Richard Stefano Module 4 – Journal – Accessing my Professional Community

  1. Initial decision and thoughts

I knew early on that the biggest impediments to doing this module were 1: My social anxiety, and 2: my inclination to procrastinate when something makes me even slightly uncomfortable.

My initial idea was to find an ideal, narrow-focused professional group for International teachers preparing English Language Learners for education in Canada, America, the UK or Australia.

However, after looking over possible community options, I actually settled on Cube For Teachers, a twitter group and website where anyone can create an account and share or consume education related content. It is an online PLC, although it has elements of a hybrid PLC as each post generally has a direct link to a website or social media account where direct communication or collaboration in a real or online space is possible (Blitz, 2013).

The Watson (2014) article argues that PLCs push back against the idea of teaching as “a strangely solitary activity”. While sitting alone in my apartment researching may seem solitary, I do believe that the platform allows for greater inclusivity by being indirect. People who may have issues communicating directly verbally or through text, or who live in different time zones or areas without stable internet access, can use a less direct platform like this one. I think it is an inclusive and respectful option to allow “solitary” educators to engage and not to always require face-to-face or direct communication to be a part of a successful PLC.

  1. Reasoning:

I chose Cube for three reasons:

1: If I chose a tight-knit, active community to directly communicate with, there was little chance that I would continue to engage in that community once this course was over. One of the benefits of PME is to directly benefit our practice and build skills, tools, and resources. I decided to choose a community that I could continue to use relatively stress-free after this course is finished.

2: The platform reminded me of Sugata Mitra’s TED talk (2010), where he described “Self Organizing Systems”. Cube for Teachers is completely open platform where teachers create and share content, and that content is filtered and searchable. It creates its own biases and structure through created content, tags, and algorithms. I’m hopeful that this “objective” organization style is going to let me explore my interests in an open environment. The open nature of the platform can also prevent stagnation warned about in the Watson article (2014) and hopefully lead to a constant influx of novel ideas.

3: The class I teach is quite specific, but pulls from ESL courses, Canadian middle school and high school English courses, the curriculum guidelines for the UK and Australia, and my own interests and experiences. This community gives me a huge number of resources from thousands of different sources that I can criss-cross, adjust, and apply to my specific situation. While direct interaction with teachers in a similar situation will be helpful, my situation is unique enough that I’m much more interested in a vast array of materials and ideas to pull from and combine.

Finally, the Cynthia Blitz document (2013) noted that flexibility was a defining benefit of online PLCs, and as an English speaking teacher living in China, asynchronous, text-based communication with colleagues around the world is ideal.

  1. Philosophy

In terms of the philosophy or curricular approach of Cube for Teachers, as far as I can tell it is not a monolith or single organization that advocates for a particular approach or philosophy. However, it clearly believes in technology as a great tool or facilitator of teaching and professional development, and baked into the site is the idea that local educators are a great source of course material and drivers of curriculum implementation. The approaches of the individual contributors to the site will no doubt vary, but the contradictions and conflict are inherent in the curriculum development process (Eisner & Vallance, 1974). In PME-801 we discussed the idea of “criss-crossing” problem-solving schema to create specific processes for each unique problem, and in the same way, I can take resources and approaches from the contributors on this site and create my own specific approach (Spiro & DeSchryver, 2009).

  1. Plan for Module 5 and beyond

I plan on using this community in two ways:

The first is as a way to gather materials, perspectives, news, and new trends in education. In this way, I’m supporting my own curriculum approach by taking all of those ideas and creating a specific, personalized, student-centred course. I’m currently trying an inquiry project with my IB students, but I’m struggling to put together enough resources to create engaging activities or guidelines for each step of the process. A simple search for “inquiry” on the Cube for Teachers site gives me dozens of results including “beginner guides” and examples of successfully implemented inquiry projects.

Second, I plan on posting my own content and teaching materials to my page, and potentially sharing them on twitter and directly communicating with Cube for Teachers and educators who follow that site. That way I can get feedback, gauge response, and possibly form positive professional relationships with other educators.

My next step is to find and “follow” or “favourite” as many relevant or interesting educators on Cube for Teachers as possible to create a varied dashboard and feed that updates me when someone makes a new post. From there, I can find more specific, relevant creators and PLCs to follow and directly communicate with.

Possible tags of interest to start with include: “inquiry” “creative writing” “story structure” “English literature” “ESL” “International”

  1. Final thoughts on potential problems

I wanted to acknowledge two problems with using this PLC. The first is that I’m going to get out of it what I put in. Since there is no accountability towards collaborators, if I don’t put in the effort to form connections then I’ll remain isolated and unchallenged in my approach. The second is that there is probably a tendency towards “silo”-ing my experience. On social media, algorithms and personal biases often result in only seeing materials or opinions that you already think are effective or correct. For a scary and interesting explanation, please watch Eli Pariser’s TED talk on “filter bubbles” (2011). If my dashboard is made up entirely of like-minded or established teachers, then I might not actually engage in any real learning.


Blitz, C. L. (2013). Can Online Learning Communities Achieve the Goals of Traditional
+++++Professional Learning Communities? What the Literature Says. REL 2013-003. +++++Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic.

Mitra, S. (2010, July). Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education [Video file]. Retrieved +++++from

Pariser, Eli. (2011). Beware online “filter bubbles”: Eli Pariser [Video file]. Retrieved +++++from:

Spiro, R. J., & DeSchryver, M. (2009). Constructivism: When It’s the Wrong Idea and +++++When It’s the Only Idea. In Signmund Tobias & Thomas M. Duffy +++++(Eds.), Constructivist Instruction: Success or Failure  (p. 106-123). New York, NY: +++++Routledge.

Watson, C. (2014). Effective professional learning communities? the possibilities for +++++teachers as agents of change in schools. British Educational Research Journal, +++++40(1), 18-29. doi:10.1002/berj.3025

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