Online Learning Communities: Use of Micro Blogging for Knowledge Construction

Online Learning Communities: Use of Micro Blogging for Knowledge Construction

Xavier Inghilterra (I3m, France) and William Samuel Ravatua-Smith (I3m, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4876-0.ch006
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This chapter highlights the potential of educational microblogging as a mediation system to support the process of distance learning. In their experimental approach, the authors conducted participant observations with university students who used their pedagogical device over the course of two semesters. Students participated through peer-to-peer and peer-to-peer to tutor interactions that took place within the academic and personal spheres. In the research corpus, the communitarian dynamic of social networks combined with playful immersion is a fruitful heuristic for individualizing learning paths and strengthening student dedication and commitment. The digital ethnographic participant observations revealed that the sharing and dissemination of information via microblogging allowed the creation of new collaborative methods and development of a culture of participation within the community of student learners. The use of sociotechnical devices such as Twitter and microblogging have proven to be excellent tools for accustoming students to Web 2.0 technologies and ensuring optimal participation in the learning process. This chapter unveils a successful approach to constructing a digital ecosystem where social interactions are initiated (during real-time synchronous educational sessions) and extended outside of academic boundaries into the private sphere. The sociotechnical mediation that the authors have created around Twitter has proven to be very effective in linking these two spatio-temporally contiguous entities for the benefit of learning communities.
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Similar to the planetary village designed in the 1960s by some of the most renowned visionary theorists1, the Internet has acted as a melting pot of digital technologies present in societies around the world and developed an interconnected dynamic of all socioeconomic sectors. In making reference to Wikipedia, open source, creative Commons2 and other General Public Licenses3 (GPL), Yochai Benkler affirms that “Social production is a real fact, not a fad4” (Benkler, 2006). We are finished with the ancestral pattern of building information and knowledge that has been existent for over 150 years! Now is the time of social cooperation in a collaborative dimension that has never ceased to enrich socio-constructivist precepts. The “wisdom of crowds5 ” is the new model. Some argue that globalization is at the heart of the industrial economic models transition to an economy based on knowledge. By being connected on a worldwide scale, every day individuals have become innovative actors, creators of wealth and sustainable business models (Tapscott & Williams, 2008).

In this chapter, we describe these new modes of production and access to knowledge as connectivism that has been generating special interests in higher education. In his new paradigm, the use of digital technologies affect both the value attributed to the content and the modes of mediation themselves (Pédauque & Melot, 2006). At a time when the redistribution of roles is occurring, we assume that microblogging proposes a dialogical style and manner of communication that is coherent with the habits our students display in their current virtual communities. After a review of key literature6, we describe the mediation device that we used in our experiments with university students carried out through participant observations over two semesters with university students in a distance-learning program.

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