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Tag: community

7

Building Community in your Classroom

School starts soon for many. Some have started already. If you think of your classroom as a community of learners right away, then the culture changes. What is the culture of your classroom? Do you…

  • spend hours and hours getting your classroom ready?
  • buy lots of posters and materials to put on bulletin boards?
  • arrange all the furniture just the right way?

 

If so, you have set the culture of your classroom where you are in control, you manage what happens in your classroom, and your classroom is teacher-centered from the start. I’m not saying you have to take everything down and start over, but think about what it might look like to your learners if you…

  • left the bulletin boards and walls empty so the room was an empty canvas ready for the community to design?
  • had all the furniture in the middle of the classroom and had each learner help arrange the desks or tables together?

 

This sounds like chaos and you may not be ready to do something like this. So start slow. The classroom is where your learners will be part of for almost 9 months. It is their home with you. Consider your life as a learner. What was it like? Did you have any say in how you would learn or contribute to the classroom?

Communities work if there is trust and respect. I remember sitting at desks in rows. Fear was one way to control the class in the classes I attended. Was it yours? Did it work? I didn’t feel much respect in many of my years as a learner – even in college. I felt I knew a lot but was not given many opportunities to share what I knew or dreamed about or wanted to know. I was tested on facts that were not relevant to me. I remember an art class where the teacher scolded me because I went outside the lines. I came from a home of artists where there were no lines. What about you? What was it like in school when you grew up?

Some of you probably hear ” if it was good for me, it’s good for my child.” Remember your experience and what it might feel like for your learners in your classroom. Their lives and experiences are connected and different than many of their teachers. Their experiences include the Internet, mobile devices, and have everything at their fingertips.

If you already set up your classroom or that’s just too out there for you. Then take a chance to arrange your furniture in an unconventional way. Then ask your students for feedback. Keep some of the walls or bulletin boards empty and ask your students to submit ideas on what to put on them. Have ways to hang student work or questions from your students from the ceiling.

Some more ideas for the first few days of school:

  • meet and greet each student at the door with a smile and a handshake.
  • invite everyone to contribute to the class rules — include some off the wall, funny rules.
  • use an icebreaker or have them tell a story so everyone has a voice the first few days.
  • share what the expectations are for the year and ask for feedback.

I’m sure some of you are thinking “this is an open classroom and I saw it before.” I’m talking about learner voice and choice. This is a classroom where everyone is part of the community and sharing in decisions. There is a feeling that each voice matters. I am only touching on a few points and know there are so many wonderful teachers out there who can share more.

How would you build a community of learners where there is trust and respect?

2

What does Community mean to you?

Community

Everyone is talking about building community, but what does that mean?

There are many ways to build a community. The first is to create a presence in that community that people identify with. Most online environments have various ways that you can do this: building your profile, leaving a comment, retweeting a tweet, uploading pictures and videos, sharing a resource, or collaborating on a project.

How do you create a presence online? How do you sustain an online community?

I thought I’d refer to Tucker’s Five Stages of Group Development and Five Stages when building a community.

1. Forming: The group comes together and gets to initially know one other and form as a group.

2. Storming: A chaotic vying for leadership and trialling of group processes

3. Norming: Eventually agreement is reached on how the group operates (norming)

4. Performing: The group practices its craft and becomes effective in meeting its objectives.

Tuckman added a 5th stage 10 years later:

5. Adjourning: The process of “unforming” the group, that is, letting go of the group structure and moving on.

I wanted to take these stages and how they relate to online communities.

Stage 1: Forming
This stage is about building a presence in the group or community. Group members rely on safe, patterned behavior. Group members desire acceptance by the group and a need to know that the group is safe. They gather impressions and data about the similarities and differences among them and form preferences for future subgrouping.

Self-organized learning and social media is all about starting the community around you. An online community may not have a leader. There may be multiple leaders or a self-proclaimed leader who starts the conversations. The leaders can change at anytime. Everyone and anyone can join, contribute, or leave when they want. Some members don’t have a presence. They join and lurk. They are just watching the activity in the community.

How can you build community in a group where members come and go? Can you trust that the profiles of some members are real?

Stage 2, Storming, is characterized by competition and conflict as  group members organize. Individual members mold their feelings, ideas, attitudes, and beliefs to suit the group with an increased desire for structural clarification and commitment. Questions will arise about who is going to be responsible for what, what the rules are, what the reward system is, and what criteria for evaluation are. Yet, in an online community, there may be no rules. The reward is connecting or someone responding to you, sharing your picture, or retweeting your tweet.

Is this enough to keep you in the community?

What if someone in the group writes something controversial and upsets many of the members? Will people stay in the group? Some people will step forward and take responsibility for posting, answering questions, and sharing information beyond the community.

In Stage 3: Norming stage, group members are engaged in active acknowledgment of all members’ contributions, community building and maintenance, and solving of group issues. Members are willing to change their preconceived ideas or opinions on the basis of facts presented by other members, and they actively ask questions of one another. Leadership is shared, and cliques dissolve. This is the true online community that is working. When members begin to know-and identify with-one another, the level of trust in their personal relations contributes to the development of group cohesion. It is during this stage of development (assuming the group gets this far) that people begin to experience a sense of group belonging and a feeling of relief as a result of resolving interpersonal conflicts. The major task function of stage three is the data flow between group members: They share feelings and ideas, solicit and give feedback to one another, and explore actions related to the task. Creativity is high. Members feel good about being part of an effective group.

The major drawback of the norming stage is that members may begin to fear the inevitable future breakup of the group; they may resist change of any sort. Actually online communities tend to stay around even if there is no activity. Sometimes you can go back after years and realize you still have a membership there.

Is this a community? Does a community only work if there is activity?  Is the community safe? Do you feel safe to post what you believe? How do you trust the people in a community?

How to Build Trust
Trust Building
Building Trust

In Stage 4: Performing stage, people work independently, in subgroups, or as a total unit. Their roles adjust to the changing needs of the group and individuals. By now, the group is the most productive. Individual members become self-assuring, and the need for group approval is past. Members are both highly task oriented and highly people oriented. There is unity: group identity is complete, group morale is high, and group loyalty is intense. The task function becomes genuine problem solving, leading toward optimal solutions and optimum group development. There is support for experimentation in solving problems and an emphasis on achievement. The overall goal is productivity through problem solving and work.

Do online communities ever get to Stage 4?

The only way I see this stage working is with a facilitator or someone nudging the members of the community to participate online. If you just want a community to share when you want, then you don’t care about a specific task or project. You join the community to connect and share resources or ideas. If you have a specific task or project, then you need a plan with who’s doing what by when… and a facilitator or coach checking in regularly.

Stage 5 Adjourning means a community ends. This is not happening in online communities and social media unless you leave the community. Or the infrastructure housing the community ends.
Some questions about building community:

  • How do you design interaction so all members contribute and participate?
  • How do you determine roles and responsibilities for each member and the facilitator?
  • How do you see the difference of an on-site and online community of practice?

 

The reason I wanted to discuss this today is that I am in multiple communities where I am the only one posting. It’s frustrating. I write on this blog and people write me via email a question or comment or scoopit or retweet it. I really appreciate when someone comments on my blog even if I don’t agree with their position. People are not posting on blogs like they used to. People are commenting in social media with 140 characters or pinging back in Scoopit or pinning on Pinterest.

Is this community or just a way to share your thoughts and ideas? Online communities are different now then just a few years ago but are they sustainable? Are they real communities that have good discussions that you can refer to later?

I am in groups in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Scoopit and many more social media environments. Are these the type of  communities that you can use to build communities of practice? I’ve tried Ning and Wikispaces, but they still depend on the facilitator to get conversations going and many have no leaders. I built My eCoach for educators to build communities of practice. I wanted a safe and secure online community that allowed for private conversations and the ability to share publicly.

Why?

I know the word “transparency” is big. However, some things you discuss online happens more effectively in  private areas. That means you need to trust that whatever you write or share is used the way you would hope it would be used. You can still publish publicly. Now that everything is moving toward “Open” and “Transparent,” more people are uploading all of their pictures and videos to the cloud. They are also sharing their private conversations.  This more than often backfires on the author. Now you can have your own YouTube Channel. Anyone can be an author, a filmmaker, a journalist. But having a coach or facilitator helps. I know I’m taking a chance writing here my thoughts. It would probably be better if someone proofread it first. Oh well! Let’s see if any of you comment on my blog.

I found that many conversations didn’t happen effectively without a facilitator so I set up an eCoach program. eCoaches keep the conversations going and encourage members of the community to participate.

Social media doesn’t care if everyone participates. I believe the different types of communities are used for different purposes. I don’t know what I would do without social media. But I still need My eCoach and many members of My eCoach keep coming back because they know it is safe, secure, and their intellectual property is still in their digital locker. It’s all about believing that all of your material will always be there when you need it. That the conversations are still there. Try to find the tweet with the link you saw last week. 

Gone!

Yes, you can bookmark it on Diigo or Plurk. Facebook is trying to build community based on each member’s timeline. Google+ is trying to build community around circles. I am watching and believing that social media is going to look different in the future. Communities are evolving. Communities are becoming extensions of our families and friends. Actually many are blurring between business, family and friends. I get it that social media is about all of us nudging and supporting each other, but usually only 1-10% are really contributing. I’m keeping My eCoach because I see the importance of public and private spaces and an ability for a facilitator to nudge and help members participate. When communities ended in My eCoach, members stopped using it. All of a sudden, many are coming back. They tried to make their own eCoach system. They used existing programs using social media programs but when they realized that their data is sold to third parties, they lost trust. When they saw relevant ads based on what they were writing in their messages, they didn’t feel safe. When they came back to My eCoach, their “stuff” was still there and there are no adds. Their data is not sold to third parties. Yes, it’s not a great revenue model, but we have to believe in the cloud, in the people, in the community.

So I am part of many communities. My neighborhood is my community. I know many of the people in my neighborhood. I feel safe and secure because I can walk around the block and know that people know who I am and I know who they are. My family is my community. Many are online in my social media but we are family first. I am in different groups online and build ongoing relationships with people I met online, in My eCoach and other communities and now are close in real time face-to-face. Community is important. Building a sustainable community takes time, trust, and building relationships that matter.

What does community mean to you?

0

Read Around the World á la Francais

“I think I’m like many teachers: most of us feel like we haven’t yet arrived where we want to be in terms of what we’re doing with students. I have so much further to go and I really want to do more work that infuses rigor and relevance in the curriculum and connects my students to both their communities and the French-speaking community.”    Nicole Naditz

My search for student-centered learning environments led me to Nicole Naditz who teaches French at Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks near Sacramento, California. Our conversation first started about flipping the classroom. She wrote me:

“I’m still a novice in terms of fully turning over my curriculum to the students, but I’m always striving to work more in that direction. In the meantime, I work hard to ensure that what their learning is put to meaningful use, is rigorous and engages them with the French-speaking community beyond our school.
For the online projects with other countries, I have typically designed them in cooperation with the other teacher, although my students always have significant input. I tell the students to write a book encouraging children to eat healthfully. After that, they are free to create. The best books are sent to France or Belgium to be put in the waiting rooms of children’s areas of hospitals or dentists.

That’s when I knew Nicole was moving into the student-centered world even if she didn’t realize it. Email after email, I received specific projects from Nicole.

 

Preparing for Collaboration with Burkina Faso 
Burkina FasoFor their work with Burkina Faso (the village has no input), Nicole had an idea called ‘Through their Eyes’ about students in both California and the village in Burkina exchanging pictures of how they see their world and lives. Burkina Faso, in West Africa surrounded by six countries, was occupied by France up to 1960. It is currently a member of the African Union and La Francophonie.

 

The students ran with it from there, taking the pictures, explaining them in French, creating the photo album and selecting other items to send to the students and school along with their pictures. In the box with the photos, they also included some student work from French 3 (student-created “magazine” about French-speaking comic-book characters) and disposable cameras for them to use for their pictures. The students also wanted to send hot chocolate since no one in the village has ever tasted it except for the volunteer. French 4/AP is now matched with a new Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso. The village where she works does not have Internet (or any electricity) but she can access Internet when she goes into town. One day, while she was in town, we decided to go onto Ustream and introduce ourselves to her. We recorded it and sent her the link because it wasn’t possible for her to watch live. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17872769.

 

Nicole’s students haven’t yet received their cameras back to get their pictures. This is a very slow process without Internet!!!

 

Student-Created Museums
Two student-created museums were done by  classes at the Alliance Française de Sacramento. Hosting the museum at the Alliance guarantees they will get at least some other French speakers for whom to present instead of just presenting to the teacher in class. Nicole believes it is extremely important that students do work for an audience greater and more relevant than just for the teacher! http://studentmuseums.wikispaces.com/Le%C3%A7ons - Picture of student explaining show to guests.
at the Alliance Française de Sacramento of a student explaining her exhibit to a guest

 

African Tales by Solar Light
This was a community event held in cooperation with the local public library as a celebration of solar power before they sent the grant-funded lanterns to a village in Senegal so the families could stop using kerosene to light their huts and the students in the village could do homework and study after dark–students did all the research about solar energy to pick the lanterns and they designed a Web site about their findings.
African Tales by Solar light

 

The lanterns were funded by a grant from the local utility, SMUD (Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District). The students did such a good job researching solar lanterns to purchase with the grant money that they were able to get twice as many as were needed for the Village, so the class donated another 100 lanterns to the local Red Cross for use during emergencies when there is no electricity. http://burkinasolarproject.wikispaces.com/

 

“Une Nuit à Paris”
Her students are designing a community event celebrating francophone cultures. This will take place at the end of May or beginning of June this year. They chose the theme “Une Nuit à Paris”, how they want to divide up the space (multipurpose room) with exhibits, entertainment, food, etc., and they will be the ones preparing all of the exhibits and food, and presenting all of the entertainment. They will also be the ones hosting the event and speaking with the guests in both French and English (because the audience will have both). This will feature food samplings, student work–possibly including books they wrote and published on Storybird (the class may pay to have them actually printed and bound for the class to share), entertainment by the students, and a few museum-style exhibits on topics of interest to the students.

 

UStream
Earlier this year, French 4/AP created their own inventions and presented them on Ustream: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/voil%C3%A0-le-fran%C3%A7ais This was very informal. It was a basic homework assignment rather than a “project”. It went with the AP theme of science and technology. We were studying the role and responsibilities of scientists and inventors.

 

Interview and shot of live stream

 

French 2 was given free reign to show off what they could do at the end of the first semester. Here is a clip: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17835286

 

Nicole’s class web site is http://www.sanjuan.edu/webpages/nnaditz. At the top are “links” and within that page are some of the tutorials. Her blog is http://3rs4teachers.wordpress.com And she’s working on a new Web site featuring primarily google tools for education but it may expand beyond that: http://sites.google.com/site/classinthecloud.

 

Nicole NaditzNicole has taught French to grades 3 through 12, including AP French Language since 1993. Nicole is very active in professional organizations. A recipient of numerous awards, including the 2010 Jane Ortner Educating through Music Award, she serves as webmaster and advocacy chair on the FLAGS board. She also serves on the Leadership Team of the Capital Foreign Language Project and she served on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages interview committees for the first National Foreign Language Teacher of the Year in 2005 and for the Florence Steiner Leadership in K-12 Education Award in 2007. Nicole was invited to join the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Subject Matter Advisory Panel for Languages Other than English in 2004. She is the founder of the Read Around the World Program and organizes additional opportunities for students to experience languages and cultures outside of the classroom.

 

Nicole has presented on a variety of topics at local and state workshops since 1999 and has received several grants for study in France and Canada. She was named an Outstanding Teacher by both the Foreign Language Association of Greater Sacramento and the California Language Teachers’ Association and was a finalist for the California League of High Schools Educator of the Year in Region 3. In addition, Nicole achieved National Board Certification in 2003 and earned her M.Ed in 2006. In 2012, she was named San Juan USD Teacher of the Year, Sacramento County Teacher of the Year and was one of 12 finalists for California State Teacher of the Year. That same year, she also became a Google Certified Teacher.

 

She has been a member of the FLAGS board since 2001. In her spare time, she enjoys figure skating, calligraphy, singing, crocheting, musical theater and travel. 

_____

 

Can you see why I wanted to share Nicole’s personal journey?

0

Innovation Centers for Real-World Learning

I’ve been thinking about the promise of Innovation Centers. These are Community Learning Centers that incorporate K-12 schools, the public library, and a local university and/or community college where learning happens 24/7 with learners of all ages. These centers could be a combination of all of these places and include businesses and non-profits in the area. In some cases, community colleges and senior centers might be involved. In other cases, a preschool might be included in a project. These can also be blended versions where the place is one or all of these sites plus a virtual place to collaborate and learn. I’m going to expand on the virtual place more later.

The idea of an Innovation Center in different parts of the country means that each community can investigate local issues on a global scale. Each Center will include the latest technology and enough bandwidth to handle multiple devices per person. Each Center will be designed by the community to reflect their community. The center is open to all learners but not like a regular school.

One community might address urban gardening and how to feed more people in less space. Another community might address strategies for recycling and reducing trash. All findings will be shared among all Innovation Centers and collaboration will be encouraged.

The goal could be to push the envelope: where learning focuses on real-world projects, problems, and challenges on a global scale. Just imagine identifying a local problem in your area in the US and connect with a school in Africa or Nepal with the same problem. Common problems could be:

  • Lack of clean water

  • Pollution in your area
  • Money managing skills
  • Culture and Community
  • Jobs or Entrpreneurship

Everything will be student-centered and inquiry-based. Teacher roles change. They are co-learners and co-designers with their students and are advisors for a team of learners. As advisors they are with the same learners for several years. Actually the learners are driving the design of the projects and the community. The community is a viable entity that happens anywhere and everywhere. The culture of that community transcends the design of the projects.

Learning will be personalized by personal learner profiles with support from advisors. Each learner and advisor will be encouraged to take risks, question, and use critical-thinking skills to address local problems as collaborative projects. Personal learning goals will meet Common Core Standards and address curriculum requirements of their learning plan. Individuals and teams will meet learning goals as part of each project or re-evaluate the goals as they monitor their progress towards the goal. Each learner will collect evidence of learning in an ePortfolio and share via social media, websites, mobile devices, etc. Or the evidence will be a product, a showcase, an event. This all depends on the designers of the projects — the learners. We may even want to call them something different than learners.

I started thinking about this many years ago and then again recently when I added my idea to the Grand Challenge. If you like this idea, vote here. If you have more ideas for this challenge, please add your comment there and/or here.

I know there are great ideas and innovations out there. It’s all about finding out about them so we can share and learn together.

0

Building Community Schools to Save our Children

We are educators. All of us. If one child drops out of school early, the whole community suffers.

We need to create the conditions that value all children especially our at-risk children. In Oakland, I saw how devastating the dropout rate was long ago when I was writing Digital High School grants and mentioned my concern. Young black boys were dropping out before eighth grade and it’s worse now.

Today only 30% of African-American males are graduating from high school in Oakland. This is wrong. We spend more money on prisons than educating our children. This is more than wrong. We need to start early educating, mentoring, and building community to raise our children — all children. Jean Quan, Mayor of Oakland, who was on the school board and understands the problem was on the panel of Class Action this morning (9/4/11) with Christopher Chatmon and Mitchell Kapor.

If children dropout and there are no jobs even for educated youth, what happens to these boys? Oakland Unified School District is taking action. They formed a task force called African-American Male Achievement with Chris Chatmon taking the lead. They are starting young with community schooling opening the schools and gyms with programs like Math and Science Academies. Mitchell Kapor from the Mitchell Kapor Foundation wrote…

“We will all lose if we persist in doing business as usual. Our state cannot continue to claim the mantle of innovation if we continue to ignore the human capital that exists in our communities. We cannot remain competitive in the global marketplace by investing more in filling up prison and jail cells – with disproportionately more poor people and people of color – than in creating an educated workforce.”

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/08/ED5L1JD5MR.DTL#ixzz1X0GJpsNx

Oakland Boy DrawingChris Chatmon said on Class Action this morning: “The school system was not set up to meet the needs of black and brown boys. The street culture is stronger than school culture. We need a process of engaging and motivating by taking them through a value education.” Jean Quan is coordinating schools and the community. One big thing is keeping the libraries open.

I love Oakland. I have worked with Oakland schools for years and saw the potential in every child. I am very excited that Oakland Unified School District has this task force and is working with the city and community leaders to make a difference in our children’s lives.

Here’s my take on it:
If we want to keep brown and black boys in schools and help each child reach their fullest potential, schools have to change. The schools still have top-down management issues. Doors are closed. Teachers are lecturing and teaching to the test. I walk through the halls and see kids not connecting and drifting off. They get bored and in trouble. Then it starts spiraling down. Like Chris mentioned: we need to make them co-designers of their learning so it is relevant to them. They not only need more role models, they need to find a purpose, a passion that gives them some hope that their lives will be worth something.

I see these kids. They are smart. But they are told they are not smart. We need to look at what “Smart” means. It is not how well they do on a test. We need to find different methods of assessing what they know and can do. I believe in these kids and am passionate about saving each one. I am only one person but there are more like me out there who want to help make a difference. I have seen the best teaching in Oakland and I work around the country, but teachers are caught in a bureaucratic system that keeps them from innovating. Unless there is a grant, there is no money to help build a new type of curriculum. Unless we “think out of the box”, we continue with the same prescriptive curriculum that does not engage our children.

Idea:

How about creating a K-12 Innovation community school in Oakland where all learning is centered around each child? Each child is part of a team similar to Finland.

Each child is with one teacher for K-3 and this community has parents, mentors, and community members part of the team for that child. Bring in a teacher education program from a local university and create teams Then another teacher can be assigned as advisor from grades 4-8 so there is consistency to monitor progress. Collect artifacts of learning and reflect via portfolios. Design new learning environments that foster creativity and inquiry. For 9-12 each teacher is an advisor for 20 students who guides them in the portfolio process and finds support in the community for internships, shadowing, interviews, building resumés and interviewing skills, and counseling on career and college readiness. Check out my post on Skills and Values Employers Want.

These are just a few ideas that can help all children and especially those at-risk.

0

Defining Professional Learning Communities (PLC)

I wrote this post in 2005 where it is cross posted on Rethinking Learning. I read it and thought it needed to be posted again with a few updates.

A Professional Learning Community (PLC) is comprised of people (teachers, para-professionals, administrators, and other community members) who collectively examine and collaboratively work to improve teaching practice. A PLC can but does not have to be situated in one school or district. With the ability to work online from anywhere at anytime, members of the community can connect, find others with similar interests, study and review existing teaching practice, and do action research to improve teaching and learning.

Being a teacher is challenging work and can be isolating. Many teachers teach the way they were taught which many times tends to be traditional lecture style: the expert or the giver of knowledge. Now with accountability issues, teachers are pressured to meet standards and teach to the test. What I am seeing is more teaching that is prescriptive in nature. In some areas, especially for at-risk students, this style can be  effective in teaching reading but less effective for students to retain deeper concepts. When teachers can interact with other teachers who have similar teaching situations, take the time to test and challenge their ideas, inferences and interpretations, and review and process information with each other, they grow professionally. This learning experience grows exponentially with the expanding exchange of ideas and multiple sources of knowledge from a variety of participants of the PLC.

A PLC can be a powerful professional development opportunity that encourages change and improves professional and personal learning.

Attributes of PLCs: the Five Dimensions
(adapted from source: http://www.teachinflorida.com/teachertoolkit/PLC.htm)

  1. Supportive and Shared Leadership. The collegial and facilitative participation of the administrator shares leadership with his/her staff by facilitating their work.
  2. Share Values and Vision. All PLC members develop a shared vision based on their commitment to the needs of their students and their desire to improve their teaching practice or grow their own skills and learning.
  3. Collective Learning and Application of Learning (Collective Creativity). PLC members move beyond existing procedures and teaching methods to design strategies for improvement based on high standards, latest research, and best practices.
  4. Supportive Conditions. The environment is risk-free so all members are safe and comfortable to collaborate, communicate, learn, make decisions, problem solve, and share their results and products.
  5. Physical Conditions and Human Capacities.
  1. Time to meet and talk
  2. Small size of school or PLC
  3. Physical proximity of staff to one another
  4. Teaching roles that are interdependent
  5. Communication structures
  6. School autonomy
  7. Teacher empowerment

I agree with the first four dimensions for any school. An online PLC can take the fifth dimension beyond the classroom and school walls.

  • PLC members can meet anytime from anywhere.
  • The PLC can be multiple sizes with the support of  eCoaches who guide and facilitate the process.
  • Anybody can be the teacher and learner and eCoach.
  • Communication online is a paradigm shift for teachers and needs to be designed into daily routines.
  • Teacher and Learner empowerment.
  • Learner centered environments.

The PLC as an Organizational Culture

Most learners adopt the organization’s guiding principles. If these principles are top-down decisions without input from all the stakeholders, the members of the organization may implement them without commitment and belief that they will affect positive change. The organization will be more successful if all members are valued and involved in the decisions on the direction of the community right from the beginning.

A sense of relational trust – linking the notions of respect, competence, personal regard, and integrity with academic achievement – also strengthens the community and makes shared decision-making possible. (Gordon – 2002)

0

Building a Learning Village

First posted in the Winter OnCUE Journal 2011

“Many of our schools are good schools, if only this were 1965.”-Louise Stoll & Dean Fink

The world is changing. Today everyone is connected to each other with information instantly at your fingertips. Everything is changing, that is, except schools. Teachers and administrators are integrating technology by adding interactive whiteboards, instant response clickers, and even 1:1 laptop programs. However, one glance into most classrooms, you would find very little has changed over the past 30 or more years. Education still mainly involves teachers feeding information to students to cover the curriculum in preparation for a standardized test. 21st Century teachers involve everyone in the community in their children’s learning.

Changing the learning environment takes more than adding technology to the mix. It means bringing in the real world, involving the school community, and changing the learning environment so our children have the skills they need to compete in the global economy. Some of the resources we had in our homes 30-40 years ago include:

  • Television without remotes
  • Landline phones
  • Records and maybe 8 track cassettes
  • First personal computers with less than 128K owned by very few
  • No Internet or maybe a select few had email

Today, most children, even those who may be at-risk, have cell phones. Many of these cell phones are Smartphones with the ability to connect to the Internet, text messages, listen to music, and even watch TV and movies. The power of these Smartphones is thousands of times more powerful than what we had with multiple devices 30 years ago.

Culture influences student learning more than even formal learning with easy access to cable television, music, video games, cell phones, movies, and other technology. Before and after school students connect to each other and virtual places that transform them into worlds we have no control over. The classroom can no longer be separated from the real world. Educators need to find ways to make learning relevant and applicable to students’ real world so that they are influenced by intellectual information rather than simply the pop culture of today, which has changed drastically over the past 30 years. [Johnson, B and McElroy, T. 2010]

Authentic Relationships with the Community

Teachers have been and many still prefer working in an isolated environment. The classroom is their domain. The teacher who prefers working in this situation may lack the confidence they need to engage in authentic conversations with parents and others from the community. The classroom door is literally closed to the world. The 21st Century teacher involves everyone in the community that believe in their children and want the best for them. This open and inviting teacher welcomes dialogue, builds authentic relationships with all key members involved, and sees this as an opportunity to develop classroom support for their students and themselves. Authentic relationships are built upon respect between all the members of the school community. Each member has responsibilities in developing and nurturing these relationships. All key individuals are important because of the experiences and abilities they bring to the educational community. It takes everyone in the educational community (the village) to produce an intentional relationship.

Opening up the classroom and inviting the community to be involved with what is happening in the classroom is new for many of our teachers. Even our newest teachers may not have learned these strategies in their teacher education programs. Change is scary. This administrator can build the relationships with the community first by promoting their school and its goals. The administrator can reach out to teachers, leaders, businesses, parents, and other stakeholders to encourage their involvement in designing a shared vision for the school.  Everyone needs to voice their hopes and fears in a risk-free environment. A shared vision gives all stakeholders a sense of ownership and feeling of pride in the outcomes. Asking a business or organization to participate in students’ learning activities may open doors that lead to new doors.

You never know what could present itself if members of the community realize they could help their school. Some ways might include:

  • a plot for a community garden
  • mentors and tutors for the after-school program
  • career day
  • author book talks
  • technology support
  • offering prizes and rewards for events

In turn, students could participate in community service learning projects:

  • reading to young children
  • maintaining the garden
  • teaching technology to seniors
  • being a docent for an exhibit

Bringing Parents on Board

Today’s families have also greatly changed compared to 30-40 years ago. There are extreme pressures on families with the economic concerns and other demands of today’s culture. The number of working moms has doubled from 30 percent in the 1970’s to almost 60 percent today. Just to keep the family together means that Americans work 160 hours more per year than they did 20 years ago. With the economic conditions, some parents are out of work and having difficult times paying their bills.  On top of that, many students live with one parent, a guardian, or two working parents.  Parenting is even more difficult when you consider the gap between parents and their tech savvy children.

The 21st century teacher can initiate new types of relationships with their students’ parents. This teacher contacts each students parents or guardian to learn more about their child, their hopes and dreams for their child, and how they can work together to guide their child to success. They become a team that is a collaborative support system that keeps a close eye on the progress of their child. The school can have an online portal that parents can access to check on homework, grades, and projects. Since face-to-face meetings may not be possible with parents busy schedules, teachers can forge a connection with parents in a virtual environment. Teachers can connect using a variety of tools such as setting up a website or wiki, a newsletter, a contact form, chat, email, IM, Twitter, blogs, and even providing their cell phone number. In this instantly connectability world, parents and teachers do not have to be strangers.

Reference

Johnson, B. and McElroy, T. The Changing Role of the Teacher in the 21st September 2010. Vol. 7. No 9. Teachers.net. Online. Retrieved September 20, 2010. http://teachers.net/gazette/wordpress/dr-brad-johnson-tammy-maxson-mcelroy/changing-role-of-the-teacher/” target=”_blank”>http://teachers.net/gazette/wordpress/dr-brad-johnson-tammy-maxson-mcelroy/changing-role-of-the-teacher/

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Determining Value of Community

Ning is ditching their free service and according to Jon Dale this is a brilliant move. Educators and non-profits are ranting all over the Internet about how this move is going to destroy all the work they have been doing for so long. Just think of all the free networks set up for educators. Ning is going to provide a paid option for educators and non-profits that is supposed to be affordable. Ning has grown so large that their premium users have suffered.

The economy is affecting everyone plus big and small companies including Web 2.0 and social media. Facebook is under attack for its privacy policy. Four senators called on Facebook to stop automatically sharing user information with select websites and to streamline its complex privacy settings.

So what do you think will be happening with Internet companies that focus on education?  They will be setting up more closed communities with or without a free version, more ads on free sites, and user information sold to third parties. It is happening because companies cannot continue offering free access without ongoing and sufficient capital to run their businesses. Venture capital only goes so far. People cost. Servers cost.

Nothing is free. Look at the total cost of ownership and how much you invest into a particular tool or website. Your time needs to be valued. How much time did it take you to create the website, add content, and update your lessons online? Take time to research and plan how you will use social media or an online community. Be aware that the free site you are using may change their revenue model and budget for it. There will still be free sites and applications. Just be aware that those companies may be selling your private information. Nothing’s free.

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Technology's Impact on Learning

Technology may not make the difference in how a student learns. What makes a difference is the learning environment: how the teacher designs learning, and how they use and integrate technology appropriately. In some cases, maybe no technology is appropriate. In-class discussions may work better. Think-Pair-Share where students are looking into each others’ eyes works well and may increase their self-esteem. Maybe going outside or on field trips. However, there are wonderful opportunities for technology where there is no access to valuable resources.

Add video conferencing for a field trip to a museum outside of your school, state or country where your students could talk to the curator. Add web conferencing to connect classrooms in collaborative projects. Add a website to publish interactive projects and links to resources. Technology allows you to connect, share, and learn beyond classroom walls. If used correctly, the technology with multimedia and interactive capabilities, the student can become more engaged in the content and wanting to learn and share.

No matter what the teacher does, it is important to start with the student. I believe that each student can learn. The problem is motivation and engaging students in the learning process. Much of the curriculum is designed around what we believe children should be doing by a specific age. I believe we need to rethink how we learn, when we learn and how the brain works. Having a teacher present content in front of a class with or without technology where we force feed facts into our students is not going to work anymore. Today, students have access to all the facts they need on the internet. The problem is how do they know these are facts, opinions. or lies. Our students need critical thinking skills to determine authority, bias, and credibility of the facts they find.

What if we redesign our learning environments so students can work together and even alone, at school or at home, from anywhere, anytime and at any age. The Internet, social media, and cell phones are changing the way we live, learn, work, and play. When you look at how students are interacting online, they share everything, play games collaboratively and connect with whoever they want. What if…

  • teachers learned how to be the facilitator of their students learning?
  • curriculum designers made up of curriculum specialists, teachers, librarians, and students designed critical thinking strategies that scaffolded what students were learning?
  • students had individual learning plans based on prior knowledge and not their age?
  • classes were composed of people from age who want to learn the content?
  • students would have to provide evidence of learning with artifacts, reflections, videos, audio files, and interviews from peers, teachers, and parents?
  • learning environments could be designed around a concept where you could use multiple places on-site and online?

My 2 year old granddaughter has been using an iPhone since she was 8 months and knows how to call me on Skype. She knows her ABCs and counts to 50. She sings the lyrics to several songs in key. She understands sequences and how things build upon one another. I believe she’s brilliant because I’m her grandmother and she is smart. However, she has parents that work with her and give her opportunities to learn. I believe all children can have this opportunity to learn early, to reshape how they learn. All children have gifts and can reach their fullest potential.

What if we started working with parents when their children are at an early age showing them where they can get the support they need to prepare their children for their future?

Technology will be part of our childrens future because they already have cell phones and access to the internet, no matter if we teach them about technology or not. Even if we continue to ban these technologies, our children will find a way to get access. What if…

  • we designed community learning centers where the entire community was involved with the learning process?
  • our students were also the faclitators and helped other students learn?
  • each learner created their own learning plan based on their learning goals?
  • each learner requested support from different mentors or facilitators based on their goals?

Around the world schools may continue to look like they have for over a hundred years. That’s all we know and continue to build. Yet, if we want our children to reach their fullest potential, we need to redesign learning environments that meet their needs so they have rewarding futures. Putting them in the traditional school environment will give them the same education that we had and the same opportunities that we give our students today. It’s time for all of us to put our heads together to think of new ideas of learning environments for all learners.

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Tips for Building Trust in an Online Community

There usually is one manager of an online community. The manager can be called a community manager, a team manager, or an eCoach. The members of your community will need to trust you to feel safe in your community. Here are seven tips to ensure a trusting relationship with the members of your community.

1. Personalize your Community

Ask your community members to fill out their profile, add a picture, and share information about themselves. Encourage members to introduce themselves right away in the discussion forum. Personalize all communications you have with each member. If you send out automated emails, use a program that includes their first name at the beginning of the message.

Feature different members or projects weekly. If your community is still small, try to keep track of a few of the people a week and promote what they are doing. If your community is large, it is difficult for one manager to select and feature members. Encourage different members manage a welcoming committee so the community builds on its own.

2. Lead by Example

As the community manager, you set the tone of your community. You are the person who your members look to for guidance. You are modeling what you want your members to do for a healthy virtual community. If you nudge your members to participate, pretty soon they will start nudging each other. It is important to welcome your new members by offering advice and pointing to relevant information. What you want to do is promote the purpose and value of your community through your behavior. Hopefully, the purpose and value will rub off on your members and they will follow your example.

3. Be True to Yourself

Be authentic. Don’t try to be someone or something you are not. Your community has figured you out as the leader probably from the time they signed up. They will eventually see through any activities that don’t reflect who you are.  Don’t lie to your members. Don’t tell them that a new feature will be available soon when it will take a lot longer. If you say something that offends a member, and you believe in what you are defending, hold strong in that position you are taking and explain why. You will not be able to please everyone all the time especially if your community scales up fast.

4. Share What You Learn

Every community has a purpose built around a topic. Whether your community is about cooking, digital storytelling, or home schooling, try and learn as much as you can about the topic. Your members will be more willing to trust someone they perceive is helping them make better decisions. Take the time to understand what your community’s personal challenges and issues are, and attempt to address them yourself or encourage others to provide solutions. Investigate what the community might be promoting and share tips and guides on how best to use it. Dish out advice and showcase your most active members that add value to your community.

5. Learn from Mistakes

Even the best of us makes mistakes and online community managers will make mistakes. Always try to correct your mistake if it involves one member or the entire community. Mistakes usually happen because you are overly tired. The problem with being an online community manager is that the community is open 24/7 and it can be difficult to achieve a balanced life.

So you may get some negative feedback which can be a positive thing for an online community. This is where the community manager can respond to the comments which shows respect and that you care about the community. Find your community evangelists and ask them to jump in to the conversations.

6. Be Consistent

Your community will not trust you if you are not consistent in your actions. You need to treat everyone the same and follow the terms of use that you ask everyone to accept. If you present erratic behavior, your members will not feel safe with you. Remember #2 Lead by Example means that if your behavior is erratic, then your members will be confused.

It is real easy to spend more time with one member over another especially if one of the members is an evangelist for your community. However, if you constantly showcase this one member and forget others, you may be accused of favoritism.

7. Let it Go

It’s not a good idea to beg your members to stay in your community, if they just don’t want to be part of your community anymore. There could be a lot of reasons that they want to leave, but, sometimes, it is because they don’t visit that often and belong to too many communities. They may not like another member or the purpose of the community.

If someone wants to leave, do not ignore their request. Remove them from your community, and ask them why they want to be removed so you can determine if this is a problem for others in the community and possibly resolve it.

This post was adapted from Social Media Today: How to Build Trust in an Online Community


Building a trusting online community can take weeks maybe months. Trust is vital to the health of your community. Follow the list above to nurture a positive and open environment. Cross posted on The Environmentalist.