Now the time for reflecting on topic 3, Learning in communities – networked collaborative learning has come. My reflections are going all over the place. There are so mine dimensions related to this topic and I am struggling with finding one focus. I guess this is a way of acknowledging the importance of this topic. One example of the importance of collaborative learning is a quote by one former colleague (I am not sure whether it is his quote, but at least hanging in his office), something along these lines: “If you want to go fast – go alone, if you want to go far – go with someone”. I find this quote very relevant and recognize the essence of it from my own experiences. Hence, in this post I will focus my reflections on one of my own personal learning networks, how it developed and how it could be taken further.
In this reflection, I am thinking about one particular collaboration between myself and two other researchers that has been working very well. I could have chosen other examples that has also been working well or those that have been a disaster. The reason for choosing the most positive experience and well working collaboration is that when collaboration works it is gold – and therefore reflecting on the processes to get there seems useful. To me collaborative learning is different from collaboration, because the component of learning is not necessarily something that comes out of all collaborations. Also, looking back at my experience from primary education – collaborative work was often associated with cooperative work. I remember that we (a group of students) received a task, which was solved by sharing responsibilities for parts of the task, put the bits together and presented or handed in – without further reflections or reviewing each others’ contributions. I do not see this as collaborative work or learning – rather parallel working or so… So, to keep this short, from my experience some of the essentials of well working collaborative learning communities are: a mutual interest in the task/field, feeling of belonging, a wish to contribute, taking responsibility for keeping the learning community continuing and developing. This is a process that takes time and consideration, and more importantly, like any other relation it needs continued attention. I believe even well-working learning communities may fade if the participants get lazy (free-riders) over longer periods. I believe there are also other aspects important to building learning communities, please leave a comment mentioning your experiences or thoughts! 🙂