Creating shareable representations of practice
This paper arises from a programme of research and postgraduate teaching which, over the last ten years, has sought to explore ways of providing better support for the continuing professional development of geographically dispersed communities of skilled workers through the use of computer-mediated communications (Goodyear, 1995). One issue is the problem of creating sustained on-line interactions that draw on both practitioner experience and research-based knowledge. Part of our explanation for the difficulties in stimulating a sustained and inclusive discussion, which bridges between academia and practice, lies in the affordances of text-based communication. Aspects of practice, we suggest, are difficult to render through written language. It can also be very hard to articulate practical knowledge that is held and used in tacit form. The situation is exacerbated by some of the expectations which participants bring to the electronic discussion. For example, one can begin to create a comprehensible description of a current work issue through writing an extended account of the .necessary organizational background - tasks, personnel, 'house-style', etc. - but such extended contributions are neither expected nor welcome in most on-line communications'environments. In the rest of this paper, we look at some of the ways in which multimedia communications (using video,, voice, etc.) may be able to help with this block.