Yesterday I blogged about my journey back through the North West of England during the storm that hit the country the Wednesday. Then last night I took part in the unhangout for week 5 of #rhizo14, and began by saying that I had not had a lot of time to think about this week’s topic Community as Curriculum because of having been away unexpectedly. But I had been thinking about communities and networks, at least I had read Bonnie Stewart’s piece about networks and I’d been thinking about what makes a network and what makes a community, without really coming to any conclusions.
So Wednesday was awful – stuck on train not knowing how long we’d be there or how we’d get home. I was tired, having woken up at 4.15 am to catch my train, and I was worried about getting stuck overnight without a change of clothes, or being stranded on a station platform overnight, and other passengers had similar worries. But here’s something. Usually on a train I will sit silently, head in a book, and the other passengers will do likewise. This time within minutes we were all chattering with each other. As I realised during the unhangout last night, having a common factor – all being stuck on the same train – made us bond very quickly and form a community. I don’t know any of their names, and I will probably never see any of them again, but I felt incredibly relaxed and at home with all of them. We weren’t a network, I don’t think we were a group, but as Dave said last night, if we weren’t a community he didn’t know what we were. It reminded me of the community spirit during the Blitz, folk pulling together and cheering each other up: packing up our worries in our old kit bags, so to speak.
So what lessons can we learn from this? Well, in order to form a community there needs to be a common bond: a shared goal, or maybe a shared value. In our case it was being stuck together on a train, in a classroom it might be thinking the teacher is a big meanie, or all having to pass a test, or work collaboratively on a project. Communities can be transitory: they can form quickly and disband just as swiftly. But before the community can be the curriculum, the community needs to be a community. Dave’s enabled this very well in #rhizo14, imo – as he said, he’s lit the the fire and we have all gathered around it, drifting off to chat in groups in Facebook, Twitter, G+ – whichever suits us best. How do we enable this in our classrooms?