Participate 1.1.2 – Being a Digital Learning Community Wallflower #eteachertool

wallflowerParticipate 1.1.2 Joining a Digital Learning Community Quest

After a year of teaching, I return to this quest with more knowledge about online learning, and I’m finding one cliché so very true: ignorance is bliss.

Before, this quest seemed simple. 1) Bookmark some sites 2) Find five digital learning communities and discuss their strengths and weaknesses. The purpose of this activity seems to be to introduce teachers to the numerous online support groups (communities) where they can find and share information. The bookmarking activity helps teachers organize what they find.

The first time around, I completed this quest no problem, and I shared some DLCs where I frequently found and shared information. They’re still good, and I recommend them.

But now, the nature of my work has changed my relationship with the web, and where I find and share information. Also, this seemingly simple quest actually has many different topics going on in it, so I’ll pick a few and dissect them in separate posts.

  • How do I use bookmarks now?
  • Digital Learning Communities vs. Online Learning Communities (n.b. I’ll use “Online Learning Communities,” and I’ll explain why here.)
  • The different types and purposes of Online Learning Communities
  • How can teachers help students find and participate in OLCs outside the learning management system? And, why they should.

But first, here’s a brief list of where I go for information, where I share my thoughts, and where dialogues happen online.

Information Input

Online Learning Communities are places to learn information, tools, strategies, basically anything. As I teach English/Language Arts online, the types of communities I seek deal primarily with how people use technology to communicate and relate to each other.

What tech do people use? What tech is new? What is tech doing to us? What are we allowing tech to do to us? And how does all of this affect the way we tell stories about the world and ourselves?fly on the wall

I research what is trending in educational technology and seek out experts and critics to help put these trends and hype into a historical and cultural perspective.


  • Audrey Watters writes Hack Education – Don’t miss her weekly news posts or her Top Ed-Tech Trends
  • Stephen Downs’ blog and his newsletter OLDaily – He comments on articles, reports, and research about education and technology
  • Faculty Focus – Great for the online educator
  • Hybrid Pedagogy – Ditto

Email Newsletters:


  • APM’s Marketplace Tech – 6 to 7 minute grab-bag of tech news.
  • WNYC’s Note to Self – Go find it on iTunes and subscribe now. This is by far one of my favorite podcasts.  30 min engaging look “about the effects of technology on our lives, in a quest for the smart choices that will help you think and live better.”
  • On the Media – Teaching critical thinking means engaging in critical thinking; this from their website: “While maintaining the civility and fairness that are the hallmarks of public radio, OTM tackles sticky issues with a frankness and transparency.”
  • Reply All – “It features stories about how people shape the internet, and the internet shapes people.” I teach online. Makes sense.

Information Output

The web is great for publishing and distributing ideas. Ideas go far and fast online. Or at least they can if they don’t die.

And one can use social media and search engine optimization to reach the broadest audience.if a tree falls But online communities work a little differently, since members share thoughts with a target, known, audience in mind.

When I share information with a community, I try to make it substantial. Ideally, my output aims to inform the community, to help solve problems members in my community may face, and to present questions that I hope my community discusses. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does. So, here is where I go to share information:

  • GAVS’ multiple Edmodo groups
  • #BFC530 Twitter chat; occasionally others, but mostly this one
  • Google+ (many, many educators there)
  • This blog (naturally)

What helps make these communities work: shared experiences and interests (Edmodo) and rapid feedback (Twitter, sometimes).

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