-210. Retrieved from http://www2.ncte.org/resources/journals/language-arts/
Hashim, A. K., & Vongkulluksn, V. W. (2018). E-Reader apps and reading engagement: A descriptive case study. Computers & Education, 215, 358-375. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2018.06.021
Horsley, D. (2018, December 27). Task 1: Ebooks & reading [Blog post]. Retrieved from ETL402 201890 Discussion Forum: https://interact2.csu.edu.au/webapps/discussionboard/do/message?action=list_messages&course_id=_35350_1&nav=discussion_board_entry&conf_id=_61731_1&forum_id=_143048_1&message_id=_2029004_1
Kimmelman, A. (2018). The wise whys of weeding. Teacher Librarian, 46(1), 20. Retrieved from https://primo.csu.edu.au/discovery/fulldisplay?docid=gale_ofa562488215&context=PC&vid=61CSU_INST:61CSU&search_scope=MyInst_and_CI&tab=Everything&lang=en
Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2010). Divergent convergence part : cross-genre, multi-platform, transmedia experiences in school libraries. Teacher Librarian, 37(5), 76-8.
Mclure, I. (2018, November 19). Thread 4: Multicultural literature [Blog post]. Retrieved from ETL402 201890 Discussion Forum: https://interact2.csu.edu.au/webapps/discussionboard/do/message?action=list_messages&course_id=_35350_1&nav=discussion_board_entry&conf_id=_61731_1&forum_id=_143059_1&message_id=_2048880_1
Ross Johnson, R. (2014). Literature, the curriculum and 21st century literacy. In G. Winch, R. Ross Johnston, P. March, L. Ljungdahl, & M. Holliday (Authors), Literacy: Reading, writing and children’s literature (5th ed.). Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.
Teacher librarians can be invisible and seemingly insignificant in terms of the contribution we make to the learning experience and academic success, if WE do not take charge and make sure that we make a difference in a unique way.
I need to establish where I can best support – what my best qualities are and use this to determine my focus – concentrate on the 10% that want my help and identify the 30% that may be inte rested in my support. It must be clear what I stand for as I reach out and build relationships with students and teachers.
Information has always been central to human development because data/information and knowledge is necessary for us to remember, learn, know and think. Why is it then that our society has become known as the information society? And what does this term mean?
It all started when digital technology enabled us to represent information that originated in any format (image, sound, text, numerals) in a homogeneous format that is accurately and efficiently stored, manipulated, and transmitted.
The spectacular technical advances that followed digital representation, the convergence of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the fact that computing power and digital storage became faster, smaller and cheaper, has resulted in the widespread dissemination of computers and digital information in our society (Webster, 1994, p.3).
More and more economic activity, associated with the wealth of a society, is based on production and trading of information-based goods, turning information into a major commodity (Bawden and Robinson, 2012, p. 232). According to Floridi (2010) a country qualifies as information society if at least 70% of the Gross Domestic Product depends on information-related goods (p. 5). The functioning and growth of these economies rely on generation of immense amounts of data and information related products, generated by a workforce with occupations found predominately in information work (Webster, 1994, p. 8).
image by TheDigitalArtist, downloaded form pixabay
ICTs has enabled the development of digital networks, which has had an unparalleled influence on how easy it is for people to connect, access and transmit information – resulting in the ability of humans to transcend the boundaries of space and time in the virtual spaces and communities where socialisation and transactions are now possible. IT infrastructure has made global integration possible, linking people regardless of time and space, allowing them to exchange information and knowledge (Webster, 1994, p.12). Castells sees the importance of networks so paramount that he refers to this society as “the Network Society” (2010, p. 500). He reasoned that “networks substantially modify the operation and outcomes in processes of production, experience, power and culture”.
The digital nature of the information society has resulted in an information landscape that is characterised by multiple formats and delivery modes and an enormous increase in the amount of information available. Because of the ease of production and publication there are real concerns about the authority and authenticity of information (Fitzgerald, n.d.). Further problems associated with the availability of large volumes of information in different formats, are information overload, continuous partial attention, and the digital divide – poverty and generational gaps (Bawden and Robinson, 2012, pp. 243 – 245). Even though it has a global nature, the information society is influenced by national and international policies, laws and regulations in terms of intellectual property, copyright, patents, etc. (p. 235).
The fact that there is no one accepted definition for the information society may have to do with the fact that we are still very much in this era, an era that is already known for constant and accelerated change; as well as the fact that “information” has proved to be such a primitive concept, basic to human understanding, that it defies defining (Case, 2006, p.66).
Why is it important for the teacher librarian to understand the information landscape?
In the information society there has been a large increase in information available, both in new and old formats of media, in this landscape teacher librarians (TL) can give students access to information sources that support their individual needs.
In the connected digital era it is easy for students to rely on the Internet, believing that it is a one-stop-shop for information, where all information is good information, not realising that the fact that information is freely available does not mean that it is reliable or accurate (Combes, 2016). TLs have an important role to play in ensuring that, in this information landscape, students are critical users of information who develop the information skills needed to locate, retrieve and evaluate relevant information sources. We know that in the information society, the information landscape keeps changing as technology advances. TLs must stay abreast of current developments to stay relevant as professionals and to be able to support their patrons in finding the information they need.
Bawden, D., & Robinson, L. (2012). Information society. In Introduction to information science (pp. 231-249). London, UK: Facet.
Case, D. (2006). The concept of information. In Looking for information: A survey of research on information seeking, needs and behaviour, pp. 40-65. 2nd ed. Burlingham: Emerald Group Publishing Lid. ebook, CSU Library.
Castells, M. (2010). Conclusion: The network society. In The rise of the network society (2nd ed., pp. 500-509). Retrieved from https://deterritorialinvestigations.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/manuel_castells_the_rise_of_the_network_societybookfi-org.pdf
Combes, B. (2016). The nature of information: The story of chicken Little. [Webinar]. Retrieved Mar. 2018 from Interact2 CSU.
Fitzgerald, L. (n.d.). The information environment. Retrieved March 10, 2018, from S-ETL401_2018_30_W_D (Introduction to teacher librarianship) website: https://interact2.csu.edu.au/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_34577_1&content_id=_2060420_1
Floridi, L. (2010). Information: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Webster, F. (1994). What information society? The Information Society, 10(1), 1-23. https://doi.org/10.1080/01972243.1994.9960154