|Australasian Journal of Educational Technology
2010, 26(1), 44-49.
Different spaces: Staff development for Web 2.0
Robyn Benson and Charlotte Brack
An Outstanding Paper Award recipient, ascilite Auckland 2009 Conference
This paper reports on a collaborative staff development activity run across two Australian universities, for academic staff integrating Web 2.0 technologies into their teaching. It describes a three-week long virtual workshop on teaching with wikis, where participants in two groups developed a group project as students and then assessed the work as teachers. Participants were guided through a central Wikis in Higher Education wiki which provided the resources and communication supports. The experience suggested that teaching in a Web 2.0 space requires new thinking about pedagogy and that peer learning and the development of an online community are helpful for effective professional development. In closing, the paper reflects on the successes and limitations of this virtual workshop model.
In the context of Web 2.0 technologies, Moore (2007) invites teachers to consider a role change: using projects as a learning strategy; respecting the nature and nurture of self directed learning; managing dialogues between learners and between learners and teachers; and taking into account the changing concepts of learning structures and teaching systems. Pointing to Web 2.0's capacity to allow self organisation, which results in organic and emergent structures that offer bottom up control rather than top down design, Dron (2007b, p. 62) observes the value to learners of 'allowing the social construction of meaning and relatively effortless collaboration in new and interesting ways'. These collaborative and co-creative possibilities offer opportunities for sharing and group learning and require teachers to develop a pedagogy that optimises these advantages, so that learners benefit from virtual knowledge building which reflects 'the wisdom of crowds' (Surowiecki, 2004). This can be a challenging new skill for teachers, one that requires resources and support. Professional development skills based workshops on how to use the technology, show and tell sessions by successful technology adopters, and forums and seminars are helpful to prepare staff for online teaching, but are limited in allowing them to understand the student's experience in these new spaces. Situating staff development activities in authentic contexts and providing opportunities to share experiences, ideas and reflections with others are particularly valuable strategies (Wilson & Stacey, 2004). They offer potential for taking staff to a deeper understanding of the technologies and how to use them for teaching. To explore this approach, we designed a professional development workshop to support staff in teaching with wikis and offered it at Deakin University and Monash University in Australia.
In designing the workshop, we drew on the concept of situated cognition where learning is seen as a process grounded in real world actions and knowledge is acquired situationally (Anderson, Reder, & Simon, 1996). This was informed by a constructivist approach where learners engage in authentic activities (Honebein, Duffy & Fishman, 1993). The online (virtual) environment we designed for the workshop allowed participants to experience the complexity and ambiguity of real world challenges, embedding learning in the social context within which it would be used (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989). Thus, the development of a communal space reflected key concepts from social constructivism (Vygotsky, 1978) which included the importance of support through scaffolding. We also recognised the potential of collegial networks which support institutional goals (Camblin & Steger, 2000) and the importance of learning occurring in a community, as a means of integrating technology into teaching (Judge & O'Bannon, 2008).
We started the workshop by emailing participants with instructions for logging into the Wikis in Higher Education site. We invited them to introduce themselves to other participants, identify their groups and locate their workshop wiki to respond to the task. We advised them that by completing the task they would engage in a wiki as a student and work collaboratively to create a body of work. Each of the workshop wikis was only accessible to its own group members. When this phase was complete we asked participants to review the work of the other group as teachers. The workshop task was designed to be similar to a group project students might undertake in a wiki, requiring an outcome which was assessable as a group product, but also allowing assessment of individual contributions. Two weeks were allocated to complete the task. The third week was allocated for a debrief when the two wikis were made 'read only' and opened for workshop participants to critique the output and individual and group participation of the other group. During this period participants were also asked to reflect on the experience of participating in a wiki and evaluate the workshop.
Figure 1: Wikis in Higher Education site and its connections to the two workshop wikis
(Samarawickrema, Benson & Brack, 2008, p. 88)
Evaluation comments included requests for more professional development of this kind ('I enjoyed it so keep me in mind for more'; '... count me in for another one. I liked it'). There was also appreciation of the inter-university effort ('A worthwhile exercise - especially because it involved a collaborative effort between 2 Melbourne Universities... I would also be happy to try again'). One participant requested permission to 'copy and paste' information from the Wikis in Higher Education into a site she was setting up for her students, confirming the usefulness of this information to her.
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|This article received an Outstanding Paper Award at ascilite Auckland 2009, gaining the additional recognition of publication in AJET (with minor corrections). The reference for the conference version is:
Samarawickrema, G., Benson R. & Brack, C. (2009). Different spaces: Staff development for Web 2.0. In Same place, different spaces. Proceedings ascilite Auckland 2009. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland09/procs/samarawickrema.pdfAuthors: Dr Gayani Samarawickrema is a Lecturer at the Institute of Teaching and Learning at Deakin University, Australia.
Dr Robyn Benson is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Australia.
Dr Charlotte Brack is a Lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Australia.
Please cite as: Samarawickrema, G., Benson, R. & Brack, C. (2010). Different spaces: Staff development for Web 2.0. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(1), 44-49. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet26/samarawickrema.html