If we consider life a journey, it’s important and fun to look back at how we ended in the place we are today. For the past 10 years or so I’ve been on a journey and many of you have been on one similar to mine. Some have started at different points but the idea that we’re a community of learners looking to leverage technology to create better and transformative learning experiences is what keeps us together. That and the vibrant and diverse nature of our relationships.
Let me go back 10 years. While the DEN was just birthing, so was my own community experience. On Feb 6, 2005 I started a blog. Without knowing what it was but had heard that it was free and easier to publish than using Dreamweaver or Frontpage, I thought I would try it. To say it transformed my professional life would be an understatement. Specifically the first comment I received which came from a special needs educator from Texas had my mind spinning. Why was he commenting? How did he find me? What did I know that might help a special needs educator? As I reflected on this it also made me consider what other possibilities of connection might be possible.
Later that year I found a young Kindergarten teacher who was using his camera to record a conversation with himself on his drive home from work. It was called a podcast. The guy went by the handle of teach42. While the recordings were anything but polished, they were insightful and authentic. I was hooked. Soon I would anxiously await for another recording to appear in my Bloglines account.
Fast forward a couple of years and I was attending FETC and noticed that Steve Dembo was going to be there along with a few other people that I had been reading. Steve invited me to a dinner hosted by Discovery Education. I was able to meet many of the people that had been also blogging and providing me with insights and ideas that I was actively using in my own context.
In 2009 I again attended FETC and this time DEN STAR Lee Kolbert invited me to another Discovery Education event. This time I was introduced to the likes of Justin Karkow, Scott Kinney, Brad Fountain and Jannita Demain. Little did I know at the time these people would become my colleagues and co-workers.
All these events and countless others have been essential to developing and fostering community. The sharing of ideas has continued through other spaces like twitter, Facebook and Youtube. And while it’s easy to say this isn’t so much about technology, without it, none of this happens. No one reads my blog and comments, I never meet these people and these connections don’t happen. When I ponder what my notion of community would be like without these connections, it’s still good. I worked locally with many great people, but the depth to which I have learned, shared and connected has been exponentially different and indeed better as a result of the affordance of technology. Geography and time were removed from the equation of learning. Sadly, for many these two barriers still exist.
While the journey and story of community continues I realize once again why we share. Those that read this story and relate are sharers too. They’ve been vulnerable enough at some point to take a chance and participate in community. They’ve been able to tell stories of moments that made them realize they weren’t alone, stories of insights they would never have considered, stories of people that have made a difference in their lives. Many of my stories are seemingly trite and insignificant. I have connected with people over the silliest things: naps, dogs, golf, spilling things, lists from my wife, etc. These, however are not silly but the social glue that often brings us together to support and maintain community.
I realize not everyone’s story is like this. I’m glad it isn’t. But as someone whose job it is to build community, I’m still saddened by those that have no community story. At the same time I’m grateful to be able to do what I do and for all those who have been on a similar journey. Here’s to another 10 years together.
Photo by Lee Kolbert