Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Comments on Angela's Blog Entry on Community vs Network

This is a response to Angela's Blog entry on community vs. network, http://byrnesa.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/community-vs-networks/. I'm pasting here what I snipped from Angela's blog which would help me address the specific issues that she raised.

I think wat she wrote (below) is a great reflection of the benefits of having a recording of an online session/webinar.
It seemed that when my concentration went to one, I missed something in the other and thus I ended up watching the session 2 more times, and each time I got something new out of it.  I guess that is the beauty of having the elluminate recordings, we can always go back if we need to.
Recording a webinar and putting it up online after the session to share with others who didn't have the chance to participate synchronously. I, for one, often missed out on a lot of synchronous conferences/discussions mainly because of two reasons, 1) time availability i.e. conflict of schedule usually with other f2f engagements, and 2) time zone differences. I live in Taiwan and that's where I teach too. But I occassionally travel back and forth between Taiwan and Birmingham, UK. I'm in Birmingham now doing my PhD residency, and the time difference makes it impossible for me to participate. You also wrote about listening to the recording many times and each time you learned something new. Would this have been possible if the recording was not available? If the recording was not made public, do you think that the volunteer mentors, like myself, or other educators who are interested in the topic but could not fully commit themselves to the course would be able to understand your blog reflections if we/they didn't have a clue what the recording was about? This is the beauty of open resources. Anyone who needs it can gain access to it. It's free. It's available, and when you and I discuss we aggregate the data; we snipped bits and pieces and react/reflect on them. In the end, we have this mashed up knowledge as a result of accumulated shared ideas.

Another key point  is on 'trust' which you mentioned quite a bit in your blog entry. I think you know by now the difference between a network and a community. A network can be helpful specially if connections with others are continuous and active, but it does not necessarily mean that is a community of practice (CoP). Forming a community takes time to build; it's like a 'village'; you've got to know people. You've got to befriend them, which means that there's a certain level of comfort enough for you to share your views and opinions. You are, honey, is like the new kid on the block. You just moved in, and have not yet adapted to the new place. Give it sometime to grow, get to know people and find common goals (which I think you already found in this group/course). Sharing can sometimes be nervewracking because you just don't know how other people will react. So in a new community, one has to be careful with his/her choice of words. But I believe the most important thing to know when sharing ideas, lessons, etc. is that someone out there will benefit from what you've shared. How many times have you benefitted from what other people have shared online? Sometimes you let them know that you got something out of it, most often not. In my own PhD research, I found that the benefits of online sharing, ementoring, etc. to other EFL teachers outweigh the barriers. Perhaps in your own class project, you'd also discover the same :-)
At the moment, I do not have enough trust in our EC&I 831 community to be comfortable speaking.  Like my classmate, Jamie, I have no problem typing responses in the chat when I have something to say but I am not ready to grab the mic yet, not because, like her, I am shy, but rather because there is not enough trust on my part, yet…  It’s another goal area.
I like this comment in particular i.e. B. Dieu comment. Well for one, I know who you're talking about. Barbara Dieu is a colleague and dear friend- and our friendship grew as a result of our active participation in the Webheads online community of practice. I agree, CoPs are round, and I'm adding my two cents on this. I talked about sharing and learning, but the process for a teacher does not really start there. For me, there's has got to be a need- your own teaching/learning need. You call out for help in your CoP, and see how many people will turn up to offer guide and support. Soon, it'll be their turn to call our for help, but will you be there for them? What I'm saying is, to make a CoP work, the very essence of belonging to a community lies on sharing and helping and calling out for help. That's the continuous process of a CoP's existence.
 I think what made the most sense to me was when Barbara Dieu said that “communities are round and networks are spiky.”  That gave me a visual in my mind, which is important as I am a visual learner.
On Fostering change via a learning community like the ECI,
By doing this, maybe we can foster change within our own lives and effectively be a venue for social change.
I agree, you can foster change. But without trust, your confidence in this group's ability to foster change is not that strong. You need to be an advocate for change, hence an advocate for this learning community. You strongly believe that this network, this community that you belong in works for you, and therefore will work in your teaching community.

On being in a tight-knit closed community,
I think my sense of community would be stronger if the course were closed to only those taking it for credit.   However, I do not want a closed course; I want it to be an open community.
Again, if Alec had chosen to limit participation of non-course takers, I wouldn't be here commenting on your ideas. Perhaps it would be easier to establish a stronger connection with a smaller community- but what you receive and put out  foster stronger bonds among the community members. Your participation, combined with other's active contribution make a stronger CoP. So are you willing to make change happen?

Let me know about your project, I'd like to see how I can help make your ideas come to life :-)

Aiden Yeh/Motherchina

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