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Qualities of a Learning Community

What did the World Cafe events reveal? The concept of community, in some form, was the most repeated quality of what engaged people in their learning. There were many descriptors for a community of learning. One that stood out was the community of learning being safe. Safe learners feel comfortable stepping out of their comfort zone and stretching to learn. This could be called the “Goldilocks Paradigm.” Learning is not too hard causing arresting stress; not too easy allowing boredom to prevail; just right, adding to the edges of knowledge the student possesses.

One discussion led to an interesting revelation about the use of technology and what it contributes to a safe learning experience. As a strategy, it might be better suited for older students, but has potential across a range of ages and abilities from upper elementary and beyond. Video and audio files allow for use of pause and rewind, reinforcement of key concepts, time for mindful reflection and response, and opportunities for anonymous questions. The group was clear this should not replace the face-to-face interactions vital to learning, but could provide opportunities for interactions to develop in addition to the teacher-student relationship, such as valuable peer-to-peer connections. In an increasingly digital world, students and teachers can support each others learning outside the existing temporal and spatial restrictions associated with school as a building to attend on school days. School becomes more than a space and the online capacity expands the potential rather than diminishing it. Physical attendance coupled with other points of contact i.e. blogs, online forums, and video formats provide exciting potential for what a safe learning community can mean.

The conversation about community, learning, and the role of multiple points of contact in the learning community resonated with my own learning experiences. I use a variety of digital formats in my learning at Gonzaga i.e. electronic blackboard, wikis, and blogs. They reveal the reality that learning is not place- or time-focused. It is ongoing with multiple points of contact essential to the shifting landscape of what school is and can become. The Khan Academy is a useful Math resource for some students and Selman Khan, its designer, has employed self-directed learning features by Selman Khan in the design of this site. He makes use of the advantages discussed in our group-connections, time for reflection, and anonymity, and makes learning safe..

About ivonprefontaine

In keeping with bell hooks and Noam Chomsky, I consider myself a public and dissident intellectual. Part of my work is to move beyond (transcend) institutional dogmas that bind me to defend freedom, raising my voice to be heard on behalf of those who seek equity and justice in all their forms. I completed my PhD in Philosophy of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA. My dissertation and research was how teachers experience becoming teachers and their role as leaders. I focus on leading, communicating, and innovating in organizations. This includes mindfuful servant-leadership, World Cafe events, Appreciative Inquiry, and expressing one's self through creativity. I offer retreats, workshops, and presentations that can be tailored to your organzations specific needs. I published peer reviewed articles about schools as learning organizations, currere as an ethical pursuit, and hope as an essential element of adult eductaion. I published three poems and am currently preparing my poetry to publish as an anthology of poetry. I present on mindful leadership, servant leadership, schools as learning organizations, how teachers experience becoming teachers, assessement, and critical thinking. I facilitate mindfulness, hospitality retreats. and World Cafe Events using Appreciative Inquiry. I am writing and researching about various forms of leadership, how teachers inform and form their identity as a particular teacher, schools as learning organizations, hope and its anticipatory relationship with the future, and hope as an essential element in learning.

4 responses »

  1. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

    Many things are popping up now for all ages. 🙂 I’m still thinking about your word clouds; that was enlightening.

  2. I have used the Khan Academy for myself with math since I’m not very good at algebra.

    • I suggested it to a number of parents as a supplment to what their children were doing wiht their Math, which was taught at home. I used it in Language Arts and Social Studies as there was some Art education videos and it complemented some lessons and units nicely.

      The other resource I suggested was Jump Math, but parents found it challenging as it did not approach Math in what might be a conventional manner. What it did, intentionally, was let students work back from an answer in unconventional ways.


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