The wheels in my head started spinning this week while watching a 7th grade science student present her personal learning environment. Take a couple minutes and watch this impressive video!

I was really quite impressed with this students ability to organize information and take control of her learning. This personal learning environment is a fairly new idea and concept to me and I’m making note of it as something to research further, but throughout EC&I 832 and all of our discussions about online media the one positive that always stands out to me as being above all else is COMMUNITY. The communities that can exist in the online world are really where the power of digital learning lies in my mind. Before the connectivity of the internet, we were bound to our very small and local community, but now we have the ability to be a part of many communities, and communities of our choosing.

I watched a video at the beginning of this semester. It was a Ted Talk by John Green. John is a big proponent of being a part of a community of learners. He discusses how going through high school and university and belonging to a community of learners really changed his outlook on learning (which was previously not very good) and how when he eventually left the academic world and found himself without a community of learners, how terrible it was. The internet then opened up the ability for him and others to find communities to be a part of online and how incredible it was to have this sense of community again.

This video really seemed to fundamentally change my view of how I want my classes to run. I want to create a better sense of community in my classroom and to be a community of learners where we are all pushing each other to further our understanding of the world. So when I watched the 7th graders demonstration of her personal learning community, I think there’s some great things going on there, but what I really liked about the personal learning community was the inclusion of community. It was a collection of the communities that this student belonged to. How powerful was that to be able to communicate with actual scientists in the fields of study that the students were wanting to get their sources of information verified? The rule of three is all fine and dandy, but teaching kids to go right to the experts to check their information is amazing!

I can’t believe that I never valued community before as much as I do right now. John Green (@johngreen) and his brother Hank (@hankgreen) are excellent community builders in the online world and my classes frequently watch their videos about all topics. I am finding myself wanting to find those communities of like minded individuals so that I can continue to grow further as well. So while pumping gas yesterday I was thinking about community and how to build that sense of my classes being ‘a community of learners’ and I think ultimately our destination is to network with others in the online spaces, but I want to start small and to focus on the people inside the walls of my classroom. We always feel that we have so much that we want to teach students (and we do), and so we oftentimes move through material quickly and at what expense? I would rather my students exhibit mastery of less than mediocrity of more, especially if the mastery is of the core concepts that really drive other topics. I think I will start making more time in my class for students to get into small groups and simply reflect and discuss on the things that we have already learned that year. The key to remembering is to frequently recall, yet we seldom provide those opportunities. I want my students to care about each others learning and help each other out and to ultimately feel like a community who values learning and wants to know more.

How do you build community in your classes??

Live long and prosper.