Schlager, M. S. & Fusco, J. (2004). Teacher professional development, technology, and communities of practice: Are we putting the cart before the horse? In S. Barab, R. Kling, and J. Gray (Eds.), Designing Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning. Cambridge University Press.
Over the past decade, education reform and teacher training projects have spent a great deal of effort to create and support sustainable, scalable online communities of education professionals. For the most part, those communities have been created in isolation from the existing local professional communities within which the teachers practice. We argue that focusing on online technology solely as a mechanism to deliver training and/or create online networks places the cart before the horse by ignoring the Internet’s even greater potential to help support and strengthen local communities of practice within which teachers work. In this paper, we seek guideposts to help education technologists understand the nature of local K-12 education communities of practice specifically their reciprocal relationship with teacher professional development and instructional improvement interventions—as a prerequisite to designing online sociotechnical infrastructure that supports the professional growth of education professionals.