Sunday, January 6, 2008

Community Learning in a New Year

A fresh start is never more than a number of weeks away if you work in a teaching & learning environment. A new school year, a new term, a new teacher... or in the case of tomorrow morning, the first day of school in the global 'New Year'. Over the holiday break, I had the opportunity to experience both good fortune and tragedy, but is was the latter that helped me to see this 2008 new year through new eyes.

The Kids are Alright. They may experience community differently than you and I, but their passions run deep, and their purposes are largely positive. With the Christmas Eve passing of a 15 year old friend of the family, I saw first hand how young people are leveraging Web 2.0 tools to share their grief. In fact, it was through the my 16 year old daughter's Facebook account that we came to know of the tragic loss of Michael whose family has grown up a few hours away. Michael will never be able to read the posts of his peers, but the tragedy of his loss is likely to be archived in the passionate posts of friends, classmates and relatives for a very long time.

It affirms for me that the youth of today, are by and large, responsible, compassionate and loving citizens; and the writings of 'random teens' reminds me that from within our evolving technological world, it is the people that matter the most. In the lives of netizens, the technology or the read/write web is a useful tool, but it is at its most powerful when it is used in the context of creating community.

So, here is a challenge for Teacher 2.0: Use available tools to broaden your learning communities. Make overt plans to involve others in your own professional work and in the work of your students. Reach out to the people that are important in the 'real world' lives of members of your learning community. Regardless of the stresses of school life in 2008, our humanity ties each of us to a number of communities of real people, whose impact on our lives is more significant than we realize. When we are engaged in learning that harnesses the power of these relationships, memorable, meaningful experiences can be the result for teachers and students alike!