The design of a virtual community of practice to facilitate communication, information and knowledge sharing amongst art educators in Botswana junior secondary schools.
Sibanda, Den Bushdoctor.
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Newly qualified educators in Botswana face many challenges not least of which occurs when they are posted to rural schools a distance from other teachers and information resources. The Government of Botswana has committed itself to enhancing the ICT infrastructure for use in both the economic and educational endeavours of the country. Research conducted in first world countries show that Communities of Practice can take place in a virtual environment and that these can facilitate knowledge sharing and management. This research was conducted to investigate if a Virtual Community of Practice (VCoP), guided by the educational theories of Constructivism and Connectivism, could facilitate information and knowledge sharing among art teachers in dispersed location in the Botswana context. Using Reeves and Hedberg’s (2003) Development Research model, 13 art teachers, who were located in different parts of the country, participated in knowledge sharing through a Virtual Community of Practice. This study analysed the specific needs of art educators, interrogated the literature for best practices, formed a VCoP, and analysed how participants used it and reports on their comments The research findings indicate that educators would be enthusiastic about the use of such a facility if there was a perceivable benefit especially in breaking down the geographical induced communication barriers that they face at the moment. The research does not propose the replacement of existing face-to-face workshops, meetings and other communication fora, but rather suggests a VCoP can complement them by allowing discussions to continue beyond such meetings. It is contended that a carefully structured and supported VCoP can improve information and knowledge sharing significantly among educators and other stakeholders in Botswana.