Online Communities & Community Building Strategies – 521

I joined two online communities this week. After reading about creating an online community, I did not want to wait until I graduated to affect a change. As Key Spouse, I am trying to reach other spouses, particularly younger ones, to engage in our organization. As a result, I created my first page on Facebook outside my own personal Facebook page. Due to the nature of a military base and the possibilities of security breaches, the page has a small viewing audience. People can see it but they must ask to join or be asked. If the constraint from the Squadron Commander was not there, I think we could network more globally as I do on other military spouse networks. We are up to five members and still growing, albeit slowly. With over seventy service members, I hope it continues to grow. It should serve as another means of communicating and hopefully build a feeling of community online.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/149288171948417/

I also joined EducatorsConnect. I selected it because it had a social feel and yet offered the opportunity to read and react to other educators in varied fields. I have identified myself as a 9-12 teacher and have established contacts with educators in the 6-8 realm as well as college professors teaching English and Composition. It is interesting to communicate with current teachers both above and below the grades I teach. I have read many blogs from others on this site and find many issues familiar and some new. I like the communication (questions and answers) and even like reading the conversations of others that are visible through posts. It has a feel of Facebook; but the subject matter is relevant to me as opposed to rants about Starbucks or the loud neighbor next door.

http://www.educatorsconnect.com/members/home

The building of community is about listening as much as talking. Offering forums supports students so they feel comfortable learning with others. Challenges are easier to take when you feel like you are not alone. I remember a student I had in Advanced Composition in 1988. Faculty warned me about him. He walked in the room with a bandana, a leather jacket with spikes on it, black jump boots, and jeans with chains all over. I did not react. I called on him expecting him to be prepared. We had a great relationship. I found him to be brilliant in all facets of the class. He did not speak on each and every topic. Yet, when it did, it was always worth the wait. At the end of the year, a stellar one for him, he stopped me and said, “You are the only one to see past what I wore. I always thought from day 1 that you saw me.” Dr. Rice, you practice what you preach in your book. I am connected to this class. I feel that if I apply what I am learning, I can still be THAT teacher online to a new kid in a different outfit, helping establish a place where he can be comfortable in his own skin.

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Digital Inequality Assignment

Our group used many tools and technologies as we collaborated on this project. I enjoyed using Google Chat both video and text and Google docs to allow active communication with cohorts around the globe. We used Screenshare to show each other tools and how to accomplish tasks on the Google Presentation document and other tasks. One of my partners made a survey through Google Docs which allowed us to vote independent of each other and yet explore our results and our candid feedback on each option. I became quite comfortable with Zotero as I used it from the very beginning of this assignment. I wanted to keep tabs on the varying sites and be able to offer them quickly when we arrived at the assembly point. I became better through failure, though, as more than once I cleared my screen and had trouble locating documents I had previously retrieved. We also used mobile devices for texting and talking. WordPress, YouTube and Scribd were also used.

Working with peers is always challenging. Adding large time differentials, plus life events that all are experiencing make small obstacles larger. Time is a precious commodity and setting earlier time lines would always enhance a project. The Chinese government put additional strains on our group limiting Lydia’s access and searches throughout our research experience.

I think it pertinent to think how I might use what I have learned if given the opportunity to explore this at my next school. Regardless of the questions or research, you can utilize research teams to present findings to larger groups to help with problem solving on campus and in the classroom. Moving from that, you can also use small groups to work together on research projects within the curriculum or cross curriculum. Focusing specifically on the question of Digital Inequality, one can research the specifics that exist or obstruct Digital Inclusion on-campus with faculty, students and parents

My previous teaching experiences taught me that what is ethical and appropriate in one home is not in another. Just because I see great future in technology and the role it can play in a business, classroom or household does not mean everyone I contact will share those values. In the book Social, Ethical and Policy Implications of Information Technology (Brennan & Johnson, 2004) Disbenefits (sic) of Access are discussed at length. Are we reducing face-to-face interaction while touting sitting behind a screen for longer periods of time? Are people who work in skilled labor jobs really worse off for not accessing various sites online? When trying to research a community, sensitivity must be used by the researchers not to assume that with technology every life of every member of the community is going to be magically better. Flights can still be purchased off-line and business and personal transactions can still occur without the Information Superhighway running through one’s living room. The researcher must not judge those in the community and make assumptions. More importantly, the information gained in research must be respected and handled with care. Again, this is to protect those in the survey from feeling judged for their level of use of ICTs.

We used many integrated technologies in our project from animated slides in our presentation to embedding You Tube video to share concepts of inclusion. While building the project we utilized many different devices to coordinate and gather our research so I certainly see the alignment with 2.4 Integrated Technologies. Regarding 3.2 Diffusion of Innovations, once we made our decisions as to the order of alternatives, all our research and action went to addressing those items so the stakeholders would indeed accept, approve and act on our recommendations. All of our research focused on the 3.4 Policies and Regulations of the state of Idaho. We certainly wanted our project to have that validity. We attempted 4.2 Resource Management, though in the end, I am not sure how successful that went for us. That would require every hand on every oar. Those on deck rowed well.

We would have benefited from Backwards Planning (an old Army technique) where one looks at where you want to be and when you want to be there. You work backwards from there to determine needs, and available time to plan, rehearse, correct, rehearse again, and then,  execute violently. But this is not the military and I have been in the civilian sector far longer than I was ever in service. Peer-group projects work well when all are focused on the common goal and common values are shared. I learned a great deal through this assignment, both about human dynamics and the specifics of Digital Inequality. Wanting to put this project into action at some point, the lessons learned will help keep me grounded as I move forward.

Please see the link below for our sources:

https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1jzQHeNGPRm86mAOymZhzTLNAaNIUADlVuyWaJ9UqL0o