It’s a Matter of Community

It’s a Matter of Community

In a recent edition of #FLEdChat (as part of the Diversity & Community focus), the topic was ‘It’s a Matter of Community.’ I will be reflecting back on these questions to highlight poignant responses made in the chat as well as offer my own perspectives.

Q1: It truly is a matter of community tonight. Community is not just a place but also a thing. It doesn’t magically build itself. We, the people must build it. What would you call community?

When I think about community, I consider both the location of events as well as the active interaction of individuals with similar or different perspectives. We all live in residential communities of some kind, however that doesn’t mean that we all experience ‘community.’ For the purpose of this writing, we will focus on the experience of community.

Corey said: “Community is events like edcamps and EdTech meet ups and edchats like this as well as conferences where our community all gets together!

Tammy Neil said “Community is the coming together of a variety of people with a variety of opinions for a common purpose or reason.

Doug Konopelko stated: “Community – a group of people gathered on common ground, albeit physical or otherwise.”

The latter definition includes all of the Twitter chats, Google Hangouts, meetings on Skype and Zoom, podcasting, basically all of the things that phenomenal educators do in virtual spaces or outside-of-school spaces like Edcamps. While I do believe that some community could be connected to the school in which we work, I have experienced a much greater benefit from the aforementioned spaces.

Casey Swift said: “Community is bringing in people from around town to talk to the kids, build relationships, improve school climate and ensure the culture is represented.

Q2: Building community may be accomplished by asking questions and being an active listener. These are essential skills for learning. How can we both practice this ourselves as well as model and teach our students to practice these skills?

Nathan S. stated: ‘This year I am really focusing on the idea of “Less of me is more of them.” Forces students to be the driver and me to be a better listener that pushes me to be a better question-asker.’

Q3:  “In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.” – Marianne Williamson Thinking about the education community, what is one thing you believe needs to change (or continue) and how might we work to bring it to pass?

Tammy interjected: “Even when there seems to be a lack of diversity, there is still a diversity of experiences.”

I wonder how we can expand our view of diversity so that we can dig deeper into experiences and draw from that well. How timely of her to do so as well because truly, what we may perceive as diversity, may only be the tip of the iceberg, or the most obvious sign of diversity. I think we should be careful though not to limit our views of diversity to what we see, therefore understanding too that what may NOT look like diversity, may very well be. It is the idea of diversity that helps us to establish community. I also like what Tammy said here:

A3: “Respect for a variety of opinions. Too many times communities become echo chambers and only allow similar views.”

While there is certainly nothing wrong with agreement, it is okay to disagree and as we practice that ourselves, how much more can we model how to respectfully disagree to our students? The reality is that they won’t always agree, however there is a way to show them how disagreement can still add value to a conversation. The conversation continued with time and lack of empathy being identified as limitations; we should “seek first to understand.”

Q4: What are the big challenges to building community?

Do barriers exist? Have we put up walls, physical or otherwise? The truth is that walls exist and act as ways to keep people away from people and while building community doesn’t mean sharing your whole life story with everyone, it certainly precludes progress, when the established walls don’t allow for the interaction necessary for community. Mentoring is a way to engage with students and make them feel like they are a valuable part of the school community as well as reinforce the value of relationships and how much they add to one’s life.

Q5: Finish this statement with your thinking, To me a community __________________ because _______________________.

To me, a community grows because of passion and focus. (Doug)

To me, a community looks for opportunities because there isn’t just one way. (Dene)

Q6: Do you have a stellar example of community to share? What are the characteristics of the community and what might we learn from them as we work to build community where we are?

Communities like #FLEdChat, #CleartheAir, #AllYallEDU, #AuthenticEDU and #FCITL Were among those communities mentioned.

Q7: “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much” – Helen Keller What is one thing you would like to do with another class, another educator, etc. that might bring to life Helen Keller’s words? How can we fulfill these words?

Isn’t it wonderful that amazing platforms exist that support education? These platforms help make the world a bit more reachable. They also allow our students to see that they are a valuable part of it, each having a unique part of offer. Flipgrid helps students establish their voice and inspire others through audiovisual activities, connecting classrooms all around the globe. Most recently, I was able to connect my classroom to a classroom in New York for reflections on a student EdCamp that our classes both completed. Students met students and developed conversations on the topics of the Edcamps, each being completely different. Students are excited to jump on and interact! Flipgrid made the space for learning to happen, of which students won’t forget.

Buncee is a student creation platform, inspiring them to take on creative projects with which to introduce a topic, represent a topic visually or demonstrate their understanding of a topic. This multi-modal platform has inspired many of my own students to take initiative by developing their own ideas into visual masterpieces. You don’t have to ask students to jump on Buncee; they log on at their leisure, at the ready.

Belouga is a beauty of a platform that I have had the honor of not only introducing to students but having them utilize the platform to connect and learn with other students from areas across the globe. Not only does it make the world a bit more reachable for students, they understand just how big the world is, observing the diversity and differences in ways of life of different groups of people. They are inspired to serve, become philanthropists and give something to help others in different spaces achieve the learning that is necessary for students. Belouga is a brilliant way to motivate and engage students, while at the same time, having their work benefit students and schools in other countries. Check out “From Problem to Solution: Designing a Social Campaign.”

Book Creator is essentially what it says, the ability to create e-books. It is a great place to inspire students to be writers in a space dedicated to just that, writing. You bring in those audio or visual components as necessary but why not inspire students to write in electronic form and see something through from beginning to end?

Fresh Grade is a digital platform dedicated to documenting student learning and giving them the chance to demonstrate learning in multiple ways. Students, parents and teachers all have access to the platform and one of the greatest benefits was the development of community. All three parties can dialogue on the platform in a personalized student space that only the three of us can see. It can be likened to a student version of Facebook, with only three people having access to it. You can report academic progress made using multiple scales of measurement, perhaps a different one for each task. Students can self-reflect. Above all though, parents feel like a part of the learning and students are accountable and reflective learners. It does a lot for them when they can see that someone responds to them and they care about forward progress.

Community is not just a place, but a thing. A thing that is developed and cultivated. When community exists, then we understand the relevance of everyone and the roles that other people play, even in our own lives.