In my last post, I talked about networks and groups and discussed how groups make for more meaning for Learning 2.0 than simply the concept of networks.
As we look at the way Learning 2.0 styles possibly function in a network, it would be helpful to think of ad hoc formations that are forming and adjourning continuously; sometimes morphing into other ad hoc formations of different shapes and sizes.
Not all these conversations are real time and synchronous. We are also learning from records or histories of conversations that have already occurred, with some older dialogues getting rekindled by new thoughts. Nothing is evanescent and yet everything is.
What remains characteristic of these ad hoc formations are that they have very small sizes, short life cycles, are based on immediacy of a need to learn or share something and that they do not have a formal structure.
These formations are really generated to answer questions such as “Did you know.?.”, “What is..?”, “Need some clarifications around…” or “How do I…?” or simply “I am looking for…”. These are usually simple contexts with limited interaction or guidance. Blog comment chains are very indicative here, you don’t often see comment trees that are more than a couple of levels deep.
These could morph into formations that are more long term based upon relationships between protagonists in these networks and their willingness/ability to enter into such relationships.
Also interesting is that the stages that group behaviorists predict really do not apply to these formations. What is symbolic of these formations is the brevity of the dialogue, more of a matter of fact, transactional type of interaction.
So what happens at the other side of the spectrum. That is, when these formations or derivative thereof, become formations that are characterized by long life cycles, compound “serious” interactions and in most likelihood, accompanied by a formal structure. Communities of practice quickly come to mind here. Theories such as Tuckman’s five stages of group behavior and evolution start making sense since there is a broader canvas to paint on.
These groups leverage the power of networks to achieve their growth and the context of a focused community to provide learning for their members. These groups may get “political” at some time or may impose barriers to entry and employ their own strategies for teaching-learning; some may remain very open and make that their strength. It will take all kinds of people to form and sustain these groups. But learn and share they will.
One last point. In any dialogue or dance, both parties to the conversation must dance. The dance must also result in meaning for atleast one of the two. Both need to have the staying power or it will lead to a frustrating and de-motivating experience. Someone must take responsibility for somebody else’s learning – whether in a direct or indirect manner. This is critical.