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Introduction .................................................................................. 1 Figure 1: A VPD model situated within a non-hierarchical structure ....... 2 Figure 2: The proposed VPD model ................................................... 3 Contextualised VPD........................................................................ 3 VPD group convenors..................................................................... 4 Figure 3: The essential factor for effectiveness of online communities: The VPD Community Convenor (adapted from Hallam (2002), and McDermott (2008))......................................................................... 5 VPD group members ...................................................................... 5 The VPD Meta-group ...................................................................... 5 Design of VPD online community spaces ........................................ 6 Evaluation...................................................................................... 7 Recommendations and Guidelines.................................................. 7 References ..................................................................................... 9
The NZ education system, as well as other education systems across much of the world, is based on a hierarchical structure, which might be represented as a triangle (see Figure 2). In organisations with this structure lines of communication and influence tend to be via a series of ‘chains’, whereby conversations are conducted across links, moving from top to bottom, or bottom to top. As such, decisions around, for instance, ICT enhanced learning and teaching, and professional development may be made by practitioners who are removed from the day-to-day context of teaching. Furthermore, teachers who do wish to trial alternative approaches to ICT learning, teaching, and assessment can be confined by set curricula, nationally written graduate profiles, and assessments that may not be compatible with the approach the teacher and learners would like to adopt. Communities of Practice (CoPs), especially those where the formation of learning communities and consequent achievement of formal and informal learning outcomes, is central, are essentially non-hierarchical. The Virtual Professional Development (VPD) model illustrated in Figure 2 is, therefore, attempting to locate non-hierarchical communities within hierarchical ones. Although, ideally, it might be suggested that a shift in the existing education paradigm would be a positive move (see Figure 1), this is unlikely to happen within the timeframe of the development of the VPD framework. However, this does not create an insurmountable barrier, but rather is an indication of the types and level of support that may be needed to help VPD participants to transition into a more fluid model of professional development, as well as coping with some of the restrictions and frustrations they may consequently encounter.
Figure 1: A VPD model situated within a non-hierarchical structure KEY
Description of the elements, interactions and roles represented in Figure 1 The NZ education community Leaders, researchers, decision makers, strategy writers, NZ Ministry of Education, schools, tertiary organisations, private training organisations, wider communities, future employers, businesses, parents etc. Clusters Each cluster, comprising 6 to 13 schools, is facilitated by an ePrincipal, who mentors, manages, supports, and advises principals across all of the member schools in a cluster. VPD groups VPD communities which overlap with, and are inclusive of, an unlimited number of clusters. Each VPD group would have a selected ‘convenor’. Convenors would be free to exchange the role at any point (or after an agreed period of time) with any other group members. Interested stakeholders can be a member of more than one group where appropriate/desired. An assistant convenor to provide back-up, support and a mutual sounding board. Meta- VPD Group ePrincipals, interested stakeholders, MoE representative(s), convenors, interested VPD group members, and national VPD coordinator.
The proposed VPD model, associated framework, and set of recommended guidelines seeks to complement existing structures offered by, for example, the clusters, within which a framework of a quality flexible virtual professional development will further be developed (see Figure 2). Through the formation and facilitation of virtual communities (based loosely on some of the principles indicated by Etienne Wenger) it is proposed that Professional Development (PD) opportunities will be made available through formal and informal PD opportunities, participation within the community, and peer-mentoring and collaboration, as well as through access to formal qualifications offered by tertiary organisations.
Figure 2: The proposed VPD model
The focus within the communities will be firmly on relationship building, contextualised learning, and personalised, negotiated learning outcomes for teachers (as well as their students). One of the key benefits of the VPD model is that the PD is completely contextualised within a teacher's school culture. Learning outcomes are negotiated by the VPD participants, and the skills they identify as important are directly related to the students with whom they are working. Facilitated sessions are at a time and place which is flexible to each teacher's needs. As a result, the content, tools and meaning of the PD are subsumed within the teacher's function of being part of their own school's/ institution's community, rather than being the central focus as can happen with more traditional approaches to PD via generic workshops. Teachers will be scaffolded to help them and their school identify learning requirements, and access and share PD focussed on the needs of their students and school community (e.g. the eCapability Model). In turn, this will help schools align their planning with government priorities and initiatives such as national standards, NZC, Ka Hikitia and the Pasifika Education Plan.
It must, however, be acknowledged that in any self-motivated learning environment participants are provided with the freedom to choose whether to engage (with or without genuine enthusiasm), and some will decline to embrace the opportunity (Bruckman, 2003). As such, one of the key questions for consideration around the development of a model and guidelines for VPD community moderation and online PD facilitation is: How can this issue be addressed without interfering with the flexible, open-ended, selfdirected nature of the initiative and associated community environment? Perhaps one solution may be more formal recognition of engagement and contribution (on top of the release time currently given - see, for example the Becta 'ICT Mark' and the Becta awards: https://selfreview.becta.org.uk/about_this_framework) - something that would help sustain enthusiasm and interest, even when there is a crunch point in school commitments? The aim is to find a balance or compromise between a self-motivated socio-constructivist environment where engagement and upskilling are the rewards, and a more traditional perspective where PD is directly linked to performance reviews and promotion. One aspect enhancing the sustainability of the model is that after participating in a VPD community for an academic year, teachers will be asked to provide mentoring support for the following cohort of teachers entering the VPD community. Teachers, therefore, have the opportunity to build a network of colleagues, influcence the devlopment of ICT enhanced learning and teaching in NZ schools, share effective practice, learn and apply new and valuable skills in their own continuous professional development. A suite of tools, including the Ministry of Education (MoE) applications (Moodle, Adobe Connect, Mahara, ELGG, Video Conferencing (VC), and the current Virtual Learning Network (VLN - Interact) will be utilised to help facilitate and enhance the learning and ICT PD outcomes, which in turn will be shared with students, management, and teachers at National and Regional levels to ensure consistency of access, and sustainable systems for moderating, reviewing and sharing process, as well as making it easy to share outcomes, and resources with interested stakeholders.
VPD group convenors
The requirement for some form of leadership within a community has been identified, but Wenger, White, and Smith (2009) stress that this is more in the form of a ‘convener’ of a CoP, as opposed to a ‘manager’. The convenor and their 'visibility' is essential to the effectiveness of a community, especially one that is online, and typically initiates the community, organises work flow, defines decision-making authority, raises issues to be addressed and develops subgroups (or committees) where necessary (see Figure 3 below). The convenor needs to be sensitive to changes in a community and adapt design and approaches accordingly, to ensure sustained commitment, participation, and energy. Convenors will be selected for a flexible period of time, with other members taking on the role after this time has elapsed, if desired/required.
Figure 3: The essential factor for effectiveness of online communities: The VPD Community Convenor (adapted from Hallam (2002), and McDermott (2008))
VPD group members
VPD groups will overlap clusters, thereby enabling any teacher to join a relevant VPD group, irrespective of geographical location. The VPD group members would be selected before any face-to-face meetings, and could comprise of cross-sector teachers from 1) mixed-disciplines with mixed interests/needs, or 2) from the same-discipline with mixed interests/needs, or 3) from mixed-disciplines, but with similar interests needs. For example, there may be a group of Geography teachers who are interested in ICT enhanced learning and teaching in general, or a group of mixed-discipline teachers who wish to concentrate on the educational enhancement, practice, design and facilitation of learning sequences developed in LAMS. Commonalities are likely to be frequent, thus encouraging collaboration, co-construction and peer-mentoring relationships.
The VPD Meta-group
A central ‘meta-group’ comprising ePrincipals, interested stakeholders, MoE representative(s), convenors, interested VPD group members, and a national VPD coordinator will function as a catalyst, and a forum for discussion, sharing and innovation, as well as being a bridge between the flat-structure of the VPD communities and the existing education community structure. The meta-group will also help inform an overall governance structure designed to provide support for VPD convenors, and to ensure consistency of access and quality of provision. Cross-group collaboration will aid
the sharing of research findings, effective practice, and resources, alongside helping to prevent the formation of discipline ‘silos’. The convenor of the meta-group could be a temporary role, which passes on to other interested group members after an agreed period of time. Face-to-face and virtual spaces will be utilised helping to encourage, for example, national and international participation, as well as regular symposia type meetings.
Design of VPD online community spaces
Each VPD community will have its own online space, which can be customised according to the requirements of the members. Members of the community should have the ability to start discussions, comment, add and delete content, and customise the look and feel of their personal space. It is advised that each community has: • A design and structure that reflects the culture and identity of the online community • A welcome to the space • A brief tutorial about how to get started in the space and use the tools • A brief statement around the overall purpose of the VPD community • A list of Frequently Asked Questions, in part drawn from previous communities' experiences • A 'personal' space for participants to build a profile, including preferred contact details, reasons why they have chosen to be a part of the community, and their main areas of expertise and interest • A listing of group members and their photographs (or a preferred image of their choice) • Spaces that encourage co-construction and collaboration in the group, and in the teacher's school/institution community • Spaces and simple ways to share effective practice in multimedia, from national and international sources • Social spaces for community building and social events • A variety of tools for communication within the online environment (including forums, blogs, chat, and wikis), and to the wider community (e.g. Twitter and Facebook). • A place where the expertise of the team members is recorded and shared to help the formation of mentor/mentee relationships • A method of advertising events such as conferences, and PD sessions (formal and informal) offered by group members, or other experts • Spaces for teachers and wider community members to reflect, discuss, comment, and create • A variety of multimedia, that can be contributed to by all community members • Ways of celebrating successes, progress, and achievements • A list of providers offering formal qualification in the field of ICT enhanced learning and teaching/eLearning (user pays) • An authentic, actively engaged audience/source of feedback/appreciation for developing projects • Links to support systems such as ▪ the help desk ▪ technical support ▪ Digistore ▪ an organic, collaboratively created, shared resource of effective practices (e.g. Ed Talks) ▪ Resources relevant to the NZ education context (e.g. Netsafe, TKI, Interface online magazine, Moodle in NZ Schools, and Open Education Resources NZ) ▪ an overview of, and links to upskilling around, the suite of MoE tools ▪ a network of ICT enhanced learning and teaching mentors
Input into, and evaluation of the VPD model will be ongoing, and collected from all stakeholders, formally and informally through a variety of forums and tools. Evaluation will be fed-back into the operation of the VPD groups. Minor adjustments may be implemented at the time they are identified where appropriate, and major adjustment implemented at a time identified as most appropriate by each group.
Recommendations and Guidelines
The following recommendations and guidelines are proposed to underpin the facilitation of the model described above, and to contribute to the effectiveness of VPD communities (see also Figure 3, above). • Prior to members joining a VPD community they need to be aware of the goals of the initiative, along with a short list of expectations around their participation. Expectations might include 1) selecting a course or resource to work on ICT enhanced learning and teaching (ICTELT) design, facilitation, assessment and evaluation; 2) contributing regularly to this online VPD community space and Moodle 'showcase' site; 3) share effective practice; 4) help peers where possible/ share expertise; 5) meet the VPD convenor online once a month; 6) post a monthly reflection/report to the VPD online site; 7) after participating for a year in the VPD community, provide mentoring support for the following cohort of teachers. • Timing of the launch of a new community is imperative - if there is a long gap between the first face-to-face meeting it appears that enthusiasm wanes, and a large amount of effort is required to re-establish community 'energy'. Also, the first month of any new academic year is not conducive to active participation in VPD ICTELT projects. • A face-to-face meeting should be scheduled where possible, soon after the initial formation of a VPD group, as it provides opportunities for teachers to interact and have input into the VPD community, proposed framework and model that are more tricky (although not impossible) in a synchronous online setting. • When possible, sign teachers up to a group, and to the associated virtual environments, at a time that allows ample opportunity to complete tasks that would build more of a community prior to a face-to-face meeting. In addition, a template can be made available to scaffold goal setting, and an audit of technical requirements be completed. • Communities take time to form, may disperse once a goal has been achieved or a set period of time has passed, and might only have a few active contributors with many teachers having a strong tendency to lurk. It is likely that many of the teachers have not been members of an active online community before, and may not be aware of the level of engagement required to create a vibrant community, and in turn, may not possess the associated requisite skills. Time and opportunities need to be given for participants to build an identity within a newly formed group. Some strategies that can be applied include the provision of collaborative, structured tasks for teachers to complete early in the formation of a community, and the requirement for a regular reflective post or report that may help a teacher develop confidence in their personal online 'voice'. • Establish each teachers preference for communication method(s) - some people do not read their emails, and can only be reached by mobile phone, for example.
• It is wise for convenors and other key stakeholders to be cognizant of issues such as mangement buy-in in the institution context, peer support/lack of support, IT support, time, sense of purpose, and access to appropriate technolgy and connectivity. • It is recommended that face-to-face meetings are hosted at a venue with flexible seating layout, break out rooms/spaces, and with reliable wireless Internet connection/IT support. • Where there is a specific interest in a group, a third party mentor could be invited to join to help form 'working party' groups. The working parties would consist of 2-3 teachers (across disciplines) plus a skilled mentor in the area of interest; for example, Adobe Connect. Together, the working party teachers and skilled mentor would work collect, select and reflect on examples of effective practice, identify learning outcomes for the working party, and put together an action plan. • During meetings and VPD sessions try to avoid large-group, transmission type presentations. Rather adopt strategies that model approaches that encourage active engagement, such as guided discovery followed by a question and answer session facilitated by key the designers and developers – face-to-face and/or virtually. • Conduct a survey/needs analysis early in the formation of a VPD group to collect information around 1) where participants are positioned with regard to teaching/ learning situation, philosophy and technical expertise; 2) how teachers prefer to participate in the initiative; and 3) a teacher's commitment to participating collaboratively in the online community. • Once the VPD group has formed, the convenor needs to arrange regular synchronous online meetings (possibly once a month, but with flexibility built into this arrangement). The virtual meetings (using Adobe Connect, as well as Skype where there are bandwidth issues) provide opportunities to discuss learning and teaching principles, pedagogy, the needs of the teachers and their students, the context in which the teachers are working, plans, goals and outcomes, and also forge rapport and relationships. Mometum around the achievement of self-defined learning goals can be maintained, and timely training and meaningful feedback provided. Use screen share in Adobe Connet or Skype to talk participants through steps in a process, so they are doing and the facilitator is guiding. Record the sessions for the participant to access later to revisit what they did and how to do it. • Ensure the VPD community members feel valued. • Keep the online community site fresh, and send regular (about once a week, or once a fortnight) 'digests' of major events, key successes/progress, and new discussions, exemplars, and resources on the site to Help members remain up to date and informed. Initiate regular discussions and share examples of effective practice and resources tailored to the interests and needs of the community. • Provide 'sandpit' environments for VPD community members - safe environments where teachers can 'play', thereby trialling roles, skills and approaches before trying them with students and direct peers. • Employ a variety of ways of giving feedback, including spoken, written, audio, and video.
• Where possible, tailor resources for the specific requirements of a teacher, but design them so that they are relevant to a wider audience, and can be recycled.
• Barab, S., & Duffy, T. (1998). From practice fields to communities of practice [Electronic Version]. Retrieved April 22 2010 from crlt.indiana.edu/publications/ duffy_publ3.pdf • Bruckman, A. (2003). Co-Evolution of Technological Design and Pedagogy in an Online Learning Community. In S. Barab, R. Kling & J. Gray (Eds.), Designing Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning (pp. 1-22). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. • Hallam, G. (2008). The Australian ePortfolio project and the opportunities to develop a community of practice. Paper presented at the Ascilite 2008: Where are you in the landscape of educational technology? Retrieved February 22 2010, from www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/melbourne08/procs/hallam.pdf. • McDermott, R. (2002). Knowing is a human act. Upgrade: The European Online Magazine for the IT Professional, 3(1), 8-10. • Papert, S. (1991). Situating constructionism. In I. Harel & S. Papert (Eds.), Constructionism (pp. 518). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing. • Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge. Cambridge, USA: Harvard Business School Press. • Wenger, E., White, N., & Smith, J. (2009). Digital habitats: Stewarding technology for communities. Portland, OR: CPsquare. • Wenger, E. (2001). Supporting communities of practice a survey of communityoriented technologies. Retrieved November 9, 2007, from http://www.ewenger.com/tech
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