Photo credit: http://thenewpostliterate.blogspot.com/2009/01/dr-john-m-bennetts-solo-and.html
The Title of the post is the same as mine.. Why Are We Here? It follows:
I've just finished listening to the lastest episode of the "Ed Tech Live" podcast in which Steve Hargadon interviewed our very own community leader Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. This is a great interview in which Sheryl talks about the PLP and also her background in working with communities and some of her journey in education.
So if you need a re-charge or need to be re-affirmed why we are all here, I'd suggest you take a listen (at least the first half of the podcast!) Well done, Sheryl!
Elluminate Full: https://sas.elluminate.com/p.jnlp?psid=2009-09-08.1709.M.ACE02B5F35...
Portable Video: http://audio.edtechlive.com/foe/sherylnb.m4v
To which I responded-- (trying to model community leadership)
He followed with several well formed questions that I thought you might interest you- my blogging community. Here is my response to him.
Thanks for asking such powerful questions. I hope others will weigh in with their experiences as well.
Like should I respond to as many posts as possible?
(Does this dis-empower other members? Does it scare them off?)
As the community leader you should make sure in the practice posts and introductions that 100% of member posts get a response from you or someone else. The thrill of getting a response encourages more participation. After the initial building of capacity it is a give and take in trying to balance your community building efforts and posts.
Remember as a community leader your role is facilitator/instigator-- not teacher. I think if you respond to posts with questions and use your replies as ways to bring others into the conversation, that your time is well spent. You do not want to be seen as the info giver here, rather you want to be the person that helps community members identify what it is they do well and what they have to add to the conversations and then help them do so.
Here is a public post from a past PLPer that highlights the feeling of getting a response.
Boy, they weren’t kidding when they said this would be powerful! From the very first, I’ve done nothing but learn. I would admit, though, that a lot of what I’ve learned I had not expected to.
I figured that, by now, I would have gained a great facility with the tools. I’d know how to maneuver in the Ning; post to forums, read and organize blogs, create my own blog, etc. Full disclosure demands that I admit that I’ve never been much of a tool person. I’m not the type to get a new tool and play with it until I’ve got the whole of its applications down. But without really knowing what PLP would bring, I assumed that it would be the tools I would learn – how to use various features and how to apply them to my learning.
What I’ve come to realize is that, through PLP, we are gaining exposure to the world that our kids already inhabit easily – and learning in that environment is not neat and tidy. I wrote my first ning post about ambiguity and how learning to live – and learn – in an ambiguous world is not easy. It requires openness to new experiences and letting-go of my tradition-based ideas of what schooling is. Learning is not linear, and while I’ve espoused that for years, it wasn’t until this experience of PLP that I was able to live the non-linear, sometimes frustrating, always interesting world of a 21st century learner.
I’ve come away from these first two months with a more sophisticated view of teaching and with a growing empathy for our digital immigrant teachers, who are wrestling with change and how to navigate themselves through it.
I’ve also experienced the very powerful feeling that comes from having a ning colleague read my posts, find something in there of use, and respond in a thoughtful, serious way to my thoughts. Authentic assessment! Wow, I always knew it was an important concept, but I didn’t know how it would feel to receive authentic feedback from people I respect and admire. It feels great!
So, the lessons I’ve learned from PLP have been important ones – and I’m sure that Will and Sheryl intended for me (and the rest of us) to have the opportunity to share these same kinds of experiences. For those who are wondering, “what’s next?” or “when are we actually going to do something?” I would have to argue that, if you really take a learning posture – give up your control and your need to feel industrious – you will find that you are learning. And you have been all along!
(Does this annoy people people or prompt people?)
It can be annoying-- but out of sight--out of mind. It is great when you send out periodic links to great content being created by the community. What we do at PLP in our year long cohort is to have the community leader post a blog post on our PLPnetwork site or in a quarterly e-newsletter and we send those links out in NING. That way we are celebrating and recognizing folks for the good work they do which usually makes others want to participate more.
When you think of community as a place where a group of people make a commitment to each other to grow together and improve over time in their practice (teaching) and each team and each team member understands their role in collectively making the community successful, then the reminders are a welcomed intrusion.
Shepherding a community is different than being part of a network. Network connections have no expectations in terms of collective inquiry and improvement. They are what they are. But community is different. Communities have a purpose and understand that the best way to accomplish that purpose is to reflect, build, and grow together.
During norm setting with your community you could offer that regular reminders would be sent as a courtesy and in return the group agrees to not get annoyed.
I love this one. You would NOT believe the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes in communities. You should encourage, recognize and celebrate often in f2f, synchronous and asynchronous ways. Also, find those in your community who have a gifting in encouragement and dub them with the role of Encourager. In a healthy community, you create a loose governance in the beginning and then part of the role of the leaders is to nurture leadership from the members. Natural leaders emerge over the months and designated leaders should recognize their abilities and share the load of shepherding. Community leaders should quickly become community members.
Bottom line-- We look at who is in the room and what strengths and gifting they bring to the table. Then we decide, as a community, what possibilities we want to tackle and who has the capacity to help us. The purpose of team's sharing projects is so that others who have wisdom, time, experience, or resources can offer to help. A team problem becomes a community problem. Transparent, deep, reflection nurtured through critical inquiry is what learning in a community is all about.
Bielaczyc & Collins (1999) identify the defining quality of a learning community as one in which:
(What effect does this have on member contributions?)
You add a little as a way to model and to be a good community member. However, your more important role is to build into your community design ways for others to add content and co-create and evolve over time. The reason we use community leaders, fellows, experienced voices, team leaders, and team members is so we are all sharing and adding content in different ways.
Your intuition is right. If you have one person always adding content, then it is seen as a top down initiative and members will slip back into the 20th C pattern of passive learning.
As to your last comment--
Adult learning theory is different and new notions are emerging as our learning landscape shifts. But in a participatory culture and as we shift our classroom structures to community structures, I think we will find that community is community, and while the passionate interests and discussions may change the model holds true for kids or adults.
Here are some graphics that I created for some work I did with Intel that may help in your understanding. (The pics are copyrighted- so please give attribution if you use them.)
I sure hope others will weigh in and share what they know or believe to be true from their experience or-- maybe ask some more questions. I am a co-learner in this and VERY interested in what you have found to be true.