TEL Communities

Helen Caldwell and Anna Cox | View as single page | Feedback/Impact
TEL Communities
Definitions: Theoretical background relevant to technology facilitated social learning
Research evidence: Systematic literature reviews on the theme of technology facilitated social learning

Implications for teachers

Wenger suggests three types of CoPs within the field education: those that are internal to a particular educational institution; those are external to a particular educational institution; those addressing the lifelong needs of learners beyond formal education. Furthermore he suggests that traditional learning environments could be re-envisaged as community hubs that facilitate real-world, ongoing learning (Wenger, 2011).  Such practices provide opportunities for teachers to make links with others in more expansive ways than traditional learning environments allow.

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Educators who use a social learning approach take on the role of developing the CoP so that participation and conversations can flourish. Rather than acting as knowledge providers, they aim to help the community grow its own knowledge and develop metacognitive learning strategies (Johnson, 2001). This role is variously described as a facilitator, moderator, coach or mentor (Johnson, 2001; Powers and Guan, 2000).

Wenger et al introduced the idea of ‘stewardship’ to describe the way in which CoPs benefit from being nurtured. For example, technology stewards might play an active role in making sure that technology tools meet the needs of the community (Wenger, White and Smith, 2009). This acknowledges that a particular challenge facing teachers using technology is that they need to know not only how to use it, but how to blend it with their pedagogical understanding and with their subject knowledge, an issue addressed by the Technological, Pedagogical Content framework (TPACK) (Schmidt et al., 2009). 

Read more about how technology is changing the way we teach:


Johnson, C. M. (2001). A survey of current research on online Communities of Practice. The Internet and Higher Education, 4(1), 45-60.

Powers, S., & Guan, S. (2000). Examining the range of student needs in the design and development of a Web-based course. In: B. Abbey (Ed.),Instructional and cognitive impacts of Web-based education(pp. 200–216).Hershey, PA: Idea Publishing Group.

Schmidt, D. A., Baran, E., Thompson, A. D., Mishra, P., Koehler, M. J., & Shin, T. S. (2009). Technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) the development and validation of an assessment instrument for preservice teachers. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 42(2), 123-149.

Wenger, E. (2011). Communities of Practice: A brief introduction.

Wenger, E., White, N., & Smith, J. D. (2009). Digital habitats: Stewarding technology for communities. CPsquare.