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

Chris Jones, John Steele, and Christine Bauer-Ramazani

What are communities of practice?

Week 2: Mon Jan. 27 to Sun Feb 2, 2003

Here's the link to the summary page for week 2:

The assignment for this week is posted in our Yahoo groups web site.
You need to be an evonline2002_webheads member to access this file

If you want to browse for this file, here's what to do:

  1. From the Webheads main group page (, click on "Files" on the left side.
  2. Click on the word "2003" beside the graphic of a folder.
  3. Click on "week2-jan27-feb2." When it opens, you'll see all the files for this week.
  4. Click on "assignment_week_2.htm." This tells you which files to read and which ones to just look over briefly if your time is limited. We also ask you to have another look at Chris Johnson's graphic.

After the readings, please respond by sending your comments as an email message to the group at Use the subject: Week 2 Assignment.

Have a great week! I'm sure we'll all learn from each other's comments about the readings and Chris' graphic.

Partial Bibliography

Rif has contributed this ... it seems to go with this week, or maybe revisit this during the last week:

Making communities of practice fly. Diane Le Moult has written an excellent summary on how to make CoPs work. This is written from her direct experience, and highlights a number of very useful guidelines: 10 fundamental questions you need to ask before starting a CoP. Taken from the Web:

10 classic pitfalls you have to be aware of:

  1. Ignore moods and demands of members: People participate primarily for themselves, not for you or an executive demanding certain results. Therefore always have an open ear for the members, motivate them to shape their community.
  2. Not enough content: You have to reach a critical mass which differs. If there is not enough interesting content, people will work less in the community, contribute less. That´s a real vicious circle!
  3. Too strict or too loose: People need leadership but don´t want to be cramped. Due to the voluntary character of communities, finding the right way is a challenging task.
  4. No scope: People need room for innovation and creation but also noticeable landmarks for orientation.
  5. No aims: Communicate your estimated aims and outputs and be open to discuss.
  6. Only technical platform: „First invest in travel and in beer, then in information technology“ (from EFQM Benchmark KM).
  7. No Admin response: Assure that people are heard when they have problems and get useful answers.
  8. No support (help and training): Effectiveness needs constant support and trainings - especially for the key members.
  9. Only extrinsic motivation: It is impossible to achieve quality results when the members don´t have a natural interest and need for these.
  10. Bad moderation: Even the best experts need qualified moderation and facilitation.

Chris Jones: I teach ESL at Arizona Western College in Yuma, Arizona. Among other courses I sometimes teach, I nearly always teach a course in computer basics for ESL students and another course in using email and the Internet. In 2001, I took 5 courses in instructional technology at San Diego State University. Then in January 2002, I joined the Webheads EV Online Session. From the group, I've learned so many useful things and met so many kind, interesting, and helpful colleagues that I wanted to get more involved.

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