education research social media

Social networks as platforms to establish communities of practice

I finally managed to submit my application to participate in the FAIMER programme for 2010.  I’m not sure when the applications will be processed, but I’ll be sure to announce it here.  See below for the Introduction to my project proposal:

“A traditional curriculum is based on an accumulated body of knowledge that has been acquired, collated and verified over a long period of time, with experts in a particular field being determined by comparing their assertions to those of the established canon. This method of acquiring knowledge isn’t possible in a society where content is becoming available faster than the ability of any one individual to process.

While the emergence of the internet and a fully networked society have ushered in a period of convenient access to vast amounts of content, this has often been misinterpreted as access to knowledge. Even though  the distribution of massive amounts of data is certainly welcome, it misses the point that the power of the internet is not in being a content repository, but as a platform to facilitate communication through social networks and communities of practice.

The internet has created a realistic opportunity to share and exchange learning experiences, not only beyond the walls of the classroom, but across oceans and continents. As a result of a densely connected society, our acceptance of conventional wisdom is being challenged, as the concept of knowledge is increasingly being seen as a negotiated outcome of social learning experiences that are tightly integrated within the network.

These ideas do not only force us to reconsider the traditional meanings of “curriculum”, “education”, and “teacher”. They also challenge us to find innovative ways of guiding students through a curriculum where memorising the prescribed content is less important than their ability to make meaning through knowledge sharing within their professional community.”


  • Fitzgerald, R., & Steele, J. (2008). Digital learning communities – Investigating the application of social software to support networked learning. Australian Learning and Teaching Council, PO Box 2375, Strawberry Hills, NSW 2012, Australia.

  • Fox, R., Yeung, L., Law, N., Yuen, A., Yeung, A., Kong, H., et al. (2006). Sustaining and transferring curriculum and pedagogical innovation through establishing communities of practice. Proceedings of the 23rd annual Ascilite conference (pp. 251-255). University of Sydney.

  • Siemenns, G. & Tittenberger, P. (2009). Handbook of emerging technologies for Learning. Learning Technologies Centre, University of Mantiboba. Available online at

By Michael Rowe

I'm a lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. I'm interested in technology, education and healthcare and look for places where these things meet.

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