Cross Posted on 21st Century Colloaborative
Much of my life for the last 10 years has been spent thinking about, working with/in, developing, and leading online communities of practice. I promised the folks who co-lead with me at Powerful Learning Practice that I would create a series of posts this year that captured the knowledge, skills, dispositions and values I have garnered along the way. This is the first of that series. I will be cross posting both here and on PLP’s site so feel free to weigh in either place. I hope you will add your ideas and what you know to make this a stronger experience for all of us. I am also hoping this will become a true conversation. One where we all talk to each other and not just me standing in the middle shouting back and forth with a few individuals.


Online communities are on the rise. More and more we are seeing them being utilized to share information and to turn organizations and schools into places where people learn collaboratively. But how do you build a community so that folks will participate? What should a community leader know and do to make sure that the community is healthy and vibrant and brings value add to each member’s life?

I thought I would start by sharing an interesting resource that came across my Google Alerts from Chris Collison If you are interested in community development then you need to make sure you have several Google Alerts that search for keywords related to community. Communities of practice, communities of inquiry, virtual learning communities, learning communities, learning organizations, professional learning communities, collaborative learning, and connected learning communities are just a few.

The resource Chris shared is called COP trumps. It is a mock card game that helps you think about six themes associated with community building and six actions, tools, or techniques you can use. Here is the resource

The six themes identified are:
2.Clear Focus
3.Engagement and Communication
4.Active Facilitation
5.Managing Content
6.Measurable Outcomes

Each Card will cover an Action, Tool or Techniques that you can use with an estimate of between 1 to 10 on:
-Learning Curve
-Knowledge Sharing
-Geek Factor
-Encourages Participation

Here are our first two playing cards to discuss-

These first two are really important as you begin to think about your community. You need a plan. Just because you build doesn’t mean in online communities they will come. Rather you need to understand who your audience is and why you are together. You also need to have a common language about what a community is and what it isn’t. Ideally, the community helps to develop that understanding collaboratively. But often, when participants are asked to join an existing community, you do not have that privilege and will need to have a charter or document about your core beliefs for folks to read.

Community Plan
What is yours? What kind of community will you develop? What is the purpose? What is the focus? What sorts of strategies will you use to get people engaged? What roles? What activities? What artifacts? Will you be an open community, a social network, or a walled garden. Is growth important? What kind of growth- slow and sustained or wildly viral?

Planning ahead is strategic, however you also need to be willing to adjust your plan and let your community evolve as the needs and skills of the community surface.

For week one let’s start to wonder outloud together. If you were launching an online learning community in a month in your school or organization what questions would you need answered? What terms would you need defined? Let’s develop a common language and an list of questions that will help us plan our community and write the charter.

Who will be the first to list some questions or terms you need defined?

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During a 25-year education career, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach has been a classroom teacher, technology coach, charter school principal, district administrator, university instructor and digital learning consultant. Sheryl is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Powerful Learning Practice, where she works with schools and districts from around the world to re-envision their learning cultures and communities through the Connected Learner Experience and other e-learning opportunities. She is the author (with Lani Ritter Hall) of The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age (Solution Tree, 2012) and serves on the ISTE Board of Directors.
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