Why Develop Virtual Communities of Practice for Teachers
We often use the expression Quebec College Network. But in regard to our academic practices, are we really a network? How many times during the school year have you exchanged views with colleagues in your discipline who work in another teaching establishment? When did you last get the chance to share an IT resource discovery that you successfully integrated into one of your courses with another teacher? Most of the time this is limited to symposiums such as the annual conferences of the AQPC (Association québécoise de pédagogie collégiale) or the educational workshops for the ACPQ (Association des collèges privés du Québec) and, sometimes, on the Profweb site!
Yet, many recently developed technological tools facilitate exchanges and promote interest in the creation of virtual communities of practice for teachers in our network.
We define a virtual community of practice as an online platform where teachers can exchange information. Its goal is to promote the sharing of knowledge and acquired skills as well as the expertise developed using tools which facilitate student learning and promote the emergence of innovative teaching strategies. It establishes a framework for sharing and encouraging the professional development of its members, teachers and professionals, through ongoing voluntary and informal collaborative exchanges.
The main objectives of a community of practice are as follows:
- Encourage exchange and sharing between participants (documents, information, technopedagogical tools, experiments, skills and solutions to common problems).
- Develop knowledge and new skills to enable progress within the community.
- Discuss ideas, theories and professional practices.
- Support teachers in experimental activities and academic strategies.
Examples of Communities of Practice within the Quebec College Network
IT Representatives’ Network (IT Reps)
The IT Reps have understood the importance of uniting their forces to advance IT integration in the network. Since nearly 10 years, the richness of their exchanges, the quality of their reports and the projects that they undertake have made the IT Reps a perfect example of an effective virtual community of practice.
Labo VTÉ of the Vitrine technologie-éducation (VTÉ)
To support educational innovation, Labo VTÉ provides exploration space to various members of the college network to experiment using information technology in education on topics such as: “The digital Humanities Class… towards a paperless classroom? “or “The Use of Social Media Without Fear.” From simple comments to detailed analysis, participation is free. These activities are in French. To join a community of practice, simply become a member of VTE. Each of the proposed Labo VTÉ lasts six to eight weeks and a new one begins every six months.
Community of Practice for Mathematics
Following an initiative by Chantal Desrosiers, the IT Rep at Cégep de Trois-Rivières, a common virtual space on the Moodle platform was created to allow math teachers to exchange information. This community also offers workshops in needs identified by its members.
Examples of workshops:
- WebWork Presentation Part 1 (Tuesday, February 28 – video available in World of Images)
- WebWork Presentation Part 2 (Friday, March 23)
- Moodle Presentation (date to be confirmed)
It is essential to establish a code of behaviour within a virtual community of practice that all members must respect. Here are three basic rules to ensure the proper functioning of your community:
- Collaborate with courtesy.
- Ensure that comments and publications comply with the law and moral codes as well as respect intellectual property.
- Actively contribute to the development of the community of practice.
The contributions of virtual communities of practice to academic practice within our network provides dividends to both teachers and students.
If you know of other examples of communities of practice operating within the network, please share them with our readers. If you would like to find out more about the technopedagogical tools at your disposal to create a community of practice for your department, your college or the teachers in your discipline province-wide, please don’t hesitate to contact us.