Monday, August 3, 2009

Proposed chapter on Online Distance Training for ESL/EFL teachers: Case Study of a Community of Practice and its Distributed Learning Network

Have you ever submitted a proposal for something and sent it off and then forgot where you'd put it, so when your proposal was accepted and it came time to act on it, you couldn't retrieve it or remember exactly what you had proposed?

I have just submitted a proposal for a chapter which might appear in a book on teaching ESL online, assuming the book proposal itself is accepted.

In writing the proposal I realized that it answers succinctly in 300 words what people frequently ask me, how did Webheads come about, and what is Webheads anyway, and how does it fit into a framework of professional development? I have referred to this 'fit' as 'teacher autonomy' in this post here, for example, and also in the Slideshare presentation embedded below.

So here's the proposal. It would be useful if it attracted feedback, but apart from that, since it's here, I'll be able to retrieve and remember it later, and in case anyone asks me again about Webheads, this will be a convenient place to point them.


Webheads started in 1998 as an online community of EFL students and teachers learning together how technology facilitates language learning through computer-mediated communication. By around the turn of the century it was being dominated by teaching practitioners who in 2002 came to see themselves as a community of practice (CoP) known as Webheads in Action (WiA). As communication over the Internet expanded rapidly into voice and video, and with Web 2.0 making it possible for many users to create content online and share it in cyberspaces promoting social networking, many such communities arose and began overlapping in multiple memberships. This paper explores the concepts of groups, communities, and networks, and relates how WiA evolved from a group to a community (specifically, a CoP), and how this CoP developed contacts with others to function as part of a much wider distributed learning network (DLN) of teachers training one another.

The case of WiA models professional development through connectivism. At each node in the DLN, there is a person who is passionate and knowledgeable (and wants to learn more) about some aspect of teaching through technology. Collectively the nodes comprise the knowledge-base to which each member in each overlapping community has access. Connectivism provides a framework by which the development of pathways of access to that information is of primary importance to the information itself. Professional development then becomes a matter of educators blazing pathways to create channels through which each other's knowledge can be shared and made to flow in all directions, creating a dynamic system conducive to informal, just-in-time learning.

This paper describes how members of WiA utilize such connections to maintain conversations that enable everyone to learn about and practice with latest innovations in educational technology, and contribute to innovative and transformative teaching practices.


pmatthews said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Vance Stevens said...

I got snookered on the above comment. The comment was "Great blog!" which of course delighted me and I bit the bait. The next line down was an advert. I saw it but didn't realize it was part of the comment. Once I saw it was spam, I managed to wriggle off the hook and deleted the comment.

aida said...

Hi there. I've just stumbled upon this blog of yours .... & what a coicidence - I'm also working on a similar research where I'm looking at teacher-support within a distance learning programme I've taught in..... Perhaps we could have some discussion in the near future?
Thank you.

aida said...

Hi there. I've just stumbled upon your blog...& what a coincidence - I'm also working on a similar research where I'm looking at teacher-support in a distance learning programme I've taught in. Perhaps we could have some discussion on this in the near future?
Thank you.

Fat Class said...

I have not exactly idea of web-header but I know few about it.It's contain links, pictures, flash. Please provide more detail. Thank you.You can find me at

Vance Stevens said...

WEBHEADS is a community of practice that's been connecting since 1998 or before. You can find links to some of its many resources and web artifacts at, and at

Anyone can join the mailing list at (non-spammers please write a comment indicating a genuine interest in Webheads; all who do so are accepted).