epiccommunity - Foundational Framework

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epictiwster2012.jpgOne of the overarching goals of the U.S. Department of Education Connected Online Communities of Practice (OCoPs) Project is develop and steward scalable sustainable online communities.

As such, a robust theoretical framework will guide the development and stewardship of the national online community for educators practicing in technology-enhanced environments, called epic-ed, Empowering Digital Transition. This foundational framework draws upon several educational theories.

First, the framework draws up activity theory, which emerged from the work of Vygotsky (1978), to provide a structure for understanding how learning occurs within OCoPs; there is a dynamic connection between knowledge development and social activity.

Second, distributed expertise is emphasized in the framework to underscore that knowledge development takes place across individuals, environments, and artifacts in OCoPs. Salomon (1993) asserted that because individuals possess and have access to different kinds of knowledge references, group members can pool intellectual resources to achieve a goal or solve problems of practice.

Third, social mediated cognition is highlighted in the framework to emphasize the reciprocal phases of “exploring other’s reasoning and viewpoints in order to construct a shared understanding” that exist in OCoPs (Gunawardena et al, 2009, p. 14). Learning occurs iteratively across the following phases:
  • Context - the context of the OCoP and the context of individual’s practice;
  • Discourse - the negotiation of meaning through social interaction;
  • Action - the identification of a learning goal or problem of practice and the tasks to address it;
  • Reflection - the interaction of personal experience and group thinking;
  • Synthesis - reorganization of old and new perspectives to reveal new understanding about practice;
  • Social mediated cognition - the mediation of a socially developed and shared new understanding about practice.

The culminating framework employs a spiral-like process as seen in the figure above. This recursive process will be the lens which will define a standard of excellence for each element, activity, and resource developed in this epic OCoP.

Gunawardena, C. N., Hermans, M. B., Sanchez, D., Richmond, C., Bohley, M., & Tuttle, R.(2009). A theoretical framework for building online communities of practice with social networking tools. Educational Media International, 46(1), 3-16.

Salomon, G. (1993). No distribution without individual’s cognition: A dynamic interactional view. In G. Salomon (Ed.), Distributed cognitions: Psychological and educational considerations, (pp. 111–138). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes (M. Cole, V. John-Shteiner, S. Scribner, & Souberman, Eds.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.