Community of Practice vs Community…What’s the difference? A community of practice (COP) is more than just having something in common, it’s about “groups of people who share a concern or a passion or about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interaction on an ongoing basis” (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder, 2002, p.4). These Communities of Practice must have 3 elements to allow them to differentiate from a standard community: Joint enterprise, mutual engagement and shared repertoire (Wenger, 2000).
The education community on Twitter definitely fits into the COP category- sharing ideas and expertise, challenging the status quo, discussing concepts and curriculum and helping to bring about pedagogical change one tweet at a time. One such Twitter based COP that I have found very valuable in 2016 is the NZ Breakfast Club (#BFC630nz). As an active user of Twitter, I often searched up the hashtag #BFC630nz to see what they’d talked about each morning. After meeting the co-founder, Kerri Thompson, at Educamp Palmy I decided I needed to get in on one of these early morning chats.
Mōrena #BFC630NZ Finally made it for a chat!
— Jo Smith (@JoSmith014) 12 June 2016
I remember my first chat well: 3 important traits of a quality leader. I left the chat feeling energized, inspired and like I had a whole new bunch of colleagues from around New Zealand. It wasn’t hard for me to jump in on the collective understanding and culture (Joint Enterprise) of #BFC630NZ. I felt as though I could contribute straight away due to the welcoming nature of the group. At that exact moment, I decided I would definitely be back.
The #BFC630NZ whānau comprises of some great leaders who take on sharing an educational topic and facilitating the chat, sometimes even playing devil’s advocate in order to encourage rich discussion. It was started to inspire/spark thinking and provide a sense of connectedness and belonging while allowing educators to feel supported in building their professional learning network (Thompson, n.d.).
Our Shared Repertoire is defined through our routines, common language and stories we share. The chats kick off every weekday for 15 mins at 6.30am (hence the hashtag) meaning a small amount of time to give for a big reward in terms of motivation and inspiration. I have been able to build connections with educators from a variety of education sectors through participating in regular chats (I try to make it at least once a week). Sometimes however, I don’t always make it. Work demands, prior commitments or sleep deprivation can get in the way, but that’s ok- an integral part of the #BFC630NZ kaupapa is ‘when you can, when you need’.
This community of practice has provided me with a place to debate and discuss thoughts, opinions, pedagogy and research while delivering professional learning online. Through mutual engagement, we interact and maintain a kaupapa based on education: there is mutual trust in our online interactions (Wenger 2000). When I recently had to complete a Mind Lab assessment and needed feedback on a question, I immediately thought to tag #BFC630nz. Little did I know this would actually lead me into running a chat on innovative learning environments a few days later.
With the support and encouragement of others in the #bfc630NZ community, I tried to keep up with tweets coming in from all directions. It was an inspiring experience and confirmed for me that you don’t need to know people face to face to feel safe, supported and a sense of belonging (even in disagreement). My role within this Community of Practice has gone from standing in the background to new comer to an active member who has made many connections. Depending on the topic, I am able to learn, offer expertise, share experience and contribute to the thought provoking discussions with the #BFC630nz whānau. They are my community of practice.
Thompson, K. (2015). #BFC630NZ. Retrieved from https://breakfastclubnz.wordpress.com/
Wenger, E.(2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems.Organization,7(2), 225-246.
Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.