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FARNETFederation of American Research Network
FARNETFederation of American Research Networks
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Within one of the schools in FarNet, there was a strong focus on teaching and learning led by the principal who was passionate about pedagogical change and meeting the needs of all students.
Although FarNet attempted to use the idea of linking teachers who shared a common interest, in that they taught the same curriculum area, such could hardly be said to constitute an existing community.
The chosen organizational structure within FarNet of curriculum groups with leaders whose primary role was to facilitate the development and sharing of resources and also information and views about using technology in a particular subject area, implied a collective responsibility for teacher learning and, ultimately for student learning.
This equates to about a third of the total resources and links posted within the 16 curriculum group pages on the FarNet site at that point in time.
Teachers reported, over the course of the FarNet project and the associated ICTPD, significant improvement in skills and confidence in using ICT, particularly in terms of basic computer operation and the use of the internet and telecommunications.
Towards the close of the FarNet project, it was clear that teachers were prepared to use the Internet to find resources.
However, some did view what FarNet offered as a way of meeting their needs.
Maori teachers used to feel isolated but with this, with FarNet, you don't" (CL 12).
The bottom line in terms of building an electronic community such as FarNet was that teachers had to not only perceive the need but recognize that internet resources, exchange, and collaboration through FarNet was a viable solution to that need.
The experience of FarNet suggests that there are a number of interrelated issues to address to maximize the likelihood of developing a functioning online professional learning community.
The notion of collective learning and open consideration of practice should be developed at some level, as exemplified by one of the schools in FarNet, before expecting teachers to be willing to share aspects of their practice with a virtually unknown audience.
Pursuing both of these avenues would enhance the impact of initiatives like the vision of building a FarNet learning community.