This month, I have been making a conscious effort to write about connecting.
This week, I have found three posts that have encouraged me to think about I connect.
I saw a number of links to Bill Johnston’s Attributes of Thriving Online Communities and was pleased I followed up on them. Bill shares these characteristics of a thriving community.
I like the way the list flows from value to growth and responsiveness. I see elegant experience as a key to the thriving of communities.
Bill’s list took me back to Etienne Wenger, Nancy White and John Smith’s (2009) approach to connecting. They suggest that learning “always involves who we are, what we do, who we seek to connect with, and what we aspire to become.”
My experience of CCK08 transformed my connecting practices and aspirations. The second post this week that helped me think about connecting was Stephen Downes’ news of an interview with The Times Higher Education Supplement about Massive Open Online Courses. Stephen shared his transcript of the interview. It includes this observation:
Thousands of people have been working for many years toward free and open learning, and we’ve done so out of the conviction that it makes sense not just from the perspective of social justice but also from the perspective of public economics.
MOOCs are the first step in something much more interesting. Once we take seriously the idea that learning – even higher learning – ought to be open to all, we are led to rethink much of the traditional mechanisms of education, and begin to think of means of extending it from the traditional classroom to all aspects of life. Learning becomes in the future something much like the written language is today, a powerful means of personal advancement and individual fulfillment.
Bill and Stephen’s posts positioned me to appreciate the third post that linked to connecting this week.
That being said, I have also learned that there are many ways that people connect (I have no idea how to use Google+ the way that I know how to use Twitter), and that people are on different timelines in their learning. That has to be respected. As everything, this journey to get people “connected” should be differentiated, but it can be dangerous when we use it as an adjective as opposed to a verb.
I hope my October posts are examples of a verb. I take George’s point that isolation is a choice that educators now make.
I do think connecting is fallible, emergent and daunting. Each of us makes sometimes informed and sometimes opportunistic decisions about
Bill’s elegance, Stephen’s openness and George’s differentiation are excellent supports for anyone thinking about connecting.
Young couple looking at a traveling map in a convertible car (Biblio Archives, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)