As I began my journey creating a visual depiction of Communities of Practice (CoP), Connectivism, and Personal Learning Networks (PLN), images of trees and nature kept popping in my head. Words like connect, flow, networks, and relationships all remind me of how nature works. I decided to do a collage of images of nature with the common connection being a tree. A group of trees can work towards a common goal (CoP), connect to the world around it to grow (connectivism), and other organisms use a variety of trees and plant networks to thrive (PLN).
Communities of Practice (CoP)
When I think of Communities of Practice I visualize one person or thing being able to stand on its own, like a tree, bird, or wolf. However, it is more beneficial for it to work with others towards a common goal. Wenger-Trayner (n.d.) states, “Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” These groups of people could consist of artists, physicians, chefs, or managers. My visual depiction is of something you can find in nature that can stand alone, but when together, these organisms work towards improving a common goal. For example, a tree standing alone in the field can survive, but when grouped with others, these trees can protect and provide shade. A wolf who works with its pack is more likely to survive. When a bird has a flock to fly with, it can get farther faster. And when orcas work together, there is more success in hunting and raising their young. Communities of Practice consist of three parts: the domain, the community, and the practice (Wenger-Trayner,.n.d.). The domain glues the group together by their similar interests. This group works in a community to help each other learn and grow by sharing information to solve something or make it better. The practice is about sharing what they practice together. For example, they might all be educators or lawyers.
When I think of connectivism, I visualize how a tree connects to a variety of natural sources to grow. When a person wants to learn more about a topic, he/she collects information from a diverse array of resources. A person can acquire resources from technology, interacting with other people, and actions (n.d.). All of these sources are equally important. Just like the person seeking knowledge, the tree seeks the sun, water, and soil which are all equally important. As the learner gathers information from each source, he/she acquires more knowledge. The more diverse connections the learner makes the more knowledge and understanding the learner gains. Gathering these resources can take place formally or informally. This is like the tree that acquires resources from either above or below the ground. Each source is very helpful in aiding the tree to grow, but these sources are very different.
A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is a web of sources that a person utilizes (online and offline) to gain knowledge. A PLN is made up of a variety of resources such as services, social media, and people. The choice and flow of information are controlled by the user. This gives the user the flexibility to choose their own information. “Rajogopal et. al suggest that someone who ‘intentionally builds, maintains and activates…contacts within her personal network for the purpose of improving her learning-and uses technology to support this activity-is creating a personal network’ “ (n.d.).
As I visualize a PLN in nature, I see a monkey reaching out to “networks” or sources in nature to help it learn, grow, and be more successful. A network of fruit or nuts is needed to help the monkey get stronger. This represents PLN’s like Twitter, LinkedIn, EdWeb, Wabisabi, and Classroom 2.0 (n.d.) The river represents the “flow” of information that a monkey can access at any time and take any amount it needs to develop. The monkeys on the tree branch represent connecting to others. This symbolizes its “relationship to technology”. The branches of the tree stand for the different networks the monkey can connect with to play, swing and learn if it chooses.
The common connection between these three learning theories is the tree. The tree represents a common connection to others, a variety of ways to learn and grow, and a branch of learning networks to reach out to if needed.
FutureLearn. (n.d.). Connectivism—Learning in the Network Age. FutureLearn. Retrieved from https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/learning-network-age/0/steps/24641
Introduction to communities of practice | Wenger-Trayner. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/
Watanabe-Crockett, L. (n.d.). The Best Tools for Nurturing Your Personal Learning Network. Retrieved from https://www.wabisabilearning.com/blog/8-tools-personal-learning-network
What is a Personal Learning Network (PLN)? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/learning-network-age/0/steps/24644