Create a space for collaboration
A community of practice typically requires at least two different kinds of technologies to support their activities:
- a software application or platform for live (i.e., real-time) online meetings and webinars (such as Skype, videoconferencing or a conferencing software such as Adobe Connect or Blackboard Learn)
- a dedicated 24/7 online space for collaboration, discussion, archiving meetings and webinars, and sharing resources (such as Moodle, dedicated website, blog or NING).
Collaborative technologies are constantly evolving and the community’s access to licenses and support may vary from year-to-year. For communities that are on-going (i.e., more than one school year) part of the planning process needs to include examining how the current technology is serving the work of the community and whether new solutions are emerging that might be more effective or efficient.
What a collaborative space could look like
When designing the collaboration space, consider creating distinct areas for:
- member profiles, including photos
- schedule of events
- archiving past webinars, hand-outs, slides and meeting notes
- library of resources
- discussions and reflections of participants.
The 2013-2014 Peer Mentoring community of practice is an example of a community that used two sites, one as a ‘public face’ and one as a ‘private face.’ The community had a “members only” group on a NING platform that was part of a larger professional development network supporting the implementation of inclusive learning environments. This private space hosted archived webinars, discussion threads and additional resources.
The Peer Mentoring project also used a wiki as the public face of their community of practice. slides for webinars and selected resources were posted on the wiki within a day of the live webinar. This was particularly helpful for community members who were leaders in their schools. The public site made it easier for them to share what they were learning and doing with their own school communities in a more timely manner.
Migrating content from private to public
When the work of a community is generating new content that educators beyond the community might benefit from, it may be efficient to have, in addition to the ‘members only’ space, a public site that is added to regularly throughout the year.
Both the Literacy for All and Numeracy for All communities of practice use this approach. In their first three years they worked on a wiki but more recently they are using a dedicated website. As new content is developed on the private side, it is repurposed and moved to the public side. Not all content will be appropriate for transferring over, and some content will require more editing and revising before posting on the public side.
In addition to making new content available in a timely way, this ongoing building of a public resource can be a positive motivation for the community as a whole. It is a tangible way to demonstrate that members’ contributions are valued. Seeing their work posted will increase their confidence and validate that the work they are doing is worthwhile and can benefit others.