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Re: [evonline2002_webheads] CoP problems

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  • Chris Jones
    Dear Nigel and all, Thanks for your well-explained anecdotes about problems with CoPs. I can think of a few reasons why I wouldn t stay in a CoP myself. The
    Message 1 of 4 , Feb 2, 2003
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      Dear Nigel and all,

      Thanks for your well-explained anecdotes about
      problems with CoPs.

      I can think of a few reasons why I wouldn't stay in a
      CoP myself. The first one relates to discussion lists
      such as TESL-L. I've joined various lists over the
      past six years and dropped out of almost all of them
      within a short time. I either didn't have enough
      interest to take the time to read the messages or
      there were so few messages that it didn't seem worth
      my while. I've stayed with TESLCA-L because I still
      get good tips from there and can help others from time
      to time.

      Other reasons I've dropped out is because the general
      level of discussion is way over my head, so I don't
      understand much of what's going on. I've joined techy
      groups about software, etc. and found it didn't help
      me. I suppose it was also lack of interest in getting
      into the software so deeply.

      Something I haven't run into personally is the
      arrogance of other group members. If I were treated
      like my opinions or questions were beneath the
      majority of the active members, I wouldn't stay with
      the group.

      Chris Jones

      --- Nigel Caplan <nigel@...> wrote:
      > Chris (or at least one of the Chrises - I lose
      > track) asked what what
      > would make people hesitate about joining a CoP.
      > Enter Nigel.
      >
      > Anecdote 1 : The university where I did my M.Ed in
      > TESOL was very much
      > into student-centered learning. Fine. We had endless
      > classes (and some
      > of them felt like they would never end) in which the
      > "content" was
      > introduced by student-led discussions. I eventually
      > learned not to take
      > these classes. There are some contexts in which
      > transmission of
      > knowledge is necessary and expected, and cannot be
      > generated through
      > negotiation by inexperienced learners. Plus, if
      > leadership is going to
      > be rotated, you have to have confidence in the
      > leadership skills of
      > everyone in the group, otherwise you're going to
      > waste a lot of time. In
      > a goal-oriented context (getting a univ degree),
      > classes/communities/whatever need goals and they
      > need to reach them.
      > From your comments, I'm not sure a CoP is
      > necessarily a good way to do
      > this.
      >
      > Anecdote 2 : In my other life, I co-founded a
      > student theatre group. Our
      > initial ethos was rather CoP-like, a "company of
      > players" without
      > hierarchy (other than a director and producer for
      > each play), no
      > committees, everything decided by majority vote, etc
      > etc. This worked
      > very well for about six months when there were 20
      > company members and
      > the same two people (the 2 co-founder) were either
      > producing or
      > directing. However, as the company grew, it became
      > clear that "chaos
      > navigation" was going to tear the group apart, and I
      > persuaded the
      > company to create one elected leadership position (a
      > sort of chairman).
      > And this has worked rather nicely. Idealism should
      > always, in my
      > opinion, give way quickly to realism.
      >
      > So, my points would be this: I would hesitate about
      > participating in a
      > CoP where there was something specific I wanted to
      > attain, and I would
      > be wary of making a commitment to a group that did
      > not have a leader,
      > with whom the buck could stop (as WiA does of
      > course). I am no expert on
      > CoPs, and have only had time to read the listserv
      > messages, not the
      > online papers, so please correct me if I'm way off
      > track. Also, if
      > someone could show me the relevance of CoPs to
      > language learning, I
      > might be a bit less in the dark.


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    • Vance Stevens <vstevens@emirates.net.ae>
      ... wrote: Also, if ... Hi everyone, I just had a good night s sleep after our stimulating webcam and voice enabled chat session last night. I
      Message 2 of 4 , Feb 2, 2003
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        --- In evonline2002_webheads@yahoogroups.com, Nigel Caplan
        <nigel@d...> wrote:
        Also, if
        > someone could show me the relevance of CoPs to language learning, I
        > might be a bit less in the dark.

        Hi everyone,

        I just had a good night's sleep after our stimulating webcam and
        voice enabled chat session last night. I have just uploaded my
        screen shots to our Files section. I created a folder 030202 where
        you can find 11 jpg images. The folder name is a convention I have
        developed for year 03 month 02 date 02 (that way the folders will
        sort chronologically). I invite anyone else with screen shots to
        upload to appropriate folders.

        Before plunging into Week 3 I would like to address Nigel's question
        regarding relevance of CoPs to language learning. I have already
        posted to this list evidence (I think) of how members of our online
        Writing for Webheads have operated as a CoP in the past (and this is
        a group of language learners and teachers). I won't repeat that here.

        But more practically speaking, my last few Arabic classes have been
        organized essentially as CoPs. I have long ago (for my own purposes)
        given up on the idea of traditional language courses except for
        absolute beginners in a language (which is when it helps to learn
        something of the structure of a language). The Arabic courses I have
        organized since then have always had just two components. One is a
        teacher who serves as facilitator and informant. This teacher can
        put aside his/her ideas of 'teaching' grammar and vocabulary. The
        second component is a group of students who agree that when meeting
        in the class they will interact purely in the target language. The
        teacher and students then both bring materials to the class. For
        example, I might record off the radio or pick up a newspaper on my
        way to class, or even create a web page on a topic with links to
        Arabic sites that we can explore in class (Arabic songs are a good
        example of this). With all teachers and students working to
        contribute in this way to the course materials, we in effect form a
        community of practice where all collaborate on the content of the
        class, scaffold each other, and have fun. Even if you want to
        discuss grammar, as long as you do it in the target language, that's
        fair game.

        This has informed my teaching as well. In one class I was teaching
        in Oman my students had to prepare presentations in English. When
        they complained this was too difficult I offered to model the first
        presentation, only in Arabic. To prepare, I did it in my Arabic
        group first. Essentially we discussed the topic I was to present
        (just a conversation, on the UN). Did I mention I would typically
        record these sessions (and play the tapes back on long road trips)?
        From the tape, I fine tuned the vocab I would need. After I gave my
        presentation in class my students could hardly complain about doing
        the same in English.

        Ok, off to read the flurry of postings while I was sleeping, and I'll
        work up a drum roll for Week 3 shortly (or have I missed that
        already).

        Vance
      • Christopher Johnson
        Hi Nigel and everyone, Nigel brought up some very interesting points about CoPs. Are they a panacea? Do they have problems? What are they strengths and
        Message 3 of 4 , Feb 6, 2003
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          Hi Nigel and everyone,

          Nigel brought up some very interesting points about CoPs. Are they a panacea? Do they have problems? What are they strengths and drawbacks?

          If Nigel is willing, it would be useful to address some of the concerns that Nigel brought up next week in Week 4.

          Stay tuned,

          Chris
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