I spent most of yesterday online with educators, exploring the meaning of community. Several hours were spent in Elluminate as part of Powerful Learning Practice‘s ongoing professional development program. From there, I moved to Second Life for VSTE’s weekly meeting where we explored educational groups. We ended the evening with a snowball fight and, as you can see from the picture below, I dressed for the occasion. (Always wanted to have wings!)
I just felt energized the whole day, having access to all these fellow travelers without having to leave my house! We shared both professional and personally; we learned; we had fun. It was the kind of experience I would wish for learners of all ages.
Besides being reminded of the power of online community, I learned some specific content. I was introduced to Google notebook, a tool I had not explored before. I installed it and was eager to try it out this morning. So, I logged into Twitter, knowing that someone would have a link to a good article to read. Twitter has increasingly become a big part of my virtual learning community in a way that I could not have imagined when I first joined. I was not disappointed this morning as Will Richardson had posted a link to a New Yorker article on teacher quality from Malcolm Gladwell. My primary job right now is working with pre-service teachers and identifying good teachers is always a concern.
I read the article and, as Will suggested, skimmed the football stuff. When I got to the first paragraph that was really about education, I discovered that it had already been highlighted by someone else, using Diigo. I moused over to read the comment and discovered it had been made by Michael Scott, who I had just seen last week in Roanoke and who is a member of the VSTE Ning. I took a break from reading to add Michael as a friend in Diigo. The next highlight and comment came from Clay Burrell, a fellow Twitterer whose blog, Beyond School, is always thought provoking. All I could think of is what a small world it was since, according to the Internet World Stats, there are nearly 1.5 billion people online these days.
I think the lesson here is that online is a real community, as real as the face to face community I enjoyed at last week’s conference in Roanoke. It’s something my non-networked friends just don’t understand. And it isn’t something that happened overnight either. But it is part of my life now, and as I sit at my desk working alone from home on a rainy day, I feel the presence of that community. Thanks to you all!