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Selecting a learning community

In this task response I discuss

  • the Museum 3.0 Ning as an example of a learning community
  • my expectations as a new member, and
  • how the particular shared understandings of museum workers might highlight the future-making power of online learning environments.

Hosted at museum30.ning.com, Museum 3.0 is a learning community in both the meanings discussed by Kilpatrick, Barrett and Jones (2003; see also ‘Two senses for the term ‘learning community‘).

Learning as the focus

Museum 3.0 describes itself as

a network for those interested in the future of cultural institutions such as museums, galleries, science centres and other collecting bodies.

The word ‘network’ describes how members look to the Ning as a context for their learning. In this sense (Kilpatrick, Barrett and Jones’ second sense, where learning is paramount), Museum 3.0 provides professional development opportunities and a strong community of practice for its members, the geographically dispersed museum specialists such as museum educators, audience development staff, communication and publishing staff, and academics.

The ‘3.0’ reference in the community’s name sets an expectation that social networking technologies and the potential semantic depth in the museums’ collections that these tools have made available will both be key nodes of discussion and discovery in this community. Web 2.0 implementations in museums and science centres internationally are made salient through news items posted to Museum 3.0, and their functional value to museum practice is thoroughly discussed, with the clear expectation that community members will observe and make creative adaptations (Cornford 1998, p.79, adapting Bandura) of these models for learning. The global reach of the community, and the extraordinary variety of the topics and disciplines that the members’ museums/collections represent, allow members to closely model their physical outputs on the production experience of others, benefiting from the competitive effect (Saunders 2008, p.14), and yet to develop highly original (and hence self-motivating) technology-based enhancements for their own work setting.

My expectations of this community

Like many students joining this network, I hoped to learn from the professionals in this field how to shape my learning: I wanted to change my ability ‘to participate, to belong, to negotiate meaning’ (Wenger 1999, p. 226). Museum 3.0 looked like a learning community – it even had spaces for formal class support areas, as well as hosting the sharing and modelling I mention above – but the gap between my knowledge and that of the community experts, combined with my disablingly high self-monitoring score (Snyder’s Personal Reaction Inventory, cited in Saunders 2008, p. 25), has discouraged me. Also, because Museum 3.0 is relatively new (at the ‘Coalescing’ stage of development, according to Wenger 1998, where the community is ‘exploring connectedness, defining joint enterprise, negotiating community’), naive members may feel that the major conversations are taking place elsewhere (at physical conferences, for example).

Community as the focus

Despite these barriers, the tagline for this Ning – ‘What will the museum of the future be like?’ – is so fascinating, and so compelling, I intend to experience it further. This tagline relates to the first and major meaning in Kilpatrick, Barrett and Jones’ discussion (2003): a learning community is people united for social change.

More than many communities, the Museum 3.0 members would see their online space as defined by dimensions of meaning, time, space and power (Wenger 1999, p. 231). Time and space are their customary tools in developing and promoting museum collections, and the value of the e-learning community to them is partly as a rehearsal space for taking their collections outside the walls of the museum, into the community, and laying them open to the power of the public (see Social Media and Cultural Communication 2009).

The use of social and institutional relationships to bring about a cultural shift in the value of learning (Kilpatrick, Barrett and Jones 2003) and the idea that learning occurs in the interaction and intersection of people, tools and context (Hansman 2001, p. 44) is central to the everyday work of the members of Museum 3.0. They share and are reinforced in their understanding of their community and work purpose as bringing about deep learning and social cohesion: this is a major contemporary mission of museums in society (see, for example, Mesa-Baines 1992, p. 111, quoted in Knitting the fabric).

In a similar vein, Russo, one of the founders of Museum 3.0, blogged on Social media as an agent of peace:

How can digital media create a culture of peace through action at a distance, collaboration and the development of shared meaning?

Collaboratively creating this kind of learning, using the approach of dialogue education (see for example Vella 2008, based on the work of Paolo Freire), is part of the nature and focus of the Museum 3.0 Ning community, and is another reason why I believe this community might be of value for my learning.

References » »

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