Friday, 11 March 2016

 Learning Communities and Social Pedagogical Networks for surgery

Within the various forms of learning theories, constructivism is founded on the principle where human beings construct new knowledge and learn through the collection of information when they come in contact with others and after assimilation and use with the existing knowledge from prior experience and learning. Wikipedia.

The three theoretical frameworks to be discussed are the development and evolution from the constructivists theory of learning.

“Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” - defined by Wenger (Wenger E, 2006)

These groups can be formed formally or informally can occur naturally or created specifically with a predetermined goal of gaining knowledge in their specialised area.
It is to the process of sharing of information and knowledge and experience within the group that individuals are able to interact and learn from each other and therefore develop themselves on a personal and professional level. (“Connectivism” 2013 ). Technology has enabled communities of practice to develop rapidly and easily online with various kinds of forums newsgroups and blogs. The activities include problem-solving, asking for information, developing projects, reusing assets and identifying knowledge gaps (Wenger, E 2006)

Commonly communities of practice as seen in various professional groups who meet periodically to learn from each other’s experience and at add to their existing knowledge. In the authors context these communities of practice can be seen in our national and international hand surgery professional societies which meet on a regular basis to share ideas experiences and discoveries of new knowledge. These communities maintain their connection by various discussion boards and forums.

The characteristics of a community of practice consist of a domain which could be a common ground knowledge base that would encourage and motivate members to participate and thereby facilitate learning among themselves. It also requires community where there is a group that would interact and are willing to share their experiences. The community of practice requires a practice that is the use of the knowledge within the community which is the specific focus for the community to share and develop the knowledge.

Communities of practice allows for the learners to take collective responsibility for the learning needs and managing the knowledge acquisition. They enable the practitioners to create direct connections and links between learning and their daily practice therefore making it more relevant and pragmatic . These communities of practice are not bounded by formal structures and therefore connection can occur across borders, nationalities and truly global.

Networked learning is defined as “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.” (Goodyear P, 2001) In networked learning the process of learning in itself is based upon the network - that is the connection between people and information - that is brought about through communication with one another supporting each other’s learning. It is the process of connection that facilitates learning. Here they can be learning that is formal or informal driven by a common interests among the learners. So networked learning is about connecting people with people that is  learners with learners and teachers and also connecting learners with various resource materials.

The characteristics of networked learning include the following (Goodyear, P.2001):-

Time shifts - technology allows for both synchronous and asynchronous connections for learning to occur

Place - The the current state of ubiquitous computing devices allows for anytime anyplace anywhere learning and connection to occur.

Digital preservation - The current technology allows for all transactions within the network to be stored and archived as a repository for future use, assessment and research.

Public/Private boundaries - The technology again allows for materials created , the interaction and the effects of learning on the students to be preserved and archive that can then useful for assessment

Forms of literacy - this form of learning now has the ability to not only include text in it pure form but of new text like hypertext links and also the integration of multimedia artefacts as resource material for consumption and prosumption. (production/consumption)

Content – The ability for technology to create, use, reuse and mix content allows for a very rich experience in networked learning .

Connectivism is a set theory of learning based on the fact that knowledge is distributed across a network of connection and therefore learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse these networks. (Siemens, G. 2005).

It is dependent upon nodes and links - the nodes being the people which can be the learner or the student or teachers, and the link is the connection between this people who then share information and knowledge so that learning can occur .

The principles governing connectivitsm include (Siemens, G 2005) ;-
  • ·       Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • ·       Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • ·       Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • ·       Learning is more critical than knowing.

·       Maintaining and nurturing connections is needed to facilitate continual learning
·       Perceiving connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill.
·       Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of learning activities.
·       Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

For connectivism to work enabling conditions required are (Pettenati, M. C., & Cigognini, M. E. 2007).:

  • ·       the ability of the learners to have basic technology skill,
  • ·       there must be generation and support of motivation,
  • ·       relevance in the whole process of learning and perceived real advantage by the learner
  • ·       positive group membership and culture
  • ·       and social climate allows for mutual understanding and social grounding i.e. trusted environment.

The four stages of the learning experience in connectivism, include an awareness and receptivity to the whole process. The next stage requires the connection formation between the parties and the network and the selection and filtering of the connections so that the learners can be active in this personal learning network .

In the third stage is where contribution and involvement begins between all the participants in the network. The learner becomes an active contributor and there’s acknowledgement of the learners contribution building reciprocal relationship and shared understanding. In the final phase there is reflection and metacognition i.e. thinking about thinking. Here the learners would consider modifying and rebuilding their own learning network become network aware and competent. (Pettenati, M. C., & Cigognini, M. E. 2007).

The implication of this is that content is not king but the ability to use, find and connect to content and content creators and owners of content, is more important.

In all three frameworks the commonality is individuals coming together. There are connection between the learners. There is communication between the learners and teachers within the three frameworks. The frameworks allows for the coming together of learners and teachers either online or even physically for mutual benefit. The frameworks allows for communication in any combination between all participants and repositories of knowledge and information. All three allow for the creation of learning artefacts collaboratively. The allow for learning to occur through connections between individuals and knowledge repositories in an environment of openness and collaboration.

So in communities of practice the emphasis is in the shared interests among a group of professionals who would learn each other’s experience and knowledge about the speciality subject. So here the learning occurs as a result of a shared interests and take connection can be either to the digital of physical media. It requires a domain a community and the practice. It excludes those who do not share the same interests and or practice.

In networked learning the emphasis is about the creation of networks that is node(people and knowledge) and link, the link being provided by technology. The technology allows the creation of  learning artefacts. In networked learning then there is a potential for universal accessibility and interaction. Here there is no requirement for shared interests or practice.

In connectivism learning can occur more favourably with the use of technology and allows for stronger user participation in the creation, sharing, use and management of resources (content). Technology has allowed for easy access for learners to joined any network place on the interests of the learner and they can immerse in learning and connect with other learners and to the rest of the world. The web 2.0 development has rewritten the whole basis for connectivism and some of the assumption based when the original theory was put forward are no longer valid and requires rethinking as argued by
Pettenati, M. C., & Cigognini, M. E. (Pettenati, M. C., & Cigognini, M. E. 2007).


·       Connectivitism. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 11, 2013, from
·       Goodyear, P.(2001) . Effective networked learning in higher education : notes and guidance . Publication of JCALT 2001.
·       Pettenati, M. C., & Cigognini, M. E. (2007). Social Networking Theories and Tools to Support Connectivist Learning Activities. International Journal of Web-Based Learning and Teaching Technologies (IJWLTT), 2(3), 42-60.
·       Siemens, G. (January 2005). Citing Website in International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning Retrieved March 21 2013,:From

·       Wenger, E. (June 2006). Citing Website. In Communities of practice. Retrieved March 21 2013, from

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