Mind Lab PGCert Week 19 – Community of Practice

This blog entry will look at two areas of research I might look at to contribute to my community of practice.

What is my community of practice?

Communities of practice 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-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, 2015) They’re split into ‘Domain’ – a shared interest/expertise, ‘Community’ – interactions/sharing/helping, and ‘Practice’ – A growing collective practice/resources/ways of solving problems

The CoP I’d like to look at today is my Professional Learning Groups within my school, mainly focused on pedagogy

  • Domain: Shared knowledge and interest in education
  • Community: Sharing classroom experiences, pedagogical methods/styles
  • Practice: Inquiries are carried out and shared with the group, so that all may benefit from the experiences, and contribute thoughts in return

Research areas

Area 1: Gamification

Engagement is a problem in all contexts – gamification is hopefully a tool to improve this.

Gamification hasn’t been explored much in my current context. Some game aspects are used – such as reward systems. Otherwise use of gamification is practically non-existent and poorly understood.

Kapp in The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook : Ideas into Practice (2013) talks about ‘interactive learning initiatives’. Less concerned with rewards, and more about the ongoing feedback and interaction to/from the student. Kapp goes on to explain that Gamification initiatives are often undertaken for the wrong reasons and prepared hastily and poorly. These initiatives then fail miserably and gamification is blamed as a gimmick.

Kapp highlights that due to the costs of time and money involved in implementing effectively, that gamification should be implemented carefully and for the right reasons.

Area 2: Blended learning

Technology is becoming more and more a part of our world, and education is no exception. I already work in a BYOD school, where we are encouraged to use technology within the classroom, however some teachers still only use pen and paper. There are all sorts of potential benefits to be reaped from using technology and moving away from a traditional delivery method.

Perceived benefits in the CoP are that it is easy to disseminate information, easy to check work, students can engage at their pace and convenience. Concerns around things like flipped learning are that equity becomes an issue – perhaps not all students have a home environment or the resources conducive to engaging effectively.

Hew and Cheung in Using Blended Learning : Evidence-Based Practices (2014) describe blended learning as any learning done partly at a brick-and-mortar location away from home, and at part over the internet at a time/place/pace of their choosing. Advantages of blended learning are:

  • Helps to meet the needs of individual learners
  • Improving student-student communication
  • Reducing ‘per-student’ cost
  • Improving student learning outcomes
  • Reducing attrition rates

Caution is added however – that blended learning does not automatically lead to success. A thoughtful connection must be made when integrating the different components. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all perfect blend’

Conclusion

It sounds like gamification is hard to do effectively. Maybe I’ll save that for another year when I have more time to dedicate to it.

Blended learning is very relevant to my current context. It is also something that is already happening to some degree in the school, but not necessarily well understood or well executed. Inquiry into this area will hopefully improve our collective practice and encourage other teachers to take greater advantage of student’s access to technology.

References:

Wenger-Trayner, E., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015). Introduction to communities of practice: A brief overview of the concept and its uses. Retrieved from http://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/

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