Topic 3 Learning in communities


Learning together

is a great experience. I am rediscovering this in the ONL162 course. However, being part of a group presupposes a delicate balance between individuality and togetherness. It is like going from being a solo dancer to participate in a “Rueda de casino”. Normally you dance salsa in duos, occasionally you take some solo steps and you excel at it but a Rueda consists in many of these duos dancing together in a synchronized way. There’s still little space for improvisation but you have to watch your step otherwise the “Rueda” will be ruined…

Now, seriously, Marcus Lithander from our ONL162 community posted this documentary about collaboration, which I really liked because it says what I knew intuitively it’s just that I couldn’t find better words to say it.

Douglas Thomas, Ass. Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication, said: collaboration is people being the best that they can be in the context that matters the most to them rather being what other people need them to be or everybody being perceived as being equal. There’s something powerful and beautiful about the idea of collaboration that’s collective that is about the group succeeding not the individual”

 I couldn’t agree more: sometimes you have to forget about the idea of being the star of the show…often…most of the time…if you want to collaborate.

Collaboration is about creating trust, being gentle and nice to each other, listening and respecting each other’s opinions. Knowing when to step back but also when to step forward. Collaboration is also about being critical, honest and clear in exposing ideas. It is about receiving and giving as well. A silent person, or a person who always follows the flow may not be the better collaborator but neither will be the person who believes  is the owner of the absolute true.

This topic 3 made me reflect about what it is to learn in a community and specially to follow my own group process and to watch myself in it.

Our group had been little unstable with some members showing up and working more than others. We just had a meeting and exposed most of these issues. We talked a lot about our feelings and expectations in this group work. It turned out that some people felt unsure due to the language barrier, other people didn’t want to do mistakes while other person knew a lot and wanted to move forward very fast. All of us wanting and expecting different things. Some of us frustrated. Then in the middle of this stage I was responsible for the group presentation and suddenly I realized that I didn’t know very well how to handle this collaboration online. For example, our FISH document for topic 3 was filled with learning theories and nice references and I was drowning in all this, thinking what to choose for the presentation?  Should I take the decisions by myself or should I wait for my leader partner in this topic? Should I follow what group member X. wants or should I go for the presentation approach that I want?

Then my co-facilitator F. asked me -What is important to you? I noticed that I didn’t need so much more to start rolling. Sometimes a question will do it. And then I saw it immediately: how does a group collaborate? what is catalyzing and what is hindering the process?

As a result we made this Cartoon using Pixton. This way of presenting was very natural to me since it allowed me to play down the frustrations in my group at the same time that we could summarize theoretical content, build knowledge and reflect. What I realized afterward was that I could have invited all group members to create their own characters and speak through them. We could have made this cartoon together in a much funnier way.

Here is the cartoon


Other cool Cartoon maker tools for teachers are a click away, here

Finally I will be brave and give

 10+1 tips for a successful collaboration

  1. Be aware of places or people that want to shape you so you become the same as everybody else.
  2. We are all different and master different skills. Take advantage of this!
  3. It is about learning from our experiences and not only from what you read in books or watch on TV.
  4. Everyone brings something to a group!
  5.  Silent people may need more time to participate or participate in a different way…but hey! be aware that the group will miss your contribution silent people.
  6.  Extroverts populate the earth and are natural stars but hey, let other people contribute as well
  7.  Do not avoid conflicts! Face them and solve them in a wise way!
  8.  Groups develop over time like people do (check our cartoon for the stages of group development according to Susan A. Wheelan)
  9.  If you want to go faster, stop and reflect.
  10. Be patient: if we can argue and then laugh together we will trust more each other.
  11. Don’t be afraid of taking decisions: decision making is itself a learning process  (Siemens 2005)


Oleo painting “El baile” from Ismael Garcia Pozo CC – by-nd.


8 thoughts on “Topic 3 Learning in communities

  1. Hi Gizeh, this is a great and heartwarming reflection about your and our learning process. I recognize most of it. It is a great pleasure to work with you. But I want to know more about that Rueda, the metaphor… How does it look & feel? Let’s keep reflecting!


  2. I must say I like that you mention “We talked about our feelings” as it is exactly been the topic of my blogs. I think this is such an important element of a successful group that they get to expose their feelings of how they feel. Thanks for a really good blog, especially on a topic where I played a more “passive role”.


  3. Hi Gizeh,
    Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts.
    I love your writing style, your openness and honesty.
    I am impressed by what you have achieved at PBL9. It seams that you have managed to create a safe space where you can manage disagreements and discuss about your feelings, roles, expectations. Thanks as well for your tips, they are really helpful!


  4. Thanks for a nice summary of the stages/phases our grupe has past, I recognize what you are writing! I really like to say that I think you have deveoped very good digital litteracy and collaboration skills. i will always remember you as a very clever girl with lot of energy.


  5. Hi Gizeh

    Thank you for your reflections as we can partly relate to them. I have also watched the documentary you mentioned and I must admit it all felt very natural in the context of scientific collaborations. This is what I have experienced in my professional work as a researcher – everyone has their own individual expertise/competence/point of view to contribute and collectively build something nobody on their own would achieve.
    On the other hand, it feels that collaborative work to address some learning goals is a bit of a different story. The largest value I can see is the diversity and with a solid group management – efficiency in achieving the objectives. If we are all relatively novice then the factor of a uniquely diverse set of competences is no longer a crucial one. A natural question that emerges is whether we can then on our own, irrespective of time constraints, reach the same learning outcomes. I am under the impression that in some fields we can but we might miss out is the learning experience itself.


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