Monday, October 22, 2007

Workshop: Learning Communities, Etienne Wenger

The workshop began with people sitting in groups of between 8 and 10. Each group was invited to share what they knew about communities of practice and the previous day’s conference session with other members of their goup. Each group was also invited to come up with a question. These notes are based on the questions (in italics) and Etienne's answers that came up in the session. They don't reflect the richness of the conversations that place.

There are so many expressions - community of practice, learning community, discussion forum ... what's the difference?
Community of practice is a unit of analysis. Rather than asking, is this a community of practice a discussion forum or a learning community we should ask: is it helpful to look at something as community of practice? Do people bring their practice to the community? The demand of understanding the practice was ongoing and the leading force of the community. In a community of practice you have experience of ownership of the learning experience of the members. The community can call an expert in... but the process of developing of the community is driven by the learning demands of the community

How does a community become sustainable?

A community sustains itself because it becomes indispensable. How does it sustain itself past the task? Example of community in Canada came together to write a toolkit, but when it was done they continued to stay a community. Someone once described a community of practice as a learning friendship. That doesn't mean there are no conflicts, but rather that conflicts become productive rather than constructive. A community that avoids conflict probably won't sustain. When you bring experience to the table you're going to have conflict.

Important in a community is a sense of time. You can revisit the issues; there is an evolution over time. There is a commitment over time that allows this learning friendship to develop.

You need someone in the community who is skilled at opening a space for conversations when they arise. Anchoring the learning process in the practice of the members is absolutely key. People don't share knowledge in the abstract, they share knowledge to help someone solve a problem. You have to make sure the learning is anchored in the practice of the members and that the practice is meaningful to the participants.

What are the ways to create a community without it being a task?

Role of the convenor is important. The convenor is someone who has the legitimacy to call people around a question in a community of practice. You could just send an invitation. It doesn't require a long-term commitment. When you invite someone on a first date you givetry and give someone an experience. You make sure its nice. A community is a first date. The message is - I don't know if i want to marry you, but I want to give it a chance

Marriage expresses the social delicacy of a community and its resilience and its evolution.

It is also important to give people some tasks so they have an experience of learning together.

Question that will help is to know if there is an identity that people have in the community. If you have a professional community who already have an identity then you can create a broad invitation. If the community has no identity invitation could be more specific.

Story of a group of health professionals supporting a child at risk. Invitation is around the child not their profession. It is an issue of the values people care about. People from different professions came together as learning partners, overcoming their professional identities in the interest of the child. So you need to find some activities that will enable people to work together without fighting.

The community as a relationship is reinventing itself. Sustainability is involved in the reinventing of itsef. You can invite the community to reflect (pause) to look at what where is this going. Question: where is it going for you? Let the community take ownership of how the community is working for them.

You don't want a community to last longer than its useful, a community shouldn't go beyond its usefulness.

Is the manager of a community the manager of a relationship?
Community manager has many roles both in terms of relationships and the domain. A lot of my work is with private conversations. It's about orchestrating relationships and domain. There is no recipe but community manager has a nose for knowing what a community needs and an ability to open a social space in which the right conversatiosn can happen.

Is it possible to have a community of practice without strong leadership?

Communities have existed for a long time, with and without strong leadership. I prefer to talk about Co-ordinator, because there are many different types of leadership roles (like social leaders, thought leaders ... etc) not just one. It's better to talk about an ecology of leadership. The question is if the leader has the legitiamcy to be perceived as having the voice for the community.

Is the role of manager/coordinator/facilitator a specific task that can be assigned to someone?
Most communities don't have the funds to do it, so they have to do it themself. It has turned out in these cultivated communities that it pays to have a small group who have the legitimacy to do it. Role of the Coordinator is to hold the space. Nowadays people are very busy. Many communities die, not because there is no use for them, but just because it's noone's priority. You need to have someone who feels a commitment to holding the space. One of the role of the coordinator is a connector. Holding the space is more complicated than just arranging visible things.

(Comment: The group is like the grandmother... you can get away and come back and the grandmother is still there.)

To make a community sustainable you need to find that core group. Not everyone has the same commitment because it depends what the community means to them. The person or group who is holding that space has to have some specific commitment. It is a complex role because it has to do with the formal aspect (e.g. organise meetings) but also the invisible aspcet by keeping the pulse.

How do we go from practice to learning? We begin in a communities of practice and how can we learn with a community of learning. If we have some rules then we could have a community of learning. Everyone comes in with different perspectives and then put in a moderator - perhaps that is the way. All the teachers have a training in CMS and LMS, building virtual classrooms.Lots of people spread over Portugal all doing the same thing.
I will refuse to make a distinction between practice and learning. Learning is a political question.. who is learning and who is not? Learning is anchored in an experience of practice. Communities get stuck in places and need a kick in the butt to move. The kick in the butt has to be anchored in practice. Learning is driven by the challenges of practice. Practice has this interesting characteristic - both very local and very global at the same time.

Sometimes in a community of practice you feel like you are walking old lady across the street. How do you know when to close it... in a way that people still have a relationship. If a group is forced to participate, or if participation is made to achieve a certain goal, do we still talk of communities of practice?
In general i would say make participation voluntary. But in my research of claims processors, the claims processors had to be there (to get their money). If people are there for obligatory reasons it doesn't mean that it's not helpful to look at it as a community of practice. A community might die from neglect... as a community leader have to say "am I forcing it or am I enabling it?" You have to keep the pulse of a community and seeing when a community is losing its usefulness...

What's your opinion of a big community bringing together small communities?

It's important to view a domain as having sub-groups.

What's the role of the organisation?

If a small community invites another one in, that's different to being told by the Ministry that they have to come together. If i see that my workers need to improve their practice I can support them in the community.

How active can you be in keeping a community alive?

This notion of convening is important because it's based on legitimacy to drive the process together. Find an ally who shares your vision about how the community should evolve. An important concept is that of legitimacy to start and end a community. Who has the legitimacy to do that? It comes from a place of real practice, not political expediency or authority.

Rapporteur: Bev Trayner

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Informal Learning - Etienne Wenger

There is a new understanding of learning. It is about who we are as learners, not a technique but as an experience of being alive and of being in the world. A social perspective on learning is a perspective of learning to become a person who has a certain experience of the world.

A community of practice is a group of people who:
- share similar challenges
- interact regularly
- learn from and with each other
- improve their ability to address their challenges

Managing the intersection between the formal and the informal is becoming increasingly important. Some trends that help explain that. The major trends shaping learning in the 21st century are:

- The strategic importance of knowledge.

- Globalisation. These trends lead us to live in a tension between the local and the global. The tension is a place for negotiating individual identity, a place for negotiating with others about how we belong.

- Partialisation of learning imperatives. In any domain of importance no-one can claim expertise. You need others. You need to distribute the work of doing the learning.

- The emergence of social software. The reason it is taking off today is because it is in synch with that process of finding other co-learners.

Importance of boundaries. Can’t think of a community without thinking of boundaries. A community won’t survive by being closed. How do you create boundary processes? Being a broker between communities is not easy to do. We live at the intersection of the boundaries of different communities.

Who we are as learning citizens is becoming a central question to a social theory of learning. A community of practice is people who use their experience as a curriculum of learning. It's bringing people to bring their practice as a way of binding people together.

A question from the audience about the importance of facilitators in communities of practice. - CoPs existed before facilitators. Communities are a natural form that people have used to be together for many centuries. If you bring it into the 20the century, then the role of facilitator is very important. Two important roles are the role of convenor of the community and coordinator of the community. The convenor is someone who has a legitimate claim to being part of the community. Role of the coordinator is someone who brings people together.

The importance of community, domain and practice. You don’t have a community of practice if you don’t have all three elements.

Sometimes people challenge that the theory of communities or practice doesn’t address issues of power. But power is important. The very notion of community has to deal with the notion of power. Definition of the domain and definition of the community was always something that was contestable. We should not be led to thiking that we have dealt with issues of power. If there is a sense of community, then there is something worth struggling for.

Elearning has to engage with certain trends:

- Horizontalisation of learning. Even traditionally hierarchical organisations like the World Bank are changing from being a provider to bringing people together to negotiate the relevance of what they know. The expert voice becomes one of the voices in a community. Negotiation of mutual relevance is essential.

- Personalisation of value creation. People who are making a difference are personally engaged. They use their experience of the world as a source of creativity for addressing problems. A community of practice is a vehicle for engaging a person’s identity with what is taking place. It is not compliance based.

- Design. Organisations that will be successful are those that can give value creation to their engagement in negotiation. Questions of a cognitive theorist: we have a curriculum that we put into the head of the student which we can test. A communities of practice question is: where have your students visited? Where have they had a sense of meaningfulness in it? It’s a different experience of learning than testing what’s in your head.

- Process of individualisation. Knowledge is a property of communities. The experience of individuality is an experience of the collective. Each of us is a unique intersection of many communities. It’s very different from living in one community as we used to. Now there are thousands of possibilities of belonging. The individualisation process is the result of the complexity of the world.

- Identity. The big question of learners in the world today is one of identity. Who am I in this sea of information? What is the information everyone should have. Question is - who am I becoming? We can look at identity as curriculum and identity as a resource.

There are two important questions to ask ourselves:

1. What are the key domains that would serve as social spaces for learning? Is it a domain that you can engage your identity with? How does someone who is overlooking the learning system see the investment is a variety of strategic or non-strategic domains. How does that work as a whole system?

2. If it is true that the knowledge of a social system exists in a constellation of communities of practice, then how are you as a learner living in that system? Which community should you belong to as a core member, as a periphery member? What is required for the management of yourself in those different communities. What is my responsibility as a broker between communities. When is it my responsibility to build a community? How to see and open a new space... how to use my vulnerability as a practitioner.

Bev Trayner (Rapporteur)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007



Ana Cristina Paulo, Director National trainers Centre, National Institute for vocational Training and Employment (IEFP).

  • Adrian Snook, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Learning and Development Programmes the Training Foundation;
  • Richard Willwood, Founder and Director ,Core Education UK;
  • Tauno Tertsunen, Senior Lecturer, HAMK University of Applied Sciences, Vocational Teacher Education Unit

Needs and concerns raised

Research and writing about good training is urgently needed in an era dominated by political demands, but also by the civil society for accountability and efficiency.

What are the emerging professions/profiles in e-learning training organisation?

What are the best European practices in certifying the competences?

Is there a need for common standards, leading to pedagogical courses /training, before entering the labour market?

Approaches, strategies and issues presented

Trainers they have to be facilitators.Re - skilling the stakeholders.

New learn paradigm- the main change is perhaps the shift towards a new learning paradigm based on learning outcomes.

Trainers become a knowledge manager or a performance manager.

The success of e-learning depends of e-professionals that must be seen as the stakeholders in training innovation and reform.

E-learning cycles must be structured very clearly;clear roles for teachers, students, tutors, assistants.

E-learning teachers must not to neat the ski track so clear that students only ski along the ski truck.

Create a Standards and Competency Framework Development as a guarantee of quality for e-trainers and e-tutors.“The word e-learning may well die, but learning lives on…”

The training of trainers & tutors should be delightful!

Which questions were left open and could not be answered?

What are the core –competences for e-trainers and other net learning facilitators?

Are we making what is really important in this field?

What are the crucial differences between the core competences demanded by teachers in traditional class room and the e-learning trainers?

¨ To support the development of common standards of competences for e-trainers and other e-professionals, at an European level, considering this as a pre-condition to enter the profession , related to levels 5-7 of the EQF;

¨ Support the development of an online e-skills self assessments tool for e-trainers;

¨ To support and disseminate experiences at transnational level support recognition and validation of experiential learning;

¨ Develop networking between trainers, to raise productivity and peer learning. Could be interesting to create European open distance learning network and to increase in the European programmes the investments in e-learning training programmes;

¨ The quality of the sector could be improved establishing, by an European entity, a set of standards to guarantee a major efficacy and efficiency of e-learning materials.

Maria do Carmo Bessa - Rapporteur


Some years ago, Alvin Toffler said "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn".

Looking back at the Closing Plenary and the last two days of eLearningLisboa 2007, this has become even more evident to me.

We need to shake our views and patterns of learning, reshuffle and reorganize them in different ways. We need to be flexible, alert, proactive, explorers, inventors at all times. Today... and tomorrow.. and the day after that... and the day after that.

My special thanks go to all the speakers, observers, rapporteurs, participants and the Organizing Committee of this conference that have reminded me to question my paradigms and inspired me to challenge myself for innovation.

NOW it is time to ACT - to create, to change, to collaborate, to play, to experiment, to share, to google, to wiki... to learn, unlearn and relearn.

For if there is for something to happen, it needs to start from ourselves first. We have to be the next best practice... the "InnoAgent".

Gabriela Paleta
(a rapporteur without a session ;))

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Motivating Learning

Kevin Johnson, Education Sector Manager for Europe, CISCO

Concépcion Laguela, Director of the Recruitment and Training Department of Correos de Espana: "E-learning in Correos of Spain: A consolidated reality"
Karl Steffens, Professor, Education Department, University of Cologne: "Motivating learning: A view from psychology"
Luis Matos, HR Director, Portugal Telecom: "PT is becoming a Learning Organization"

The curriculum or learning contents may be excellent, the teacher or tutor may possess excellent pedagogical skills and the context of the learning process might be particularly captivating but if the motivation is not there learning will not happen. We are all surrounded by a great variety of appeals and each “learner” is unique and raises the issue of how to motivate learning.

In this session the main questions that where addressed were:

1 What are the main motivators and demotivators to learning?

Motivation is whatever drives action, both at individual and organizational level. This includes the recognition of the need to learn in order to succeed more, serious concerns of the consequences of not learning and the perception that one’s own capabilities are enough to deal with the learning challenge.

2. What are the major challenges, opportunities and considerations?

The learning environment, in all its complexity, is key to success. This includes the learners themselves, their teachers or tutors, everyone else around them, the organizational approaches to learning and the technology enablers.

3. How can ICT’s help?

Effective use of user-friendly ICT’s, in a systematic and integrated way, can improve the access to learning, the quality of certain elements of learning, the scale of benefit, as well as reduce the time and cost to achieve that benefit.

Maria de Lurdes Calisto

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Web 2.0 ecosystem

A deep forest

A deep forest with no limits. Feeding the world with its oxygen and beauty. Mysterious, attractive, diverse, fragile, sometimes dangerous. That’s what the web is like. Populated with a billion of users, with languages difficult to understand, curious values and obcure agendas. How fascinating !
Many will cautiously approach the web by picking up a leaf and inspecting it closer. Maybe the first leaf will be a youtube video link sent by a friend. Then, they will grab a leaf from another tree and this one will be a collection of images of their grand-children. Another leaf might be a Wikipedia page found thanks to Google. And little by little, the visitor will learn which trees he prefers. Some will start an account on myspace, others will become wikipedians, yet others will find fullfillment in creating a blog, this one will create his personal file on LinkedIn, and that one will buy land in SecondLife, and yet that other one will have fun with Twitter. The choices are numerous and more are to come.

After a while, the user will look beyond the leaves and the trees and will start considering the forest itself and perhaps discover an entire ecosystem, the circle of the participatory Web.

Users collaboratively create content on wikis. They get informed of what is created thanks to RSS feeds. Blogs enable users to react to content created by others, further creating content. Social bookmarking will make it possible for users to share with others what they are reading, and to learn about what others are reading. Social networking will enable users to discover more about the other users. The circle is closed.

Upon starting to look at the forest with this fresh eye, the user may start to see what is missing. Improved search capabilities certainly, which will be either through creation of more communities of practices, or better categorization and semantic search. Also, whilst the circle of text-based internet is pretty much complete today, it is not the case of the media-rich internet. Searching images is still not working very well. Collaborative editing of videos is still in infancy. Does an audio-based RSS system exist ? Could podcasts be automatically translated in dozen of languages ?

These issues are not what I am going to talk about tomorrow, but I think these points are worth keeping in mind. Simply, there was no tag to qualify a few thoughts I had whilst listening to talks this morning :-)

Tomorrow, I will more specifically focus on wikis and how they can help in the educational process. I’ll try to identify some trends and some of the Web 2.0 issues currently unresolved or very poorly addressed, such as the questions of collective authorship, individual freedom over choice of licenses, or code of conduct in an open environment with limited technical barriers.

Plenary 1: Delivering on the Lisbon Agenda

Needs and concerns:
E-Learning was in the political agenda in 2000 but lost visibility along the years, so we have to re-invent a new Lisbon Strategy beyond proposals of 2000 and the revision in 2005;
We all recognize that Europe will not succeed in 2010 to become the most advanced and competitive economy of the world, but we have to work in that way, changing the European culture, introducing a risk and competitive awareness;
Coordination is missing on the Lisbon Strategy concerning e-Learning;
e-Learning is still too much on academic areas and on the formal education system;
We have to start to add value to the member countries and regions in Europe;
We are still dealing with the past and far away from the new challenges (self regulation, help people to think, learning to drive, etc.);
We need more linkage between Productivity and ICT possibilities;
Innovation attitudes are missing in Europe;
We need new e-learning research and concepts based on social web, orchestrating new challenges related with web teams;
Europe is still far away from the opportunities of the connected knowledge economy and the challenges of the Lisbon Agenda;
We need to improve the awareness of Europeans for the Lisbon Agenda and the social innovation proposed for individuals, enterprises and governments;
Internet introduces a new paradigm for distributed network and not only centralized or decentralized, with a direct impact on citizens. We must be proud to be Europeans;
Collaboration platforms are still missing in Europe and there is a huge gap between the fragmented market players and the social needs;
We need to improve motivation for learning not only in schools but also in enterprises and governmental agencies. – A new culture of learning is missing;
We have to live in new communities of learning.

Creation of new international networking consortiums;
Break actual learning system;
Creation of open standards;
Creation of an action plan for innovation;
Promotion of new learning contents and environments for the jobs of tomorrow, with hope and new career opportunities;
Go beyond individual and group empowerment succeeding on networks empowerment, increasing European performance and succeeding on the new Lisbon Agenda. – Power to the networks and interaction on contents;
Individuals must learn face to face in a new social web (Innoagent programme with European spin-ins);
Create new tools for people and small groups integration, linking innovation to people;
We have to move from Europe ownership of 2000 and nations ownership of 2005 to social ownership of the new Lisbon Agenda for tomorrow;
Is important to create a large European market for e-learning, with specific budgets on schools, governmental agencies and enterprises;
Creation of credits related to learning;
Creation of open platforms for e-learning, involving universities;
New broadband networks infrastructures are needed for alive collaboration and video content;
Old people is a problem but also an opportunity for e-learning in Europe;
Each one must create their own energy for a “long life learning” in a changing environment;
Each member state in Europe must create a new merit culture, with objectives, evaluation and written reports;
Improve competitiveness and aggressiveness;
Improve global and distributed learning;
Enterprises must replace paper manuals of their products for electronic tutorials and e-learning tools, improving ICT competence in society;
Local authorities must use electronic tools for community proposals, helping citizens to solve their problems and linking populations to politicians and decision makers.

Final conclusions:
Improve social web;
A new manual for 2010;
A new alive network for innovation regarding and involving all the people;
New ways, new targets to the projects;
Use massive collaboration for each specific propose;
Use clients as producers of e-manuals and digital contents;
Personalize for a network world, learning more and faster.
New accountability methods, questioning actual reports and evaluation routines;
Look for results with target users;
Use e-learning tools to solve environmental problems;
Civil society must be more evolved on e-learning initiatives and not only formal institutions.

E for energy, enthusiasm, elevated, electric ...

My role is rapporteur for the two sessions with Etienne Wenger on Informal Learning and Learning Communities.

As I get ready to leave for the conference my feet tingle with anticipation as to what it's going to be like. My own engagement in self, knowledge and the world - in other words, my learning - has always been a dance between people, tools, conversations, struggle and laughter. Is today going to be part of that dance?

At a conference on eLearning I would expect to catch a glimpse into the playfulness, imagination, and risk-taking that new technologies demand of us in order to learn. I wonder if I will. And I wonder what else I'm going to discover and who else I'm going to know ...

Bev Trayner

(My) Five questions for eLearning Lisboa 2007.

The EU eLearning Lisboa 2007 is there. With a unique set of speakers and experts from different places of the world, the conference will join over 1.000 people to share experiences during the next days.

I leave here five questions that arose to me to discuss among peers during the conference:

1. eLearning or only Learning?
eLearning is nowadays a learning process supported by technology enhanced environments. Can we miss the “e”, as the technology is embedded in all modern learning processes?

2. Will e-skills be the key-factor for the European competitiveness?
Lifelong learning is a key-factor for creating a knowledge society based on e-skills (ICT related skills). Will e-skills development promote competitiveness, employability and workforce development in Europe? Can eLearning be the best way to achieve a massive distribution of knowledge towards a more cohesive society (large spread of knowledge and increase proximity between regions)? Which role is reserved to ePortfolio as an important and standardized mechanism of archiving the skills acquired?

3. Can learning processes survive without innovation?
New organisational learning uses different methods: Classroom; Online learning; Communities and Networks; Information Repositories; Access to experts and Performance Support (ex: job aids on contact centres). eLearning 2.0 uses new mobile platforms (iPod, PDA phones) and web 2.0 applications (Second Life, My Space, Wikipedia, You Tube, Blogs and Wikis). New learning contents are simulations and games - the EDUTAINMENT concept. Are we prepared for that?

4. How can the Education and Training Systems face the challenge of the Lisbon Agenda?
The present education and training systems are not yet completely equipped to face the challenge of the Lisbon Agenda and learning innovation. The learning methods should be more learner centric and supported by ICT. Are teachers and trainers prepared for that challenge?

5. What are the role of companies and public administration in the promotion of lifelong learning?
What efforts have been devoted to promote eLearning in enterprises, in the public administration and in informal learning at large? We know organisational learning should be driven by business performance management, but who is doing performance based learning? How can we implement performance management and organisational learning at large in public administration to influence the market as an example?

Mário Figueira
Associate Partner
Novabase Consulting

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Digital and Social Cohesion - Regions, sustainable growth and technology

My presentation is on the theme of 'Digital and Social Cohesion - Regions, sustainable growth and technology'. It is focused on knowledge development as a key factor in innovation in regions. "What is important for the production of knowledge value is not so much facilities or equipment in the material sense, but the knowledge, experience, and sensitivity to be found among those engaged in its creation" (Sakaiya, 1991).

The presentation goes on to look at how knowledge is developed and shared by workers in Small and Medium Enterprises.

In the final section of the presentation I consider what policies could be enacted at regional level to support knowledge development and innovation. These include the extension of access to learning and support for communities of practice.

Friday, October 12, 2007

eLearning comes of age (Maruja Gutierrez Días) was born at Lisbon in April 2000. It is now a healthy seven years old creature. Seven is a magic figure. It is the threshold of adulthood in many cultures. It is a time for starting your way out from home and for assuming a place in society. eLearning is now starting this adult path, out of the cosy environment of fledglings, out of the limelight. Utilities become the more invisible as they are taken for granted, as they become a part of daily life, embedded in the social fabric. eLearning has been accepted as a basic tool for Learning. This is such a big step ahead that we should be most happy.

Seven years ago, most of us were labelled as visionaries, this often meaning slightly nutty. Many people thought eLearning was a new name for becoming proficient keyboarders in productivity programmes. Some people thought eLearning was a new name for getting teachers off the classroom and replacing them by computers. Some other thought eLearning was just a new money machine. Some even thought eLearning was cheap and easy.

We have come a long way, an arduous way. There have been casualties along the way, and I would like to pay tribute to some of the enthusiastic companies and people who are no more with us. But for most of us it has been a positive learning experience. Getting education and training systems to understand and adopt e-learning has required a substantial effort. To start with, it has required a substantial investment in infrastructures, equipment and training.

The extent and the speed to which this has happened in Europe is one of the major success stories of the so called Lisbon strategy. It is only right that this "coming of age" of eLearning happens also at Lisbon. Portugal is a very good example of how European countries have faced the ICT challenge and have recognised the need to equip children, students and citizens at large with the skills and competences to learn, work and live in the knowledge society.

Looking back, we could be pleased with eLearning so far. But it is not a time to look back but to look forward. The ground is laid to make eLearning what it should be: a personal tool for lifelong learning and a social tool for innovation and change in learning. We see eLearning as a basic channel to make lifelong learning accessible to all.

We can now envisage a European learning infrastructure providing access and support to all sorts of learning for all sorts of people. This wide ranging vision of learning opportunities as a service from education to society requires creativity and innovation to become true. eLearning can and must be there.

(Maruja Gutierrez Días)