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Models for EduBlogging Community Participation

I have been investigating a number of theories that can contribute to building a framework of online community participation.

One theory that addresses individual learners’ temperaments is Kiersey’s theory of temperament, in which temperament is classified into four categories: artisan, guardian, rational, and idealist. For guardians, life is a process of responsible fostering and preserving relationships and resources.

For artisans, life is viewed as a process of making instantaneous decisions among an array of choices. Rationals perceive life as a process of acquiring knowledge and skills. For idealists, life is pursued as a process of cultivating relationships, pursuing self-actualization, and developing others’ potentials (Berens, 2000).
Attempting to cultivate full participation of learners will require an examination of learners’ motives, needs, and values. Once these are identified, one can begin to consider strategies to empower learners and encourage full engagement and presence.

Artisans require freedom to act spontaneously, and make an impact on others. They require learning activities that are engaging, active, adventurous, creative, and culminate in a performance. Through performance for an audience, they seek to perform and play. They prefer to interact within fraternal relationships.

Guardians thrive in a learning community in which there is belonging to a membership. They need to work within a set of rules. Responsibility for adhering to clear-cut rules of conduct is important. Guardians prefer to learn within a hierarchical structure. They prefer to interact within groups/bonds.

Rationals thrive in conditions that test mastery and self-control. These learners are motivated to acquire greater knowledge and competence. They prefer to interact within expert relationships.

Idealists thrive while seeking meaning and significance, and work well in solitude while developing one’s own unique identity. They value empathic, cooperative relationships, authentic dialogue, and seek to promote self-actualization of self and others.

Compare this with Fiske’s Relational Models Theory (RMT), in which he identified communal sharing, authority ranking, equality matching, and market pricing. These types suggest ways of regulating interactions and fostering relationships among learners within a developing online community.
Fiske’s model is useful for contributing to the identification of learners’ expectations of how they are to plan and construct action, anticipating and interpreting others’ actions, encoding, processing and recalling social experiences, as well as assessing one’s own (and others’) actions (Fiske, 2005).

Ronfeldt’s TIMN theory (2006) of places organizations into four forms: Tribes, Institutions, Markets, and Networks.
Ronfeldt claimed that today’s online organizations will be successful to the extent they will enable a balanced integration of the existing four forms of organizations. To flourish, an online learning organization needs to have a clear set of rules and boundaries to bind the four forms into a self-regulating, cohesive whole.

“To do well, in the 21st century and beyond, an advanced, democratice, information-age society will have to incorporate all four forms and make them and their realms function well together, despite their inherent contradictions” (Ronfeldt, 2009, pg. 3).

Ronfeldt admits the challenge of community builders is to enable participants in such a society to be comfortable shifting between the different realms.

“…people who prefer one form culturally or philosophically [or psychologically], may not be comfortable with another form; they may have to learn how to accept and cope with the coexistence of various TIMN forms in their own society” (Ronfeldt, 2009, pg. 4).

In the case of th Elgg learning community, for example, a key role facilitators and animators will be to guide learners through transitions across thresholds to become full, confident participants in all activities within the network of practice at AU.

At a fundamental level, community builders and facilitators will need to address the dichotomous nature of solidary relationships. Ronfeldt (2006) cited Weber’s disitinction between communal relationships and associative relationships. Communal relationships are based on subjective feelings, traditions, intuitions, that participants belong to each other as co-learners. Associative relationships depend on “a rational agreement entered into by participants by mutual consent” (Ronfeldt, 2006, pg. 20).

In addition, community builders need to address the roles reciprocity and redistribution will play within the emergent online learning organization. Karl Polanyi’s distinction (1945) between reciprocity and redistribution might provide clues to an alternate form of model for interaction between learners.

Reciprocity involves a system that expects learners to produce “goods and services” for which they are best suited, and then share these with others. This is reciprocated by other learners. Everyone would produce what they could do best, and mutually share and share alike. Redistribution involves a process in which a leader collects and creates and presents showcase of excellence.

The idea of reciprocity and redistribution as described by Polanyi (1945) requires extensive re-working. The description used, for example, to illustrate the process of reciprocity and redistribution, is outdated, implying that the only place reciprocal relationships occurs is within primitive indigenous tribes. The core ideas of reciprocity and redistribution are of great potential value, worthy of careful consideration and potential incorporation within contemporary online learning communities. Undoubtedly, the processes of reciprocity and redistribution will involve altogether different strategies than developed up to this point. The preparation of a number of community-wide learning feasts, for example, in which the entire community participates in showcasing and celebrating their learning in various, as yet unforeseen ways, would unit the group and encourage reciprocal relationships among learners.

The theories presented address the roles and expectations of individual learners, the interactions among groups and organizations, as well as the overriding paradigms that impact the whole learning organization of an emerging online learning system.

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netizenship • July 7, 2009

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