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Tag: trust

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Driving My Way

Driving Stick ShiftI like to drive. I guess I like the control and know how I drive. I also drive a manual (stick) and love it. I was driving this morning to get to an appointment and realized that there were many cars with only one person (the driver) in the car.  The system rewards you if you carpool, but many of us don’t want to give up control to others especially strangers. I think I might have been one of very few driving a stick. At one point, I was cornered between a large truck and a slow car. I know you can do this with turbo-charged automatic cars, but I was able to downshift and maneuver to another lane easily. I did it safely and made it without causing any problems. Now if I had a passenger with me, they might have lost a little faith in me if I maneuvered like this without explaining what I was doing.

Now why am I saying this? and what does this mean in reference to learning?

When you allow someone else to drive, you are putting your faith in that person that they are a good driver and will protect you. It’s about trust. It is the same thing when you are a passenger on a plane. You trust the pilot to get you to your destination. And the airline will probably not let you fly the plane — :o

Trust is a big part of letting go. As a teacher, you are like driving the car and flying the plane. Your students trust you to get them to their destination — their learning goals or targets or whatever you are required to do.

“I remember sitting in one of my graduate class realizing that I already took the class with a different title. The notes were the same, the required text was the same, the professor was the same — that is, except the title of the course. I raised my hand and asked the professor if this could be the same course we took several quarters ago. He emphatically said “NO!! and please follow the lecture.”

That moment was the turning point for me as an educator and why I wanted to find ways to make learning personal. I quit that masters program and signed up for another. They were all the same. As a professional developer with a little background in coaching and building communities, I was required to take a course on coaching from someone I had coached. The system just wasn’t working for me. If it wasn’t working for me, then maybe it wasn’t working for many others.

What about the classroom today. The teacher is driving and responsible for all the learners in their classroom. They are given the manual and told what to teach. Let’s look at the learner today. They know how to drive their learning. They had to take control or they wouldn’t have walked or talked. They had to take the first step and fall and then get up again. Their parents couldn’t do it for them. The same with every word they learned.  If you get a chance to watch this Ted Talk from Deb Roy about the Birth of a Word, you get it. We are the observers.

His child would eventually learn how to say “water” his way. Why and when did we think we could teach everyone the same thing at the same time? Why is it that someone who can demonstrate mastery of a skill is required to learn that skill or content over again?

Times are changing. Put yourself in the passenger seat of someone’s car that you are not sure how they drive. Do you trust them? Put yourself in a class where you are learning content you already know and the teacher is driving the instruction. Now how do you feel?

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?

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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.