Community Connections

Posted: August 3, 2016 in clmooc
Tags: , , , ,

So, I’ve been thinking about curious conversations with #CLMOOC. It’s been about close listening, digging into an idea, narrowing in some ways. I post about it. I plan to talk more with Scott Glass about what he does with his students so that I can maybe use it to improve my podcasting ideas, which so far have refused to take off despite serious and quality attention from me and others.

Then, everything turns upside down and I’m thinking about the big picture of connections and community rather than the small, one-one conversations. Here’s how it happened.

I headed over to my #CLMOOC column on Tweetdeck to reply to a few tweets and see what was happening before the day got away from me and I saw this.

Game over. No work is happening. (But it’s good. I mean it’s learning, right.)

I followed the link, read the brief post, and then went to the real data cloud. Go look at it now! The data cloud in action is amazing. It’s mesmerizing. I love the idea of making ideas, thinking, and connections visible. But then, to do something about it, to aim to make an introduction or pathway for someone on the edge to connect? Fantastic. This is what we as teachers try to do all the time with students. We want them to be able to connect with their classmates, connect deeply with ideas, listen to each other. But, do we have the data to know not just who talks, but with whom, who connects and who needs an introduction? I can look around my room, listen, and look and get a sense of who is participating and who isn’t. I try really hard to know how my students learn and to push and support them. But, this dynamic map of the conversation, it’s a game changer.

Here’s what I’m thinking about at the moment:

  • Similar kind of conversation mapping is done sometimes as part of formal observation or research and is time-consuming to do. What could I learn if I record my class and then go back and make a similar, but not dynamic, map. I’m sure I would discover something new.
  • What about in larger, community spaces? Which students have expansive social networks that go across sociocultural groups, and which don’t. For those who don’t, what does this mean in terms of the range of ideas and opinions they hear from peers? How many of our students are in idea bubbles? What data would we need to learn this and what could we do if we had that data?
  • Same for colleagues in the school. Who keeps the his or her department? How does that impact his or her greater understanding of the school, the curriculum, the student experience?

Since the world of classroom and teacher conversations do not happen on Twitter, I won’t be able to use tag explorer. And, classroom observation is not new. However, I do think that thinking about classroom observation not as an evaluative event, but as a way to gather data about connections is different.

Then, before I could even post this, I tweeted a little about how interesting the connection visualization is and wondered about classroom use and got a couple of replies including this one.

Read the post. It’s about seeing which student to student connections are there and seeing which student to student connections are NOT there. I saw it a while ago, and it does really connect to this connections puzzle.

So, what am I going to do about this? Well, first off, I am definitely going to do some conversation mapping of my own classes. In particular I am going to try to do this when we talk about non-controversial topics and then more controversial ones. I suspect there will be plenty to think about with that. Second, I am going to talk to a group within my school who was doing research on sociocultural identifiers and their connection to a lot of things. I think combining this with classroom conversation maps could be really interesting and important. Of course, all of this will take time, lots of time. I’m still looking for that extra hour in my day. I think it’s hiding with the cleaning fairy.

Oooh, I am so excited about this, which meant I had to talk about it. the first victims lucky winners to hear about these ideas were some colleagues at lunch on that very day.

Who should I talk to next?

  1. The post really conveys your excitement! I’m really interested in hearing what you find.

    And on a personal note, love the purple hair. I promised my students this Spring that if 300 people came to see our May show, I would dye my hair purple. We didn’t get the audience, and I was a little disappointed, but I went with a purple streak for a while!

    • mseiteljorg says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I will certainly share out my findings once the year begins.

      As to the hair, I have been dying it purple for 8 years now. I’m going for a solid decade and then will decide what is next.

  2. tutormentor1 says:

    It’s really great to see the CLMOOC conversation drift into social network analysis. I led a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program in Chicago from 1975-2011 that connected inner-city, mostly African American, youth with work place volunteers, who were mostly White, with college backgrounds and jobs in many careers not modeled frequently in high poverty neighborhoods. Over the years I began to feel that the greatest value of the type of on-going program I was leading was the connections being created between the participants in the program. I read Robert Putnam’s book, “Bowling Alone” in the early 2000s and I think that’s what led me to think of what we’re doing as building a form of social capital, which Putnam called “bridging social capital”. Over the 2000’s my network expanded and I ran into some people who are leading thinkers in the world of network analysis, including Valdis Krebs, who spoke at a conference I hosted in Chicago in 2009 and donated software for me to use in mapping the networks of kids and volunteers participating in our programs. I created a space on Ning to coach that group, which is open to any who’d like to join.

    If you browse through the discussion section on that forum, you can see work interns did with me, and you can see that I was not able to keep consistent involvement for long enough to do all that I was trying to do.

    You’ll also see that I’ve used the forum to share articles about network analysis and social capital that I’ve collected since then. Thus, for those who want to dig deeper into this, my library is your resource.

    In one of the discussions, I describe a goal of “mapping the networks of youth and volunteers, and showing how they change over multiple years of participation”.

    Your description of mapping networks of kids in a school classroom, or entire school, is very related to this. If you add in the ideas I’ve bee sharing, your maps could begin to look at the support system out side of school, not just inside. Understanding how networks of support differ from student to student, and population to population, can lead to new strategies that create richer, more supportive networks for those who have weak networks today.

    In this 2012 PDF I show some network mapping that I did, looking at my Facebook network, which includes many youth, volunteers and staff who were part of the tutoring programs I led, as far back as the 1970s. See how this shows connections that are continuing today, long after active participation. If schools and non-school programs could demonstrate this as an outcome of their work, it might open new doors to funding, especially if it also shows how the informal networks of volunteers changes as a result of their participation.

    I don’t know any one doing research focused on what we’re talking about here. However, since the #clmooc community includes college as well as k-12 educators, each member has the opportunity to share these ideas in their own networks, with the goal of identifying someone who is doing this work, or who will take it on as a Phd project.

    I’ll look forward to seeing how you’re able to develop this in your own classroom.

    • mseiteljorg says:

      Wow, thank you for all the extra resources and ideas. Your comment got held for moderation, and I didn’t notice until just today. Sorry for the late reply. I look forward to beginning my investigation in the fall.

  3. tellio says:

    Love the wandering, thinking and working out loud quality of your post. I have marked up your post in the margins. Meaning that I have used the annotation tool to write more than this comment feature allows. Here is the link where you can see what I wrote:
    I hope you adopt this tool in your web travels. I kinda think it rocks.

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