Heather, I've been wanting to respond to this all weekend but felt the need to dig a little bit into my messy filing cabinet first. Mistake!
I was involved in one virtual community for teachers that didn't even make it to a phase that allowed it to stagnate. We had a clear focus (project based learning) and a good platform which used the same familiar software they were using with their students into the classroom. However, it was very difficult to motivate the teachers to participate. I think we simply didn't get to the stage where they could see the value for themselves.
One big learning moment in the process was that the teachers did not communicate and organize their resources as expected. Yet, the model was exactly what they were expecting their students to do. Looking back I realize that we didn't engage them enough in the design of the community environment. In an effort to make it easy for them we designed for
the teachers rather than with
We discovered a few things:
- Lack of trust in the technology -- even exaggerated assumptions about what might happen in the online environment. At the time I remember reading some examples of this behaviour from Donald Norman, like when the idea of video telephone was introduced people wondered if they could answer the phone naked!
- Fear of making mistakes! These were teachers who had been immersed in this project to implement project-based learning. They didn't want to reveal that they were still uncertain about how to use the software. It was as though they felt they were being assessed on their performance in the project.
- Confusion about membership and worries that their postings might be seen by administrators or parents. This is also related to lack of trust in technology & secure environments, etc, but it does speak to the private nature of
- An immediate assumption that the technology is limiting their options, that an online community is second choice. I think this goes along with assumptions that one innovation or practice will replace another.
I've noticed that a big topic these days is ownership of work and ideas, and in some cases teachers report they're not permitted to join certain communities. Just this week there was a message posted by Joanne Fuller about that on TALO
(teach and learn online group), with more about sharing in teacher communities in the thread "
Assessing, Assessment, any tools that you think we can use?"
I wonder, is the root of the problem that teachers don't see their work as their own? Do they see themselves as having the abilitiy to contribute to improving education?