Collaborative Networked Learning: A Guide/Communication Models
Collaborative Networked, therefore, would occurs in the context of a group with a mission or agree-upon-purpose. The work involves the structuring and restructuring of conceptual knowledge. The final product is a message, an external artifact of the group knowledge at a particular point in time,which communicates the knowledge of the group. The message might take the form of a program, a report, a strategy document, a diagram, a drawing etc. Learning-work involves the cognitive processes of assimilation—intake of information from the environment, accommodation—restructuring to fit new into the old, present structure, and integration—directly fitting information into existing structure. And most importantly it involves the resolution of conflict between old and new structures,which can lead to innovation.
Two communication processes or type of dialogs are involved in learning-work: (1) Intra-personal communication—integration, and accommodation—involves processing within the individual. (2) Interpersonal communication involves assimilation—the intake of information from the environment—and representation of one's knowledge structure in a form and medium that can be shared with another person. As one person,shares ideas with another person, the process becomes an on-going loop from assimilation through representation of knowledge structures.
At any point the learner may represent his/her ideas in order to test out hypotheses to gain agreement or validation. When members of a mission oriented group create shared knowledge structure and produce an artifact such as a written report or a software program, for example, they engage in learning to created a product which is their collective knowledge.
In this chapter, using this model of communication as a guide, I will focus on how to facilitate the communication processes necessary for value-added learning to occur in a collaborative networked setting. I focus attention on the interpersonal communication processes which relate to the creation and sharing of meaning and strategies to support the intra-personal processes.
Value-added learning involves purposeful intra-personal comunication.
A guiding objective is to promote learning through purposeful communication. For instance, the learning that our hypothetical salesperson experienced, involved the intra-personal communication processes going on within the mind of the person and the interpersonal communication occurring among the group of salespersons. I use the term intra-personal communication to talk about the active internal involvement of the individual in symbolic processing of messages. In intra-personal communication, each learner becomes his/her own sender and receiver, providing feedback to him/herself in an on-going internal process. It might be useful to envision intra-personal communication occurring in the mind of the learner in a model which contains a sender, receiver, and feedback loop.
Value-added learning involves purposeful interpersonal communication.
I distinguish intra-personal from the social aspect of learning between people and among groups, which I refer to as interpersonal communication. Both processes are intricately linked to each other in on-going learning.
Support for intra-personal and interpersonal communication involves new models of electronic group communication.
New model involves symbolic communication rather than accuracy of signal.
In order to discuss support strategies for learning, I propose a model of intra-personal and interpersonal communication which is different from the engineering model of electronic communication. In this model, I assume that the signal has been transmitted accurately. The focus is on what learners do with the words and pictures that form the basis of their communication. Unlike the engineer's electronic signal, the words and pictures of the learning theorists are not the real thing, they are symbols. Humans use their symbols to create, re-create, and share meaning and understanding,i.e. to develop new concepts. (Intra-personal and Interpersonal Model of Networked Communication) We might imagine a two-personal interpersonal model with messages passing between two humans while the circular intra-personal processes occur within and back to the person.
Social dynamics are a critical factor in the new networked group model.
In the networked group model, I call attention to the social dynamics of knowledge creation and learning. The group model includes the dimension of (context) or environment shared by the members of the group. In the framework of this discussion, I use (context) to talk about the shared psychological climate of the group, e.g. the electronic space and the degree of community or trust that the participants feel, not the physical connection. Learning in the social context of electronic networks involves, not only the communication of messages within and among members of the group, but it also involves (feedback). Feedback is the reactions, confirmations, or acknowledgments which one member shares with another in the networked group. The model also focuses attention on a shared group memory—a (database) of all the group's messages as well as data and information from external sources such as external databases or electronic communication with other networked groups.
Facilitation in collaborative learning
In the past when knowledge was resident only in the expert and did not change rapidly, we hired teachers based on their knowledge of the content and their platform skills,i.e. their ability to transmit information to the student. While these criteria are still valuable for success of the individual instructor who is lecturing in front of a live class, they decrease in importance when we move into the electronic on-line environment. The communication setting is different and the types of skills, knowledge attitudes, values and beliefs are different in the collaborative networked environment. The role changes to one of facilitator/coordinator of a group rather than primarily a "giver" or transmitter of knowledge. Facilitation (1\I am not focusing on an individual per se but on a set of behaviors that could be provided by one member of a collaborative team or could be shared by a number of members over time. The term (facilitator) as used in this discussion does not imply one specific individual.) involves strategies for encouraging groups of individuals to learn with and from one another to create new levels of understanding and knowledge. In essence the role changes to one of drawing-out and drawing-together to form a community rather than transmitting a pre-defined, structured body of thoughts or knowledge. While much of the basic research relating to facilitation and interpersonal communication in in-person groups and many of the skills are relevant in the on-line environment, it is important for even the experienced facilitator to adapt to ( and carefully consider) the differences of the networked environment. For example, the lack of visual or verbal clues increases the demands on the facilitator in the on-line computer mediated collaboration. Furthermore, in audio supported networks, the ability to identify participants and their emotional state from voice tone alone is critical to successful facilitation. Likewise, the lack of physical presence special requirements on the otherwise skillful facilitator in the in-person group. While the many uniquenesses are important and deserve additional research, it is important to focus on essential characteristics of facilitation as a basic starting point. Return to CNL Guide Main Page