CoPs and PLCs work to support learning by collaboration and the inevitable positive results from working with another’s perspectives and beliefs. They (the terms) differ a bit in that a community of practice is not relegated to just educators or people who share interests only-it is an active community of “practitioners” meaning that using knowledge the wealth of knowledge and theories, individuals come together as a group to create goals and find solutions to common problems in their particular area of work (Adams, 2009). Professional Learning Communities are specific to education-they are those communities of practice that are educators and learners, and arguably include active parents and others invested in the student’s education.
By having a clear mindset and goal as a group of practitioners, the organization and structure yields support in helping to utilize and foster sound theoretical models, instructional techniques, and teacher/teacher and teacher/student relationships (Cranston, 2011). When things are going swell, it is easier to record what works and when things aren’t so swell, it is easier to find the problem and find a solution, whether through differentiation or assessment, etc., thus supporting learning through organized and collaborative methods. In addition, these communities support teaching by offering sounding boards, inspiration, and accountability in the form of people-to-people relationships as opposed to individual-to-work relationship which is beneficial and helps prevent loss of motivation and “burn-out”.
I believe technology enhances these communities by allowing for extra communication through email, social media, and virtual communication, especially when being physically present might prove difficult. In addition, one never has to actually “meet” to be a part of the same community as the tech is there to assist in forming new plans and goals, share research, etc. for practitioners across the globe. Lastly, having access to tech also means that pertinent information is more readily accessible thereby supporting teaching (because after all, teachers are learners too!) and learning (Gunawardena et al., 2009).
How could a homeschooling mom be a part of a PLC, you may ask? Well, that’s just it with technology in that it allows for communication among our rapidly increasing collective. In addition, there ARE certainly groups, called Co-Ops, often times comprised of educators, tutors, parents, actors/musicians/artists, coaches, etc that are uber helpful and useful in filling in any blanks and making this educational choice all the more effective and meaningful.
As I am working on a learning activity that utilizes technology and requires collaboration among my pupils, thus forming their own mini “PLC”, I am thinking about how best to approach teamwork within the webquest activity. I want them to need each other for completion, but I’d also like to incorporate communication with their friends who live a few states away and are also homeschooled, so I am thinking about “plugging in” and using Facebook so that they can access it and do the activities within. I might even see if I could put a chat feature-if not, then at the least an ongoing editing tool for conversation purposes.
My ultimate goal throughout our journey is that they grow to be confident and interdependent learners so that they carry the sentiment of collaboration into all their endeavors. As such, I would like to continue to build and involve myself into PLCs interested in alternative learning methods.
How has collaboration benefited your learning environment? How did you go about working together and with whom? Share your experiences!
Check this link for more info on homeschooling: http://www.hsc.org/homeschoolinghelp/professional-s-guide.html
Adams, C. (2009). The power of collaboration. Instructor, 119(1), 28-31.
Cranston, J. (2011). Relational trust: The glue that binds a professional learning community . [Article]. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 57(1), 59-72.
Gunawardena, C. N., Hermans, M. B., Sanchez, D., Richmond, C., Bohley, M., & Tuttle, R. (2009). A theoretical framework for building online communities of practice with social networking tools . Educational Media International, 46(1), 3-16. doi: 10.1080/09523980802588626