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..