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Posts Tagged ‘community

I focused on the word “community” when I read the tweet below.

I reflected on how the word if often cited but rarely understood. I am all for the practice of having communities to drive conversation and learning. I am not for misusing the term or empty rhetoric.

I know what the tweet is getting at — the energy and the positivity that people can get from one another. However, having “community” does not automatically result in something positive. Racism is driven by community.

Pokèmon Go is not driven by a single community. Every country has communities of players. Three years into the game, there are small but positive communities of fans with deep knowledge and trainers who play with family.

Over that same time, and in Singapore in particular, are communities of spoofers and shavers, selfish and territorial players, the ignorant but loud, etc.

Lest I sound judgmental, one need only play the game casually and interact with others for a while to anecdotally find these communities.

Such communities are face-to-face and in Facebook. There is some policing and moderating online, but it hard to hide ugly behaviour in person.

This is not to say that there are no nice people. There are, but they can be hard to find or do not last long. The “community” mentioned in the tweet were ardent players who were selected for and had the means to make it to the event.

My point is that using “community” ignores that there is more than one group. Groups of PoGo players are heterogeneous. Painting all with a broad stroke called “community” does not cover all the cracks or imperfections in the wall.

…is for commitment. But if someone felt the need to redefine it, PLCs are not going the way they should.

PLCs, or professional learning circles/communities, gained ground after formal and organised professional development for teachers somehow got a bad reputation.

That reputation seemed to be linked to training that was devoid of context, standardised exercises that were not meaningful to participants, or sessions that were just too technical.

But it looks like some PLCs are suffering from similar problems. When gatherings become meetings for their own sake instead of focusing on teacher development needs, the tweeted reminder comes as no surprise.

PLCs need commitment at the individual level first, not at the group. The meetings tend to be about the group, administrative needs, or how things are normally run.

Professional learning is about the individual first. That is where the commitment starts because it stems from the need to change for the better.

How that commitment manifests varies with the individual. Even though I am not part of any organisation, I have developed the discipline of reading, watching, and/or listening to learn something every day. Then I make myself write in this blog whether or not I am ready or want to. This is my PLC; it is my personal learning commitment.

Today I draw three lessons from a photo sharing incident that bugged me.

I might have been a photographer in another life. Photography was a passion of mine as a teenager and I would save my allowance to buy rolls of film and to get them developed. I was even saving up to build my own darkroom to develop negatives.

But that was long ago and a technology far, far away. The point is I was an amateur photographer. I even managed to sell a few photos when I was studying overseas.

Now taking photos is an itch I scratch every time I travel.

Late last year I visited Georgetown, Penang, which is a city in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. I took lots of photos, and as I had just started using Instagram, shared a few on that platform.

One photo that took a while for me to set up was this one.

So imagine my dismay when I spotted this in a feed that was not mine.

You can tell that it had been enhanced a little, probably with an Instagram edit. However, the positioning of the items, the stain near the teapot, and the imperfections on the tray show that the original photo was mine.

I wrote to them to say that the photo looked familiar. This was their reply and my response.

What are some lessons from this incident?

I am all for open educational resources and I champion Creative Commons (CC) licensing. However, my photo was not shared under CC in Instagram. The hotel that used my photo did not 1) ask for permission, 2) receive my permission, and 3) acknowledge me. Kids need to be taught how to navigate traditional copyright and CC waters if they are not to make the same mistakes.

Another lesson is the importance of putting your ideas online. While this gives others the opportunity to borrow or steal, the pros of increased reach and feedback far outweigh the cons. Putting them online with date and time-stamping also allows you to say who was first.

Yet another lesson is monitoring your portfolio of work. In this case, I had simply followed that hotel on Instagram. The same principle and strategy applies in professional work. If you are part of a community of workers or interest partners, you know who is who and who is doing what. You cannot say you are part of a community and not know what is going on. You should know or someone will let you know.

There are two things I like about Twitter: Meeting new tweeps (Twitter people) and meeting tweeps in person for the first time.

Here is a conversation that I had with someone new. I started by sharing a blog entry by Lisa Lane.

I think that the strategy that @audreac has is one way to go. Serendipitously, @serenacheong shared an ERIC article on teacher communities:

That said, it is worth noting that the model presented in the paper is descriptive and not prescriptive.

So here is my diagnosis and early prescription. While some old community rules and practices might apply, not all will. If you are in a new place with a new culture, you learn the new rules or shape them as they emerge. It is an opportunity to try something new instead of falling back on old practices. New school, new rules.

BTW, I used Hootsuite to capture the conversation as the new Twitter is terrible at it. At the moment it is only good for highlighting single tweets.

I had an interesting conversation with a group from the Academy of Singapore Teachers yesterday. The group met me to find out my thoughts on the fuzzy topic of e-learning.

As usual, it was an opportunity to consolidate my own beliefs and convictions on e-learning. As usual, I think I learnt as much as I shared.

We uncovered a fair bit of ground, but two tangential questions that I thought were interesting were:

  • How did you develop your online identity?
  • How might an online community sustain itself?

I answered the first question in the context of my Twitter identity or Twidentity as I like to call it. I went through these stages:

  • Toying or trying: Figuring out how to use Twitter and whether it suited me
  • Connecting: Following people that were of interest to me, e.g., other educators and administrators
  • Sharing: Contributing links to resources that were important to me and might be important to those following me
  • Re-connecting: Re-evaluating who to follow, culling followers who were not following the correct @ashley, meeting face-to-face the people I met on Twitter
  • Contributing: As a voice in a real community linked by the hashtag #edsg thanks to the efforts of @tucksoon and @shamsensei.

My Twidentity is nowhere complete. It is still being formed as I learn and interact with the folks I know and meet.

How does a community like #edsg sustain itself? I think that it does so generously and selfishly.

The unit of any community is the individual. The individual needs to make himself or herself valuable or risk being marginalized.

Some online members just lurk, but those that do are not particularly useful. They might add to the quantity of the community but do little to its quality. So a community might sustain itself simply because the individuals need to “selfishly” keep themselves and the community going.

This collective “selfishness” becomes a generous act because the whole community benefits from what might stem from selfish sharing.

This semester I am trying something a bit different.

Every academic group in NIE has an e-champion to represent their group at meetings. I have two issues with this practice. One, the e-champions may be appointed and therefore not necessarily willing participants. Two, the meetings in the past have been largely administrative or serve to disseminate information.

What I would like to do instead is build and maintain a support group of innovative teacher educators who want to meet to share ideas and discuss issues. Meetings once a month or every two months is not enough. But trying to schedule more regular meetings is difficult when everyone has schedules to keep.

So I have opted to meet informally over lunch and tea with the appointed e-champions and any other teaching staff who are excited about integrating ICT. My plan is to start with informal meals and deals every fortnight. The participants are free to attend or not.

I hope that the gathering of like-minded folks will not only provide support but also fertile ground for ideas to be seeded, nurtured and enjoyed. If necessary, we can extend our conversations to an online space so that we are not constrained by time.

This attempt at community building is not going to be easy, of course. It might just fall flat and I might fail at this attempt. But I am going to try and I am certainly going to learn from the process. I have already had one tea session and the insights I gained from just one e-champion were priceless!


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