I listened to a presentation by Dr Pak Yoong using stories fro his past to illustrate his take on communities of practice. Some of what Pak said I could readily agree with when he talked about learning â€˜havingâ€™ to take place when we step outside of our comfort zone. In Pakâ€™s view this was part of a desire by us to fee comfortable again. I remember a talk by the founder of Yo Sushi (Simon Woodruff) I attended some time ago and he spoke along similar lines although learning wasnâ€™t his theme. For Simon, moving outside his zone of comfort was an intrinsic desire to challenge himself and in dealing with the challenges he felt rewarded. So this may be a way of thinking about how we learn in that some of us seek to put ourselves into a â€˜zone of challengeâ€™ whilst others seek to move back to a state where we feel comfortable. For others, an external force is needed to provide the challenge.
Pak also speculated on the notions of â€˜Blendedâ€™ experiences where face-to-face might support online by increasing the relevance of the experience through a greater level of social presence that can be carried back to the online. Although I wouldnâ€™t disagree that this can happen, from experience I am sure that it is not a prerequisite to learning communities forming.
More interestingly for me, Pak went on to discuss the notion of â€˜media switchingâ€™. This he explained as the conscious choice of a media for a specific learning purpose. For example, if the intended learning outcome is one of improving strategic decision-making, then an online multimedia simulation might be appropriate. If the intended learning outcome is about developing analytical skills it might be that this is best done through reflective discourse with others and this is effectively done using asynchronous text based conversations. In many ways there is nothing new in this, but the suggestion proposition was that as the infrastructure issues are becoming less and less important, we can start to increasingly make choices based on pedagogy rather than those dictated by the technological possibilities.
This is not the same as my understanding of the notion of â€˜media redundancyâ€™ which takes the view that individuals should have choice about the media that they want to use because this best suits their preferred learning style. It does remind me, however, of a recent question in UV about metacognition (the thinking about learning) and how getting learners to a position where through experience and understanding their own learning they can make informed choices about media and genre for specific learning purposes.