Blending real work experiences and virtual professionaldevelopment
Blended learning holds promise for re-thinking the various ways that learning theory, pedagogy, and technology might be brought together to engage learners. This paper draws on variation theory and social learning theory to describe how blended learning can facilitate learning experiences which occur across the boundaries, and at the intersections, of communities. The data is drawn from a preliminary analysis of a project investigating the connections between online learning and teachers’ communities of practice. The emerging premise is that teachers (as learners) negotiate much of the ‘blend’ themselves as they work simultaneously in their school communities and engage in online learning communities. While the online learning community provides the experiences of variation necessary to provoke reflection and engagement with new ideas, teachers situate their learning within their daily practice. This authentic participation is an integral part of the workplace learning experience but this aspect is often overlooked in blended learning discussions. Higher education institutions offering virtual professional development programmes would benefit from leveraging learners’ participation in everyday work as a valuable ingredient in the blended learning experience. Online professional development can adopt a thoughtfully designed blend of mode and environment incorporating virtual and real interaction, and study and real work to support teachers’ learning.