The intersections between virtual and physical communities provide an important but largely unfamiliar, undefined and overlooked context in which to examine teachers’ professional learning. This seminar will discuss the role of online professional development in fostering teachers’ constructions of knowledge and understanding, and explore the intersecting boundaries between online learning communities and teachers’ practice within their school communities. The seminar draws on an in-depth case study of 15 teachers enrolled (predominantly on a part-time basis) in the Graduate Diploma in Information and Communication Technology in Education at a New Zealand university. Data analysis included examination of online course design, online participation records, and teachers’ online postings and activities; as well as 30 interviews with the case study teachers and 11 interviews with the workplace colleagues of 4 teachers. The work draws on Wenger’s (1998) social theory of learning, conceptualised around communities of practice, recognising that individuals are members of multiple communities. The experience of multi-membership opens learning possibilities which transcend the boundaries of communities and creates a new role of ‘boundary-spanner’. The boundary-spanner is likely to experience complexity as they negotiate learning experiences between communities. This provides a useful theoretical tool to examine teachers’ (and other professionals’) learning between virtual and real communities and to reconceptualise these activities in relation to the literature on blended learning.
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Julie is currently Head of the School of Literacies and Arts in Education, in the College of Education at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. Julie was previously the coordinator for professional development qualifications in ICT and online teaching and learning at the College of Education. Her strong interest in e-learning across all education sectors has been fostered through teaching in pre-service teacher education courses, leading and teaching graduate qualifications for teachers, and working with school-based ICT professional development clusters across New Zealand. Julie's research interests relate to online and blended strategies for teachers' professional learning and development.