Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Understanding Practice

In reading Chaiklin and Lave this week, I found it to be a nice transition from the previous text we read on knowledge communities with Fleck to the situated learning concept with Wenger. I thought the authors compiled several interesting cases to show exactly how we can understand how learning can occur in real-life situations based on the units of analysis being the combination of the person, activity and situation and how learning occurred. I found the blacksmiths and the college career center to be the most effective cases in helping me understand the overall concept of the book. However, other cases the authors provided left me more confused or wanting more these were the examples of the psychotherapists and the chapter on artificial intelligence researchers – did anyone else run into the same issue? I felt they lacked a deeper and clearer explanation that other cases accomplished.

One aspect that had an impression on me was in the last chapter in which the authors stated, “not all knowledge belongs to the individual” (385). This reminded me of the knowledge communities that we were discussing with Fleck a few weeks ago in that knowledge cannot be attributed to only one member of the group but based on the contribution from all the members in the group over a period of time. I found the quartermasters and college career center examples to be the most effective in showing how learning is not attributable to one individual but several people who are immediately part of and/or external to the situation, how dependent the learning is on the artifacts and technology on hand that define and give further meaning to the practice, and the activity itself that contributes to the knowledge gain. It’s a combination of all of these that allows the quartermasters to learn how to steer the ship and how the students learn how to navigate through the computer system and the college career center.

I am wondering how Chaiklin and Lave’s book can relate to the communities of volunteers and individuals that helped those during the Katrina disaster? Is it possible to analyze this as a learning situation? Over the weeks we have seen and heard many stories about the contributions of multiple members of specific communities from medical practitioners to volunteer organizations to neighborhoods that came together from all over the country and the world to help in rescue efforts and disaster relief. It seems that the knowledge of just one individual in this case could not be applicable. But in what each member could contribute, what the current situation entailed and how the activities were carried out that were apt for those who needed help from Katrina.

From a technology standpoint, I am wondering how the large number of websites and blogs that were set up as virtual communities after Katrina to help people locate each other, give information on disaster relief or serve as a forum for people to share their experiences, could represent communities of learning that vary in context and perhaps practice, but ultimately achieve a common purpose of sharing and providing a growing body of virtual knowledge to everyone involved?

2 Comments:

Blogger jmj said...

The Katrina question is interesting (it might be the Rita question soon). I think in that case you would have many highly skilled individuals with no experience working together trying to collaborate. It would be fascinating to track the development of their successes and failures as they attempted to accomplish their tasks.

10:56 AM  
Blogger gfp said...

That is really interesting. There is definitely a unique context within which online interaction regarding Katrina is occurring. I also think it is interesting how the experiences of Katrina has effected learning within this new situation of Rita--I don't think they're separable as these contexts overlap.

3:03 PM  

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