I belong to a Facebook Group hosted by the New Zealand Association of Classics Teachers. In joining the group, I have been able to connect with other classics teachers from all over New Zealand. Membership has enabled me to build collegial relationships with teachers I have never met face-to-face. We do simple things like share resources, discuss classics related content, critique and give feedback on assessment material. I discover further professional development opportunities that are often advertised on the Group feed. For instance, a colleague from Auckland posted a link to a site advertising positions for classics graduates to study abroad. This group is also useful for learning about the latest archaeological finds or academic breakthroughs that are happening regularly in the field of Classics.
While any of the benefits I have mentioned are good enough as standalone reasons to join this Facebook Group, in their totality they deliver a unique and rich source of professional development for Classics teaching that I could not obtain anywhere else at present. More importantly, because Facebook is ubiquitous, I have been able to connect with a large group of peers who share my passion for the ancient world in a way that I have not been able to since finishing my BA at university. Knox (2009) emphasised that a successful community of practice is energy driven: our membership’s shared passion for the ancient world binds the group and promotes a sense of belonging.
While the Facebook Group is an incredible source of professional development, active participation by way of posting and commenting appears to be driven by a small fraction of the group’s total population (which is over 200). Lave and Wenger (1991) argued that peripheral participation – in this instance, reading the Group feed – is a legitimate form or learning, but Melhuish (2013) pointed out that it is difficult to gauge how many members actually fall into this category. The opportunity cost of passive participation among a large portion of the membership deprives the community of ideas, experiences of individuals, and opinions that could add value by bringing more diversity into to the community.
There are a range of ways to foster engagement among more passive members. For instance, more active members or administrators of the Facebook Group could engage those on the periphery by tagging them in posts as a subtle way of inviting responses.
Furthermore, appealing to the community’s shared passion for ancient civilisation in a more deliberate, direct manner could boost engagement and collaboration. For instance, linking a twitter feed similar to @RealTimeWWII (cited in Sharples et al. 2016), but in the context of eye-witness accounts to famous events in ancient Greek or Roman societies could provide a fresh approach in provoking interest and responses by dormant members.
Knox, B. (2009, December 4). Cultivating Communities of Practice: Making Them Grow. . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhMPRZnRFkk
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge university press.
Melhuish, K. (2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved from http://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/handle/10289/8482
Sharples, M., de Roock , R., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Koh, E., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Looi,C-K, McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., Wong, L. H. (2016). Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University Innovation Report 5. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Retrieved from http://proxima.iet.open.ac.uk/public/innovating_pedagogy_2016.pdf