WED: The Fiction of Open Online Collaboration; they want to share, don’t they? (Jim Fanning)
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24 December 2016
The conference paper presents a critical discussion of the issues surrounding implementation and development of a voluntary online professional learning community that is set within the context of the Scottish Attainment Challenge (Education Scotland, 2016). It involves teachers who are working on initiatives that have received central government funding to improve attainment. The educators in the community include civil servants, local authority education officers, senior teachers and teachers who were working directly with learners.
The conference paper will make use of a range of project materials and information. This will include government publications that illustrate how online collaboration is supported at a policy level in Scottish education. Yammer is the application in which the community has been built and it is hosted on Glow, the Scottish national intranet for education (Scottish Government, 2016). How the functions of a Yammer group support collaboration will be described, along with the ways in which Gilly Salmon’s 5-Step model of e-learning was adapted to promote educator engagement in it (Salmon, 2011).
Influenced by Wenger’s work on communities of practice (Wenger, 2007), a framework was developed that defined collaboration as being ‘surface’ or ‘deep’ and what each of those elements looked like. That framework has been used to map teacher input in the online community and evaluate the nature and openness of collaboration and how the implementation process, based on Salmon’s adapted model, influences this.
In 2015 the Scottish government facilitated a range of stakeholder consultation events for the design of a national digital learning and teaching strategy (Scottish Government, 2015). The consultation provided a range of evidence around teacher cultures and the barriers and enablers to change in the system. That evidence, along with an online poll designed for the purposes of the project, and conversations with a range of educators, has been used to describe the cultural context in which the online community operates.
Whilst each of the educators involved in this project brought with them a range of experiences, knowledge, and expectations of collaboration in an online community, a marked feature of the project has been the reluctance of school based staff to be the ‘first’ to contribute in comparison to local authority and central government colleagues. A philosophical belief in collaboration and openness has not been matched by practice within the community. There was much evidence of co-operation rather than collaboration and where collaboration took place, it tended to be in a face to face setting built on contacts that had been made through the community.
Understanding the synthesis between implementation strategies and teacher cultures in these online communities is important in terms of evaluating the effectiveness of the Glow based communities. More widely, the development of Web 2.0 has been built around collaboration tools and services that promote sharing and openness. There are numerous examples of these being harnessed for social, political and economic purposes. The reasons why they have yet to become widely embedded in mainstream education may be better understood through this project.
EDUCATION SCOTLAND. 2016. The Scottish Attainment Challenge [Online]. Glasgow: Education Scotland. Available: https://education.gov.scot/improvement/Pages/sac1tosac11scottishattainmentchallenge.aspx [Accessed 5th November 2016].
SALMON, G. 2011. E-Moderating, London, Routledge.
SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT. 2015. Consultation on the development of a Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland [Online]. Edinburgh: Scottish Government. Available: https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/learning-directorate/digital-learning/ [Accessed 16th December 2016].
SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT. 2016. Glow Programme [Online]. Edinburgh: Scottish Government. Available: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Education/Schools/ICTinLearning/Glow [Accessed 14th December 2016].
WENGER, E. 2007. Communities of Practice: a brief introduction [Online]. Available: http://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/ [Accessed 19th December 2016].