Students as Communities of Non-Practice: Making the Case for the Use of Social Media in Higher Education

Students as Communities of Non-Practice: Making the Case for the Use of Social Media in Higher Education

Stylianos Hatzipanagos (King’s College London, UK)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1915-9.ch016
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The concept of communities of practice has been particularly influential in education, particularly in online learning, where it has been adopted enthusiastically. This also applies to social media, where often engagement in online activities is interpreted somewhat uncritically as a set of behaviours and tendencies exhibited by virtual communities of practice. The notion is that social media can facilitate formal and informal learning because they are not content-centred but people-centred, open, and participative. On the other hand if embedding social media within learning set-ups sustains communities of practice that support learning, it is important to explore how and when this happens. The chapter explores the correspondence between the key constituent components of the CoP framework and the attributes of social media that allow claims about formation/sustenance of CoPs.
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Communities Of Practice: Educational Framework Or A Useful Heuristic?

The term CoP has been used to describe groups of people who share concerns, problems, and passions about a topic, and who choose through membership to the community to deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an on-going basis (Wenger et al., 2002).

CoPs have members of variable expertise that can be simultaneously present, participating in a fluid peripheral to centre movement that symbolises the progression from being a novice to becoming an expert. The assumption is that there is a transition from peripheral participation for the novices to acquire full membership of the community. Lave and Wenger (1991) named this ‘legitimate peripheral participation’, which they characterize as an enculturation process. Learning occurs through the legitimate peripheral participation, by which new learners become part of a community of practice by ‘travelling’ between boundaries and thereby acquire that particular community’s subjective viewpoint and learn to speak its language (Brown and Duguid, 1991: 48). There seem to be three main conditions for the formation of a CoP, i.e.: a shared repertoire, mutual endeavour and expert-novice interaction.

The theory drew extensively from the situated cognition debate (Brown, Collins and Duguid, 1989). The idea of ‘situated learning’ where situations…co-produce knowledge through activity, given that learning and cognition are fundamentally situated (ibid.) also becomes the mode of engagement with the CoP. Interactions in the community are characterised by engaging with authentic tasks and communication (Johnson, 2001: 45).

In addition, the implication was that similar communities could be created in post-compulsory education. The assumptions for these CoPs were:

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