Our TLN colleague Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach has a terrific blog essay at TechLearning this week, examining the disconnect between calls for PLCs and teacher ‘communities of practice’ and the level of involvement and support by many administrators in the CoP process.
Sheryl, a consultant who helps develop virtual learning communities in education, makes the case that in the busy world of 21st Century schooling, the best means to build and sustain professional learning for both teachers and administrators is on the Web:
In my opinion, true educational reform in the 21st Century comes down to building community — specifically virtual community. Professional communities of practice are critical to carrying out induction, mentoring, ongoing professional development, and other forms of knowledge management that typically take place in a school environment.
So how can administrators support the development of virtual communities of practice? Sheryl says the process…
…begins with two points of intersection. First, administrators set up a virtual space for communication and collaboration. They will need to choose a platform that has both public and private spaces and allows for the formation of subgroups that can be created by community members as needed. The platform should be very intuitive and require a minimal learning curve. Once the platform is selected then a community organizer who understands how to develop community online should be chosen. This person’s contribution can not be underestimated in the beginning of the work.
Second, teachers need to have easy access, full permissions and the ability to use the platform in ways that make sense. By developing CoPs within their classroom, teachers model for their students how to establish learning networks of their own.
Read more of Sheryl’s manifesto on Communities of Practice (which might well be termed “Communities of Learning” when students become engaged in the process). Don’t miss the many thoughtful replies to her posting from other leaders in the School 2.0 world. And visit her personal blog here.