This week, the critical discussion around the concept of community was very interesting to me because up until now most of the discourse around community (in both the Community of Inquiry framework and in discussions of Communities of Practice) have been neutral or positive. I had not considered the potential of communities to suppress differences of opinion.
Hodgson and Reynolds suggest that the idea of a community can promote conformity, discourage differences and is undemocratic (2005). Their remedy for this problem of community with a multi-community paradigm that they believe to be best supported by networked learning where networked learning is…
…learning in which information and communications technology (ICT) is used to promote connections: between one learner and other learners, between learners and tutors; between a learning community and its learning resources.Jones, 2015
This critical perspective on the concept of community has a direct bearing on one of my exploratory questions for this course:
“How does computer mediated communication differ from face-to-face communication in the development of a community (of practice or of inquiry)?”
Hodgson and Reynolds suggest that because Networked Learning acknowledges and allows for differences in perspective, it can facilitate participative and democratic learning (2005) by allowing for multiple communities to co-exist, including sub-groups and splinter groups.
When considering this from a Community of Practice perspective, however, particularly through a professional education lens, I think the creation of sub-groups and splinter groups can be problematic. Consensus is an important quality in these communities, but the culture and values of the community can (and are) renegotiated through every act of enculturation. As learners acquire their identities as medical doctors, “ideas, principles and values may be debated leading to reformulation (Bleakley et. al., 2011, p. 64).
Another interesting conversation that came up this week was the idea of hierarchy and power structures. Our discussion was around hierarchy in education (see notes 1941, 1989, 1992, 2011), but a similar hierarchy can exist in learning communities. Networked learning can further help democratizing education by flattening this hierarchy. Interesting, the characteristics of networked learning that is seen to contribute the most to anti-hierarchical discourse is the lack of non-verbal cues. Hodgson and Reynolds suggest that networked learning environments can lead to an “ideal speech situation” and “can alter rhythms and patterns of social interactions in ways both powerful and pervasive” (2005, p. 13).
- Bleakley, A., Bligh, J., & Browne, J. (2011). Medical Education for the Future [electronic resource] : Identity, Power and Location / by Alan Bleakley, John Bligh, Julie Browne. (1st ed. 2011.). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-9692-0
- Jones, C. (2015). Networked Learning [electronic resource] : An Educational Paradigm for the Age of Digital Networks / by Christopher Jones. (1st ed. 2015.). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-01934-5
- Hodgson, V., & Reynolds, M. (2005). Consensus, difference and ‘multiple communities’ in networked learning, Studies in Higher Education, 30:1, 11-24.