Communities of Practice – Where do I belong?

Although I had not considered my place in a community of practice before beginning to write this post, the more I reflect on this concept the more I become aware of the potential benefits of consciously positioning myself within a relevant community of practice. However, a number of factors make it difficult to define my community of practice and in order to do so, I need to consider what my role is within my current educational context.

Defined by Wenger as “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly,” communities of practice consist of three key elements: the domain; the community; and the practice. As a technology teacher working within the wider context of an intermediate school my domain at its narrowest would be that of technology teacher and simply educator at its broadest. In terms of belonging to an actual community of practice rather than a community, I feel that it I strongly identify as a technology teacher and that it is this domain of knowledge that serves as the common ground on which I make connections with others. In terms of defining the domain of the community of practice that I feel that I am a member of, the two key areas of knowledge are pedagogical approaches that work well in a technology context and technical knowledge related to developing an understanding of the technology curriculum and specific areas of knowledge such as coding, 3D modelling, animation and the design process.

The community element of the community of practice that I see myself belonging to consists of four layers. The inner layer of this community is made up of the technology teachers with whom I work with. We collaborate on a daily basis,  sharing ideas and developing understandings as we work alongside each other to deliver and engaging technology program. The next layer is the wider teaching staff and management of the school in which our technology department is situated. This layer provides the pedagogical framework in which we operate along with opportunities for professional learning and regular interactions with other teachers. These elements all impact on my understanding of what it means to be a technology teacher and my vision of best practice. Beyond this exists the wider network of technology teachers in Canterbury, with whom I connect with virtually through the Greater Canterbury and occasionally in person. Finally, the enormous array of people who make information relating to understanding and using technology available via the internet for the final layer of community. Although connections with these people may be incredibly tenuous, consisting of a few posts on a blog or forum at most, the vast amount of information that is accessible because of their efforts make them a critical part of this community of practice.

In terms of evaluating the extent to which in contribute to this community as a practitioner, I think that I make some significant contributions at each of the four levels described early. I have a leadership role within the technology team at my school and this position allowed me to share my knowledge whilst also learning from my fellow teachers as we work together to develop our practice. This is also the case at the wider school layer. I also see myself as an active member of the community of technology teachers in Canterbury. I have participated in professional development with this group and run a series of workshops to share knowledge about a range of topics including  3D modeling and working with Arduino. My interaction with the final layer of community is much more limited as my interactions with this layer tends to be limited to searching for answers to technical questions relating to technology used in my classroom. My one significant contribution would be the series of instructional videos on the use of Autodesk 123D shared with others via youtube. However, now that I am aware that I am a member of a community of practice, I can see the many benefits that could be derived from engaging with the other members of this community in a more sustained and purposeful manner.