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Community formation has become crucial to learning languages online. The idea that learning is at essence a social phenomenon is central to constructivist approaches to learning. Within communities people scaffold one another, and teachers who form communities for the purpose of collaborative professional development are exploring techniques that can be ported to learning environments they in turn design and implement for students. There are many opportunities for teachers and learners to come together in communities online, and this page is a start at sharing some resources for affecting the formation and utililization of learning communities.
Communities of Practice
There has been a lot of work on the notion of Communities of Practice. The idea has become popular in business as a way of organizing a work force so that development of products and feedback to management can occur spontaneously and bottom up. Accordingly research on the issue has been well funded (e.g. the work of EtienneWenger). A colleague in the Webheads communities was doing significant work in this area: Christopher Johnson.
Some Communities of Practice for Language Teachers and Learners
Tools for Community Formation
Yahoo Groups at http://www.yahoogroups.com is one of the easier sites for creating online communities and portal sites for blended groups (blended means having online as well as face-to-face aspects). I have tried the MSN counterpart (which some of my colleagues like) but find that its disadvantage is that in order to join an MSN group, all members must first be registered with MSN. YahooGroups on the other hand allows participants in a group to be in email contact without prior registration with Yahoo so that group interaction can be initiated with little ado, though full use of YahooGroups features requires registration for access to files, photos, databases, etc. at the portal site.
Some of the more interesting tools for collaborating online include blogs and wikis. Wikis are open source scripts allowing unregistered users to post data to an interactive website or, according to "What is Wiki" at the URL just given, "The simplest online database that could possibly work" (attributed to Ward). A user-friendly wiki site as of April 2006 is http://www.pbwiki.com.
Communities are also enhanced by Web 2.0 tools such as Frapper and Flicker. For examples of how Web 2.0 is enhancing education in general and language learning in particular, see the series of lectures I did in March / April 2006, ppts and recordings accessible at http://tinyurl.com/m4ow6
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Last updated: April 22, 2006 in Hot Metal Pro 6.0
©opyright 2005 by Vance Stevens