Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Looking at communities of practice

There are a lot of ideas out there about what constitutes a community of practice (I am avoiding capitalisation, because I don't want to formalise the concept).

Dave Cormier has posted a contribution to the conversation, which has attracted some interest from the... well... community. The title of the post refers to 'managing' a community of practice. The quotes are his.

I can relate to the need for those quotes. From where I sit, my community of practice comprises a group of individuals I have chosen to learn from. They are the bloggers whose blogs are listed in my aggregator. They are the individuals I hold in esteem within the world of learning professionals. Some of them might not even realise that I regard them thus. Some, indeed, my not even readily recognise my name.

So I don't actually exercise any management of the people. I manage the intangible entity that they constitute in my very subjective view of the world. I may add new 'members' or remove those whose work has taken them down a path no longer relevant to me. I choose to comment on their blog posts or not. I choose to follow (or not) the conversations among others that ensue from their posts. I engage with them in various spaces: Ning communities, Facebook, online programmes of collaborative learning, etc.

So in effect, what I am managing is myself. My own online activity. And in a way it amounts to pretty much the same thing.

I prefer it this way.

Were I to exercise any direct management over the people, I would have to take responsibility for the direction of their output. This would put an end to serendipitous learning. I would unwittingly restrict my own learning journey because I know not what I know not... until someone addresses the matter and draws it to my attention.

So, to my wonderful community of practice... those of you who know that you belong and those of you who don't... I revel in the knowledge that I have no idea where you're going to take me next, but I look forward to the ride.

After all, this blog is called Karyn's erratic learning journey.

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