Community of Practice – A Place to Learn

Community of Practice

Lately, I have been learning about Communities of Practice (CoP).  Wenger defines a community of practice as a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. This definition reflects the fundamentally social nature of human learning. I am experiencing a level of collaboration and learning not known.

Working with the participants in Online Learning Consortium course for Professional Foundations and the ID2ID CoP for Instructional Designers are fantastic Sharing information in such groups has influenced ideas I have regarding Instructional Design. Working with my colleagues in the OLC course helps me to understand learning theories much better and their importance as well as how to use them in course design.  For example, the importance of using concept maps to visually document learning theories as it applies to effective instruction.

The ID2ID program helps me answer questions faculty have or may ask.  One faculty asked me if other instructors have assignments or tests due on holidays or the day after.  My colleges from ID2ID suggested avoiding the practice.  But one replies made a distinct impression.

If you plan to accommodate/respect holidays, are you sure you are respecting/aware of all the holidays that are observed by your students? Do you know who your students are? What cultural/religious practices they observe? And if in an online course, do you know what the local holidays are, where your students are located?

How can I apply my new knowledge? I can improve our Professional Development program by encouraging faculty how learning theories integrate into course design. I can speak to how learning theories give ideas for practical use of activities such as discussions and assessments. Our faculty is very interested in new ideas and practical solutions for concepts they have. I believe faculty will appreciate the research-based practical ideas.

Improving my Instructional Design skills are a continuing process. I am interested in the pedagogical use of technology in education. Specifically analyzing the characteristics of existing and emerging technology and the potential use. Through the CoPs I have learned of the TPAK and SAMR models. TPACK is a framework that combines three knowledge areas: technological knowledge, content knowledge, and pedagogical knowledge. This framework looks at how this trio works together to increase student’s motivation and make the content more accessible to students. SAMR is a framework through which you can assess and evaluate the technology you use in your class.  ID2ID sponsored a webinar titled, Synthesizing TPACK and SAMR Frameworks: A Structure for Intentional Technology Integration. Because of my interest in using technology in learning, I know these models will be invaluable.

I certainly recommend that faculty participate in Communities of Practice. The value of being a part of such a group is incredible.

Learning Strategies and Communities of Practice

The world of Instructional Design has many and varied pieces.  I have to say that as I study the subject I learn more and more. Through the Online Learning Consortium, I am taking a path of study to become a better Instructional Designer. Recently were have been studying the value of learning strategies and communities of practices.

This past week we focused on deep and surface learning as part of learning strategies.  I did follow through and stayed on track but I felt confused. At first, I could not connect deep and surface learning back to the various learning theories (Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Connectivism).

I read and reread different resources.  I found that deep learning is most effective, but there are cases where surface learning is just as effective.  For me what helped the most was an article titled, Deep and Surface Learning: The Literature along with the another article titled, Unlocking the Mystery of Critical Thinking, by Linda B Nilson, PhD (December 1, 2014) These articles demonstrated, to me, how deep learning associates with Cognitivism and Connectivism and surface learning with Behaviorism.  Last week’s focus was Critical Thinking. Further study into deep learning showed that they are critically intertwined.

I also have been researching:

  • ID Skills/Competency: Specifically analyze the characteristics of existing and emerging tech and the potential use as part of Planning an Analysis
  • Learning Trends: Mobile Learning (Pedagogical use of technology)
  • Learning Theory: Practical use of Deep Learning

Communities of Practice

Wenger and Trayner define a community of practice: “A community of practice is a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” I find this helpful and very true as we all have a fundamental social nature.

I have actually been networking with communities of practice without consciously realizing it. I participate regularly with the Brightspace Community. I have been accepted to the ID2ID program. It is a collaboration between Penn State and Educause. I have also found the Instructional Design Central (IDC).  Here at IUP, I have become part of the PI Mentorship Academy (PIMA).

I have found that communities vary in what they offer. Groups like the IDC appear to act more as a resource center, while ID2ID, the Brightspace Community, and PIMA are more interactive.  PIMA is a face-to-face short-term group if you will. We are leaning the ins and outs of grants. It is wonderful to be in a place where others are new to grants.  However, I find myself overwhelmed. Everything we are learning is wonderful but with no grant experience, at all it is intimidating. Being with others who share the same plight as I give me comfort and resources for the process. What has surprised me is that there are so many with the quandary I have.

ID2ID is a wonderful group. Everyone is in Instructional Design. The community members are staff and faculty. We share opinions, concerns, questions, and resources. I have been asking different things in ID2ID ideas that come to mind.  One question (asked me by one of our faculty) I posted was about should faculty have assignment deadline on or near a holiday.  I got several replies all recommended avoiding doing so.

In PIMA, we meet once or twice a month. Each session involves a different grant portion of the process. We can safely ask questions among ourselves and learn from each other. In spite of the fact that the academy meets for only about a year, we have established a network of people we can call on to share with in the future.

My chosen research topic is the pedagogical use of technology. In the Brightspace Community and IDC I found a tremendous amount of information on this subject. However, I was unable to really interact on the topic.

I need to focus more on my research topic as my involvement continues in most of these groups. Having a focus will relate more to my specific interests and keep me on track. Nevertheless, I do hope to be able to support others too. However, I find that time is my enemy. I have yet to find a good way to do this. I am happy to entertain ideas from our community.

Not to exclude faculty, IUP has the Center for Teaching Excellence.  It is a great place for our faculty to gain information, advice, and interact.

I do think being involved in a community of practice is something that is important as part of our scholarship to help stay abreast of the latest topics and share ideas with others.