This is my response to Cristina on Integrating technology into research training.
How can this enhance PhD experience? “What, I think, we still struggle with – and that is just my opinion, of course – is with the facilitation of a collaborative environment.” Yes, I think that is the major challenge in conducting advanced research, where collaboration amongst PhD students is never easy, when independent thinking and research is often expected and encouraged. This was also my feeling whilst conducting research sometime ago.
I like your question: Are they a community yet? My question is: Have I/we understood the needs and expectations of myself and others within the community? What are the motivations in learning within a community? What would help in supporting each other within the community/network, especially those doing a PhD?
To me, it’s the process of development within the community/network that is critical: where each networker would take on a “role” as he/she feels like or comfortable in his/her learning journey, the self-directed and organised learning that makes and identifies him/her as part of the community/network.
I also see new lights emerging from new opportunities afforded by the media -like Facebook and Twitter, which mediated the conversation in a more adaptive and customised (fast response & one on one) manner. So, would we need to re-define what it means to be a community or community of practice under a technology mediated ecology?
To me: It is not one COP/network that succeeds with a few practitioners who achieve or win as leaders, it is one (a hybrid of network/COP) which could adapt its “shape & process” to cater for the networkers, and make the learning valuable, significant and sustainable that win. Within such a framework, everyone becomes a learning leader, taking charge of his/her learning and inspiring and influencing others to achieve excellence with a mutually supportive spirit. Blogging and reflective sharing in virtual/face to face workshop or conference, as you mentioned are also strategic discourse to live out the social networking spirit as scholars. Would such connections and interactions (with PLE/N) be able to transform educational and learning practice amongst PhD and other HE students? Would that be the social networking leadership that we all aspire to?
Still thinking… How would you see the emergence of social networks in PhD studies? Though I am not doing one..