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Communities of practice online: Reflection through experience and experiment with the Webheads community of language learners and practitioners

Vance Stevens

Welcome to the Webheads communities of practice

Week 1: Mon Jan. 20 to Sun Jan 26, 2003

To help us sort out the different issues
discussed in the first week
Dafne prepared a web page


What is a community of Practice?

Christopher Johnson has created this interesting interactive illustration of CoP theory at

Click on the pic or the link above to explore the original.

Who are the Webheads

See Teresa's Links for Newcomers to the Webheads projects here: sites

Getting organized: how you can participate

Here's what you should have completed by the end of the first week of this session (by Jan 26, 2003)

  Action Link
1 Get a Yahoo ID and password
2 Enroll in EVOnline2002_webheads (and any other EVOnline 2003 session you fancy)
3 Familiarize yourself with Yahoo Groups
4 Visit and ensure that items in the left hand frame column (Messages, Files, Links, etc.) are all hyperlinked If not, consult this page for advice:
5 Explore the Messages, Files, Links, etc. areas of our YahooGroups portal page
6 Upload your photo to our Photos area (if you wish)
7 Send your introduction to the group, following the guidelines in the URL at right ...
8 If you weren't with us at last year's EVOnline Webheads in Action session, explore Week 1 of the syllabus for that session
9 Write the list with any questions or comments you might have
10 Get ready to start January 27 with Chris Jones's, John Steele's, and Christine Bauer-Ramazani's more formal examination of "What are communities of practice?"

What have we done so far?

Teresa was kind enough, and so moved, to compile a comprehensive INDEX OF "WEBHEADS IN ACTION" WEB PAGES AND RELATED SITES, which serves to give an idea from a single web page of the scope of the many projects of Webheads and its members. It can be found here:

We spend a lot of time in Tapped In. Tapped in is currently redeveloping itself into something called Tapped In 2 (TI2). Many Webheads in Action were involved in the beta testing of TI2 and so like to meet there. In any event, be aware that there are two URLs for Tapped In:

We have also worked a lot with text, voice, and video web cam synchronous communications (chat) clients such as Yahoo Messenger and iVisit. We explored these and other CMC (computer mediated communications) environments in Week 3 of our syllabus last session. Click here for more information.

Here are perspectives by participants in the 2002 Webheads in Action sessions reflecting on their experience during the session. Both items below quoted with permission - Vance

Teresa's perspective, Nov 2002

Dear friends:

As usual, I have a tendency for long documents, because I like to express my feelings. It's also a way of thanking the lucky star that inspired me to join such a great group of people as Webheads in Action.

So, once again, my documents are probably longer than others, too long to be included here, anyway. But remember that they are also a sort of personal log.

However, I will include some parts from my comments on Interactivity of Distance Courses.

"The best way to 'break the ice' and 'get the ball rolling' is undoubtedly to get people to introduce themselves at the professional, academic and/or personal levels. . . However, Vance went a step further: he created the community page with entries for each participants, including their introductions and personal Internet-related info. What a brilliant step it was! It has been a favorite resource of mine from the very beginning, at first to look at the photos – when there was one – and imagine the person(ality) behind them, other times just to get a webpage address or a yahoo id. In my opinion, the introduction phase and the community page were the true foundations of the solid online community we gradually built.

Then there was the syllabus, well laid out, week by week, with attractive (a)synchronous tools to try out and see how they could be applied to EFL and ESL teaching, in addition to the attempt to simualtaneously form and maintain a robust online community. And there were the web pages Vance created for the numerous activities we developed – a kind of log of practically everything we did and many things we said . . .

When considering if distance education can offer enough interaction, it is said in the article that "with proper instructional design, distance courses actually can be more active interactive than traditional ones. . ." (Horn; Hirumi and Bermudez). I sincerely think that our experience with the Webheads leaves no doubt about this. However, I also think it shows that it is not just 'instructional design' that contributes to that end. Though it is a core element, we can not forget the human element – the coordinator and the participants.

We were very fortunate to have such a great, diversified and multicultural group of people come together and get along so well. There was immediate empathy between many of us. But above all, we were truly lucky to have had the coordinator we had. . .".

BFN, Teresa

Complete text (for evonline members only): /E-Learner%20Readings%20and%20Tasks/Comments-%20-%20How%20Interactive.../com ments-on-interactivity-of-distance-learning.htm

Dafne's perspective, Nov 2002

From Dafne's comments on: "How Interactive are YOUR Distance Courses? A Rubric for Assessing Interaction in Distance Learning" (Roblyer & Ekhamel, 2000)

State what you would do in your EV Online Session to achieve the maximum number of points in Roblyer & Ekhamel's rubric.

Element #1: Social Rapport building activities created by the instructor.

The Webheads sessions rank very high in this element, social rapport is enhanced through the group Sunday chats, as well as by the individual and group projects that the members voluntarily engage in motivated by the exchange of e-mails and the scaffolding from old and new Webheads, with Vance's skillful guidance.

Element # 2: Instructional Designs for learning created by the instructor.

Even though in the Webheads session all participation is voluntary, the interaction of those motivated to participate, is in many directions, since there is not a vertical relationship of power. We are all at one time learners, and at the next trainers. Some people start as lurkers and at some moment they show up to say how much they have learned from reading what others have shared in their process of learning. A factor that enhances learning in this community is how Webheads document their learning process and share it with others. Hence the ranking in this element will depend on each individual decision to be an active participant or a lurker.

Element # 3: Levels of Interactivity of technological resources

WOW, I think the Webheads community ranks higher than the maximum points assigned in the rubric. You mention any technological resource and we have probably tried it in one way or the other, always with the presence and help from other members. One good example of this is Aiden's latest toy which she is being trying and reporting about to the Webheads community:
"My Ericson T68 WAP is working"
"Sus, whether GPRS can be used to webcast, yes, it can, with Windows 95, 98,2000, but not XP.

Element # 4: Impact of Interactive qualities as reflected in learner response

Not all the people that register for the sessions participate actively, since it is not a requirement (all assignments and contributions are voluntary), but I can give my word, as a participant, that we have a high participation that has kept going beyond the end of the session. We all feel part of a community, and enjoy participating and contributing to keep it going.

One example of the interaction and learning that goes on in Webheads is the fact that those that will be helping Vance moderate this year's session were newbies in the Webheads In Action EV Online2002 session.

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Last updated: February 21, 2003 in Hot Metal Pro 6.0