This blogpost defines and examines how the concept of Communities of Practice (CoPs) can be used in introducing and integrating technology in the different areas of the educational environments; focusing in particular its use with students in the classroom and for faculty professional development.
Technology has been widely used for organizational administrative functions including among others: admission and records, financial aid, accounting, facilities planning, and institutional research and reporting. The technology helps the institution accomplish a variety of functions and meet internal and external needs, demands and requirements.
What is a Community of Practice?
Communities of Practice (CoPs) are “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wenger, n.d.; Wenger 1998). CoPs had their origin in apprenticeship studies and have found their way into business and other sectors such as government, education, professional associations, and the nonprofit social sector (Wenger, n.d.).
Use of CoPs in the Classroom
CoPs can affect internal and external educational practices. Topics such as: organizing school learning as grounded in practice within subject matters relevant to the community; connecting students’ experiences to participation in the broader community; and Addressing the lifelong learning needs of students by organizing CoPs focused on topics of continuing interest to graduates (Wenger, n.d., p. 5). Situating learning within the community, teaches that “life itself is the main learning event” (Weinger, n.d., p. 5).
Use of CoPs for Faculty Professional Development
Local CoPs have been used for teacher training and peer-to-peer professional development (Wenger, n.d., p. 5). Communities of Practice are a particularly effective method of learning specific teaching practices (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2002, p. 405). The internet has removed the geographic limitations of traditional CoPs (Wenger, n.d.) widening the sources of information and expertise. The internet does not replace the local community within which it is situated; rather, it expands the potential for new community based on passion and shared practice (Wenger, n.d., p. 6).
Darling-Hammond, L., & Bransford, J. (2002). Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from http://news.cehd.umn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Chapter-11.pdf
Sheninger, E. (2014). Digital Leadership: Changing paradigms for changing times. Alliance for Excellent Education webinar August 28, 2014 [HTML video]. Retrieved from http://all4ed.org/webinar-event/aug-28-2014/
Smith, M. K. (2003). ‘Communities of practice,’ The encyclopedia of informal education [HTML Document Last updated 30 January 2005]. Retrieved from: www.infed.org/biblio/communities_of_practice.htm.
Wenger, E. (n.d.). Communities of practice: A brief introduction [HTML Document]. Retrieved from: http://Wenger-Trayner.com/theory/
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.