A blog entry from Nancy at Random Thoughts forces me to ask, What is community? Defining a community, going on a process to become a community has been on several people’s minds.
As a Catholic, I was taught by our youth minister that the power of personal salvation was not enough. In fact, that it didn’t matter if you achieved salvation for yourself if the people around you were left out. The revelatory power of the Holy Spirit comes to us as individuals, but must find expression in the community for the individual to understand. That lesson stuck with me. How does it apply to edublogging?
Doug Belshaw writes about the conversation that captured his imagination, but then, over time, the focus shifted from THE conversation to the power of the network, the tools that bind us together:
…education must adapt to the 21st century or suffer the consequences. There were fantastic conversations to follow across these blogs…The edublogosphere seems to be overrun by educators who know the what but not the why. They’re impressed by those who can ‘leverage the power of the network’. This means, in practice, seeing how many people following you on Twitter respond to a shout out for information/hello’s whilst you move out of the classroom and into a consultancy role.
Source: Doug Belshaw
Bud Hunt responds, quite simply, that There isn’t one “edublogosphere.” Never has been and never will be. Nancy writes in response to these ideas:
I think that there is possibly a community of those “A-List” edubloggers whom everyone wants to read. Or most everyone, anyway. But there is no way I will ever be part of that community. I don’t even want to be part of that community, really. I am interested in what I am interested in. I read what I want to read where I want to read i…Blogging, for me, is as much about reflection as it is about exchanging ideas. I will stay here, read the blogs I read and add a few more from time to time and be happy. If I am not part of the “community”, that’s OK. I am doing this for me.
Again, there is a perception that the edublogosphere isn’t a community, or that such a community, if it exists, isn’t worthy of existing if it’s focus is going to change. This disillusionment is natural.
Scott Peck, one of my favorite authors, writes about community in The Different Drum. I’ll admit that it wasn’t one of my favorite books at the time I read it…which was about at least 18 years ago, if not more than that. I guess I need to go re-read it.
Something he said about the journey communities go on is important to remember. He says that folks think of community as something that is visionary, and unattainable…but that in fact, it IS attainable. The question for us, as bloggers, is, How do we bring this about in our online environments?
Peck wrote that a group that strives for community has to go on a journey. That journey has 4 stages and they include (source):
- pseudocommunity – where niceness reigns
- chaos – when the emotional skeletons crawl out of the close
- emptiness – a time of quiet and transition; and finally,
- true community – marked both by deep honesty and deep caring.
As I reflect on the years that have gone by, I’d say we’re somewhere at the end of pseudocommunity in the “edublogosphere.” Everyone has been nice to most everybody else, but we’re about to descend into chaos. Folks aren’t going to play along with what the A-Listers are saying anymore…after all, they have their own thoughts and motivations, and those motivations don’t necessarily include education, but rather, making money as consultants.
Peck goes on to say–and pay attention because this SHOULD be revelatory to us as bloggers–the following:
We consider community to be a group of people that have made a commitment to learn how to communicate with each other at an ever more deep and authentic level. One of the characteristics of true community is that the group secrets, whatever they are, become known – they come out to where they can be dealt with.
What a wonderful way of characterizing community. Folks, we are learning how to communicate with each other at a deeper level. Learning the Web 2.0 tools, tools that enable us to communicate with each other at a deeper level in a virtual, online environment, ARE exactly what we are supposed to be doing. Like it or not, we are all on a journey together, learning the new tools–Twitter, Diigo, whatever is next–moving toward a gestalt of knowing how to connect more deeply and authentically with each other.
The group secrets that we have are the very secrets we’ve kept from each other about ourselves as individuals. When Nancy shares that I am doing this for me, the authenticity resonates. Yes, I am doing this for me yet we cannot stop there. We have to keep moving forward on the road to community.
So far, we’ve substituted conversations about change and actual efforts for a commitment to enact change. When I read what Bud has to say, I get the impression that there is no purpose to blogging. But, that can’t be true. And, it’s not enough to be like Nancy and I who are doing this for me, although that’s powerful…because, after a while, that reason isn’t enough to keep blogging. It’s where I’m at now.
What we have to decide on is simple…what is our purpose for being here, online? Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach explores this question beautifully in her blog entry, 9 Principles for Implementation: The Big Shift.
Real change, transformational change happens when there is personal ownership of the new technologies and concepts…leaders must do more than talk a good game. They themselves must embrace the new approaches first, both to challenge and to motivate the rest of the faculty. They develop their own online voice and model the desired behaviors.
Teachers and leaders who champion the change need to be able to articulate why and what they believe, as well as why it is in the best interest of children.
Of course, the problem isn’t just articulating this…it’s doing it. I do believe that if we are willing to struggle and build a community, that we commit to a purpose, that we are willing to be leaders and learn how to get it done online, we can bring about lasting change.
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