P. Tsiotakis, A. Jimoyiannis

University of Peloponnese (GREECE)
It is widely accepted that, to thrive in increasingly demanding school contexts, teachers need continuous support through multiple professional development opportunities to deepen their pedagogical knowledge and to improve instructional design knowledge and skills. However, traditional approaches to teacher professional development appear to have negligible impact on teachers’ ability to put innovative instructional choices into practice. A new idea promoted by academics, scholars, educational policy makers and educators is the notion of on-line teacher communities which aim to strengthen participation and collaboration between teachers, in order to share educational practices and material, to collectively develop meaning and achieve instructional design knowledge and skills.
In this context, communities of teachers are considered as a way to embed teacher collaboration into the culture of the school while collective intelligence can be used in designing interventions applicable in practice. Literature review suggests that asynchronous discussion forums and Learning Management Systems (LMS) were widespread used to support on-line teacher communities. However, most of these environments are tutor-centred tools designed to support e-learning initiatives. A teacher community platform should incorporate features and tools beyond a conventional LMS.
Towards outlining a conceptual and pedagogical framework of community interactions and learning, this research project suggests four constitutional components in an efficient teacher community platform: a) Content sharing area, b) Communication area, c) Community area, and d) Supportive and personal tools. The platform architecture developed and presented in this paper was based on a Single Sign-On access system connecting various e-learning tools, e.g. a LMS, an e-portfolio, a wiki platform and a videoconferencing system.
The online platform was used to support a Computer Science (CS) teacher community in Greece. After an open call, a total of 98 CS teachers and 4 teacher coordinators, coming from different geographical areas throughout the Greek territory, participated on a voluntary basis. The main idea around the teacher community presented was the New Curriculum about ICT and Computer Science in compulsory education (K-9). The new concept of teachers’ development was their ability to design and implement new teaching interventions aiming to support students’ constructivist and collaborative learning by using a wide range of ICT tools and programming environments. In this context, the teacher community was designed to enhance teachers’ pedagogical knowledge and instructional design skills, by exchanging instructional ideas and experiences and sharing educational resources and material.
The presentation will be structured as following. The pedagogical and technological dimensions of the teacher community design framework are presented in detail. The architecture of a new platform developed to support teacher community and the community features it incorporates are also outlined. Preliminary findings regarding the implementation of the pilot phase of the community will be presented. Finally, conclusions for future development and research regarding teacher communities will be drawn.