“Networked Learning Communities–The Benefits for Continuing Professional Developmentof Virtual Learning Environment Teachers”A Critical Literature Review by Chris O Tool

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Review covers literature for the period from 1996 to 2018: What are the benefits of networked learning communities for continuing professional development sharing and learning?
In the area of teacher professional development, research has shown that teacher networks add value for their development, the implementation of changes, leadership, and improved teaching practices. Four main themes emerged in response to the primary research question. These were:

  • Enhanced social learning processes for CPD: learning communities help participants in this study to develop their competencies by sharing information and collaboration / helps to minimize the isolation that learners may have due to cultural, social or geographical reasons
  • Greater use of formal and informal learning for CPD: Communication, collaboration and learning between individuals occurs both through formal and informal networks/ Yet, formal learning paths are rarely designed to meet the demands VLE teachers face in professional practice
  • Learning across barriers in time and space for CPD: Networked learning communities provide a means for supporting the development of professional development learning communities across states and countries
  • Increased levels of interaction for CPD: By cultivating interaction among CPD learners, networked learning communities support profound learning and greater levels of professional practice

Networked learning theory suggests that the real power of networked learning communities rests primarily in “collaborative inquiry that challenges thinking and practice” based on the richness of VLE teacher professional knowledge sharing and creation (Katz, Earl, & Jaffar, 2009, p.21) and that this type of collaborative inquiry rests on the strength of the relationships between the actors or nodes in the network (Church et al., 2002; Haythornwaite, & de Laat, 2010)

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Delhaize store in Brussels grows its own vegetables

Delhaize created this farm back in Autumn with the idea of producing super fresh food for their customers (…) On the top of their store, they grew strawberries, lettuce, and tomatoes as well as small amounts of other fruits and vegetables. It recycles water, recovers heat from its greenhouses and relies on solar energy making it a permaculture farm (…) In the summer, Delhaize took their Urban Farm to a new level (metaphorically, as it’s already on the roof…) by introducing people up to the farm to attend workshops (…) The food is harvested at 8 am every morning and is on the shelves of the supermarket by 9 am

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How to build a learning city? UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning


From the site:

Building a learning city is a collective and continuing journey. It requires a concrete action plan with strong political leadership and steadfast commitment; participation and involvement of all stakeholders; diverse celebratory events charged with enthusiasm and inspirations; easy accessibility and enjoyable experiences for all citizens; a proper monitoring and evaluation of progress; and sustainable and secure funding. You can find detailed instructions on these action tips in our Guidelines for Building Learning Cities.

Video tutorials on ‘How to build a learning city’ illustrate and elaborate on the actions to take. Each module begins with an animated conceptual video, which is further enriched by clips based on the experience of members of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities

Networked Learning


The network is a network of people: networked learning aims to understand social learning processes by asking how people develop and maintain a ‘web’ of social relations used for their learning and development (de Laat)

Networked learning does not necessarily involve ICT, though in specific cases it may make use of technology. What makes learning networked is the connection to and engagement with other people across different social positions inside and outside of a given institution.  The network is supportive of a person’s learning through the access it provides to other people’s ideas and ways of participating in practice as well as of course through the opportunity to discuss these ideas and ways of participating and to potentially develop nuanced, common perspectives (Carvalho and Goodyear)

Networked learning may utilize ICT but it might me also supported by other means such as physical artefacts or artistic stimulation of senses and feelings while connections may also be drawn spontaneously by the learners themselves (Bober & Hynes)

The network is a network of situations or contexts: connections between the diverse contexts in which the learners participate as significant for understanding learning beyond online learning spaces, and, indeed, within them as well. This is the sense in which the network, under-stood as a network of situations, supports learning: by offering tacit knowledge, perspectives and ways of acting from known situations for re-situated use in new ones. Networked Learning’ on this under-standing is the learning arising from the connections drawn between situations and from the resituated use in new situations of knowledge, perspectives and ways of acting from known ones (Dohn)

The ‘network’ is one of ICT infrastructure, enabling connections across space and time: The support for learning provided by the network is one of infrastructure, i.e. the ease of saving, transporting and retrieving content for future use. Learning, it would seem, will be ‘networked’ whenever it is ICT-mediated, by that very fact; perhaps with the proviso that the situations of learning should indeed be separated in space and/or time so that the infrastructure (the ‘network’) is actually brought into play. This proviso would differentiate the field of networked learning somewhat from the field of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL), where many studies concern ICT-facilitated group work between physically co-located students. The re-search field of Networked Learning is characterized, not only by focusing on ‘networks’, but also by taking a certain approach to learning, focusing critically on aspects of democratization and empowerment (Czerniewicz and Lee)

The ‘network’ is one of actants: consisting of both human and non-human agents in symmetrical relationship to each other. It is a systemic approach to learning, where individual learners’ interaction and learning may be analyzed as a result of socio-material entanglement with objects and other people. The network supports learning in the sense that any learning is in fact the result of concrete socio-material entanglement of physical, virtual, and human actants (Wright and Parchoma; Jones)



Bonderup Dohn, N., Sime, J-A., Cranmer, S., Ryberg, T., & de Laat, M. (2018). Reflections and challenges in Networked Learning. In N. Bonderup Dohn, S. Cranmer, J-A. Sime, M. de Laat, & T. Ryberg (Eds.), Networked Learning – reflections and challenges (pp. 187-212). Switzerland: Springer. Research in Networked Learning,
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-74857-3_11

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The workshop as a means for creating & sustaining sociality



The workshop is one of the oldest institutions of human society. like farming, the artisan workshop terminated the wandering way of life. Much of this also depended on the scale of their tools. In China and Greece it was the most important institution anchoring civic life which practiced the division of labor. The workshop spawned an idea of justice, artisans were allowed to choose freely how to practice their craft. Craftsmen, both Confucius and Plato believed, make good citizens. The urban craftsman in the medieval period began producing surplus: from covering the intra-city needs to inter-city needs. Guilds managed conflict

The European roots of the American workshops can be traced to Robert Owen. He originally founded New Lanark in Scotland as a prototype of a modern industry. He later formulated his plans for an autonomous village and tried to diffuse that model first in England (Orbiston) and then in the US (Harmony). He formulated a set of precepts, the otherwise known as 6 Rochdale Principles: workshops open to anyone, one person one vote, distribution of surplus in relation to trade, cash trading, political and religious neutrality and promotion of education. Owen’s idea of workshop is of an institution which combines long-term mutual benefit and loyalty with short-term flexibility and openness. Factory-style science was for him a mechanical testing of hypotheses; a more innovative laboratory engages from experiment, open to surprise discovery.

On the opposite of Owen lay Charles Fourrier version of workshop: its aim was greatest good for greatest number. He created the phalansteries (big hotels) where he crowded the deserving poor. This was top-down planning that inspired the Soviet industrial planning. People in phalansteries worked and lived in the same building.

These workshops lay the foundation for the Settlement Houses and the Hampton and Tuskegee Institutions founded in the US at the second half of the 19th century.

Excerpts from Richard Sennett’s book, Together: The Rituals & Politics of Cooperation, 2012, London: Penguin Books and Leonardo Benevolo’s, Storia dell’ architettura moderna, 1990, Bari: Edizioni Laterza

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The settlement house


Originally (a solidarity exhibit in Paris Expo 1900 – musee social), a bottom-up voluntary association, located in a poor urban community, where poorly skilled workers could receive education, get advice on everyday problems or simply find a warm, clean place to hang out. Providers of service were mostly middle-class women, usually working for nothing. SH were small usually serving 600-800 people. The SH movement spread from Europe to the US. Moscow: Alexander Zelenko/ Chicago: Hull House founded by Jane Adams. The SH took up the issue of sociality in a complex society full of difference and sought to convert inner and often passive awareness of others into active engagement. To do that, it emphasized informal contact (Toll’s Rule): advise rather than direct. It gave more shape to cooperative activity and turned technical competence into a sociable activity.

Hampton (1866) and Tuskegee (1881) Institutes sought to build the skills and morale of ex-slaves. The founder was Booker T. Washington. However, the ex-slaves had developed sophisticated skills in farming, carpentering, house building and they taught lessons themselves to newer members. Temporary relocation could regenerate cooperation through daily contact with others. Gender equality was also inscribed within racial recovery. The workshop became an icon of reform. Washington emphasized that each person had something different to offer


Frances Johnston’s images show ethnic differences resolved by people working together, rather than simply being together; they make a point about the tools that enable workers to cooperate. In this famous photo, six men are constructing a staircase, each deploying a different skill yet locked together. The photo is staged, it is a narrative of the stages needed to build a staircase. They are relaxed but absorbed in performing a demanding task [image retrieved from: http://www.oxfordartonline.com/page/American-Women-Photographers-c.-1900-1940, Frances Benjamin Johnston: Students at work on a house built largely by them, gelatin silver print, c. 1899-90 (Washington, DC, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division); image courtesy of the Library of Congress]



Excerpts from Richard Sennett’s book, Together: The Rituals & Politics of Cooperation, 2012, London: Penguin Books

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Funding the Cooperative City by D. Patti & L. Polyak


In the context of increasing pressure on public administrations to become entrepreneurial, financial capital has had a growing role in shaping cities across the world (…) In the financialised city, buildings are “no longer something to use, but to own (with the hope of increased asset-value, rather than use-value, over time).” When the exchange-value of buildings gains prominence over their use-value, they lose all relationship with actual needs and become acting “similarly to how financial products are being created and sold that have lost any connection with real production or a real economy” (…) In the context of the crisis, many local and cultural communities witnessed their spatial and economic resources diminishing with the drainage of funding and the withdrawal of institutional support (…) as a response, many of these communities set themselves to create spaces and services on their own (…) These new forms of governance contributed to the formal or informal extension of the field of actors in urban development and to the outsourcing of “former public tasks and services to volunteer organisations, community associations, non-profit corporations, foundations, and private firms” (…) The engagement of non-institutional and non-profit actors in renovating, operating and managing civic spaces brought participation to a new level: instead of expressing consent or dissent related to a planned development project, or even contributing to the program or design of a new urban area, many communities took the initiative into their own hands and became developers – urban pioneers, spatial entrepreneurs or city makers – themselves. 



Daniela Patti & Levente Polyak (eds.), 2017. Funding the Cooperative City: Community Finance and the Economy of Civic Spaces, Vienna: Cooperative City Books

Funding the Cooperative City is a research and advocacy project initiated by the Rome- Vienna-Budapest-based organisation Eutropian.

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