Thursday, April 13, 2006

Learning Communities: Leadership and Social Software

There are two purposes for this discussion—1) to learn more about the principles of learning communities and 2) to explore the tools of “social software” that may facilitate the creation of learning communities (or e-learning communities).


Brown, J. S. & Gray, E. S. (2003). Introduction: Creating a learning culture: Strategy, practice, and technology.

Wenger, E. Communities of practice: An introduction.

Assignment prior to Teleconference, April 28, 2006

Prior to our teleconference you are expected to read each of the above articles and consider the discussion questions that I have outlined for these readings. The discussion questions are posted at the blog, Open2Learn at:

In all there will be 10 discussion questions. I will post the first one today and post additional questions each day for two weeks. (Just a note about blogs—the most current posting is always at the top so you have to scroll down to see the material from previous days.)

Additionally, you are expected to write your thoughts about at least two questions about the readings and post these at Open2Learn. In writing your responses you should also respond to the comments and ideas of others participating in this discussion.

If you have difficulty gaining access to the blog or figuring out how to post a comment, please email me at: or call at 217-333-3790.

First Discussion Question

1. Brown and Gray suggest the challenge of becoming a learning organization means aspiring to do “double-loop” learning which involves the “ability to detect, determine, and perhaps even modify the organization’s underlying norms, policies, and objectives.”

Can you think of a time in an organization you have been involved with that was able to achieve “double-loop learning?” If not, why not?

What norms, policies and objectives within Extension need to be considered to make it a double-loop learning organization?

To comment on this topic-- click on the comment link below and write a response. You may also read comments from others and refer to those ideas as well. The purpose of this blog is to foster a discussion of "learning communities, leadership and social software."

Teleconference, April 28, 2006, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm.

The primary purpose of the teleconference is to continue the discussion that have been introduced in Open2Learn. Additionally, this will be a time to discuss your particular reactions to using “social software” as a learning tool and your thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of using this technology to foster learning communities.


Anne said...

Bob's question, "have you been involved with a double-loop organization?" is especially interesting for our work in Extension because we are, very often, working with adults and almost always working with learners outside the formal learning setting, i.e., school. I don't know if I've been involved in a "double-loop" organization but I've been in many "double-loop" projects. The additional loop makes the work more difficult (adding complexity) and, at the same time, really much more fun because the learning occurs at a faster pace and with much more relevance.

Robert Hughes Jr said...

Anne makes a good point about the levels of learning that are possible. There are often levels of learning inside organizations. One of the challenges of a very dynamic "assimiliation-accomodation" project is that you can lose track of the purpose of the work.

Anne said...

You need someone really task-oriented, like me, in the group.

Liz Haynes said...

I really enjoyed this article, because I am always intrigued and thinking about the "glue" or the "behind the scenes" relationship building that exists when you bring partners, volunteers and staff together on a project or program in Extension. Extension is very much a social organization -- not just internally, but externally. We have the ability to not only develop and deliver education through a variety of methods, but we are often the key facilitator in the development of realtionships between individuals and organizations.

As I think about my job in Extension, I may have started out with idealistic goals of sharing subject matter expertise about natural resources through education. But very quickly I learned that if my job in sharing subject matter knowledge was going to happen, it needed to happen through the trusting relationships I had created and maintained with individuals, volunteers and organizations. And new audiences and markets emerged from my current and past relationships.

New thought...
My husband and brother play Xbox live a couple nights a week after dinner and chat about work, friends and family while they play. Though I was skeptical of paying for the service, I saw how they bonded while playing various glorified "hide and go seek" xbox games and had an restful outlet from the day. I realized the power of the game one day, when I asked my husband to let me use his headphone set so I could ask my brother a question. And another time, I overheard some young men from Australia talking about something of interest and it inspired my husband and I to do some research on the web that evening. I have even asked my husband if I could play a couple times -- maybe because I want to know what he's doing or maybe I feel left out?

Another thought...
My sister and her family have set up a website and blog, where all of her extended family and friends submit photos, family trees, stories, videos, recipes, etc in safe format. This has created more communication between my siblings, cousins,and friends than I ever thought possible! Not only do we have better relationships, we set up times for fun outings and get togethers, which rarely happened a year before.

Either way, I can't wait for a productive social software program to help me communicate and educate a variety of people -- youth, adults, volunteers, Illinois residents, Extension staff, or people from around the world. I think there is an unlimited amount of opportunities that await Extension in the years ahead!