Image: Sonny AssuBreakfast Series

For a summer ’17 Master’s course, I’ve been asked to access an online professional community in my context of practice. I struggled with this assignment. While I participate regularly in twitter chats (including moderating one #mbedchat this past year), consult blogs, and read a lot of scholarly articles, I’m really not much for living my professional development life online.

I love going to lectures (hearing Claudia Ruitenberg speak this Spring was especially rewarding). I attend (and sometimes present at) conferences. I value the personal experience when it comes to pursuing my own professional development – interacting with people, ideas, and process “in the room” is so much more engaging. So, if I were to join an online professional community for this course – it needed to be meaningful… not just another site to join only to ignore their emails once my course concluded.

Screenshot 2017-08-11 11.01.37Instead of whining about it – I set out to think about what I truly could not access with face to face discussion, conferencing, or my current professional development practice. I landed on furthering my education into developing and delivering indigenous education curricula.

Some time ago, I wrote about the Elm Bark Beetle, my metaphor for the Indian residential school system. While the art curriculum development project which led to that metaphor has ended, my interest in the subject matter has not yet been sated. I received a grant to explore age-appropriate integration of indigenous issues in my K-8 school for 2017-18. I’m relying heavily on resources offered through the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, including the incredibly beneficial book A Knock on the Door. So I began my search for an online community with the NCTR website. The resources are fabulous: opportunities for engagement and ideas for further development are housed online. But it’s a website, not a forum or community to discuss and bounce ideas off one another.

Exhaustive Google searches and emails to current and former profs came up empty. There are a number of great sites – usually housed on University websites with resources and links to in-person meetings and lectures… but I have not yet found a place where significant and meaningful online interactions can, do, or will occur (for this purpose, at least).

My need for an online community in this area is not going to be satisfied. Baring starting one myself – like #IndigenousEdChat on twitter – I may be out of luck for this assignment. As I’m surely not going to sign up for some dopey site just to meet the assignment criterion.

I am left with a simple question: Do I really need an online professional community? I know the course requires me to engage in an online community of practice – but do I need it? If I don’t need it, if it isn’t beneficial – why would I pursue this? Is the process of looking, and the resulting reflection not good enough?

Of course, my mind goes to my own practice – to teaching – and it forces some uncomfortable questions upon me… do my students need everything I require of them? If a curriculum requires a given outcome, but that outcome does not serve the ultimate goals of the course – what good is that outcome?

Answer: not very good, at all.

This course is titled “Planning, Instruction, and Assessment.” We have learned about curricular conception, design, philosophy. I have landed squarely on student-centred learning as a goal to which I am going to direct my efforts. Sean Giesbrecht, the student, has decided to pursue my development in this area through the following, non-online forum-based, methods:

  • School committee formed with the aforementioned grant monies
  • Consult NCTR’s website and on-location archives/scholar
  • Participate in #mbedchat evenings when indigenous education is the focus
  • Look into starting #IndigenousEdChat discussions
  • Read TRC and NCTR publications, and consult elders and experts

At the same time – I’m hoping that I can find a forum – as I’m going to need a lot of help and support in my pursuit of furthering my knowledge and understanding of Indigenous issues in education… and I’ll take all the help I can get.