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One of the things that I have noticed that there has been a lot of talk about over the past few years has been learning communities. I have always thought that this is a great subject, as well as something that works, whether formally or informally organized. It seems to me that a learning community can take a formal or informal context in its creation, but by the end there is a formal relationship that is created. In regards to this the other part of a learning community is the value you add.
So why write about it? I am not sure why I want to write about, other than to share some observations that I have had in this regard. Where I have seen learning communities of different structures and why are they powerful. I tend to tell stories to make a point since I feel that over the years that my writing has become more disjointed. So here we go...
One of my favorite things that I get to do on the weekends is to go shopping at the public market. I have had the opportunity to do this during all seasons of the year and have found that one of the seasons that is by far the most interesting is the Spring season when the vendors are there selling flowers and other plants.
There are a few reasons why I enjoy this season so much, one is all of the colors, the second is all of the smells. This year as I walked around the market I noticed something else happening, the education of vendors and shoppers. Questions about flowers were being ask, comments about the best fertilizers, ideas on all things Green were being shared. I started to think is this what goes on at our schools? Do questions of interest get asked, are problems discussed, what are the systems that allow for learning communities to form when needed for students?
At the market the sharing only last for a few minutes or a single season, within a school we work with each other for as short of a time as 3 months or as long as 30 years. What are the relationships that we build during this time, what amount of knowledge is generated and then how is it shared? I ask these questions since I often wonder when we move student from learning to know to a space where they are truly able to synthesis and evaluate their learning? When does this take place, and in what regards can learning communities help this?
The second story I often refer to is my learning regarding open source software. As I was looking around the web yesterday I noticed something that was related to these interests. A book by Jono Bacon, who is the Ubuntu Community Manager, called The Art of Community. The interesting thing about this is that Linux is a community driven operating system, where users also provide the support. Now I haven't read the book yet, but I have to believe that it will shed some light on how to build a community, especially since the Ubuntu Community Forum which has 921,372 members with 60,542 active members. So how do you generate this type of a community around becoming a learner? It seems that a community that can form on the Internet that has that many active members, which I am not sure how that is defined, who are interested in working together has to be possible when we talk about school districts. Another questions is how do we make a community, when the community isn't a fully opt in scenario? I am curious how this works, especially as we move up grade levels and take the context out of learning in some instances.