Online Learning Communities – Finding a heartbeat

I have learned another good lesson this week. For a community to be valuable it has to have heart. It might seem obvious but online committees are just like real world communities; they grow, develop, thrive and then often die away as different factors move the members on. Like a city, what is left can be stronger than what existed before but can also be full of empty spaces. Look at Detroit. The communities that are left are strong but small. The devastation and ruins are everywhere.

I think that online communities are exactly the same but these events happen in double-time. The big difference is that the internet doesn’t really rot away. Everything is just left – it doesn’t purge itself. Maybe it is easier to disconnect from an online community because the community is virtual. There is less of an emotional connection because it is not grounded in real-time human interactions. Certainly that is something I have thought about as I have gone through this week’s activity.

In looking for communities to join, I found many places where comments were old, replies were few and nobody was really using the community. Everyone bar a few seemed to have moved on. I wanted to join networks which I could add to and which would add to me as a professional so I had to dig.

I eventually realized that the responsibility was mine. I had to engage, look around, meet a local and if it didn’t fit, or was a ghost town then move on. And so I did.

I have been a member of LinkedIn for a while now but had not joined any communities. I did so this week and found a good dialogue taking place. A teacher asking for advice had replies about an issue and a number of people jumped in with good advice. There was a connection. I joined the Teacher’s lounge and an E-learning group.

I joined several different groups on Google+ and enjoyed just reading. Easy to be a lurker and consumer. I added a few comments in the edtech group and will go back again this week. There were some groups which were more active than others but there was a beating heart which was good.

I joined eweb.net which has a huge amount of communities. I joined a few – non edtech ones as well as tech focused ones. My participation was limited but involved gaming and coding for elementary pupils. I’m not sure how frequently others will respond.

I also joined the Flipped Learning Network where I found a lot of information but I’m not sure there is a lot of activity. My posts are still on the front page as most recent and it has been a couple of days. I feel like Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn might be where I focus most of my time. Scoop.it is also a tool that I am using to source information. I want to be careful and ensure that I have quality not quantity experiences.

As with my last post, I have created a google slideshow with screenshots of my different contributions to sites.

My final thoughts are this: All communities are organic. They start small, grow, but often die away or morph into something else. I need to make sure that in order to get the best from my online communities, they are a good fit for me, have a pulse and that I become a creator not just a lurker.

Here is a link to some screenshots of my participation.

Thanks

Andrew

Digital Divide / Digital Inequality

Over the last two weeks we have been investigating Digital Inequality and I have found it to be both fascinating and enlightening.  By creating a presentation in a way I have never done before I have been really challenged and outside my comfort zone. I am usually a confident and comfortable speaker, I have spoken in front of many people many times but tonight I realized that it has been a long time since I listened to myself! It was a challenge to get my recording on VoiceThreads exactly the way I wanted it.

In trying to apply what I learned about presentations, I really focused on keeping my slides clean and tried to include minimal writing on the screen. I thought far more about word placement and images than ever before. I wanted the message to be carried in what I said and not just in what I put on the screen.  I stayed well clear of special effects and transitions, which was something which I read before I began. I did try to add some tonality to my voice and make sure I didn’t sound too monotone. It was hard. I focused on keeping the images to a minimum – they were really only used to fill white space and provide simple visual links to what I was talking about. I used an online flat icon generator to make the pictures specific to my purpose. http://flaticons.net

I learned about the difference between Digital Divide and Digital Inequality and I am fascinated to see what happens next… We are at a point in time when the pace of change is so significant that it is almost impossible to predict what will happen. Will the ‘have nots’ catch up and eliminate the digital divide, or will digital inequality become more significant? I think they way people learn is changing and my hope is that those who have access will drive themselves and their own learning .

As I think about what I have learned, I know that I can impact the learning that takes place  in our school. I hope that I can address the issues which were identified by staff in a timely manner. Knowledge is important but how I apply it is more important. Yesterday I send out invites to all staff to participate in a skills audit and attend a drop in session next week on Diigo and Glogster.

Someone once described a ‘good’ teacher to me as someone who is constantly dissatisfied with their own performance. I hope that makes me a good teacher. I am never really happy with what I create or make. In this case, I think my presentation slides were better than the accompanying voiceover. I wrote notes and a script but not enough of a script. Next time I would write significantly more and rehearse in front of some captive listener, not just myself. When recording a voiceover, a script is good. A good script is even better.

I also submitted my presentation without checking that I had made reference to the AECT code of ethics. An oversight down to bad planning.  I believe that a number of aspects of the code are being infringed in our school, in particular Section 1.2, 1.3 and 1.7.

Overall, I am happy because I helped to identify real issues  and thought of real solutions which will hopefully help to move our school forward.

Here is a link to my VoiceThread presentation.

http://edtech.voicethread.com/share/6100711/

Andrew