Top 3 Key Highlights From Prof. Gráinne Conole’s Community, Contribution and Connectedness Keynote

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After months of anticipation, we finally met with Prof. Gráinne Conole — Professor of Learning Innovation and Director of the Institute of Learning Innovation at the University of Leicester.

Gráinne is an advocate of online learning. Her main interests are on the use of technologies for learning, including Open Educational Resources (OER) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), new approaches to designing for learning, e-pedagogies, and social media.

Last month, we had the opportunity to listen to her thoughts on the theme “Community, Contribution and Connectedness”. In case you were not able to attend the event or missed out on some of the key points, here are our top three highlights from Gráinne’s keynote presentation!

Wicked Problems of Education

According to her, three “wicked” problems currently exist in education.

  1. Technology

There is a gap between the promise and the reality of technology. Digital technologies are very appealing to educators due to its capability to foster better engagement and the ease of accessing and retrieving information. However, some technologies may have difficult setups that may complicate their integration into educational use. Therefore, turning technology into a constraint.

  1. Digital Literacy

There are instances where both teachers and learners lack the necessary digital literacy skills to be able to harness technologies.

  1. Teaching Strategies

Educators are now teaching learners for an uncertain future to do jobs that don’t even exist at the moment. Educators need to move beyond knowledge recall to teach students the skills they need for the future.


Wicked Problems
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Theories Supporting Social Learning

Gráinne mentioned four theories that educators can use to support social learning.

  1. Etienne Wenger’s Community of Practice theory

Being a part of a community where you can explore professional practice while also interacting with a group of people. This theory focuses on developing a sense of belonging from learning communities and students sharing connections and experiences with their peers.

  1. John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid’s Network of Practice theory

This theory refers to the overall set of various types of informal, emergent social networks that facilitate information exchange between individuals with practice-related goals. It is often more geographically dispersed and embedded in local practices, socialisation and organisational aspects.

  1. Randy Garrison’s Communities of Inquiry theory

An educational community of inquiry is a group of individuals who collaboratively engage in purposeful critical discourse and reflection to construct personal meaning and confirm mutual understanding.

  1. Gráinne Conole and Rebecca Galley’s Community Indicators Framework

Social learning is about participation, cohesion, identity and creative capability. Aspects such as commitments, support, tolerance, sense of community and igniting a sense of purpose play a big role in social learning.


Community of Practice
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Ways of Augmenting Face to Face Education

Lastly, Gráinne also shares some methods where educators can augment the traditional methods of teaching to effectively enables students to develop critical thinking analytical skills in class.

  1. Blended Learning

Blended Learning is a combination of online learning and face-to-face learning. Online materials such as video, games, podcasts, online reading material, and online assignments are used in the classroom as supplements.  

  1. Flipped Learning

Students are encouraged to engage with study materials before class. Teachers will behave more as a facilitator and conduct a more engaging and active learning experience in class.

  1. Technology Enhanced Learning Spaces

These are technically enhanced physical spaces that can be utilised for knowledge generation. In the online realm, students can use learning management systems such as OpenLearning, other specialised media platforms or social media channels such as Twitter.


Blended Learning
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Gráinne’s keynote on Community, Connectedness, and Contribution brought up a lot of ideas and approaches to social and networked learning.

From the ideas mentioned, how might you re-imagine your own teaching practice and experience? What do you see as the benefits and challenges of social learning in your field? Share a few thoughts in the Comments section below!

Missed out on #OLConf2017? Read our highlights here or join the Social Learning Conference Course and have access to all the presentations from the conference.

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