Reflection #4

Learning in communities

It is fascinating how a community can truly support learning way beyond what one can achieve alone. There have certainly been key moments in my life where I have evidenced this. Out of all these very different learning settings I pick here racket games, and squash in particular.

I have practiced different racket games since I was very little, and continued with them  throughout until today. As I was in Germany as a postdoc some years ago, my idea from the first days was to find a group to train with. A few emails and phone calls later I started to train every Monday, from 19:30 to 21:00 – and often beyond, even until 22:00 –  in a fully German speaking group of highly talented squash players. In the trainings we had typically around 10 to 15 players. The trainings were self-organised in a fantastic way, something I had never evidenced in my previous trainings occasions. The setting was ideal for collaborative learning. Let me explain this via an example:

We started by all of us going to one single court, or divided to two courts if we had a big group to join training. As the rest of the group were in the right back corner (or in the left back corner when we played on the right side), two players played on the left side. As the first person served, the other had to try either playing line (a long of short shot), or to make a cross shot to the front corner. The one who had served then made her or his decision on the shots and so the play continued until one made a mistake. The player who made a mistake gathered one mistake point, and went to the queue to wait her turn. The player who won continued against the next one in the queue. The play continued – and when one person got 10 mistake points, she or he had to leave the court and move to the benches to watch others continuing the training.


Players 3, 4 and 5 waiting for their turn while players 1 and 2 train. Here player 1 has hit the ball via the front wall to the back corner, and player 2 is trying to get there in time to hit the ball. The winner will stay and get a new player to challenge her/him.

Learning happened here not only while playing, but also while watching others play when waiting one’s own turn. There was time to decide on tactics, even to share with others quickly some thoughts-especially when at the bench outside of the court. Now looking at open networked learning I realise that the setting can be and is in many ways similar. We can play (lead a topic, contribute to it, discuss scenarios, share articles, tweet chat and insight) or watch others (check webinars or records of tweet chat, or what others have contributed). Here tech for online learning naturally plays a crucial role (like a racket, ball or court for squash)–since it allows us to watch others contribute to discussions (think of tweet chat or webinars), it allows us to co-create (think of our shared folders) and it allows us to communicate (think of our video calls) and thus bridge space and time differences.

Personal learning networks are essential for me. For learning I communicate via social media (especially via my twitter handle @LinkedScience), emails, different online doc systems, chat messages, talks over coffee, brown bag meetings or dinners, in a colleagues room or in a classroom. In all of these the networks are the core basis for learning: interaction with my peers carries the messages in a form to facilitate and enable learning.

In open networked learning these few weeks we have had topic leaders. I realised especially with our topic on learning in communities how strong links emerged first between the two topic leaders, and how this got weaved with stronger and stronger links with the other members of each topic via co-creation of presentations. I foresee that this could be brought even to another level if topic leaders would reflect their learning together – e.g. as a form of a blog post. This could be also a simple comment – like in the following that I posted as a reply to a nice feedback about our storytelling-driven presentation:

This was an interesting process from the early idea of “I would go here for a scenario, a story, where we have a representative teacher…For that scenario it is easier to start providing solutions?” all the way through all insight what research has said and what our experiences brought, and finishing with this shared story.

For those interested here is our storytelling-result for the learning in communities.

Thanks for reading! Happy to hear your comments 🙂


One thought on “Reflection #4

  1. Ewa-Charlotte Faarinen

    To learn while watching – this is a great example! Student who wait for there turn needs to be activated so that they see what is going on instead of just beeing nervous for there presentation.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *