Participant Comfort, Social Networking and Communities of Practice

Wendy Fasso

on Wednesday, 7 April 2010 10:30 - 11:10 in room 212

Abstract
In 2007 and 2008 a series of online professional developments for groups of teacher-leaders was run, with an early dropout rate of individuals who felt isolated in the online community and felt they did not ‘belong’. A significant factor contributing to the sense of isolation of these teachers was the immediate networking in the collaboration areas of groups who had worked together in other contexts. In 2009, a social networking approach to pairing and grouping teachers was taken to attempt to minimize the drop-out rate. The goal was to initiate networking between pairs of individuals based on identified similarities of lifestyle, context and personal attributes. The results for three groups of teachers investigated in different facilitated offerings of the course (n=68) indicated that the targeted group of individuals felt comfortable, welcome and supported within the community, and in all three iterations there were no early cancellations of enrolment. The results indicate that the successful membership and participation in an online community of practice of this type is dependent on existing or facilitated social networking of participants. The support of at least one individual with identified similarities was identified by participants with few or no other contacts within the community as being a significant factor in the success of their integration into the community of practice. Within the definition of online community of practice, I argue that any group of individuals in an online environment cycle through facilitated or non-facilitated networking with a small group/individual focus, from which community activity with a whole-group focus may emerge. Thus it is important to clarify the incidence of episodes of networking and distinguish them from episodes of community formation since the focus of each of these activity types is different.

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This is how you cite this paper:

Fasso, W. (2010). Participant Comfort, Social Networking and Communities of Practice In D. Gronn, & G. Romeo (Eds) ACEC2010: Digital Diversity. Conference Proceedings of the Australian Computers in Education Conference 2010, Melbourne 6-9 April. Carlton, Victoria: Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACEC). Retrieved from, http://acec2010.acce.edu.au/proposal/1060/community-practice-or-social-network

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