Critically defining my practice with reference to Wenger’s (2000) concept of community of practice.
Reading Wenger’s piece called to mind:
Wenger, E. (2015) describes a people who ‘belong’, engaged in contributing, who “share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly”, a way of locating yourself and building a sense of identity. As I read I was reminder of Ivan Illich’s learning webs. whereby learning involves communities, although without Illich’s mistrust of institutions.
I realised I identify with numerous CoP, both local, national and international. Wenger writes that if members belong to a multitude of communities within an organisation, then members are more likely to think of themselves as part of the whole (Wenger, 2000. p242).
At first assumed my primary CoP would be my school Learning Faculty (Technology), as one of eight members actively engaging in sharing experiences and exchanging knowledge, resource development and practice, to enhance the experiences and outcome of ourselves and our charges. However, the formal school context impacts upon the cohesion of our community: senior leaders and the local Community of Learning requiring the creation of ‘teams’ for Inquiry, outside of learning communities rather than “inviting” identities (Knox, 2009).
In the following video Wenger uses an analogy of hills representing groups of people who share a common interest or ‘competencies’, that we as learners traverse, climbing or not climbing particular hills as we encounter them. I like the analogy as it allows or personal freedom or choice to determine direction.
In the course of a life, we climb numerous ‘hills’ (work, school, home, and perusing civic or leisure interests). In some communities, we are core members, driven by passion; in others, we skirt the edges. We engage with various organisations from ensuring our basic survival to the most esoteric pleasures; and in engaging, we interact with others, with the world, and we learn.
Upon reflection I identified my primary CoP as my subject association NZACDITT, an enterprise jointly-owned by its members, around a shared domain of interest in teaching Digital Technology. Members consists of both experienced and beginning Digital Technology teachers, as well as interested academics and related industry players.
Over time communities reinvent or develop new practices that become the property of the community: hence communities of practice. Some communities will have names, others not, some will organise formally, others will remain fluid, and many will overlap again formally or otherwise. Initially people join at the periphery, increasing in competence as they move towards the ‘centre’; learning not as an acquisition of knowledge, but rather as a process of social participation, the transmission of ideas always being bidirectional.
I joined at foundation in 2010 during the last subject rewrite. We have actively lobbied for the subject with NZQA and Ministry of Education since, to keep up-to-date with technological change. With recently announced changes to Digital Technologies / Hangarau Matihiko for 2018, we won representation on the Implementation Reference Group, NCEA Writing Group, and Change & Enablement Working Group. In addition six association members (including myself) were contracted to produce assessment tasks for the draft Level 1 standards to be trialled in Term 3. A great privilege, responsibility, learning-opportunity and a sense of “giving-back”.
Community-cohesion is maintained through our website and messageboard (400+ members) via mobilize.io. The website hosts community-sourced resources (both for assessment and learning) and a locale for fifteen regional “hubs” who facilitate monthly face-to-face meetings (that also welcome non-members). I am an assistant hub organiser, and will be hosting our next meeting in June. Our AGM is held at Canterbury University to coincide with CS4HS that many members attend. Committee members holding positions for two year, before standing aside, this being my second year as Committee member. I find the messageboard hugely beneficial (and participate regularly), in that it hosts Q&As, assessment sharing, offers and requests for assessment moderation, beginners questions, discussions and lobbying, as well as community socialising.
In light of subject changes, the Association has organised PD: Skills 17, to train at least one current teacher from each Region (including Primary teachers) to then facilitate Teach-the-Teacher meetings in the coming year. I will be one of two secondary representatives from Waikato. Managing the changes will take time and sustained interaction.
Cambridge, Kaplan, and Suter (2005). Community of Practice Design Guide. Educause. Retrieved from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/nli0531.pdf
Knox, B. (2009, December 4). Cultivating Communities of Practice: Making Them Grow. . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhMPRZnRFkk
Smith, M. K. (2003). Communities of practice, the encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from www.infed.org/biblio/communities_of_practice.htm
Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization, 7(2), 225-246.