The New Community of Learners


As many (or few?) of you know, a storm passed through the Chicago area recently.  The storm produced massive winds that caused devastating damage.  Electric power and internet has been inaccessible in some pockets of the Chicago region for the past few days.  The above image jumped on my computer screen shortly after the storm passed.

I’m always amazed at the amount of community building that occurs when power is cut from a subdivision.  As I look outside, neighbors from across the street come and join other neighbors to chat.  Generally, the conversations revolve around the recent lack of electricity and then proceed to how’s the family … kids.. etc.   The community seems more connected during these times, almost out of necessity to find familiarity and the need to acquire information on the whereabouts of the electricity.  It was quite refreshing to see the neighborhood come together during this time of need.

This made me think of how people view community.  Part of my personal community was inaccessible during this time because of the lack of internet.  Since I didn’t have access to the internet (or power) at home, I left in search of a WiFi location.

 I found a local coffee shop.  Approximately 80% of the patrons had laptops and were standing and sitting on spaces on the floor attempting to communicate with clients and bosses over email.  Eventually the coffee shop’s internet buckled and shut down completely because bandwidth issues.  It seemed like I wasn’t the only one who needed the internet. People / businesses /schools have a challenging time functioning without the use of the internet / technology.

About five years ago I read a book titled, Campfires in Cyberspace.  Not necessarily on the NY Bestseller List , but it was a good read. This book gave me a few ideas on how to integrate technology in my own classroom.

This book spoke of the learning that can occur via technology.  This book was published before Twitter, Google+ and web 2.0 tools grabbed any type of traction in the education sector.  Actually the “new” learning tool for that time was Webquests.  I still enjoy utilizing Webquests in my classroom.

During the time I read this book, the words “Digital Native” started to become more prevalent in schools across the country.  If you’re still wondering what “Digital Native” is, take a look at Jodi Harrision’s blog and graphic. Just like adults have communities, I believe students have an opportunity to create and be a part of their own school community by utilizing technology.  ASCD has a brief article that outlines how to establish and suggests guidelines in creating an online student community.

 If adults seem uncomfortable without a day of internet access, how do you think students (that use technology daily) feel when they spend their entire school day without the web or using technology?  

By  utilizing technology, Educators will be able to open the box of  untapped potential to improve student learning. Now, more than ever educators / administrators need to integrate technology in the classrooms.

If you’re hesitant or want more information, follow #edtech on Twitter. Also, check out the following tech blogs if you’re still curious.

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