Benjamin Franklin should have said, ‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes and learning communities!’ Let’s face it, we have all been a part of a learning community. My experiences as a member of a learning community have been great and let’s just say, not so great. The best learning communities I have been a part of have all had one thing in common: they share the characteristics of the most productive groups. On the other hand, my least favorite groups have battled for attention, failed to agree on anything, and seemed to be a waste of time. In this post I will share what is contributed and what is consumed in learning communities and provide an annotated list of my current and past learning communities in hopes that you might be inspired to join a successful, productive learning community.
Learning communities are formed when a group of people meet regularly to talk about common academic goals and interests. In the professional world, this happens all the time and is the most common form of higher education. It’s a way for organizations to educate employees and create common goals amongst the organization.
Every learning community consists of two things: consuming and contributing. Consuming is what you absorb from the group, while contributing is what you give to the group. In giving to a group you are contributing your pre-existing expertise, and through consuming in the group you are adding to your expertise. Neither of the two are more important than the other and an equal balance between the two are beneficial to all group members.
In my experience with learning communities, I typically provide a technology approach, provide logical, step-by-step solutions, or try to gamify problems. With my long experience of using technology and being a visual learner, my first thought is what technologies are available to help show the information to the learner. I also try to logically break down tasks or problems and try to better organize things into more manageable tasks or solutions. I feel this is one of my greatest assets as a group member. Even if my methods and tactics may not always be used, my thoughts might lead to someone else coming up with a better solution. Another unique addition I try to contribute to groups is to gamify problems or activities of learning. As well as being a visual learner, I am very much a hands-on learner. Gamifying lessons and problems helps create a fun environment for which students can get the hands-on experience and have fun at the same time. All in all, contributions are important but it cannot all be about you and your ideas; group members need to contribute too!
Consuming what the learning community produces, to me, is much more important. Consuming what the group produces is how individuals can advance their own knowledge, skills, and expertise. Therefore, if one wishes to advance their learning (the whole reason why they are joining a learning community) they should consume information from the learning community. In my particular case, I always try to take at least one thing away from each meeting of the learning community.
To help take away more from each meeting, try taking notes. I try to always take a writing pad and writing utensil to every meeting. I take notes while participating in learning communities on main ideas, interesting points, questions I have, and list creative ideas that others might have sparked. After the meeting with the learning community I am left with a written record that allows me more time to absorb the information dispensed in the learning community.
A list of my ever-expanding professional, learning communities:
Galveston ISD Digital Learning Community – The most influential group of learners I have been a part of. This group inspired me to pursue digital learning and leading.
Galveston ISD DADT Community – A test creation committee that helped develop my teaching abilities by understanding the process and methodologies of test creating.
8th Grade PLC – A focus group on professional development for educators.
TCSS – Texas Council for the Social Studies – This group contributed greatly to broadening my perspective on teaching methods pertaining to social studies.
Lead4ward/Galveston 8th Grade Social Studies Planning Community – This group contributed to my understanding of content, broadened my perspective on how to teach lessons, and kept me accountable to teaching content tied to a timeline.
Texas Law Related Education – This group advanced my understanding of the Constitution and provided lessons on how to teach it.
TCEA – Texas Computer Education Association – This community is contributed to advancing my digital learning understanding
Dickinson World Geography Planning Community – This group has helped strengthen my content understanding of conceptual geography and contributed to advancing my teaching methods
Dickinson Soccer Coaching Community – This community has led me to be a better leader, how to inspire others, how to be a better coach, and how to analyze soccer better.
TASCO – Texas Association of Soccer Coaches Association – This group helped show me new coaching techniques and drills for soccer.
Texas High School Coaches Association – This organization helped strengthen me as a coach and taught me first aid tactics.
Starrmatica. September 10, 2012. Group Image. Found at http://starrblog.interactivecontentcorner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/sharing.png
Wikipedia. Gamification. Found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamification