“The Mechanics of Learning”, a Glogster collage, was inspired by Wenger who said, “communities of practice have been around for as long as human beings have learned together.” (Wenger, 2006) As I reflected upon this quote, I wondered which professional community of practice might have existed first. For some reason, I thought of ancient Greek dramatists and actors. In turn, this thought led me to the concept of simple machines or mechanical devices. Early Greek theatre relied upon a mechane or a mechanized pulley system in order to lift an actor up into the air to simulate flight.
Each mechanized device in the collage symbolizes the following concepts: personal learning networks (PLN) = gears; communities of practice (CoPs) = pulleys; and Connectivism = computer motherboards and applications. The devices evolve from pulleys to gears to computers to computer applicaitons to show how PLNs and CoPs have changed over time because of technology. The learner image, situated bottom-centre, is someone who is connected by choice. Her thoughtful expression mirrors her ability to choose which networks or communities to join. Of course, the availability of technology allows her to connect with individuals who share common interests or goals even if these individuals are worlds apart.
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The Mechanics of Learning
The still images of the tractor and watch gears symbolize personal learning networks (PLN) in action. Gears cannot work in isolation; they rely on other gears in order to function effectively. According to Nardi, PLNs must fulfill three primary tasks if they are to be successful: 1) build connections, 2) maintain connections, and 3) activate connections with selected persons for the purpose of learning. (Rajagopal et al, 2011) Like PLNs, gears must connect with other gears and maintain that connection if the mechanism is to advance the hands on a watch or propel a tractor forward. The moving images or dramatization entitled “The Magic Wheel Star” also demonstrates that different shaped gears can still work together as long as they maintain a common goal. Digenti states, that “the PLN consists of relationships between individuals where the goal is enhancement of mutual learning.” (Seaman, 2013) This statement implies that learners’ personal interests or goals, as well as their desire to learn more, motivates them to connect with other learners in a network so that they may grow personally and professionally.
Pulleys, like gears, are simple machines that allow humans to work more efficiently, if not easily. The two moving images or dramatizations, “Flygrossing: Aerial Stunt Combat System” and “The Flying System at the Olivier Theatre” (the push pin), along with the still image of a pulley system, symbolize communities of practice. According to Wenger, a social learning theorist, 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.” (Wenger, 2006) In both dramatizations you clearly witness a group of people brought together because of a passion for “stunt flying”. Although the pulley systems are different, both groups share a common goal of becoming better performers. This cannot be achieved without collaboration and mentorship. In both video clips you also see an apprentice (learner) being guided by a mentor (instructor). Basically, “they build relationships that enable them to learn from each other.” (Wenger, 2006) It is interesting to see, no matter the occupation or the passion, that social beings are more likely to thrive if they are active members of a learning community.
The theory of Connectivism also supports the idea that learning is active and social. Although the starting point of Connectivism is the individual, it is clear that learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. (Siemens, 2004) The images of a computer’s motherboard and the social media apps represent the fact that learning requires a communication system that allows learners to connect no matter who there are or what they do. Simply put, computers or computer based technologies bring people together in the digital age. Even the picture of the three elementary students building a computer indicates that technology is also a starting point for Connectivism. According to Siemens computer networks, power grids, and social networks all function on the simple principle that people, groups, systems, nodes, entities can be connected to create an integrated whole. (Siemens, 2004) In this day and age, “personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to individual.” (Siemens, 2004) Because change occurs so rapidly, learning is not something that can be done in isolation anymore. Learners need to be connected to remain current in their field. Knowledge development requires a technology that unites learners and allows them to network.
All in all, it is clear that learning requires continuous access to networks or communities if individual knowledge development is to flourish. Furthermore, it is also clear that learning is a social activity dependent on technology or technologies that bring learners together in order to share common interests, goals, and knowledge.
After reading Marzano’s article on nonlinguistic representations, I decided to add the moving images or dramatizations to my collage. Marzano says that nonlinguistic representations may take on many forms including “dramatizations”. (Marzano, 2010) I thought this: if the dramatizations are visual forms of expression (not verbal) then the clips should meet the expectations of the assignment.
Marzano, R. (2010). The Art and Science of Teaching / Representing Knowledge Nonlinguistically. The Key to Changing the Teaching Profession, 67(8), 84-88. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may10/vol67/num08/Representing-Knowledge-Nonlinguistically.aspx
Rajagopal, K., Joosten-ten Brinke, D., Van Bruggen, J., & Sloep, P. (2011). Understanding personal learning networks: Their structure, content and the networking skills needed to optimally use them. First Monday, 17(1). doi:10.5210/fm.v17i1.3559
Seaman, A. (2013, January 3). Personal learning networks: Knowledge sharing as democracy. Hybrid Pedagogy. Retrieved from http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/Journal/files/Personal_Learning_Networks.html
Siemens, G. (2004, December 12). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from http://www.ingedewaard.net/papers/connectivism/2005_siemens_ALearningTheoryForTheDigitalAge.pdf
Wenger, E. (2006). Communities of practice: a brief introduction. Retrieved from http://www.ewenger.com/theory/