Communities of Practice

One community of practice that I have spent the last year and a half building is the EDTECH Graduate Student Association of Boise State University. We just call it the GSA for short. We have been laying the groundwork for this community for the past year and a half for students within the EDTECH program here at Boise State University. In looking at what Barab and Duffy (2000) say about the features that arearguably requisite of communities I see that this consists of a common historical heritage, interdependent system, and a reproduction cycle, I will attempt to explain how these features seem to have naturally occurred in creation of this learning community.

Our common heritage can be seen in the members and officers. We are all students that are currently in or have been in the EDTECH program here at Boise State University. We share an educational background that frames our shared goals, meanings, and practices. Last year, we created our governing documents that outlines how we will do business (conducting monthly meetings with members and bi-monthly meetings within the Executive Committee).

My vision for the association was a shared vision and was aided by faculty, advisors, and other students. The result is becoming an Interdependent System between faculty and students. The students have created a mission and purpose statement. Essentially we are addressing these by creating a network of learners where we share resources both within and beyond the program. One of our members and faculty brought this to light by sharing ideas. One of these were the development of mechanismisms by which students can collectively showcase their work. We have developed a couple of mechanisms that support these shared goals described by Barab and Duffy (2000).

The first was the creation of our Project Sharing Database where members can upload or link to one of their projects that have had an impact in the workplace. The idea with this is that we create a resource that students can come back to at a later time to learn beyond the program. The second mechanism is the current development of a peer reviewed journal where students will be able to submit a research project and have a group of students anonymously peer review an article and publish it in an internal journal. This mechanism of sharing resources will create a shared practice. That practice will be the ability to have resources in the future for faculty, students, lumni, and hopefully students from other colleges and universities.

The Interdependent System as described by Barab and Duffy (2000) states that “individuals are part of something larger as they work within the context and become interconnected to the community, which is also part of something larger.” We have realized that we need faculty to be a part of our community in order for it to fully realize the potential of our online peer reviewed journal. As a result, we have included them in our GSA site here on Moodle and we will be having a meeting with faculty on November 8, 2010. The larger picture is to put the pieces of a puzzle together to hopefully form a more cohesive community of learners. The larger community here are all of us within the EDTECH Program utilizing technology to enhance educational experiences within our profession, whether that be teaching, instructional design, professional trainers, or something else. Our inclusion of faculty are to suggest that our initiatives (Project Sharing, peer reviewed journal, mini-grant opportunities, to name a few) are closely tied and connected to what they are doing. Without these puzzle pieces coming together, we will likely not fully become connected to the larger community as faculty have had a breadth of experience within the field of which we are all studying.

The Reproduction Cycle that Barab and Duffy (2000) speak of is something that I have personally been working to achieve recently. We just revised our governing documents (ie, our Constitution and By-Laws) that outline how we do business. These documents will serve to aide in this cycle down the line. In this regard, we have also created a more permanent document storing area and are working on practices that will enable easy transition to officers next year and beyond. We have also began collaborating on the EDTECH GSA Blog at http://edtechgsa.blogspot.com as our common website to show other students within the program the Opportunities available to them if they were to join our association and help in our efforts. The site also outlines how to become a member and much more information to aide in the Reproduction Cycle. Authorship and ownership of this site can be passed down to future officers and members when elections take place next year. Within our Moodle site (where we have meetings), we have practices outlined that can also be passed down to future members, aiding in the reproduction of new members that can engage in and “embody the communal practices,” to hopefully replace us “old timers.”

I encourage all students within this class to review our website to determine whether an opportunity exists that would support their educational endeavors within or beyond the program. Join us and start sharing your projects for use by current and future students! We would love to have these to share now and in the future. You can see some of the shared projects on our website as well, but if you want a link to a project, you will have to joini our association.

This week’s reading was very insightful for me as it provides a framework with which we can learn and utilize in our future careers. It is helping me to rethink who should be able to post blogs on our site (perhaps all members) or participate in our meetings.

Barab, S.A., & Duffy, T.M. (2000) From practice fields to communities of practice. In Jonassen, D.H., & Land, S.M. (eds.) Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments. Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

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