Learning Communities…I already have one

Today was a PD day for our school, with tomorrow being day two. I spent most of my day today learning about Critical Friends Groups (CFG), and being trained to be a leader of a CFG. According the the web site a CFG is:

….a professional learning community consisting of approximately 8-12 educators who come together voluntarily at least once a month for about 2 hours. Group members are committed to improving their practice through collaborative learning.

HHHMMM, a professional learning community of educators coming together voluntarily? As we went through the day talking about these learning communities I kept drawing parallels in my mind between CFGs and the Edublogosphere.

Characteristics of professional learning communities and parallels to blogging

Shared norms and values
—-Bloggers share norms and values in the way we use trackback and pingbacks. The norms and values come mostly from Creative Common licensing.

Collaboration—-By leaving comments, remixing ideas, and creating wikis to further ideas, edubloggers collaborate on many different issues. I’ve used this blog to collaborate on issues of creating a mission and vision, in designing new media centers, and helping to build lessons for the classroom.

Reflective dialogue—-The blog itself can be and most of the time is used to carry on a reflective dialogue…this post is a perfect example.

Deprivatization of practice—-Can you get any more open than a blog? As of today there are 1.086 billion Internet users…I think that qualifies as deprivatization.

Collective focus on student learning—-Edubloggers focus on student learning. Some more than others (like Clarence), but overall I believe we all do what we do because of our main goal of educating students.

Spirit of shared responsibility for the learning of all students Professional learning communities can develop when there is:
 
Time to meet and talk—-Bloggers meet and talk when they have time.

Physical proximity—-HHMM…maybe in a web 1.0 world physical proximity was needed. But with blogging and other communication tools (Skype for example) is this really necessary?

Interdependent teaching rolesBlogging can form bonds between teachers allowing for collaboration on projects that go beyond the boundaries of a school/district/state/country.

Active communication structuresDid someone say comments?

Teacher empowerment and autonomy
—-Do edubloggers feel empowered by blogging? By writing and contributing to the wealth of knowledge on the web? By adding to a global conversation? Is there a sense of independence that comes with blogging, with being able to reflect, write, and contribute to conversations that you want to?

I’m sure you will find more parallels. The edublogosphere is very much a professional learning community. Is it better than a CFG? Can it do more? Be more reflective, more powerful to the blogger? I think that depends on the blogger and his or her comfort level with being open and honest on the web. Being able to put your ideas out there…to feel safe enough or be reflective enough to allow others to criticize one’s work. To be able to take comments, even ones that are not positive as feedback, as a way to further one’s understanding is what professional learning communities are all about whether in person or in the blogosphere.

[tags]reflections, random thoughts[/tags]

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