Where does education learn?

In the FOC08 course our week 6 task is to examine some forums and look for evidence of community and consider options to further develop community in the groups formed around these forums. OK – so lots of community activity might be happening but not evident in a group’s online forum but the idea of the task is to surface important issues of community. The comparative process used in this week will be reused with different modes of communication over the next 4 weeks (blogs, virtual worlds etc).

So many of us in education are used to closed forums, where members participate because it is part of an assessment process. In the online Elluminate meeting we discussed where we should find these online forums. And this point worries me. We do not have a monopoly on online learning and certainly not community development just because we work in the educational domain. As an educator I have found that we have to tear off the blinkers we wear and look beyond educational contexts to see some of the exemplary knowledge sharing practices visible and published in not-for-profit, corporate, civic, support group and fan communities.

OK so I am going to put my money where my mouth is and focus the week 6 task (now in week 7 – a week behind) in those other domains. What about others – can you look beyond our own domain to consider how community might be lived elsewhere?

When do you know it’s a community?

I have been part of CPsquare (http://www.cpsquare.org) for a number of years. It was a gathering of people working in CoPs and envisioned to be a community of practice.  For the first two years or so  I did not have sense of it as a community. We had a hundred plus members but struggled to have clear ties and to be more than a loosely tied group that talked together online. Then after a few years (in early  2006) we had an event to explore Web2.0 tools in CoPs and called for members to help host, promote and manage the event. People really stepped up to take leadership and support roles and a large globally distributed team pulled off what was a very successful month long event. I really had a sense that through these activities (or what lead to them) that we had finally become a community and were able to rely on each other, to make room for each other and to enjoy a successful shared experience. It is difficult to say that whether this event was a cause or a proof of community 9or both) but it was my first real sense that we had evolved into something more than a dialogic space. I sat back after the event and reflected that many people had really worked for the good of of the group and each other, and to me the sense of community was palpable.

For me the two things surface out of my reflection:

  1. the opportunity to step up and step into roles – that this event provided.
  2. the shared sense of the value of being together – that evolved through the activity

To me these are very important components but what’s your experience of how much is community development is linked to the roles and shared experiences we as facilitators/conveners offer? Are events like this an essential part of the community building? Is this what Leigh Blackall is doing with our group in the FOC08 course?