In my quest of looking for cognitive theories that apply to my research question: “Can microblogs help us learn and therefore perform better?”, I came across situated cognition. 

Situated Cognition

Situated cognition theory, developed by John Seely Brown, Allan Collins and Paul Duguid and described in Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning, states that knowing is inseparable from doing. In Situated Cognition & Cognitive Apprenticeships, Kevin Oliver explains it this way: “Situated learning theory and the cognitive apprenticeship model based on it suggest skills be acquired through authentic contexts and by communicating with peers and experts about those contexts.” This explanation really caught my interest because this is when I realized the connection between situated cognition and communities of practice.

Communities of Practice

“Community of practice (CoP), according to cognitive anthropologists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, is a term that describes a group of people who share an interest, a craft, and/or a profession. The group can evolve naturally because of the members’ common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally (Lave & Wenger 1991).” Wikipedia

Community of Practice and Situated Cognition

“‘Community of practice,’ a concept emerging from situated cognition, emphasizes sharing and doing, construct meaning in a social unit (Roschelle, 1995). Situated learning occurs when students work on authentic tasks that take place in real-world setting (Winn, 1993).” EduTech Wiki “The theory of situated cognition…claims that every human thought is adapted to the environment, that is, situated, because what people perceive, how they conceive of their activity, and what they physically do develop together” (Clancey, 1997).” Situated Learning

Situated Cognition, Communities of Practice and Microblogs

Per the mini experiment I ran in my own organization with microblogs (see post), people answered the question: “What are you working on?”, and it allowed us to read each other’s posts and become more connected and notice when the other was working on something we could help with. So, any learning and performance improvement we enjoyed, was situated in the activity we were working on at the time. Therefore, per situated cognition, our learning and therefore knowing was not separate from doing–but was intertwined. The entire time we are working and blogging we are situated in the goal-directed activity and work environment. At the same time,  through microblogging, we were supported by our community, our community of fellow consultants, our community of practice–at least this is what happened in my mini experiment (see post).

However, as I discussed, in my last blog, in order to bring the sense of community to microblogs, another, external form of community has to be superimposed. In my mini experiment, this was my organization (see previous post). I am sure this is of no surprise because anyone who has explored the notion of community on a microblog like Twitter, without the superimposition of another form of community, knows that there really is no sense of community. Again see my experiment to create a community on Twitter in my previous post.

My Research Direction

Based on my research journey to date, I realize I really should do my experiment in/with a microblog community that does in fact has another superimposed community around it because that is when the group comes to life as a community, and, that is where situated cognition and perhaps even communities of practice are relevant. Therefore, that is where learning and performance improvement takes place.  The answer=a Yammer group. At first I thought an experiment with a public microblog like Twitter would yield the same results if used to answer the question: “What are you working on?” But I no longer believe that to be true because even in my organization, we had to stop publically blogging what we were doing for fear of violating confidentiality and with more and more social media policies against public microblogging popping up, the less this research is possible with Twitter.

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