Monday, February 15, 2010

I can feel the BUZZ!!!

Today was the first meeting of my community of practice. We started this CoP early last year since then I have seen the numbers grow, shrink and grow again late last year. I was in for a surprise this morning. I couldn't believe the words I was hearing.

The CoP was formed with staff mostly from the school of built environment. The aim was to up-skill the staff interested on use of technology in education. The ride had been rough and at times thoughts did cross my mind if the CoP was actually serving the purpose it was setup for.

Last year was basically spent laying the foundation having realised that the staff were still stuck in the traditional teaching method. Nothing wrong here it makes sense since most of the staff join the institute straight from the trade sector and didn't necessarily have any teaching experience. Their only teaching experience is likely to be the one they had, when they schooled (likely to be traditional teaching method, transmission) hence their teaching style would be a reflection of this experience.

Almost all of last year was spent on changing the mindset of the staff involved. It's a critical stage of the change and from experience a sensitive issue. In some cases I was going to challenge some staff who had been teaching for the past 14 or so years and for them the method has worked, students graduated and also managed to achieved decent success rate so why would anyone change something that was working 'fine'.

I had tried many approaches from modeling, showcasing the benefits, putting them through a blended learning course (only a 2 hour session) and even bringing an outsider to share her experience with her students in going from traditional to blended and sharing the benefit. It made no difference ..... I could feel the skepticism in the room.

The cows didn't come home till the end of last week. Two of the staff in my CoP were involved in a week long workshop on CoP with Etienne Wenger and Bev Trayner. The week was full of social activities and use of technology modeled were appropriate. I have to admit the week long workshop was a great showcase of social learning and how to facilitate it.

This morning when I entered the meeting room, things were already underway. The sound I was hearing couldn't have been any sweeter. I was hearing words like co-create, students don't need books, tools like Youtube, Flickr and even Second Life were being mentioned. Social learning was being discussed to a great extent, staff were strategizing scavenger hunts involving students going as far as choosing their own projects, bringing some degree of authenticity in the assessment. It just sounded so right that I just seat back and heard the discussion without getting involved.

Reflecting on the past year and this CoP, time sometimes is the key, both allowing the time for the participants to reflect and get a handle on the new concepts and letting it sink in and at the same time having the time to model the approach, obviously 2 hours wasn't enough. The need/purpose and authenticity is critical as well. My modeling session was perhaps too superficial when compare to the week long session with Etienne and Bev.

We are meeting this week Wednesday to design a blended learning course that would put students in the centre of their own learning.

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