When Virtual Communities Click: Transforming Teacher Practice, Transforming Teachers

When Virtual Communities Click: Transforming Teacher Practice, Transforming Teachers

Jeannine Hirtle (The University of Hawaii at Hilo, USA) and Samuel Smith (University of Texas at Arlington, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-788-1.ch011
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Communities of practice (CoP’s)—much touted and studied as a mechanism for teacher education and professional development—may offer environments for deeper learning and transformation of their participants. This chapter examines more meaningful outcomes possible in community-centered learning— deep learning, changes in professional culture and identity, and participants “finding voice”—outcomes of value not often seen in formal educational and traditional professional development settings. Drawing on qualitative data from participants in a three-year community of writers and literacy educators, this study suggests that CoP’s can be linked not only to development of knowledge and skills, but also to changes in participant beliefs, attitudes, voices, visions, and the identities of practicing educators.
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A community of practice is generally defined as the process of social learning that occurs when people who have a common interest in some subject or problem collaborate over an extended period to share ideas, find solutions, and build innovations, with early scholarly inquiry driven by the writings of Lave (1991) and Wenger (1998). It is important to “stress that such a community of practice is not just a Website, a database, or a collection of best practices. It is a group of people who interact, learn together, build relationships, and, in the process, develop a sense of belonging and mutual commitment; people who share your overall view of the domain and yet bring their individual perspectives on any given problem to create a social learning system that goes beyond the sum of its parts” (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder, 2002). Cox (2005) provides an excellent summary of these early writings and approaches.

All well and good. Few constructivist, technology-oriented teachers in 2008 would doubt the value of interweaving the intellectual and social cultures of a class or professional development group to transform a course or study group. To modern-day readers of such theorist-and-practitioner colleagues as Barbara Ganley or Gardner Campbell, these ideas are givens. And the same group of faculty innovators eagerly infuses technology tools for community building into their digital pedagogies, even if online groups and classes sometimes struggle to find a sense of community (Chavis & Pretty, 1999; Rovai, 2002) or lack a certain group “spark” representative of the best a “community of practice” can be.

Indeed, researchers and thinkers have struggled to find models to describe, predict, and improve the activity of communities designed for human potential, a burgeoning professional literature represented in such works as: Barab, Barnett, et al. (2002); Barab, MaKinster, et al. (2003); Barah, Schatz, et al. (2004); Chee & Hedberg, 2005; and McConnell (2005). Glazer & Hannafin (2005), for example, provide a meta-analysis of the educational literature focusing on aspects of communities of practice to outline members’ traits—factors such as affect, belief, or cognition—that research has suggested is related to interaction in group settings. And the qualitative research of Little (2003) most especially influenced us as researchers looking to document deeper learning and more meaningful outcomes from community-centered learning.

Domains from science, mathematics, and technology instruction (Howe & Stubbs, 2003; Graven, 2004; Horn, 2005; John & Triggs, 2004) to literacy education (Liberman & Wood, 2002) have provided fertile ground for electronic communities of practice to grow, and numerous anecdotal reports link accounts of such communities with “changing the culture” of participants’ thinking and professional practice, as well as “deepening thinking” (Chapman, Ramondt, et al., 2005)--both the types of complex, high-end learning outcomes which educators covet. Communities of practice have also been linked to such ideals as allowing participants to find or shape identity (Duguid, 2005), sustain commitment among at-risk educators (Goldring & Hausman, 2001), build a “culture of inquiry” (Snow-Gerono, 2005), or increase internationalization in study and practice (Sierra & Folger, 2003).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Virtual Learning Communities: Online learning communities supported by social network software.

Social Constructivism: Social constructivism is an educational theory of acquiring knowledge which emphasizes the importance of culture and context in and constructing knowledge.

Learning Community: A self-sustaining and supporting community focused on acquisition and construction of knowledge in a particular area. Shared values, aesthetics, non hierarchical relationships, and shared opportunities for communication are key elements of learning communities.

Blog: Online web log.

e-CoP (electronic Community of Practice): The process of social learning that occurs when people who have a common interest in some subject or problem collaborate over an extended period to share ideas, find solutions, and build innovations, all this occurring on-line.

CoP (Community of Practice): The process of social learning that occurs when people who have a common interest in some subject or problem collaborate over an extended period to share ideas, find solutions, and build innovations.

Complete Chapter List

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List of Reviewers
Table of Contents
Harrison Hao Yang, Steve Chi-Yin Yuen
Harrison Hao Yang, Steve Chi-Yin Yuen
Chapter 1
Chien Yu, Wei-Chieh Wayne Yu, Chun Fu Lin
Dramatic changes in information and communication technologies (ICTs) provide a powerful force forthe growth of e-learning. E-learning has become... Sample PDF
Computer-Mediated Learning: What Have We Experienced and Where Do We Go Next?
Chapter 2
Clara Pereira Coutinho, João Batista Bottentuit Jr.
In this chapter the authors analyze issues and ideas regarding the next generation of e-Learning, which is already known as e-Learning 2.0 or social... Sample PDF
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0
Chapter 3
Chaka Chaka
This chapter contends that both Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web (the SW) serve as critical enablers for e-learning 2.0. It also maintains that the SW... Sample PDF
E-Learning 2.0: Web 2.0, the Semantic Web and the Power of Collective Intelligence
Chapter 4
Jianxia Du, Yunyan Liu, Robert L. Brown
An online learning community can be a place for vibrant discussions and the sharing of new ideas in a medium where content constantly changes. This... Sample PDF
The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities
Chapter 5
Ke Zhang, Curtis J. Bonk
This chapter reviews the characteristics of learners of different generations. In particular, it compares their differences in terms of learning... Sample PDF
Generational Learners & E-Learning Technologies
Chapter 6
Robin M. Roberts
The relationship between the Digital or Millennium Generation and Web 2.0 is investigated focusing on how post-secondary students just entering... Sample PDF
The Digital Generation and Web 2.0: E-Learning Concern or Media Myth?
Chapter 7
Jeffrey Hsu, Karin Hamilton
Adult learners have a set of specific and unique needs, and are different from traditional college students. Possessing greater maturity, interest... Sample PDF
Adult Learners, E-Learning, and Success: Critical Issues and Challenges in an Adult Hybrid Distance Learning Program
Chapter 8
Dazhi Yang, Jennifer C. Richardson
Past studies indicate that students demonstrate different online interaction styles, which consist of the ways or habits students acquire knowledge... Sample PDF
Online Interaction Styles: Adapting to Active Interaction Styles
Chapter 9
Yuliang Liu
Learner satisfaction and learning is currently a very important topic in online instruction and learning. Blignaut and Trollip (2003) proposed six... Sample PDF
Strategies for Providing Formative Feedback to Maximize Learner Satisfaction and Online Learning
Chapter 10
Bo Kyeong Kim, Youngkyun Baek
Web 2.0 is changing the paradigm of using the Internet which is affecting the e-learning paradigm. In this chapter, e-learning 2.0 and its... Sample PDF
Exploring Ideas and Possibilities of Second Life as an Advanced E-Learning Environment
Chapter 11
Jeannine Hirtle, Samuel Smith
Communities of practice (CoP’s)—much touted and studied as a mechanism for teacher education and professional development—may offer environments for... Sample PDF
When Virtual Communities Click: Transforming Teacher Practice, Transforming Teachers
Chapter 12
Luiz Fernando de Barros Campos
This chapter investigates whether information technology tools typical of Web 2.0 can support Knowledge Management (KM) practices in organizations.... Sample PDF
Could Web 2.0 Technologies Support Knowledge Management in Organizations?
Chapter 13
Colleen Carmean
Anytime and all-the-time access to electronic resources, artifacts and community have changed learning practices in the workplace as surely as it... Sample PDF
E-Learning Design for the Information Workplace
Chapter 14
Paraskevi Mentzelou, Dimitrios Drogidis
The aims of Greek education system is to give to students the ability to develop the required skills, character and values that will enable them to... Sample PDF
The Impact of Information Communication Technology (ICT) to the Greek Educational Community
Chapter 15
Richard Hartshorne, Haya Ajjan, Richard E. Ferdig
In this chapter, the authors provide evidence for the potential of various Web 2.0 applications in higher education through a review of relevant... Sample PDF
Faculty Use and Perceptions of Web 2.0 in Higher Education
Chapter 16
Susanne Markgren, Carrie Eastman, Leah Massar Bloom
In this chapter, the authors explore the role of academic librarians in the e-learning 2.0 environment. Librarians are excellent partners in... Sample PDF
Librarian as Collaborator: Bringing E-Learning 2.0 Into the Classroom by Way of the Library
Chapter 17
Betül C. Özkan
Because of the ways students learn and make sense of world change, higher education institutions try to re-conceptualize this change process and... Sample PDF
Implementing E-Learning in University 2.0: Are Universities Ready for the Digital Age?
Chapter 18
Hsiu-Ting Hung
The focus of the chapter is two-fold: on one hand, it seeks theoretical understanding of literacy as social practice; on the other hand, it explores... Sample PDF
New Literacies in New Times: A Multimodal Approach to Literacy Learning
Chapter 19
Rajani S. Sadasivam, Katie M. Crenshaw, Michael J. Schoen, Raju V. Datla
The e-learning 2.0 transformation of continuing education of healthcare professionals (CE/CME) will be characterized by a fundamental shift from the... Sample PDF
Transforming Continuing Healthcare Education with E-Learning 2.0
Chapter 20
Brian Smith, Peter Reed
The excitement of Web 2.0 and E-learning 2.0 is upon us. As the use of social networking sites and other Web 2.0 tools continue to increase... Sample PDF
Mode Neutral: The Pedagogy that Bridges Web 2.0 and e-Learning 2.0
Chapter 21
F. R. Nordengren, Ann M. York
This chapter is a practical overview of both the theoretical, evidence-based research in pedagogy and the anecdotal, experience-based practices of... Sample PDF
Dispatches from the Graduate Classroom: Bringing Theory and Practice to E-Learning
Chapter 22
Kathryn Kennedy, Jeff Boyer, Catherine Cavanaugh, Kara Dawson
Using the theoretical framework of “craft” highlighted by Richard Sennett (2008) in The Craftsman, this chapter focuses on constructionism and the... Sample PDF
Student-Centered Teaching with Constructionist Technology Tools: Preparing 21st Century Teachers
Chapter 23
Clara Pereira Coutinho
In this chapter the author presents the results of a project developed in pre-service and in-service teacher education programs at the Minho... Sample PDF
Challenges for Teacher Education in the Learning Society: Case Studies of Promising Practice
Chapter 24
Pearl Chen
This chapter reviews the current state of theory and practice of experience design and suggests that the notion of experience should be regarded as... Sample PDF
From Memorable to Transformative E-Learning Experiences: Theory and Practice of Experience Design
Chapter 25
Carl Scott, Youmei Liu, Madhuri Kumar
This chapter will examine the relationship between a constructivist teaching approach and online learning experiences in the Virtual Worlds of... Sample PDF
Authentic Learning in Second Life: A Constructivist Model in Course Design
Chapter 26
C. Candace Chou
This study explores student views of various E-Learning tools as teaching and learning media in an online course for pre-service and in-service... Sample PDF
Student Perceptions and Pedagogical Applications of E-Learning Tools in Online Course
Chapter 27
Steve Chi-Yin Yuen, Harrison Hao Yang
Enhancing the substantial interaction in e-learning courses can be a challenge to instructors. The chapter gave an overview of online interaction... Sample PDF
Using Blogfolios to Enhance Interaction in E-Learning Courses
Chapter 28
Priti Srinivas Sajja
Quality of an e-Learning solution depends on its content, services offered by it and technology used. To increase reusability of common learning... Sample PDF
Multi-Tier Knowledge-Based System Accessing Learning Object Repository Using Fuzzy XML
Chapter 29
Ivan Angelov, Sathish Menon, Michael Douma
This chapter outlines central findings from surveys that considered factors that drive online experience as expressed by the three different groups... Sample PDF
Finding Information: Factors that Improve Online Experiences
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