This has been a very interesting year for Community 2.0. Looking back, I think the absolute most important element we have developed (or allowed to emerge) is access to one another’s classes. Seriously--how cool is it that I can see Ari's student work on food art (below) and realize that both Ximena and I have our students cooking this week as well! Ximena's sample is HERE. One of my students is HERE.
In the past when talking about teaching with colleagues I can remember saying things like “Yeah, I use the ‘Allegory of the Cave’ in ENG099” and it would pretty much stop there unless I was actively developing a full-blown Learning Community as I did with John Chaffee—and that takes a lot of time to work out a theme, align syllabi, coordinate assignments, and so on. With Community 2.0, however, I feel like I am really seeing the participants in action and can see, for example, how Luke uses Plato and compare it to how I do.
Even more, I can have my students look, for example, at how Michelle and Ximena teach the poem “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain” and enter into the meta-discussion with us about what the different approaches mean. What does it mean that my class focuses on symbolism? Why might Drs. Gallardo and Pacht choose to have their classes focus on poetics (form, rhyme, tone, and etc.)? Why would we need to compose a Claim or Thesis to discuss a poem? The students found this connective activity fascinating and many of my students began to “lurk” in Ximena’s class to see what they were doing and sometimes asked me questions about why we did things differently.
Outside the formally organized Learning Communities, it almost never occurred to me to “do something with another class” or to have my own classes interact in any meaningful way. Each class was its own little monad with its own personality and quirks: a “good class,” a “slacker class,” a “funny class,” and so on. Now I feel more like I have a cohort of students at varying levels rather than “classes”.
Another thing that has emerged for me this year is a more formalized, or structured, way of thinking about the different types of online connections. I am not sure if the following are “models” or “modes” as they all might overlap.
Single Contact Mode: One-time connection activity, sometimes fairly spontaneous.
Linkages Mode: Courses linked together: both literally with web-links and figuratively by theme.
Shared Spaces Mode: Different classes share the same web-space.
Learning Community Mode: Courses fully interconnected.
Mentoring Mode: Upper-level students work with lower-level students.
Which brings me to my final comment: we need a vocabulary! It is really hard to describe what we are doing or trying to do to anyone who has not experienced it.