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chapter 3:Toward a Theory of Community as Knowledge

As old preschool and elementary teachers we find no surprise in the tech community turning to codes of conduct. We have developed contracts with our classrooms from day one of teaching. We outline expected behaviors and may even add a token economy. Classrooms, like society, require a minimum level of respect to succeed.

Yet we also know the best classroom management comes not from a code, but first learner agency then an engaging curriculum as a close second. For far too many students school is done to them and not something we d[a]o. In Open Pedagogy when you design lessons and learning you think as much about improving the space of learning as much as the skills of learners.

Community and Open Pedagogy

Community matters in the construction of knowledge and therefore in building the web. Thus our understanding of how community grows is rooted in the work of John Dewey.

Much of this chapter is a remix of research article co-authored Jack Jamieson/Blogging Me

In fact Dewey would have been a great blogger. In 1927 he noted, ‘[a] Great Community can only occur with free and full intercommunication’ (p. 211). Dewey knew we must build a shared experience around common goals with elements of experimentation and criticality (Bruce & Bishop, 2008). Thus informed by Dewey’s notion of “democratic education” Open Pedagogy allows people to construct knowledge from both the personal and the collective (Shore et al., 1996).

Yet we must account for the networked nature of open pedagogy. As we sought evidence of Dewey’s “democratic education” in the work of Open Pedagogy, we operationalized this theory by applying the concept of Affinity Spaces to surface characteristics of learning spaces we should apply to classrooms using web technologies. James Paul Gee built off the concept of Communities of Practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991). He identified that the term ‘communities’ can over-emphasize how people are labelled as members or non-members of a group, a membership status which can be ambiguous depending on where boundaries of a community are defined and distracts from more important issues. He suggests focusing on spaces, real or virtual, in which people gather to interpret and produce meaning in pursuit of common goals. In Affinity spaces, of and for learning, a learner apprentice's more with the community rather than a specific teacher (2004). Learning occurs through joint action where we pair with more advanced peers around an individual goal but united by our shared goal. Gee makes the distinction between communities of practice around the concepts of space which aptly applies to Open Pedagogy. Affinity spaces allowed us to examine knowledge, learning and technology in our examination of Open Pedagogy.

Knowledge and Open Pedagogy

Examining Open Pedagogy may also require us to rethink the nature of where knowledge lives. Does learning and knowing exist in the individual or in the space itself? How do you account for augmented knowledge and external storage devices like hard drives and tablets--the stone kind?

In terms of Open Pedagogy we believe you can not separate knowledge from doing (Brown, Collins, and Duguid 1989) rather knowledge lives in situ and can not be measured nor understood from the context in which it takes place. Knowledge in these models gets shaped by so much more than the individual. Lave and Wagner (1991) in their studies of apprenticeship noted the importance of identity formation and interactions within communities of practice in determining what a learner learns. Earlier, Lucy Schuman (1987) in her study at the Xerox lab noted learning is a reflexive process, occuring in and through the social and technical affordances provided. These affordances, the possibilities of action provided to a learner, get shaped by the networks and the people. You may utilize wikis and bots to access knowledge. Learning of all stripes gets encouraged in open pedagogy.

No one can tell you where knowledge lives or comes from. Psychologist have been using a computer as a brain metaphor from the time of the first punch card. Papert tried to expand our ideas and played on Piaget and Vygotsky in his idea of constructionism. Downes added the computer metaphor in his idea of connectivism. Everyone has mixed in the teachings from anthropology and mashed up the words sociocultural cognitive into more varieties than an ice cream parlor. Csikzentmihalyi asks us to combine the understanding of phenomenology that all memory and knowledge and culture consist of strings of interpreted events with behaviorism and cognitivism...leaving all the other theoretical assumptions of phenomenology behind. It would be like giving you a piece a pizza, without the dough and sauce and saying, "Trust me it is still Pizza, you can taste it."

Since networks have emerged people have made careers trying define the effect technology has had on knowledge. You know, history repeating itself and all. Naming things is hard and we have failed at naming knowledge since the dawn of thought. Yet we put so much effort in defining rather than understanding the nature of knowledge.

In our take on open pedagogy we believe we must recognize that knowledge exists as a social act rather than a set of firing of neurons. You can call it whatever you want. In fact we also believe we do need to take on what David Reinking calls multiple perspectives when considering literacy practices. In open pedagogy we believe understanding best emerges through reflection.

Have you ever stopped to think why do we spend so much time arguing over definitions of learning while the majority of the world goes on living and learning? We know reflection drives learning. Hattie and others have demonstrated this fact. Yet we still consider argument the highest form of writing and rhetoric. Why?

What explains this paradigm? If reflection drives knowledge growth why doesn't the education industry and national standards reflect this fact? We believe this misunderstanding contributes to the toxicity in today's civil culture and also believe the roots of the issue lie in heteronormative practices of Western culture. Basically arguments matter because men in power make arguments to justify their power. In considering knowledge and open pedagogy we ask you to reflect on the ambiguity, embrace multiple perspectives, and engage in reflective thought. As Rajiv Jhangiani and Robin Derosa note:

Knowledge consumption and knowledge creation are not separate but parallel processes, as knowledge is co-constructed, contextualized, cumulative, iterative, and recursive. Just as the open license allows for the remixing and revision of OER, it also opens the gate into a particular way of thinking about learning.Open Pedagogy and Social Justice

A major rethinking of knowledge in open pedagogy requires us to recognize the role of networks. In our models of online reading and research comprehension we never include people in how we search and sift through information. For us we rarely start our queries on search engines. Instead we turn to Twitter, Slack, or IRC. At the same time people like Jill Castek, Caritia Kili, and Julie Coiro find that learning in networks, even in pairs matters when developing digital literacy skills. We need to rectify this discrepancy. Disciplinary Literacy models acknowledge the enculturation and ways of being but even in progressive definitions put forth by folks like Elizabeth Moje we downplay the role of people. Networks matter. In open pedagogy the more connections you have the more knowledge you have. Many turn to a facebook group. Connections like content knowledge are comprehension. Our models of literacy, especially open pedagogy, must acknowledge this.

In open pedagogy community IS knowledge thus community IS the curriculum.

Learning and Open Pedagogy

Literacy and language have always intertwined with society. Open Pedagogy is no different and it comes with all the historical baggage of inequality and privilege, but compounded by access. Once we acknowledge that learning on the web reflects the literacy practices of society a dark shroud falls over Dewey’s democratic landscape.

Acknowledging the web as literacy allows us to Halliday's exploration of language (1978) to the web. We view the space of Open Pedagogy as a sociotechnical system. Thus we recognize no separation between pedagogy and context. Teachers, students, peers, resources, and outcomes are shaped through their inter-relationships.

Like every literacy practice before it, Open Pedagogy as Hughes (1987) would point out is a sociotechnical infrastructure whose components include its users, builders, maintainers, and other stakeholders. Thus as sociotechnical system Focault would remind us that this evokes issues of power. We believe, even given the historic inequities built into the web, that Open Pedagogy returns power to the learner.

For the past thirty years we have looked at the sociotechnical system of the web as a technology issue and not a literacy issue (Leu, 2015). This has lead to educators utilizing prescriptive, rather than holistic technologies to manage the web (Franklin, 2004). This in turn further reduces the ability of students to read, write, and participate on the web as they do not touch the material language, HTML, used on the web.

Simply put the way we teach the web today would be like requiring students to read a book without learning to write a web. We are asking people to become writers but providing them with tools they can not shape and with pages already half filled. We believe a better way forward is to provide all learners with a space online to shape their own truths and networks.

We believe best way to support an open web is to encourage, and specifically design sociotechnical systems for our students to learn from a website they control. This in turn may improve their digital literacy skills while also allowing students to exert considerable agency, while we increase their potential to shape the internet more broadly.

Technology and Open Pedagogy

LMS systems, like their social media brethren, simultaneously empower and disenfranchise their users, and we propose that open pedagogy can shift this balance in individuals' favor.

Much of the wisdoom in every instructional design class revolves around restricting user choice or minimizing navigational pathways. It’s the electronic equivalent of the bold world in the chapter of the book, the same word you use to answer the first question at the end of the chapter. Knowledge, especially on the web, doesn’t work this way.

Restricting the learning space does lower the barrier for online participation. Yet at the same this has generally been accomplished in ways that empower platform operators, rather than students, most of all. How many times have you heard learning analytics at your last online learning training?

Reducing the learning space through the streamlining of decisions does make online learning more accessible. Predictable instructional design reduces the requirement and ability to make decisions about how and where to seek, respond to, and share knowledge. Many of the technical and other tasks required to maintain an online space are simplified into a series of steps. Yet this prescriptive nature of technology may do more harm than good.

Ursula Franklin (2004) made a useful distinction between holistic and prescriptive technologies. Prescriptive technologies take really complicated jobs, like running a website, and reduce it into a series of small steps. A key consequence of prescriptive designs is that they “eliminate the occasions for decision-making and judgement in general and especially for the making of principled decisions” because “any goal of the technology is incorporated a priori in the design and is not negotiable” (Franklin, 2004, p. 18). While we rejoice at how online platforms have lowered barriers to online participation, this has come at the expense of opportunities for the sort of principled decision-making we want to instill in our students.

Holistic technologies are those that support craft-like approaches where the wielder of a tool retains control of their process including decision-making and planning. Franklin, a deep critic of technology noted how prescriptive technologies limit our choice and freedom under illusion of convenience. Learning Management Systems are no different. We constrain the power of our students.

Latour also provides a useful lens for understanding how prescriptive technologies in online learning spaces hurt our learners. When technologies, like your LMS, present limited options for their use, the features to be taken as matters of fact, since they appear beyond the influence of most individuals. Ther matters of concern, elements we have enough power to change, seem limited.

Open pedagogy, through the use of holistic technologies, simultaneously promotes critical inquiry and technical fluency by turning the relationship between technology and society into a matter of concern.

Simply put, something changes when you give a learner their own space online.

We believe Open Pedagogy, returns learning to a state of holistic technologies mainly by requiring each person to have their own place online and then by creating networks of community and knowledge through affinity spaces.

Our views of community, knowledge, learning and technology plus our participation on the web has shaped the principles we build towards through open pedagogy.

Innovation through Community, Knowledge, Learning and Technology

We believe open pedagogy acts as an innovation system. According to Freeman (187) Innovation Systems, “are networks of institutions, public or private, whose activities and interactions initiate, import, modify, and diffuse new technologies.’”

In ecological sociotechnical system work these innovation often disrupt existing models towards a greater good. Chiong Meza (2012) expaned on these ideals and they have many parallels in our study of open pedagogy. She suggested a System Agent Network approach where innovation systms lead to transitions over an extended period of time. Chiong Meza suggested transitionsL

  • serve a need
  • transitions are complex pheneomena
  • Transitions occur through social desire
  • Transitions happen at different speed.

We hope to forster open pedagogy as an innovation system that leads to transitions. We understand transforming and decolonizing education will take time and local context will determine the desire and speed of change. The unitied force is a set of learners who gather around a shared goal while making all of the tools and learning openly available. This in turn strengthens the system and encourages more agents to get involved.

In the model there are three levels, the agent level, network level, and system level. On the left you see how the system level events effect the network, and then the agent level. This causes the agents to seek types of technologies and interactions and they get involved and become actors. Often what drives action is a drastic occurrence at the system level that shocks agents to mobilize.

Then on the right side of the diagram the actors come to some general agreement of proposal to move forward and the actors begin to change their routines which over time influences the interaction mechanisms of the network. This mass has an influence of dynamics at the system level and positive change occurs overall.

At the same time this model does not account for knowledge transfers among the three system levels. In our model of Open Pedagogy knowledge growth must of course be centered in any discussion of an innovation system. So we built on the SyNEA framework into the SAINT model: System Agent Intelligent Network Theory.

This model provides us with a few benefits in terms of operationalizing theory into positive social change. First we wanted to capture how intelligence lives within both the people and the tools. Often the network itself acts as a teacher.

Agentive Apprenticeship and the SAINT Model

How does learning occur in innovation systems that can lead to positive transitions? One common element we found amongst all open pedagogy spaces aligned someones personal learning goals with the values sought in the innovation. Thus we wanted to draw on the agentive value driven learning in our model.

As active participants in the three communities described in this book we have not only seen learning unfold but much of our growth as academics occured in these networks.

Therefore we decided to begin with cognitive apprenticeship and build off of this original work.Cognitive Apprenticeship grew out of the work of Lagner and Wave and communities of practice. In his work on Affinity Spaces, however, Gee noted that the growing networked nature meant that the geographic relationships do not fit. We build on this in Agentive Apprenticeship to account that the network and the space can act as an instructor as much as a person.

. Agentive apprenticeship also Cognitive apprenticeship requires knowledgeable instructor imparts knowledge to apprentices in a structured, “scaffolded” process (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989). Scaffolding is defined as a series of instructional supports provided for the student during the learning process which is tailored to the needs of learners to allow them to achieve their learning goals (Sawyer, 2006).





Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge [England] ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

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towards_a_theory_of_community_as_knowledge.txt · Last modified: 2020/11/29 13:36 (external edit)