Virtual Learning Communitites

This session was led by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach (man I wish I went to W&M for grad school instead of VT) and did not involve Pee Wee Herman.

Pee Wee Herman photo by Alan Light
Photo by Alan Light

Of Dubious Import to Anyone Else

There was a lot of conversation debating what community is and what makes a person a member of a community. The majority seemed to feel that you had to give back to the community. I guess I differ in my thinking as to what giving back is.

Steve Dembo said “action has to be part of it” but I wonder if we’re not defining action too narrowly-
In this case if the goal is to change education so if you take what you learn from the community and go out and change your piece of education you are giving back to the community because you are accomplishing its goals (even if the community is unaware of it). Maybe that’s too flaky. Or if you take what you learn one place and use it to contribute elsewhere it’d seem to me you were expanding the community by proxy as you’re expanding the reach of it’s shared values, goals etc.

Simply belonging does impact and help shape a community. If Pee Wee Herman joins your ning community it would change how others (even members) view that community. That can work in a very positive way as well but I just wanted to mention Pee Wee Herman in a post.

There’s also my gut reaction that lots of people are at various stages in this cycle, to totally discount the role of the lurker would be unfortunate . Some may not be ready to post or comment but if reading the community is changing their life then it seems they are part of the community. It just doesn’t feel right to me to cut them out of the community wholesale. If you think about it simple readers impact the prestige of the community as well. It’s all an interconnected network in my mind.

The whole point of most of our edtech communities is to change teaching and if that’s happening with those involved then it seems like things are working to me. I could be drifting away from community more towards functionality and impact but maybe community doesn’t matter as much as function and impact.

Things you need in an online community

  • Tireless Champion- like Steve was for edubloggercon
  • Greeters- make the first experience with the community really positive
  • Questioners- keep the pot stirring
  • Professional/Personal- a mix of the two keeps things interesting and increases buy in (also a good initial motivator)

We ended with the question “Where does authority lie in a community?” and the subsequent idea of how would that work in a school where authority is assigned and more rigid in most cases.

lost, necc07, necc2007, edubloggercon07, edubloggercon2007, ebc07vlc

5 thoughts on “Virtual Learning Communitites

  1. I appreciate your thoughts. I have a blog and share some of my ideas and experiences based on my readings and participation in the edublogoshpere, and work with the 600 teachers in my district. Some have commented that I am not giving back to the community properly or effecting change because I do not present on a larger scale (state and national). I find these types of presentations to be inspiring, I learn a lot from them, but real change will not occur unless some one is back at the school to support the newly inspired. My role is to continually provide instruction, foster change, and help teachers become connected to the greater collaborative community outside our individual schools. This is something I take very seriously and have made a conscience decision to focus my energy there. It takes many people to produce effect change and there are many roles and responsibilities that come from such an endeavor. We each play a part in the grand scheme of things.

  2. Yes, the lurker. Haven’t they taken action is deciding to lurk in that community? There are steps to participation that we all go through..some spend longer on some steps than others. I agree that we cannot discount their contributions.
    I see Steve’s point too. If we are at NECC and attending workshops like this, then we are participating on a higher step. We do need to be giving back. Action does need to a part of our participation in that learning community.
    The authority resides in the consensus of the group. This is what makes any learning community so powerful – collective intelligence. If anyone feels strongly in a different direction, they simply leave that community. At the same time, those who agree with the consensus join that community. The power of consensus! The Society of Friends taught me well…..

  3. Beth- I’d say 600 people is pretty big. I will happily fight anyone who says you aren’t giving back or effecting change :). That is a really odd view. I agree it’s every little bit.

    Mrs. Durff-

    I might have been over sensitive. I lurked for quite a while before feeling confident enough to comment intelligently and then to start my own blog. It took time and I certainly feel I was part of the community at that time.

    I just feel like to publicly claim that readers who don’t post or comment aren’t part of the community is a mistake. It cuts out what I believe are the majority of teachers. Some people take time and if you tell me I’m not part of something I’ll probably take my ball and go home to sulk.

    I do agree that you should give back but I’m not willing to cut you off if you don’t. I try to give back and I encourage others too as well. But I feel that anyone who reads this is part of the community and I wouldn’t disparage their participation by excluding them.

    Thanks for the thoughts,


  4. I don’t think that is the intent at all (and I could be wrong). We should encourage the contributions of all, as we hopefully are encouraging you to voice your well-thought out and obviously very intelligent opinions online. Could we naturally reach a point where we feel we must give voice to our opinions or is that personality driven? Does web interaction and anonymity augment or hinder in joining the global conversation? All valid questions we need to consider!

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