We had a fruitful faculty brown bag lunch conversation today. The topic was Building Connections and Communities through the Web. Ten folks present locally, and since Jeff Nugent was using UStream, another crowd actively joined via the internet.
I used these slides to guide the conversation:
My framing questions revolved around (1) “What is a community?”, (2) “Does building community enhance student learning?’, and (3) “What web tools can now be used to build connections and community?”. I used three vignettes to illustrate my thoughts on social media and connections. First, my many connections with Gabriela Grosseck through College 2.0, delicious, Google Reader, our blogs, Slideshare, and Facebook, all of which have informed my own teaching and learning. Second, the viral reach of Slideshare for one of my presentations from last year. And finally, a Twitter shoutout by Will Richardson earlier this week and the resultant comments tweeted by others. These all illustrated connections, but I asked the participants to reflect on how one gets from connections to community (and the image below evolved out of a sketch Jeff made on the back of a notepad):
One participant said that social media to her was like visiting the SPCA. She could not go in and choose one dog. All dogs were lovable, all dogs needed to be adopted, and she would leave crying and unfulfilled. When I suggested that maybe she needed to just rent a dog this week and a different dog next week, she said, that would be like timesharing dogs – an unworkable solution!
The conversation that resulted was rich and nuanced. It flowed from professional versus personal digital identities, issues of privacy, student misunderstandings on their own digital identity, and time management regarding the tools. Jeff made an excellent point of differentiating users of social media between broadcasters and instructional. Broadcasters have to be present in multiple applications and visibly engaged in multiple applications. Instructional uses suggest more nuanced approaches with clear boundaries. Bud Deihl illustrated how “conversations” could start in one application and spill over into other applications, such as his networking with his fellow graduate students through LinkedIn.
There was some concern about how we as educators advise our younger students when we are just trying to figure out the – as Michael Wesch calls it – mediascape ourselves. Conversations like we had today are one way – and commenting via blogs is another. I would be interested in the thoughts of my readers on how you visualize using the Read/Write web to build connections and community, both professionally for yourself and instructionally for your students.
Of course, one benefit from today’s session was that I did pick up several new “friends” in Facebook! 🙂
ps – One unrelated and yet relevant event today. I posted the above powerpoint in Slideshare last night so that I could embed it in our wiki and here in this blog. Overnight, I got an email from Slideshare noting that the editorial team had selected it to be showcased on their Education page. I also got tweeted by Gabriela saying that she had seen it there, Another example of connections and community.