Participatory and Appreciative Adult Learning and Reflection in Virtual Environments: Towards the Development of an Appreciative Stewardship

Participatory and Appreciative Adult Learning and Reflection in Virtual Environments: Towards the Development of an Appreciative Stewardship

Simona Marchi (University of Rome, Italy) and Emma Ciceri (Postel, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-906-0.ch026
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Information Communication Technology, largely thanks to the development of web 2.0 resources, has encouraged the development of participatory learning processes beyond the logic of the individual learning/learners. Moreover, it has allowed the transition from a learning approach based on the development of individual capacity of critical reflection on experiences to an appreciative approach of learning, based on value creation, creativity, innovation, and based on the valorizationof the positive aspects of individual and collective experiences. These aspects will be approached with regard to the contribution offered by PAAR’s (participatory and appreciative action and reflection) theoretical and methodological perspectives and to the most recent contributions coming from learning in virtual environments. Eventually, we will suggest a facilitating model of learning partnership development in online environments.
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Throughout a day’s time, an average adult person logins and logouts of websites a number of times which undoubtedly varies according to age, genre, geographical area where he/she lives, revenues. When we talk about learning in virtual environments we are referring to a specific segment of the population: on average, people who are young, wealthy and living in most developed areas in the world. Given that this relativates the following topics into a specific population area, while still keeping an overall interest, we must ponder upon the customary action of getting into and out of virtual environments: does anything happen in between these actions and is it by any chance related to participation and learning? What pushes professionals to take part in virtual environments? Which features do virtual environments have for producing relevant learning experiences?

There are four features linking either individuals and communities to virtual environments which are: fun, need, sharing, learning. These simple features give way to a complex system of interactions where different actors play fundamental roles such as: individuals, communities, technologies, expectation systems. The fact that the system involves adult people, participating to and interacting with other complex systems at the same time, makes things get much more complicated.

When we refer to learning in virtual environments, as we are doing in this chapter, we are suggesting a very strong thesis: learning together without being together physically (Wenger, White & Smith, 2009). Learning online means learning along with other people that sometimes we know and sometimes we don’t. It could be through synchronous or asynchronous course formats but it also means using technology as a means for learning. In this case, technology and virtual environments become key actors in the learning process.

There are some aspects to consider in the learning process in virtual environments:

  • Learning in virtual environments. How do users learn browsing among different virtual environments?

  • Learning to participate. What does participation in virtual environments mean? What are the relationships between participation and learning in virtual environments?

  • Learning together through the use of technologies. What kind of relationship is there between technology and participants? How does technology enable individuals and communities and vice-versa?

In this chapter we will address these questions and make reference to participatory and appreciative learning principles (Ghaye, 2008). To accomplish this goal we will consider three metaphors: the journey metaphor, the participation metaphor and the metaphor of community. We will also identify features of learning together and participating to virtual environments. Finally we will consider a participatory and appreciative approach to facilitating learning, action and reflection in virtual environments.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Architecture of Participation: A way to consider and build virtual environments underlying the importance of rules and tools that encourage user participation.

Appreciative Stewardship: A way to facilitate learning in virtual environments based on the development of an appreciative gaze and of learning partnerships.

Appreciative Facilitation: Process that emphasizes what works well and concentrates on success and achievement.

Virtual Community of Practice: Community of individuals who share a domain of interest about which they communicate online. Participants share resources (i.e., experiences, problems, solutions, tools, methodologies) and contribute to the knowledge development within the domain.

PAAR Online: A methodological approach to learning together online based on participatory and appreciative action and reflection.

Virtual Learning Environment: A designed information space, a place or a configuration of places where people can interact, that can support learning activities.

Crowdsourcing: A method that involves and uses “crowds” (i.e., large, undefined, randomly distributed, undirected, unsupervised groups of people) to perform tasks and accomplish goals.

Participation: The process during which individuals, groups and organizations are consulted about or have the opportunity to become actively involved in a project or program of activity.

Technology in Practice: The use of the artifacts (human and non-human) and tools that make it easy to contribute and access the community’s knowledge and practices.

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