Third Space
“Third Space” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

One of my focuses at the moment is around online learning. This has involved investigating different spaces, the idea of Communities of Practice, dynamic content to include and the potential of Open Badges as a means of credentialing. It occurred to me that I had not stopped to properly consider what was already out there.

Having spent considerable time online, I naively felt that I already knew what was available and subsequently what may be needed. While some of the ideas suggested include creating a blog connected to a static homepage, I had not stopped to look at the hubs that I already engage with and how each of them is organised.

Here then is a reflection on some of the tribes and communities I engage with online:

EdTechTeam

A global organisation originally associated with GAFE Summits, EdTechTeam have since diversified to include other products and platforms, including Apple, Adobe and SeeSaw, as well as a burgeoning book publishing arm. The mainstay of communication is through their invite only Google Plus community. They also share news and resources on various social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, graphics and pictures of conferences on Instagram, stories and reflections through Blogger, and webinars and keynotes through YouTube. Many of these spaces are brought together through the use of the #EdTechTeam hashtag.

Digital Learning Department

The Victorian State Government’s Digital Learning Department supports the integration of technology across the state. The most popular form of information is through the Global2 newsletter, which provides updates, links and information about various resources and providers, as well as links to professional learning opportunities across the state. This is supported by a Twitter handle, which again shares out various links and resources with a loose connection to the #vicpln hashtag. Neither of these platforms seem to provide very much interaction or dialogue.

Modern Learners

Made up of Will Richardson, Bruce Dixon and Missy Emler, Modern Learners’ mission is to:

To help every school leader become better informed to make better, more relevant decisions for the children they serve in this new, modern world of learning

Originally a paid subscription site, the central space has been a WordPress blog. This has been supported by a regular newsletter sharing links and reflections, a Twitter handle and a Facebook Page used to cross-post, a #modernlearners hashtag, as well as a book series designed to reignite or perhaps even start some important conversations. More recently, they have also started sharing interviews and investigations via a podcast and facilitated a Facebook group with weekly discussions and provocations. Associated with these additions, they published a whitepaper a few months ago, 10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning, which could only be downloaded by sharing your name and email. This has allows the team to follow up directly, especially in regards to promoting their new change.school course for transformational leaders.

#EduCoachOC

A monthly chat spun off from the #EduCoach chat, #EduCoachOC is designed to support coaches in Oceania through a monthly chat. Along with the hashtag, there is a central WordPress.com blog with a post published prior to each chat providing context and the questions for people to consider. Afterwards, the chats are archived, using Storify.

TeachTechPlay

A professional learning community, TeachTechPlay aim is to inspire learning through empowerment and engagement with technology. The main space used is a WordPress site (moving away from an initial Google Site). This contains links to community, conference and monthly webshow. The webshow is run through YouTube. There are a number of identities linked to the community, including a Twitter handle, Google+ account and Facebook page. Each is used to cross-post and disseminate links and news. There is also a hashtag, #ttplay, which although initially used for the monthly webshow has grown to become a constant feed of information. More recently, a blog has been added to the site, however the purpose and intent is unclear.

Connected Courses

Run in 2014, Connected Courses focus was developing and teaching online courses that value the open web. Supported by the work of DML Research Hub, it was designed and taught by faculty from diverse higher education institutions. The hub was a WordPress site, with links to the syllabus and syndicated blogs. Associated with this, there were regular webinars, both informative and reflective, housed on YouTube. There was also a hashtag #ccourses to collect conversations across various platforms.

Reclaim Hosting

Founded in 2013, Reclaim Hosting provides hosting support for individuals and institutions that want to build out spaces online for personal portfolios, digital projects and more. It builds on the Domain of One’s Own project. The main source of information is via a WordPress.org site, which includes a range of links, blog, resources and sub-domains. The blog is aggregated from the blogs of Groom, Owens and Brumfield, while links and updates are shared out via a Twitter handle. Discourse is used as both a forum for discussion, as well as a knowledge bank for frequently asked questions. Beyond these associations, there are a number of other connections to such things as the Domains Conference. Interestingly, continuing with the POSSE mindset, interviews and content are not always stored centrally through branded accounts, but instead spread across the various identities connected with the company.

TIDE Podcast

A regular podcast from Dai Barnes and Doug Belshaw, Today in Digital Education is about education, technology and everything in between. There is a central site, built using Podcast Generator, which houses the notes and audio associated with each podcast. Each episode is also shared out to a number of spaces, including Soudcloud, iTunes and Internet Archive. Links are shared out via the Twitter handle which just posts out new episodes, but there is no interaction with this account. In regards to dialogue, there a Slack Community.

Digital Learning – CEWA

A group in charge of supporting teachers with across the Western Australia Catholic archdiocese with everything digital. This includes leadership, curriculum, tools, spaces and coding. The main space is a Wix site, which includes a number of links presented visually, as well as a team blog. There are also courses run through the online learning and teaching site, Udemy. Socially, there are number of connections, including Twitter, Instagram, Yammar and Facebook Chat, as well as a hashtag, #CathDigLearn.

Digital Technologies Hub

Developed by Education Services Australia, Digital Technologies Hub (DTHub) supports educators with unpacking the Digital Technologies Curriculum. The main site is built with Sitefinity and involves a mixture of links and resources, organised around four key stakeholders: teachers, school leaders, students and families. Although there is no space for interacting, there are a number of social media identities associated with the site, including Twitter, Google+ and Facebook Pages. Associated with all of these, there is a hashtag, #DTHub. There is also a monthly newsletters, providing a regular flow of news and updates.

Learning Hubs
“Learning Hubs” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

So what about you? What spaces do you exist in? Maybe there is one that you have designed yourself? What choices did you make? Why? As always, comments welcome.


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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I have been spending a bit of time lately with the idea of communities of practice. One of the things that becomes clear quickly is that there are many different definitions and descriptions.

Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner suggest that:

Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour: a tribe learning to survive, a band of artists seeking new forms of expression, a group of engineers working on similar problems, a clique of pupils defining their identity in the school, a network of surgeons exploring novel techniques, a gathering of first-time managers helping each other cope.

While Lani Ritter Hall and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach describe it as follows:

Communities of practice (or inquiry) are systems of collective critical inquiry and reflection focused on building a shared identity and a collective intelligence garnered over time. Members have a “none of us is as good as all of us” mentality.

Touching on the role of communities, Tony Bates explains that:

The basic premise behind communities of practice is simple: we all learn in everyday life from the communities in which we find ourselves. Communities of practice are everywhere. Nearly everyone belongs to some community of practice, whether it is through our working colleagues or associates, our profession or trade, or our leisure interests, such as a book club.

A report by the US government highlight some of the benefits:

Past research has already suggested that, if designed, implemented, and supported well, online communities of practice can help educators strengthen their performance. Through these online social learning spaces, evidence shows that educators can effectively access, share, and create knowledge, as well as strengthen their commitment to the profession

In there discussion of teaching crowds, Jon Dron and Terry Anderson explain that:

The concept, drawn from anthropological studies, relates to how newcomers to a collection of people, such as a department in a firm, a university, or a group of charity workers, learn the group’s practices and become participants in the community.

One of the problems with each of these definitions and descriptions is that they do not necessarily capture the nuance of each context. Another way of making sense of communities of practice is using the Modern Learning Canvas:

Modern Learning Canvas - CoP

One of the benefits of the canvas is that it provides a structure to talk about learning. Starting with a description of an ideal community, you can then make changes to the canvas based on the needs and purpose of particular situation. For when I think about the communities that I have participated in, whether they be MOOCs (Rhizo14, ccourses, digiwrimo, CLMOOC etc …) or professional learning programs (TL21C), they were all different. They all appraoched things differently, providing for different needs.

So what about you, have you had any experiences with communities of practice? As always, I would love to know.


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