Week 4 – CLEM and Community

This week the focus turns to community. It’s a term that may mean many different things to different people, and you’ll be looking and thinking about some of those different meanings. In particular, the aim of this week is to focus upon how you can make use of communities (especially those that are enabled/supported/created by networked learning/technologies) in your roles “as learner”, “as student”, and “as teacher”.

First, a brief look at the CLEM framework. Intended as a simple guide to help you in sense-making when trying to engage with a new practice. Perhaps helpful in your role “as learner” within a networked world.

Second, you’ll be asked read a much more detailed work examining different types of online learning communities, what they are, and how they can be used to learn/teach.

Please remember that next week is a “catch up and reflection week”. There are no new set activities and readings.


Clem by liquene, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  liquene 

Let me introduce CLEM.

Not some random cat from Flickr named Clem (as shown in the photo), but rather a simple framework intended to help get you situated in terms of learning about a new approach to learning/teaching, especially one involving the use of digital technologies. It’s a device I use in my undergraduate course. It’s origins is as a framework for learning how to integrate a new digital technology into teaching. But it does seem to have some utility for application to learning with netgl.

CLEM is an acronym and thus has four components. Each of those components represents an important focus for developing your knowledge when exploring a new practice. Where practice might be anything from raising chickens through to learning how to play a clarinet/saxaphone duet.

CLEM’s four components are:

  1. Community;
    Many practices will have developed an online (or not) community of people interested in and learning about that practice. These communities might be very tight knit and focused around one website. Or, they might be spread out across various websites and face-to-face meetings. Either way, these communities have typically developed a lot of useful knowledge and resources about how to learn and engage in the practice. Joining the community can be an important part of learning.The main reading this week (what you do next) goes into more detail about the types of community and the types of participation within those communities.Some questions you may need to answer include: What, where and how active are the communities around the practice I’m interested in? Are there different communities? How do you engage with this community? Where do you go to get help?
  2. Literature;What academic (and other) literature exists around this practice? Whether produced by the community or elsewhere. When it comes to formal education, there will typically be quite a bit of published literature. What is it? Where is it?
  3. Examples; and,Learning from example has a long tradition and significant value. The communities and literature around practices are likely to be contain numerous examples.What examples exist? What can you learn from those examples? What makes a good example? What makes a bad example? Are there examples applicable to you?
  4. Model.A model or a schema is an attempt to organise into a useful pattern a collection of ideas and relationships. They provide a way to represent, organise, and perceive how something works. We all build models/schema implicitly. There’s value in explicitly looking for, building, and testing models of what ever you are learning.

The suggestion is that as you think about your roles “as learner”, “as student”, and “as teacher” explicitly looking for and engaging with the four components of the CLEM framework can help.

For example, if you were (as some are) thinking of using “How to raise chickens” as your “as learner” activity. Then there is some value in trying to find the Communities, Literature, Examples, and Models.

Activity: What have you chosen to learn “as learner”? What have you found already in terms of the four components of the CLEM framework? What else do you need to look for? Can you find it?

The opaque nature of digital technologies

Could you describe/draw/animate a conceptual model capturing how your blog and Feedly integrates with your (recommended) use of the Seek/Sense/Share model in this course?

Koehler and Mishra (2009) draw on Turkle (1995) to define opaque as “the inner workings are hidden from users”. Turkle (1995) talks about people having “become accustomed to opaque technology”. What she means by this is when you use a computer of digital technology you only see the interface. You see the windows, icons and menus (if on a computer). What you can’t see – what is opaque – is how the software actually works. You can’t see the model that describes how the technology works.

Kafai et al (2014) touch on the problem of digital technologies being opaque

promote an understanding of computers and software as black boxes where the inner workings are hidden to users. (Kafai et al., 2014, p. 536)

For example, your blog operates by working in a range of different objects (e.g. posts, pages, tags, categories, feeds, links). It is programmed to organise these objects in certain ways. The problem is that the web-based interface you see of your blog makes it more difficult (but not impossible) for you to see what all these different objects are and how they are put together.

Ben-Ari and Yeshno (2006) found that people with appropriate conceptual models of digital technologies were better able to analyse and solve problems. While learners without appropriate conceptual models were limited to aimless trial and error. It’s not a huge stretch to see how learners and teachers with appropriate conceptual models of digital technologies are going to be better able to creatively use digital technologies for their learning and teaching.


Online learning communities

The following reading starts with this sentence

The psychological model we hold for the mind influences the way we think and act in designing and participating in intentional learning settings. (Riel & Pollin, 2004, p. 16)

And it finishes with this

Yet, teaching is a professional practice, with an evolving body of knowledge and a diverse and divided workforce. Networking technology offers the teaching profession an opportunity to organize as a distributed learning organization, to integrate historically divided groups, particularly researchers and teachers, and to more effectively evolve practice through collaborative reconceptualization of learning practices. (Riel & Pollin, 2004, p. 46)

The reading aims to provide you with some models of different types of online learning communities and some of the principles that underpin all. The hope is that this will help you transform “the way we think and act in designing and participating in intentional learning settings” (Riel & Pollin, 2004, p. 16) and that you can use this transformation to influence how you are engaging “as student”, “as teacher”, and perhaps “as learner”.

As you read through Riel and Polin (2004) please try and connect the points made to your own experiences in this course and beyond. It might be a good idea to highlight and ponder those connections via your blog or other means. For example, this blog post I’ve just written as I re-skimmed Riel and Polin.

Reading: Read Riel and Polin (2004) (a link only available to those enrolled at USQ due to copyright restrictions).

As another prompt for reflection, consider this quote from Riel and Polin (2004)

Networking technology can support the aggregation of these communities across distance and time into a learning landscape that looks very different than the schools of the past century (p. 46)

And some of the following questions

  1. What type of “networking technology” do you have access to now and into the future?Remember, technology is moving far beyond computers. Mobile devices (e.g. smart phones and devices like a Fitbit) and the “Internet of Things” are rapidly changing what is possible.
  2. What were the different types of community that Riel and Polin talked about? How might these apply in your context “as student” and “as teacher”? How might this conceptualisation of communities change your practice “as teacher”?
  3. How might your “school” (i.e. the setting where you are helping others learn) look very different due to technologies and community?


Ben-Ari, M., & Yeshno, T. (2006). Conceptual Models of Software Artifacts. Interacting with Computers, 18(6), 1336–1350. doi:10.1016/j.intcom.2006.03.005

Brantley-Dias, L., & Ertmer, P. A. (2013). Goldilocks and TPACK: Is the construct “just right?” Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 46(2), 103–128.

Kafai, Y. B., Fields, D. A., & Searle, K. A. (2014). Electronic Textiles as Disruptive Designs: Supporting and Challenging Maker Activities in Schools. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 532–556,563–565. doi:10.17763/haer.84.4.46m7372370214783

Koehler, M., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60–70. Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/29544/

Riel, M., & Polin, L. (2004). Online learning communities: Common ground and critical differences in designing technical environments. In S. A. Barab, R. Kling, & J. Gray (Eds.), Designing for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning (pp. 16–50). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


14 thoughts on “Week 4 – CLEM and Community

  1. Pingback: Assignment 1 criteria are “final” and an update on week 6 and the rest of the course | An experiment in Networked & Global Learning

  2. Philip W.

    Hello David,

    Regarding the Activity: Have you tried yet to find the CLEM that will help you? Especially in terms of you “as teacher”? Have a go. Share your successful finds and any difficulties you face.

    Making sense OF CLEM (before seek and share)
    I am a little lost with the post above, and realize that I might be risking my wholly dubious reputation here, but will go on to say that I am of the opinion that CLEM doesn’t really exist right? (*), Except as a construction of what each student here makes of it? I think I am going to use it to represent the headings of the design-based research (DBR) method for Assignment 2, that we would apply in our our contexts. That CLEM is the foundation for our research into insights and resources for ass.2? Please could you comment or commend? (BTW Under 1. above .. could you say what you were you about to write more in respect of “Communities might be:? ,,, blankety blank’. Kind regards 😉


    1. David Jones Post author

      G’day Phil, Sorry for the delay in replying. I’m hoping you’ve seen some of the work others are doing with CLEM (e.g. this from Anne).

      For me CLEM – if it has any value – is solely as a way of thinking about what you need to search out more of to help you in general with the course and perhaps with Assignment 2. It’s just another model (not much more than a mnemonic) that is useful only if it provides some aid to you in helping you think about a problem or task. As to whether it’s real, well there are a couple of places online it’s been shared.

      One of the reasons I explicitly included it is to re-emphasise the importance of community to NGL. It’s not just about connecting with online resources, but also about interacting with people.

      In terms of Communities, I think Anne does a good job of illustrating. For most of what we do there are already communities out their learning from each other. Clare gives another example of finding communities for her as learner task.

      Identifying those communities then generates questions about how you can become a member, get value from them etc.

      As for using it for the headings of your Assignment 2, not sure I can see how that would work, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t work that way.


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