Metaphors for Digital Learning Spaces

Have you ever wondered about the name for your computer desktop, trash can or recycle bin and folders? Probably not because that terminology is something we take for granted- well at least I do. Through my studies for INF536 I read an interesting article, Instructors as Architects- Designing Learning Spaces for Discussion-Based Online Courses (Wang & Chen, 2011) that discussed the use of metaphors to describe learning spaces in virtual environments.

A little while ago I posted about how I had made a change to the staff professional learning space at my school. It has been going great, there is lots of discussion and sharing happening. Initially a lot of it was about tech stuff…basic how to questions. I set up a group called ‘Techie Sharing’ so those conversations could be added to that group. I remembered the article and decided I would make a couple of changes to the space again. Given my reading I created some more groups and really thought about what I wanted to see or happen in that space and named each group accordingly, I also added some Canva inspired graphics.

At this stage the groups which are currently being used are:

It's a BBQ (1)
Techie Sharing Lounge – A relaxing place to chat, share and ask questions about teaching and learning with technology. We also have a 10-15 minute Techie sharing session after our staff meetings on a Monday. The virtual space supports these sessions. 
Writer's
Writer’s Haven – A safe space to develop understandings during professional learning about writing, many discussions in this space were initiated by leadership- encouraging reflection and discussion.
Bloggers cafe
Blogger’s Cafe – A casual space to share class, teacher and student blog posts and share thoughts about educational blogging in general.

MONOCHROME

CBL Sand Pit – A place to play, build, make mistakes and learn collaboratively about Challenge Based Learning, a relatively new whole school initiative.

There is also a general space for conversations that do not fit into these areas. 

I have not wanted to put too much ‘stuff’ into our Yammer space, but when I do, I try to generate discussion. Considering the whole purpose of this change of space was to develop a sense of community, collegiality, staff learning potential and collective intelligence, I want it to be driven by them. 

The most gratifying thing I have noticed is the confidence staff are displaying when sharing. From their posts I can tell that many are happy to share what they are doing and feel the space is supportive enough to ask questions about something they are unsure of. Further to this, given my role in the school I get to spend a lot of time in classrooms supporting and coaching teachers…I have seen the conversations from the virtual space transcend into the classroom, having a positive impact on classroom practice. My favourite part is when staff post questions and others get in and respond and answer before I do…this was not happening before, I was usually the first stop and I love that the confidence of staff is developing. 

My PLN is the most important part of my professional learning and I hope that through this use of Yammer, more staff at my school will continue to develop the confidence in sharing and learning in an online space, just enough to maybe, one day break out of the walled garden and begin to develop their own. 

 

Wang, Y., & Chen, V. (2011). Instructors as Architects- Designing Learning Spaces for Discussion-Based Online Courses. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 39:3, 281-194. Retrieved from http://baywood.metapress.com/media/hf0bldtwwp7unj7hlhw3/contributions/k/6/4/2/k642882834x48m2t.pdf

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