Disruptive Technologies

Course site for Disruptive Technologies. Exploring identity, community, & design.

Tag: community of practice

If Wenger Were a K-Cup

This week’s reading, Wenger, “Community” from Communities of Practice, is, as many of my colleagues have already pointed out, a fairly hefty article. It took a bit longer for me to read which I believe is partially due to the fact that I attempted to only read on the iPad, and I do not currently know how to highlight or whatnot like during my usual note taking.

This is the second chapter of his book, and Wenger often references chapter one. It might have been helpful to have that knowledge, but wasn’t entirely essential. To my own understanding,

Wenger describes a community of practice on a few different levels. I best equate each of these levels (or at times it could be better understood as a concept or other similar thought-model/pattern) with my job.

I work in Academic and Transfer Advising Services at Stony Brook University. We handle academic advising for all transfer students and continuing students after their freshman year. Take for instance, this picture:



At my work, our practice is helping students academically through transfer articulation and advising. We have decided to come together to develop this practice. We have formed a “process” which is reflected in the Red-Covered binder. It has all of the policies and regulations. “Jackie’s Posting Guide” represents each employee’s own contribution to these practices: We all have a specialty. We come from different backgrounds with different experience.

This “contribution” is not only expressed via policies, but also through simple “water cooler conversation.” In our case, it is the office Keurig! Employees talk relationships, the weather, general gossip; they laugh and cry together; parties are celebrated together. Each of these contribute to the overall atmosphere of the community.

Wenger was also adamant to point out that communities of practice are not limited to a particular office, building, or even country. To represent this, I opened Google Hangouts on my iPad Air. Although you cannot see the name, it is actually a colleague that I have done much work with via Hangouts.

If you have read Wenger’s chapter, you may notice that I chose to not use much of his terminology. Frankly, I found it to be a bit excessive. Of course, I plan on delving into this matter further, but I believe that these things can be said much more simply than his terms: Mutual Engagement, Joint Enterprise, and Shared Repertoire.


I am curious to know other “simple” examples of this idea. I’m sure that it can be used in education, and I think that MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are possibly heading toward this idea of a “shared” repertory of knowledge. However, I wonder how classrooms can more immediately begin to transition to this style of learning. I personally enjoy Wenger’s thoughts and believe that it is indeed part of what can help the education system.

Question is…is there a middle ground between MOOCs and the classroom? CDT 450 seems to be on the right track, but are there other possible ways? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What are your ideas?

Technically Yours,




Week 2 Chris

This week’s reading was on Wenger’s study of Communities of Practice. Based on what I read I saw Communities of Practice as a shared space where members of this shared space participate in the exchange of knowledge and creation of new ideas based on individual problems. A Community of Practice is made of 3 parts mutual engagement, joint enterprise, and shared repertoire.

Mutual engagement is an obvious requirement. If the members of the community do not sign that unwritten contract to interact with one another a community cannot be built. I would describe joint enterprise as the synergy  of the members. I read shared repertoire as the culture of the community.

I watched this video to help me understand Community of Practice more and one thing I found really interesting was Wenger did not define wikis, blogs, or forums as Communities of Practice just merely tools. When I just started wrapping my head around Communities of Practice, I instantly thought of wikis, blogs, and forums.

I am a part of a group at my university called Computer User Digital Development Learning Environment or CUDDLE. During our CUDDLE sessions students of many different educational backgrounds come to collaborate on ideas and help each other out on personal projects. Based on the definition I understood from the reading, CUDDLE can be called a Community of Practice.
Some questions I have after reading up on Community of Practice are:

  1. At what point does a Community of Practice become more beneficial than traditional classes?
  2. Would MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) be considered a Community if Practice?
  3. Are there different types of Communities of Practice?

Reflections on Wenger’s Community of Practice

Chapter 2 of Wenger’s book discusses “Community of Practice”.  As definition, a Community of Practice (CoP) is a learning partnership where people engage in such partnership and start creating a learning environment by sharing common interests and needs with a set of tools.  This correlates directly to one of the classes themes, Community, and certainly indirectly to the other two themes, Identity and Design.  Wenger, a Social Learning Theorist, discusses the different dimensions of practice that embody community of practice; mutual engagement (identity), a joint enterprise (identity, design), and a shared repertoire (design).

The author goes in detail about how a CoP gets created, what are the necessary components, ground rules, its resources, governance, etc.  Conditions, resources, and demands shape the practice.

A CoP does not necessarily need to be “healthy”, meaning,  there will be fighting, disconnects, arguments, but at the end, it will still be a community of different and diverse personalities, learning and sharing valuable content.

I found this not to be an easy read.  I complemented the reading with other articles from the web, as well as a few videos in YouTube.  Time permitting, I will read chapter 1, as there were a few references in chapter 2 to this chapter.

Here are a few examples of a CoP in the Higher Ed space:


The questions I’d like to pose;

  • Are there learning environments that lack a community of practice?
  • Are there non-learning environments where a community of practice is present?
  • Could the same have been said in a simpler manner?
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