Master of Arts in Educational Technology (OMET) Pepperdine University  
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Journal Entry - Ten [posted Wednesday,October 29, 2008]

Designing Learning: Cognitive Science Principles for the Innovative Organization by Penuel, B., & Roschelle, J.

The authors open with what sounds like Lave’s view on learning—it [learning] takes place within communities of practice. They define a community as “the ways people organize themselves” or the “way in which they form temporary associations.” Learning is embedded in routine work activities, by observing others more skilled than we are. Novices learn to become experts through practice, solving a variety of problems. Penuel et al, state learners can master a particular domain through “active monitoring.” And active monitoring occurs when learners have the opportunity to share their knowledge.

The model Penuel et al propose is “social construction of situated knowledge,” where building understanding in a community-based learning environment is at its heart in the social process.

A major problem for businesses is how to help workers improve their practice. I intend to focus on this problem for my ARP. For 21st century skills, workers need to be good at handling the difficult exceptions and problems that computers can’t handle. Innovative organizations are encouraging excellence among employees by building on existing culture of learning.

The authors convey a success story about photocopier repair technicians and how they formed an occupational community (with little management involvement). Information sharing and story telling was part of their everyday work culture. The repair technicians used hand-held radios to communicate with each other without fear of managers listening in on their conversations. The radio technology allowed for the free flow of information that could be shared on-the-go and not just face-to-face. The technicians could get questions answered and resolve problems “rapidly” and reported that they enjoyed providing problem-focused and moral support to their peers though the radios.

This story was an example of an informal learning environment. I would like to establish this kind of relaxed, friendly atmosphere for my peer-to-peer support group. Learning is typically “more fun in informal learning environments, because the interest and talents of participants are resources for learning with these contexts.” The information in this article was helpful in confirming the use of technology for my support network. I believe I have learned from this article that it would be good not to have any managers as members of the support network (at least initially).

Not only will my proposed support group help solve immediate problems of their peer-members, but it will hopefully prove to be a “built-in opportunity” for learning. In closing, the authors cite Vygotsky views, “social settings in which experts or more capable peers are present provide strategic support to learners so that they can perform at higher levels than they would be able to achieve unassisted by others.” “…Speaking, thinking and valuing particular communities of practice, learners come to enhance their identities within those communities.”