Reflections on Communities of Practice is an audio series created to bring together experts in the EdTech and Lifelong Learning field in general. This initiative aims at bringing more visibilty to the DISCUSS community on the one hand and to learn from other experiences, on the other hand. The lessons learned and the good practices do matter not only for improvement purposes but also to ignite some reflection on the topic beyond the theoretical underpinnings.
Communities of practice are learning partnerships and offer opportunities for professional development; members share information, resources, learn from each other’s experience and create new knowledge together.
In this webinar, you will learn from 3 community-builders about the communities of practice they are engaged in, what value has been created for the members of those communities and what challenges they faced.
The Australian Learning Communities Network Inc (ALCN) was formed in 2001. ALCN is a network of leading edge practising agencies building sustainable communities using learning as the key driving element.
It now has a membership comprising around 38 learning communities around Australia, represented by lead agencies such as local government, Adult Education Centres, Private Organisations, Libraries, Community Centres, Universities, Charitable Organisations, Peak Learning Bodies, Youth Agencies and Technical and Further Education Institutes. The lead agencies have formed, within each learning community, a network of partnerships comprising business, local government, education, government authorities, community interests, libraries, and support services agencies.
The ALCN recognises that the aims and goals of most organisations/groups cannot be achieved in isolation and there is a need for partnerships within the community. The emphasis needs to shift to strategic alliances and partnerships, improved linkages between stakeholders such as education, vocation, technology, employer groups, government agencies and regional development.
The XPLOIT project was created to enhance the exploitation of the many European learning projects. Most of them are producing excellent materials and resources which are vanishing after the end of the funding period. The question was (and still is) why and the mission was to find a systematic practice in supporting new infrastructures in the local communities to make use and adopt those many resources.
One of the main findings of the project was that every community has to find its own way of using outcomes or European projects based on the local needs, capacities and stategic perspectives. It is very important to identify the key drivers in a learning community, the challenges they have to deal with and the capacities of the community in place. This finding is building a strong bridge to the DISCUSS-project because it points at CoPs bringing together experts working within the EU-projects who can adopt the findings and materials produced theit to local needs from an abstract and theoretical point of view and local experts who are able to define and express the needs of a community and its capacities.
Lifelong Learning has to constantly re-examine and restate its beliefs and practices in order to stay relevant. When I started in Adult Education some 25 years ago, Local Authorities and all post 16 education providers had generous funding available to support adults who had either been disadvantaged by their education, or who simply needed new skills. Working in the Welsh Valleys area we were able to build upon the spirit of co-operation we found amongst the women’s groups that had sprung up during the miners’ strike. Using European funding we could provide ICT labs and intensive one year training programmes in post mining communities.
Alongside our part-time humanities degree in the community we offered European funded ICT training and this attracted more than 3,000 adults eager to learn new skills. These centres transformed their communities and still offer a vital lifeline. The centres were staffed by local volunteers who were part of the community and understood the community’s needs. We had contact with other providers but each body provided what they and the centres thought was required.
The Role of Hume Global Learning Village Committee in building communities of practice & social capital in Hume, Australia.
When Hume City Council established the Hume Global Learning Village in 2003, they set up a dual structure of a high level Advisory Board and a locally- based Committee to support and facilitate the initiative. The role of the Advisory Board was to set strategic directions for the initiative while the Committee was to give a local voice and access to local organisations ad networks. The Committee has continued to facilitate the village since then, despite a significant change in its status in 2014, and in the process has built communities of practice across Hume that facilitate communications, shared understanding and knowledge, and above all trust in supporting successive Village strategic plans.
The Hume district of Melbourne is a diverse area with successive waves of migrants so that the Global Learning Village had to address a broad range of social, cultural, and economic issues. The Committee, as the local voice of the initiative brought together representatives of schools, Neighbourhood Houses, a broad spectrum of community organisations, and individual advocates for a better Hume. It was chaired by a high school principal who was also a member of the Board with an academic member of the Board also participating in the Committee.
I interpret a community of practice as a group of people which learns how to improve its knowledge, its behaviour and its influence as a result of interaction between each other and with other groups. I suggest below 3 case studies where this happened.
Case 1: Schools-Industry Twinning - tapping into the expertise of different organisations
Woodberry Down, an inner city London school, had a rich ethnic mix within its catchment area and a high proportion of one-parent families. It was situated in a difficult area of inner London with an unenviable local crime record where there is very little background of learning, much less lifelong learning. It also had a dynamic head teacher in Michael Marland whose passed on his passion for using new ideas to serve his students to his staff.
By contrast, the city location of the mighty IBM, 3 miles away was situated in the City of London, one of the richest areas in the world. It employed 700 highly trained professional people – systems analysts, salesmen, managers, experts on all aspects of computing, and most of them with complementary talents, skills, experiences and knowledge outside of their work life.
Interview with Ana Raducanu, host community for RestartEDU Romania (Community of Practice on Transforming Education in Romania). The interview was conducted by Magda Balica in Cheia, Romania - RestartEDU Camp 2015 for www.discuss-community.eu.
What is RestartEDU?
We are here at the third event, a summer camp we are hosting for our community. This started three years ago with 50 members from various NGOs, as well as business and public sector, working in education. The community started from a common purpose of transforming education in any way possible. We have developed our community so far through various events, this one being one of them. And, we have created spaces for people who share the same purpose, to meet and share resources, connect with each other, find out how they can support and help one another in order to have greater impact together and reach their goals even faster. You know, education is a sector in which it takes long time to see the results. So, we are hoping for an increase or acceleration of this process by putting all our resources together. To see how we can enhance that.
So, people say that with RestartEdu you started the most authentic community on education in Romania. But, at the same time you say that the goal of your community is to transfrom education. So, I was thinking about what it means to have this goal. Do you think that this ideal to transform education is too high for a community, or after two years you should lower your ambitions?
We based our community on the passion that people have for what they do. And I think this passion should not be lmimted by a standard of what is doable, what is reachable or not. I think we have in our hearts a vision of how beautiful this world can be and, how great our education can really work for our future. And that’s the place out of which this people start and create the transformation that they need. So, I hope our vision can increase year after year, because that will drive us further and we’ll enhance that passion to have a reach even beyond what we can practically do.
In this article we present an interview with community activist Dr. Cristina Costa, who is a lecturer in Lifelong Learning (Technology Enhanced Learning) in the Centre for Lifelong Learning, School of Education, Strathclyde University. Her research focuses on the intersection of education and the participatory web through a sociological lens, especially Pierre Bourdieu’s key concepts. She is also interested in broader issues regarding the participatory web in the context of a changing society. She is a co-editor of the Social Theory Applied blog/website.
The interview was conducted by Prof. Thomas Eckert, who is full professor at the Institute of Pedagogy at Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich, Germany. His major field of interest is qualitative and quantitative methods in quality measurement and participation in adult education.
The first thing is that we want to know some things about you. What you're doing within CoPs, meaning what can you tell us about some CoPs you are working in or with? About the actors that are involved, the type of the CoP and day-to-day activities.
Right now I am working as a lecturer at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow / Scotland. I run a program for "lifelong learning" and the idea is to develop a communal approach as part of my degree. So that’s the kind of thing that I am doing now.
My experience with CoPs goes back to 2004 and when I say CoPs, I mean online CoPs. I never had experience with face-to-face CoPs, as it was originally developed by Wenger / Trayer. I always ended up on the deep end with an online perspective which later on he also picked up with this new book.
DISCUSS only recently conducted a series of interviews with European project actors engaged in Communities of Practice. In this article we present an interview with Graham Attwell, research director of Pontydysgu - Bridge to Learning - , Wales. Graham Attwell's work over the past decades was focused on research and development of new applications and approaches to Personal Learning Environments and use of social software for learning and knowledge development.
Dear Graham, you have long year experience in working on European projects, and the building of Communities of Practice in various areas of Lifelong Learning. Which communities can we address in this interview?
One which we are quite involved with, I do a lot of work with, would be … and it’s quite an interesting one … the CoP around education and technology. I think it’s an interesting community of practice for several reasons. First, the CoP doesn’t have strict membership, secondly I think we are emergent, and thirdly the persons active in the CoP are aware of being in it. And it does cross quite a lot of disciplinary boundaries. And I think the boundary crossing is one of the most interesting features of CoPs. Certainly in terms of creativity, but also change of practice. I could give you a website or a membership list, but I guess in Europe there is several hundreds of us who interact with each other, using a repertoire of tools and sharing a discourse. So, I think it’s a community of practice.
European Public Employment Services (PES) are key agents in supporting Europe’s strategic goal of high levels of employability during a period of economic turbulence and demographic change. The increased demands on these public services have precipitated a need for transformation and continuous development. For managers and practitioners to perform successfully in their job and to support their own, and their clients’/claimants’, career adaptability and resilience, they each need to acquire a set of new transversal skills and competencies, as well as embed a professional culture of continuous improvement.
EmployID is a major EU-funded four-year project which aims to support PES staff to develop appropriate competences that address the need for integration and activation of job seekers in fast changing labour markets. It builds upon career adaptability and resilience in practice, including quality and evidence-based frameworks for enhanced individual and organisational learning. It also supports the learning process of PES practitioners and managers in their professional identity development by supporting the efficient use of technologies to provide advanced coaching, reflection, networking and learning support services as well as MOOCs. The project focuses on scalable and cost effective technological developments that empower individuals and organisations to engage in transformative learning practices, assisting their capability to adapt to rapidly changing pressures and demands.