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Sunday, 11 December 2016

Coalescence


 I found this graph illustrating the development over time of a Community of Practice (Wenger) very helpful as I prepared to deliver a workshop for tutors this Christmas. In many ways we are a diverse group, international colleagues coming from a wide range of teaching traditions and with varying levels foo interest and expertise in technology enhanced teaching and learning. What unites us is a love for supporting language learning and after recent developments a degree of clarity about how we assess language progression. 

I analysed our progress towards becoming a Community of Practice (Wenger) in a paper delivered at Eurocall in Evora, Portugal some time ago. Time now to revisit this. In the paper I talked about the importance of "tending" the community through shared activities. Several of our "technology enhanced learning" champions achieved recognition for their professional development through fellowship of the HEA (Zhiyan Guo, SFHEA) or are working towards this. Others have taken advantage of the open courses shared through our 101 news forum (e.g. Chiyomi Duble completed the Blended Learning Essentials mooc) Since the paper was written there have been institutional changes which intervened making the TEL meet-ups a more challenging activity. As our operating unit (the Language Centre) was merged into a new wider School of Modern Languages and Cultures, new pressures arose :


  • a loss of budget allocation for our activity reduced the security of the future of the Languages@Warwick project.
  • Institutional implementation of a central platform provided a new location for student courses, dividing our community activity over different platforms.
  • a push to move teaching resources into the central moodle made TEL advocacy a rather political activity, internal discussions became divisive and sometimes unpleasant. 
However, the shared commitment to a good blended learning experience for our students remains. Our "champions" have continued to engage and develop their practice, putting our TEL activity amongst some of the best on offer for language learning in HEIs. An emergent group of practitioners are working at the leading edge of TEL through Online Intercultural Exchange and the use of video creation and creative online assessment techniques such as the e-portfolio project flourish. And so I can see that we have moved along Wenger's graph towards coalescence and that is gratifying given all the contrary influences which threatened to unpick the progress made. Tomorrow we all meet up for our annual Christmas show and tell session and continue our journey learning together disseminating through a co-authored blog aimed at increasing student understanding of TEL in language learning.