1 EDUC893 Social learning web design rationale: JXN University EdTech Introduction Course Instructors Online Community
2 Introduction, Audience & Problem Statement This design project aims to support a group of teachers who are teaching in a same course in a Chinese university. The course is a general introduction course for Educational Technology. It is designed for undergraduate students in this university who are from different majors, and many students are expected to become future middle school teachers after they graduated. The objective of this course is to introduce some basic instructional design and learning theory to students, on the other hand, this course also aimed of cultivating basic technology/information literacy for the future teachers. In general, the group I am seeking to support from a community of practice perspective is relatively a small group and has less than 10 members, they basically from two different departments and generally know each other. Most members at least know each other name or basic information, and some members know each other very well. Teachers in this community develop their expertise, experience and knowledge through their daily teaching practice. They have common concern and same objectives. When they encounter each other on campus, they will talk about things happen in their classroom, and sometimes share their ideas about teaching with each other. And they find value in their interactions. (Wenger et al.,2002, p. 4) In fact, most teachers see the benefit of interactions, and they admit that the activity, such as sharing experience is a valuable process for them to develop their expertise. However, this kind of interaction and experience sharing happens not quite often among teachers in this community. In addition to teach this course, most members have other responsibilities and commitments and therefore have different schedules; it is hard for them to have a fixed schedule for interactions, such as sharing their experience or exchange ideas. Normally, they prepare their lesson at home or at their own office rooms and go for teaching in different classrooms respectively. There are some circumstances that teachers get together to negotiate certain issue related to this course with other members, such as discussing the main content and direction of this course at the beginning of the semester, however, just a few members could participate because the schedules. Therefore, an intervention is needed to develop its potential of becoming a stronger community of practice. A website is designed for this purpose and the primary intention of creating this online space is to support the members deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis ( Wenger et al.,2002, p. 4.) In terms of the function of the website, the online space is seeking to support teachers practice at both the individually level and among the community. Generally speaking, this virtual space will provide some potential benefits. On the one hand, it will provide a space for individual member to pursue expertise development and have chance to participate in community practice conveniently, on the other hand, it also creates a space for teachers to sharing experience or exchanging ideas, and provides chance for teachers to interact with each other.
3 Analysis of Current State of Affairs The people involved in this group are teachers in a Chinese university who are teaching Educational Technology Introduction course. Most members are experience teachers and have many years of teaching experience; they develop their expertise through their daily practice. There are also few novice teachers in this group. The teachers in this group usually have different roles and responsibility in the university, but they are willing to put effort on their teaching and spend most of their time in teaching practice. Teacher who teach this course are always have busy schedule. Since a large amount of undergraduate students in this university are required to take this course, the class capacity is quite big; on the other hand, each teacher usually teaches more than one class, therefore, teachers always take big responsibility in terms of preparing lessons, organizing classroom activities and evaluating students performance. In addition, all students enrolled in this course are from different majors thus also challenges teachers in many different ways. In the daily teaching practice, teachers engaged in activities such as, planning and preparing lessons for their students, delivering lecture in regular classroom or tutoring students in multimedia classroom/computer lab, evaluating student s performance and grade their assignments. In terms of the collective part, they are some activities that require the community members working together. For example, during the middle of the semester or at the end of the semester, they will negotiate with each other about how to evaluate students. They use different tools when they engage in their teaching activities. This course contains two major parts: The first part is about some basic knowledge of instructional design and learning theory, when teaching this part teachers use tools such as, textbook, other additional course materials, their experience, and they also use verbal language to conduct lecturing, use computer and software to support their presentation of course content. The second part includes teaching activities such as teach students to make PowerPoint or Flash product, therefore, teachers also have to use some other facilities in multimedia classroom/computer lab to tutor students hands-on practice. Moreover, teachers ability, experience and teaching belief partly decide the way they act in these activities. When they work collective with other members, they communicate with each other sometimes by face to face, sometimes via to deliver and receive information, sometimes use telephone to contact each other. As Wenger et al.(2002) mentioned, A community of practice is a unique combination of three fundamental elements: a domain of knowledge, which defines a set of issues; a community of people who care about this domain; and the shared practice that they are developing to be effective in their domain (p.27) As discussed above, teachers have chance to involve with each other in some collaborative activities, such as determine the main content and the direction of the course, they participate in those activities based on their shared understanding of the
4 same domain. Knowing the boundaries and the leading edge of the domain enables members to decide exactly what is worth sharing, how to present their ideas, and which activities to pursue. ( Wenger et al.,2002, p. 28.) In terms of Community, Wenger et al.(2002) points out It encourages a willingness to share ideas, expose one s ignorance, ask difficult questions, and listen carefully. (p. 28.) In this teachers community, some teachers know each other well and when they meet together, they enjoy talking with each other about what s going on with their works, asking each other questions, exchanging some tips for classroom teaching. They are willing to share their ideas and offer answers when other member raises some questions. And these everyday interactions are valuable community activities according to Wenger et al.(2002). However, normally in their daily teaching practice, they don t have so much time/chance to interact with each other and benefit from the sharing and learning process. Therefore, this part need to be strengthened, some components in this website will be designed for this purpose. Without intentional cultivation, the communities that do develop will depend on the spare time of members (Wenger et al., 2002, p.13). The shared practice is a weak part of this community of practice. Wenger et al.(2002) points out The practice is a set of frameworks, ideas, tools, information, styles, language, stories, and documents that community members share., and the practice is the specific knowledge the community develops, shares, and maintains. (p.29). Although there are some ideas, stories that shared by the community members, the interaction between members are too limited and most interactions occur for the purpose of dealing with some common issues. Correspondingly, the opportunity for develop, share and maintain knowledge is also limited. Therefore, another focus of this design is to support teachers shared practice by providing opportunity for the members to interact with each other and has a specific way of making its practice visible (Wenger et al.,2002, p. 39) Based on the above analysis, although this group of teachers working closely, it is not a strong community of practice yet, and this status remains the space for improvement. In this learning design project, all the features/components of the website aim of this purpose, elaborate design is needed in order to support their community of practice. Design Specifications & Prototype This website designed here aims of supporting EdTech introduction course instructors community of practice. As mentioned before, this is a relatively small community; therefore, this website is simply organized and its main functions/features are focused to support this small community s interaction and shared practice. The target users of this website are currently the members of this community, members need to sign in before they can access to all the content of this website and participate in activities and download resources. This design feature is based on Feenberg & Bakardjieva (2004) s technical conditions for online community that forming closed
5 online groups (p.7). People outside the community could access to the homepage and have a brief idea of what this website is about. The basic layout of most pages contains the header section, a navigation bar section on left side, a main content section and a footer section. The header contains the name of the website; the navigation bar contains seven navigational links which indicate the major pages and components of this website, and the contents in main content section will automatically change as you click the different links in the navigation bar. Homepage The homepage is the main page of this website which gives viewer some basic concepts about what main contents and fundamental functions this website contains. On the left side of the homepage, there is a navigation bar that presents all the major links and functions of this website. The links are listed as follows: Home ; Hot topic discussion ; Virtual office ; Sharing experience ; Events list ; Resource ; Mail box. On the top right corner of the header, there is a sign in area for members to login the system; only after that, they are allowed to access all pages and all functions in this website. On the main content area of the homepage, some brief samples are listed for many pages/components of this website. There are three parts in the main content area of the homepage. In the Upcoming events part, members are able to view what will happen recently relevant to their teaching practice. In The topics under discussion now part, some topics which under discussion are listed, the members can have a brief idea about what the topics look like and when they click the check them out link, they can enter into the Hot topic discussion page. In Virtual office (Issues under negotiating now) part has list some issues which is under negotiation. Hot topics discussion page The hot topics discussion page is basically an online discussion area for the teachers. As discussed before, teachers in this community invest most of their time in individual activities in their teaching practice. Therefore, the main purpose of this design component is to create an online environment for more members to engage in same practice around their interested topics. The members could firstly post some topics that they are interested in. Moreover, they can set different categories such as Explore new teaching method, Improve teaching/learning process for various topics, and the topics are like Students performance in group-work during Lab time, How to deal with big class capacity issues. Then they can choose one or more topics that other members or themselves have posted to participate in. Members also could add new topics and open new discussions at any time.
6 When they discuss with a certain topic, for example, How to evaluate students hands on ability, following activities are expected to happen during the discussion process : some teachers may share their own experience about how to evaluate their students; some teachers may work on the literature review and introduce what other researchers have done so far to their discussion; and other teachers may want to try new methods in their own classroom, during their application of new methods process, they may come back to the discussion page and report their research findings to other members. During this discussion process which address different topics, new knowledge will be developed, shared and maintained by community members through this practice( Wenger et al.,2002). Wenger et al.(2002) s third principle of cultivating communities of practice is Invite different levels of participation (p.55). Based on this principle, this design creates an environment that encourages all members in this community to participate in this discussion. The topics are posted by members themselves, thus most members could find one or more topics they are interested in and able to participate in. Wenger et al.(2002) mentioned three main levels of community participation, Core group ; Active group and Peripheral (p.56). In my design, the roles between members with more experience/expertise and those novice teachers who have less experience might be different while participating. And their level of participation may also be different. But the meaningful part of this design is that in this case the novel teachers would be able to participate, and there is a chance that Peripheral members drift into the centre as their interest are stirred ( Wenger et al.,2002, p.57). In this page, members also can view who post the latest post of each discussion topic and how many people have attended in the discussion, this design feature is based on Tracking, one of the technical conditions for online community (Feenberg & Bakardjieva., 2004., p.7). On the other hand, the hot discussion page also contains an area for members to raise questions and get answers from other members. Teachers will more or less encounter some problems in their daily teaching practice, some of the problems would be difficult to solve, however, others teachers teaching in this course may have experienced same things before and many of them probably already knew the answers. Therefore, this page enables teachers to post questions online and look forward to other teachers answer. The hot topics discussion page design is also based on Wenger et al.(2002) s fifth principle, Focus on value. (p.59). Many of the most valuable community activities are the small, everyday interactions---informal discussions to solve a problem, or one-on-one exchanges of information about a tool, supplier, approach, or database. (p.60) The discussion will be archived based on one of Feenberg & Bakardjieva ( 2004) s technical conditions for online community, Archiving: maintaining accessible records of community discussions (p.7)
7 Virtual office page As mentioned earlier, there are some collaborative activities among teachers in this community when they have to make co-decision about their teaching practice. For example, usually in the beginning of the semester, they need to negotiate the main content and direction of course. Due to teachers different schedule; it is hard to arrange a face to face meeting when each issue comes. Therefore, members usually talk through telephone or catch a quick meet with few members, the problem is that usually some members don t have the chance to participate, in particular, the less experienced teachers are hard to involve in this process and lost the opportunity for learning from other teachers through the co-decision making process. By designing this Virtual office page in this website is like providing a virtual online office in which teachers can discuss and make decisions together. When the community has to work on a relevant issue, the administrator will put the upcoming work in the website and indicates when the discussion will start; members are encouraged to bring some thoughts before the formal discussion. After they start to discussion, all members have equal chance to throw their opinions. On the other hand, members can join in any time at the certain discussion period. A schedule about all the relevant issues will be listed and indicates which issue has been addressed, which is under negotiating and which is waiting for discussion. The discussed issue will be archived (Feenberg & Bakardjieva., 2004), and members can access to those discussion records after they sign in. Sharing experience page As Wenger et al.(2002) stated, Each community has a specific way of making its practice visible through the ways that it develops and shares knowledge. Some use stories, some document formulas and procedures in articles (p.39) In this community, a way of make its practice visible would be teachers sharing their experience by telling stories or writing reflection papers. Therefore, this page is designed to provide a space for teachers to share their experience by posting their stories or reflection papers. The story or reflection paper shared will indicate the name of the contributor, and give the member a chance to gain reputation as a contributor to the community.( Wenger et al.,2002). All the stories or reflection paper provided by members will be listed on this page, therefore, other members could easily access to those valuable experience. These stories and reflection papers will also be archived (Feenberg & Bakardjieva, 2004)
8 Events List page This page contains two components. In the Upcoming events part, members can view what will happen recently relevant to their teaching practice. On the other hand, members could post an event. In the Old events list part, members could check all the events that have happened, those events are archived( Feenberg & Bakardjieva, 2004). By view the past events; teachers can be aware of what s happening in a certain time period. And this design create a rhythm for this community of practice.(wenger et al.,2002, p.62; Feenberg & Bakardjieva, 2004, p.20) Resource page This page is design for offering some useful resources and links that could benefit the community of practice. The first part of this page will be resource result from Virtual office. The discussion results of the common issues negotiated by community members will be archived as has mentioned in the Virtual office page section, and could also be accessed from this resource page. The second part is some new insights and ideas that members bring to this community, for example, after members attending some meetings/conferences, they may have some ideas to share with members. This design is based on Wenger et al.(2002) s sixth principle of cultivating communities of practice, to Combine familiarity and excitement (p.61) The rest parts of this resource page are Useful course material, instruction video, and etc. Conference list, Journal list. Mailbox page This design feature allows members to leave message to other members. This design is inspired by Wenger et al. (2002) s principle 4, Develop both public and private community spaces. (p. 58). By sending each other messages, they can talk about whatever they concern, for example, they can talk about the condition of the classroom, blame the class capacity is too large. The heart of a community is the web of relationships among community members, and much of the day-to-day occurs in one-onone exchange. ( Wenger et al.,2002, p.58) Context of Use& Evolution over Time Since this website is designed for an existing community, the functions and design components are very specific. The target members of this website will be a group of teachers as discussed above. The website will be an online space to support interaction and collective activities of this community.
9 In this community, there are a couple of teachers who are the core members; they are usually the most experienced teacher in this course. And will actively participate in discussions, when community need to work together to address certain issue, they takes on leadership (Wenger et al.,2002). Therefore, one of them may be the potential administrator of this website and his or her computer skill is enough for taking this position. When the administrator is set, he or she could serve as coordinator, and organizes events and connect community members (Wenger et al., 2002, p.55). When the website is being used, the administrator has some responsibilities such as to update the events information. Members of this community also have the potential to actively engage in the interaction activities through this website. In particular, the Virtual office section provides them an online space for dealing with common work issues. Once the time for addressing certain issue comes, the administrator then will upload some brief information, such as the topic for negotiation, and when will the discussion start. Since this issue is directly related with every teacher s responsibility, they are expected to have high motivation to participate in this activity through the website. However, there are some challenges that could be expected. For example, one of the site functions is allow teachers to share their knowledge/experience with other teachers, but in the real situation, consider the busy schedule of teachers, how much time and energy they could contribute is hard to predict. On the other hand, one of the main reasons for the novice teachers come to this site is to learn other teachers experience. Some changes could be expected for use of the site and site itself over time, for example, at the first stage of using the website, the members go to the website mainly for participate in Virtual office to make co-decision with other members. As more and more interactions happen between members, they find themselves benefit from this process and therefore willing to involve more by participate in other the activities through the website. On the other hand, as the participation and knowledge sharing become more frequent over time, the content of the website become more ample, for example, more discussion results are recorded on the site, more stories are shared by members. This design allows for the evolution of this community of practice over time in the following two ways. First, The key to designing for evolution is to combine design elements in a way that catalyzes community development (Wenger et al.,2002, p.53). The whole design components of this website aim of support members online interaction. In particular, the Hot topic discussion and Virtual office page try to attract different members participate in the community of practice. This design decision is based on the belief that when novice teachers involved in this participation, they have the chance to bring new interests. And The dynamic nature of communities is key to their evolution (Wenger et al.,2002, p.53) Second, at the first stage of using the website, the community members may focus on using virtual office page to negotiating their work issues, early value mostly comes from
10 focusing on the current problems and needs of community members. (Wenger et al.,2002, p.59). However, this website contains some components that could encourage members to share their experience and participate in other discussions and the results of their interaction will be recorded, therefore, those features allow for the evolution of this community of practice by supporting the community to developing a systematic body of knowledge that can be easily accessed. (Wenger et al.,2002, p.59) Since the website is designed for a small community, the balance of control this website is relatively easy to address. When one member of the community takes the administrator role, he or she will have fully control of this website. The resources and discussion record are created by all the members; therefore, they have equal ownership of the content they created. The administrator can also give some of the powers to other members (Feenberg & Bakardjieva, 2004) Assessment& Reflections This design aims of support EdTech introduction course instructors community of practice. One main focus of this design is to provide opportunity for members to participate the shared practice by engaged them in a set of interaction activities. As Wenger et al. (2002) mentioned, the practice is the specific knowledge the community develops, shares, and maintains. ( p.29). Therefore, one of the indications of success of this website would be the community have developed, shared and maintains a body of knowledge through participation. This can be further assessed by how deep the discussions are, how many useful conclusion have been made, how many valuable experiences (stories) can be accessed from the website and etc. Qualifications/Limitations/Tradeoffs: When design the Virtual office page, my original thoughts was to design a feature that allow members to live chat with each other to discuss the current issues, however, consider that the teachers have different schedule and it is hard to ask all the teachers to participate in the online discussion at the same time, on the other hand, to involve more members in this discussion takes the priority. Therefore, an asynchronous discussion is designed in order to provide more flexibility. Moreover, I was intend to design a space for teachers to post what they have prepared online before they negotiate with other members in Virtual office, However, consider the real situation, whether teachers will prepare something to post is hard to predict. Therefore, in this design, just indicates in the page that teachers should bring some ideas before they participate. The strongest aspects: This site encourages participation of members from different levels and creates an environment for collective practice; in particular, some components attract different levels of participants. The weakest aspect: In the Sharing experience page, the success of this design decision depends on how much time teachers could contribute to this activities. However, this design has not addressed clearly how to motivate teachers to share their experience.
11 References: Feenberg, A.,& Bakardjieva, M. (2004). Consumers or Citizens? The Online Community Debate. In Feenberg, A& Barney, D.(Eds), Community in the Digital Age: Philosophy and Practice. Lanham:Rowman and Littlefield. Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Synder,W. (2002). Communities of Practice and Their Value to Organizations. In Cultivating Communities of Practice. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Synder,W. (2002). Communities of Practice and Their Structural Elements. In Cultivating Communities of Practice. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Synder,W. (2002). Seven Principles for Cultivating Communities of Practice. In Cultivating Communities of Practice. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.