Creative Expression into Informal Learning

Connectivism – Communities of Practice – Personal Learning Networks

Meerkat Manner(isms)

While exploring and learning about connectivism, personal learning networks, and community of practice it was easy to make the jump from the human world to the animal kingdom. Non-linguistically it is clear that connectivism can very conveniently translate into the underground tunnels of meerkat clans. The interconnectedness allows these animals to remain linked to their family for feeding, sleeping and socializing. These ever-changing tunnels allow movement from the daylight interactions to nighttime safety. George Siemens defines connectivism as the ever changing interconnectedness that is not controlled by any one individual or one database. Connectivism particularly focuses on learning in our digital time period and focuses on the “the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity” (Siemens, 2005).

A young meerkat will learn everything from the family unit. They will observe their personal learning network as they learn to become productive in their family clan. According to Dowdy, a personal learning network “gives the learner control over his or her own learning process” (2010, p. 177). Humans, like meerkats, will set up a network to help them grow, first by observing and later interacting and contributing more authentically.

Meerkats live and work in clans of upwards of 20 family members, some groups push 50 members (National Geographic, 1996). This, community of practice, works together as a family with the common goal of survival. Each member is invested in the strength and health of the mob in order to thrive. If meerkats focused less on the family, their community of practice would not be as successful. Individual meerkats have roles within the group; there is a leader as well as gatherers, look-outs, nursing mothers, and babies. These animals move throughout the clan roles as they learn and grow. Yellow mongoose and squirrels are even sometimes welcomed into the community as an extra support system for the group. The idea of a community of practice has been explored and defined by Etienne Wenger as “collective knowledge” that provides us with the capacity of “meaningful knowing”. While animals work together for survival, humans may form communities of learning to better understand topics such as: cars, printers, learning theories or authors purpose. The ideas that make a community of practice are endless, but it is the constant search of understanding of that idea that connects the community.

Creative Expression of Connectivism, CoPs and PLNs


Dowdy, M. & Martindale T. Personal Learning Environments. Emerging Technologies in Distance Learning (pp. 177-193). Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from

Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems. Organizations, 225-246. Retrieved from
“Meerkats, Meerkat Pictures, Meerkat Facts – National Geographic.”National Geographic. N.p., 1996.

Images Credit:

Prairie Dog Tunnels. Digital image. Exotic Nutrition Pet Company. N.p., 2001. Web. 3 July 2015. <>.

Koninin, Mikhail. Digital image. N.p., 2012. Web. 3 July 2015. <>.

Marcuson, Mark E. Cross section of prairie dog burrow. Digital image. Solaripedia. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2008. Web. 3 July 2015. <>.