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Webcast Academy learning community - my perspective

Last week I posed some questions about the Academy through the lense of the Masters unit I'm currently taking. A couple of the community members were kind enough to respond to that post and links to their responses can be found here and here. So given that I put the questions out there in the first place it's only appropriate that I give my perspective.

  • What is the common vision of members of the Academy community?

The Academy website defines the following goals for its activities:

  • Increasing the number of people who are capable of producing live, interactive webcasts
  • applying the open source community approach to skill development
  • creating a place that formally recognizes proficiency, excellence, and innovation in these new media skills

The members of the community come together from many different countries, education systems and levels of education. So it is, in some ways, quite amazing that the people who have involved themselves manage to find a common ground. The thing that strikes me about the people that I have met through the Academy is that they are all prepared to be open to making new connections with other people. They are prepared to share their knowledge and also want to learn from others. They are prepared to go more out of their way to help their fellow community members. The community members are prepared to enter into open discussions that bring forward new things to learn and issues to be considered. My perspective is that the community members share a vision of a community where they can learn about how to apply new technologies to their own lives and the lives of their students. The community is growing into one where professional knowledge and experience is shared via the webcast shows that are developed as members proceed through the Academy training. As more people participate in, and complete the training, the community grows; so to does the audience as new webcasters introduce members of their other networks to their webcasting activities.

  • What are the learning outcomes that are the basis for evaluating the success of work undertaken in the Academy?

The founders of the Academy have outlined a set of requirements by which they feel that a Basic Program can be completed by participants. Involvement as an Academy "intern" requires completion of an application and numbers for each intake are limited, so as to allow webcaster mentors to effectively support interns. The learning outcomes required are focussed on the progressive demonstration of webcasting skills that will eventually allow the intern to become a capable webcaster. While there are no fees for this instruction and no formal requirements to completing the training beyond what is needed to be certified by the Academy, there is a hope from the community that finishing interns will continue their involvement and be prepared to help perpetuate the training cycle and possibly help administer other activities of the community.

  • How do we evaluate the success of the Academy's work?

Apart from the requirements to become a certified webcaster, there has perhaps been less discussion about this aspect of the Academy's work to date. One indicator of success is, of course, the number of new webcast shows that come out of each round of interns. To date this is one completed round and one in training. The completed round of interns has seen the launch of the following shows - 21st Century Learning, Teachers Teaching Teachers, Ed Tech Brainstorm and my own web2learn show (though I still have to write my final webcasters report to be formally certified). The launch of these shows has definitely expanded the number of people involved in actively supporting the community's work and hopefully expanded the audience a bit further. In some cases these members have also taken the webcasting technologies into their classrooms.

Perhaps the only issue I see at this stage is that shows are mostly centered on the use of ICT's and web 2.0 in education. This, of course, is likely to be due to the fact that those in the community do have a particular interest in this area of education. That is not to say that these shows are not interesting, quite the opposite, they are very valuable to the community. However, from discussions with Jeff Lebow, I beleive it is the intention that the webcasting community will become much broader in the range of topics its shows cover. A good early sign of this is Lee Baber's forthcoming music show. I also try to keep my own show less focussed on technology aspects of education and more on classroom practices and education research.

Apart from the number of shows on the network, success may also be measured by ways that webcasting is taken to a wider audience, for example through teachers undertaking webcasting projects with their students. Also the range of ways in which webcasting may be applied in education, or other communities for that matter. Some examples in education might include students doing a regular 'newsletter' show, broadcasting school sporting events, or using the technology to enhance learning of languages or interaction between classes in different parts of the world.

It is also interesting to note that there is a wider audience we may not be fully aware of that merely learn from the podcasts that they download of the recorded webcast sessions. These people are more passive particpants, but participants never-the-less.

  • What personal motivations do individual community members have for being involved?

My personal motivation stems from wanting to learn more about the new web/internet based technologies that are now available and to learn how they can be applied to education. On the webcasting side of things, I want to explore how the medium can be used for networking between teachers to enhance the professional support that we can give each other. Again my interest at the moment is particularly focussed on teachers who teach technology related courses or use technology in their classrooms. However I do see a broader potential for communities of practice in other areas of interest to be supported by webcasting technology. Finally I do feel an obligation to support the community that has trained me and it is partly through being involved in this commun ity that I am driven to continue my own learning in this field.

The above discussion focusses fairly much on webcasting activities, there is a supporting interaction between the community that occurs through the Academy website.

blog | by Dr. Radut