A theoretical framework for building online communities of practice with social networking tools

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  • This article was downloaded by: [American Public University System]On: 20 February 2014, At: 07:10Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Educational Media InternationalPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/remi20

    A theoretical framework for buildingonline communities of practice withsocial networking toolsCharlotte N. Gunawardena a , Mary Beth Hermans a , DamienSanchez a , Carol Richmond a , Maribeth Bohley a & Rebekah Tuttlea

    a University of New Mexico , 3601 University Se, Albuquerque, NM,87106, USAPublished online: 18 Mar 2009.

    To cite this article: Charlotte N. Gunawardena , Mary Beth Hermans , Damien Sanchez , CarolRichmond , Maribeth Bohley & Rebekah Tuttle (2009) A theoretical framework for building onlinecommunities of practice with social networking tools, Educational Media International, 46:1, 3-16

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09523980802588626

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  • Educational Media InternationalVol. 46, No. 1, March 2009, 316

    ISSN 0952-3987 print/ISSN 1469-5790 online 2009 International Council for Educational MediaDOI: 10.1080/09523980802588626http://www.informaworld.com

    A theoretical framework for building online communities of practice with social networking tools

    Charlotte N. Gunawardena*, Mary Beth Hermans, Damien Sanchez, Carol Richmond, Maribeth Bohley and Rebekah Tuttle

    University of New Mexico, 3601 University Se, Albuquerque, NM 87106, USATaylor and FrancisREMI_A_359030.sgm(Received 30 May 2008; final version received 10 December 2008)10.1080/09523980802588626Educational Media International0952-3987 (print)/1469-5790 (online)Original Article2009Taylor & Francis4610000002009CharlotteGunawardenalani@unm.edu

    This paper proposes a theoretical framework as a foundation for building onlinecommunities of practice when a suite of social networking applications referred toas collective intelligence tools are utilized to develop a product or solutions to aproblem. Drawing on recent developments in Web 2.0 tools, research oncommunities of practice and relevant theories of learning, and the authors ownaction research experience in collaborative knowledge creation utilizing Web 2.0tools, this paper discusses a learning communitys spiraling process as it movesfrom a given sociocultural context through discourse, action, reflection, andreorganization toward socially mediated metacognition.

    Un cadre thorique pour construire des communauts de pratique en ligne enutilisant des outils de maillage socialCet article propose un cadre thorique sur lequel difier des communauts depratique en ligne lorsquon utilise, pour mettre au point un produit ou des solutions un problme, une srie dapplications destines la construction de rseauxhumains et connues sous le nom doutils dintelligence collective. En sappuyantsur les volutions rcentes des outils Web 2.0, sur les recherches sur lescommunauts dusage et les thories de lapprentissage pertinentes ainsi que surlexprience propre aux auteurs en matire de recherche action sur la crationcollaborative de savoir en utilisant le Web 2.0, le prsent article examine leprocessus en spirale dune communaut dapprentissage qui part dun contextesocio culturel donn et qui passe par le discours, laction la rflexion et larorganisation pour atteindre la mtacognition reposant sur la mdiation humaine.

    Ein Theorierahmen fr den Aufbau von Online-Communitives of Practicemit Hilfe von Anwendungen fr Social NetworkingIn diesem Beitrag wird ein theoretischer Rahmen als Grundlage fr den Aufbauvon Online-Praxis-Gemeinschaften vorgestellt, wenn eine Reihe von SocialNetworking Anwendungen, auf die man sich als kollektive Intelligenz-Toolsbeziehen kann, benutzt wird, um ein Ergebnis oder eine Problemlsung zuentwickeln. Wenn man den neuesten Entwicklungsstand bei den Web 2.0 tools miteinbezieht, die Forschung im Kommunikationsbereich, die relevantenLerntheorien und die eigenen Forschungen und praktischen Erfahrungen desAutors in der Benutzung von Web 2.0-Anwendungen auf dem Gebiet dergemeinschaftlichen Wissensermittlung, belegt dieses Papier den spiralfrmigenProzess beim Bewegen von einem bestimmten soziokulturellem Kontext ausdurch Diskurs, Aktion, Reflektion und Reorganisation hin zu sozial vermittelterMetaerkenntnis.

    *Corresponding author. Email: lani@unm.edu

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  • 4 C.N. Gunawardena et al.

    Un marco terico para la construccin de comunidades de prctica en lneacon herramientas de creacin de redes socialesEste artculo propone un marco terico como base para la construccin decomunidades de prctica cuando se utiliza una serie de aplicaciones sociales enredes (conocidas como herramientas de inteligencia colectiva) para desarrollar unproducto o solucionar tal o tal problema. Basandose en las evoluciones recientesde las herramientas Web 2.0, en las investigaciones sobre las Comunidades de Usoy las teoras del aprendizaje ms pertinentes as como en la experiencia propia dela investigacin/accin por parte de los autores sobre la creacin colaborativa deconocimiento a travs del uso de herramientas Web 2.0, este artculo examina laevolucin [Lt ] en espiral [Gt ] de una comunidad de aprendizaje que sale de un contextosocio cultural determinado y pasando por el discurso, accin, reflexin, alcanza lametacognicin basada en la mediacin humana.

    Keywords: social networking; Web 2.0; communities of practice; sociallymediated metacognition; collective intelligence

    Introduction

    The evolution of the World Wide Web from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 is creating subtle butprofound changes in the ways human beings locate and access information, commu-nicate with, and learn from each other. The changes in technologies are drivingchanges in human behavior, interactions, and knowledge acquisition. The paradigmsfor learning have already evolved beyond traditional classroom models to synchro-nous and asynchronous, interactive, and collaborative learning, which is furtherextended by Web 2.0 tools and social networking approaches. However, recent devel-opments in Web 2.0 technologies are far outpacing the development of theoreticalframeworks for their utilization in education and training.

    According to Kamel Boulos and Wheeler (2007), the second incarnation of theWeb (Web 2.0) has been called the Social Web, because, in contrast to Web 1.0, itscontent can be more easily generated and published by users, and the collective intel-ligence of users encourages more democratic use (p. 2). The tables below provide acomparison between the focus of Web 1.0 and 2.0 technologies and learning.

    In both Web 1.0 and 2.0, technology is tied to human communication and learning.

    Definition of social networking

    We define social networking as the practice of expanding knowledge by makingconnections with individuals of similar interests. In the Web 2.0 environment, socialnetworking is linked to technological services and software that make it possible forpeople to communicate with others from anywhere, at any time. Social networking sitesare online spaces that can be customized to a large extent by their users, providing spacefor personal profiles, which users complete in order to make connections with others.

    Table 1. Comparison between the focus of Web 1.0 and 2.0 technologies.

    Web 1.0 Web 2.0

    Publishing Participation Content management systems Wiki Directories (taxonomy) Tagging (Folksonomy) Personal Websites Blogging

    Note: Adapted from OReilly (2005).

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    After reviewing social networking sites, Erlandson (2008) developed the followingclassification. Social networking refers to sites such as Facebook, MySpace, andLinkedin, where users set up a profile, create formal connections to people they know,communicate, and share preferences and interests. A very popular social networkingsite that provides a 3-D virtual environment where users interact with each otherthrough avatars is Second Life created by Linden Lab. Sites such as YouTube and blogsare classified as social publishing; Del.icio.us and Bibsonomy are categorized as socialbook marking; Folksonomy and Tag Clouds fall into the category of social cataloging.Of great interest to online educators and trainers is the wiki, referred to as a collectiveintelligence tool that enables collaborative editing of documents on the Web. A wikiis a website that users can customize with controls that resemble a word processorsinterface. Combining wikis with several other social networking applications createsa powerful environment for communication and learning.

    Thus, Web 2.0 tools foster interaction, collaboration, and contribution. An essen-tial feature is user generated content enabling sharing, co-creating, co-editing, and co-construction of knowledge reflecting the collective intelligence of the users. Masonand Rennie (2008) point out the gift culture on the Web, where users contribute asmuch as they take in such sites as YouTube and Flickr.

    We believe that the type of learning that Web 2.0 technologies are facilitating ischallenging existing learning theories primarily because the theories were developedwhen wide-ranging online communication between people of different races, loca-tions, and viewpoints was not possible. Mason and Rennie (2008) support this viewciting Siemens (2004) claim that Web 2.0 technologies have changed the learninglandscape such that the three pillars of learning theory (behaviorism, cognitivism, andconstructivism) are no longer adequate for describing how we learn with these tools.Therefore, it is necessary to develop new theoretical frameworks that extend existingknowledge about learning to explain the dimensions of interactions that Web 2.0 tech-nologies are now facilitating.

    Purpose

    The purpose of this paper is to attempt to develop a theoretical framework to under-stand learning among groups of individuals that utilize social networking applicationsto work towards a common goal. For the purpose of this paper, we define social

    Table 2. Evolution of learning from Web 1.0 to 2.0.

    Learning 1.0 Learning 2.0

    Formal and structured learning Informal and collaborative learning Instructor led, Web-based, virtual and blended Blended, blogs, wikis, Q&A, search Command and control; top-down, push Bottom-up; peer to peer, pull Centralized content creation Grassroots content creation Management hierarchy Mentoring, knowledge networks Taxonomies Tags Scheduled, planned Real-time, just in time Company-identified experts Community identified experts Managed formal events Enabled knowledge exchange

    Note: Adapted from Lambert (2008).

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  • 6 C.N. Gunawardena et al.

    networking technology as tools that facilitate collective intelligence through socialnegotiation when participants are engaged in a common goal or a shared practice.Smith (1994) used the term collective intelligence to describe, how groups of indi-viduals can occasionally and under particular circumstances meld their thinking intoa coherent whole (p. 1). Web 2.0 applications such as wikis provide the technologicalsupport for groups to move toward collective intelligence in a learning environment,a shared space in which a group of individuals can develop community, discuss anissue of interest, and reflect on practice.

    Method

    In order to develop a theoretical framework for understanding learning in socialnetworking environments, we adopted two methods: a literature review of learningtheories and action research of our own exploration of social networking tools as wedeveloped into a community of practice (CoP) to compose this paper. Since literatureis just emerging in this field, it was important for us to develop our knowledge andunderstanding of practice through our own interactions with each other using Web 2.0tools.

    We began with a consideration of Wenger, McDermott, and Snyders (2002) CoPmodel to understand the structure of social networking and went on to conduct areview of literature that examined sociocultural and related theories of learning. At thesame time, we explored social networking through demonstration and practice with awiki, del.icio.us, and blog sites as we developed as a learning community. As a result,we were able to analyze a variety of Web 2.0 tools to assess their utility for learning.The focus was on learning through interaction while utilizing the tools. Finally, wereflected on our own learning processes as we engaged in the co-construction ofknowledge.

    CoP as a structure for online social networking

    Wenger et al. (2002, p. 4) defined CoPs as, groups of people who share a concern, aset of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and exper-tise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis. According to Wenger (1998), aCoP defines itself along three dimensions: what it is about its joint enterprise as under-stood and continually renegotiated by its members; how it functions mutual engage-ment that bind members together into a social entity; what capability it has produced the shared repertoire of communal resources that members have developed over time(see also Wenger, 1998, pp. 7384). The three structural elements of CoP describedby Wenger et al. (2002) (1) domain, (2) community, and (3) practice helped usorganize the theoretical frameworks identified as supporting learning in social network-ing environments. All three elements apply to social networ...

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