On December 17th, 2010 I had the great pleasure of attending my (now former as she’s back in Costa Rica) e-Learning Lab colleague, Mayela Coto’s PhD-defense. Mayela’s thesis is entitled “The case of UNAgora: A community of practice approach to facilitate university teacher professional development in ICT and project-oriented problem pedagogy”, and is now available for download here.
Here is an excerpt from the abstract:
- The overall aim of this research is to enhance the understanding of to what extent a distributed community of practice approach affects the professional development of university teachers and whether this leads the teachers to promote a transformation in teaching practices mainly regarding the introduction of ICT and project-oriented problem pedagogy (POPP).
- More specific research questions are concerned with what is the impact of belonging to the community of practice on teachers?; what kind of changes takes place in the teachers’ practice?; which factors support or hinder the professional development of teachers who are part of a distributed community of practice?; how does technology contribute (or not) to the formation of the community, and to the professional development process?; and what principles may be used to guide the design of a professional development model- based on communities of practice for fostering change of practice?
- The main findings of the study were that the distributed community of practice approach appears to be a productive form of professional development under certain conditions. It provides an environment for learning and dialogue that can enrich and deepen teachers’ knowledge, as well as an understanding of important educational issues and change of values, beliefs and practices. Issues of access to technology, culture of online communication and collaboration, teachers’ workload and time have been identified as conditions that need to be carefully studied in order for the approach to be potentially effective.
- The overall result of the approach to professional development proposed by this study, offers teachers a scope for learning, negotiation and identity formation within the community. The study also suggests that teachers who are closer to the center of the community are able to identify with, and develop a feeling of belonging to the community to a greater extent than the teachers with a peripheral role. However, it seems that both kinds of teachers are able to transform, to some extent, their teaching practices.
Mayela’s supervisor (who’s also my PhD-supervisor) was Professor, PhD Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld (Aalborg University), whereas the examining committee consisted of Maite Capra (Univercidad Nacional Costa Rica), Marianne Lykke (Aalborg University), and Etienne Wenger.
It’s a pretty long thesis, but well worth the read :-)
In July it was announced that the COMmunity of integrated Blended Learning in Europe (COMBLE) project had been chosen as “Project of the month” by the elearningeuropa. info portal. This portal is established by the European Commission to promote the use of multimedia technologies and Internet at the service of education and training, and so all of us involved in the COMBLE project are quite happy about this recognition of our work :-)
In this project several colleagues from e-Learning Lab (Aalborg University) and I worked together with partners from Germany, Poland and Estonia from January 2008 – December 2009.
In the COMBLE project we investigated the following questions:
- When is an institution (universities, further education, enterprises) ready for Blended Learning?
- What are the common challenges and solutions?” and
- How can trainers design for active and collaborative learning?
Together with my PhD-colleague, Heilyn Camacho, I designed and ran a highly successful 6 week course on Problem Based Blended Learning in Second Life and Moodle on which I’ve written several posts (i.e. this one explaining the course concept).
Besides this the COMBLE project also resulted in:
- A wiki-based community called Methopedia for Blended Learning experts to share relevant knowledge and experience. Methopedia is available in four languages and contains about 100 different learning activities and an interactive seminar planer.
- A Blended Learning Readiness Wiki to support strategic planning, change management and the evaluation of blended learning scenarios at the institutional level.
- The Methopedia Learning Designer: an online flash tool to design seminars.
BTW: we would like to encourage anyone interested in Blended Learning to join our community – either at the Methopedia website or on Facebook :-)
Today I did my first presentation of my PhD project at UCB. Sadly only a few people turned up, but they seemed engaged and asked a lot of questions, so that was good. It was the first time I presented some of my recent ideas on remediation, so that was quite interesting for me personally. I clearly need to refine my thoughts and the lack of proper English vocabulary, when I want to make a specific point, is really, really frustrating, but it is all part the learning process and I feel confident that it will become easier as time passes.
Among other things I addressed one of the challenges I currently have in relation to my thoughts on remediation. I’ve incorporated several dichotomies in my models for remediation, but I only see them as theoretical/analytical tools – reality (in whatever shape it represents itself) is much more complex and I don’t necessarily consider them to be mutually exclusive. Another problem is that some of the concepts I’m using are ambiguous, so I have a lot of work ahead of me in determining how I will define these concepts, and as examples of this uncertainty I presented the following three slides: