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Digital Communities of Practice

Back in January 2016, Centre for Digital Youth Care ran a digital campaign on bullying amongst children and young people. Our aim was to create a dialogue with youth, and thus, help prevent bullying. Our experiences from the campaign are now resulting in a contributive article in an international publication. This will take place in connection with the completion of a big European collaboration, ENABLE, where focus is to strengthen communities and increase children and young people’s emotional intelligence in order to stop bullying.

By Signe Sandfeld Hansen, M.Sc. in Psychology and counsellor, CfDP

Meeting young people at digital eye level

Cyberhus.dk is continually organising different campaigns focusing on a particular theme. Most of our campaigns primarily use the following Cyberhus features: ‘blogs’, ‘group chat’, ‘secrets’, and ‘articles’. Also, ‘forum’ becomes a space where young people may begin, or continue, a debate without the involvement from the counselling team at Cyberhus. Out of Cyberhus’ four primary features, ‘group chat’ plays the biggest part in our communication with youth during a campaign.

Group chat as a learning environment

Overall, the aim of our anti-bullying campaign included communicating information on bullying, creating a reflective dialogue with young people, and articulating relevant human processes often brought on by bullying. Thus, succeeding with the campaign entailed that young people should learn more about the subject, themselves, and others, both in regards to strengthening their empathy, and reflecting on their emotions, thoughts, and behaviour. According to social learning theory, learning is created between people when they enter into so-called communities of practice (Etíenne Wenger: Communities of Practice, 1998). This way, learning is a social act or a social process unfolding in a dynamic, joint interaction with other people. Our article, discussing the campaign, argues that Cyberhus’ group chat may be considered a community of practice, giving room for social and emotional learning – which means that the campaign then offers formal as well as informal learning.

Formal and informal learning

The features of ‘articles’ and ‘blogs’ were used as structured media of communication, specifically intending to promote information on bullying. This, among others, includes Cyberhus’ articles on definitions of various types of bullying, what you can do, and accompanying emotions, as well as blog posts presenting questions of reflection, aiming to promote young people’s thought processes on the issue of bullying.

Informal learning showed itself in the feature of ‘group chat’ when Cyberhus’ young people did well in moderating each other and letting others know if their boundaries were breached. This way, they expressed what did want or did not want in a social context. Also, ‘group chat’ presents a space in which young people are taken seriously. A lot of young people who visit Cyberhus have few to no experiences of being taken seriously – both by other young people and adults. So, they often experience a growing insecurity regarding their faith in their own emotions and thoughts. Creating a community where youth actually feel they have something to offer, and are met as such, may lead young people to gain a stronger sense of value. It may also mean that young people learn how to articulate their inner reality, and communicate this reality to others in a sound manner. It may even mean that someone, more so, value their opinion or emotion to be important the next time issues of bullying is up for discussion at home or at school – and perhaps, more young people will begin put their foot down when it comes to bullying.

Various opportunities of the campaign

The form and design of the campaign provide opportunities for young people to speak to each other across age, and geographical location. They may share thoughts, emotions, and experiences in the safety of the anonymity offered by Cyberhus. Often, it gives rise to more varied conversations, making room for people’s many-varied attitudes and opinions. Forward-looking, it would be interesting to examine the effect of Cyberhus’ group chat as a community of practice, degrees of formal and informal learning, and how a future campaign may focus its content – of any theme – in order to optimise both forms of learning.

Learn more about ENABLE.

Learn more about our campaign on bullying.

Please direct any questions, or inquiries of becoming a collaborator on a campaign, to Signe @ signe@cfdp.dk, +0045 60137053.

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