I’ve been thinking a lot about community and sharing – online and f2f — what makes it work well for me and what the challenges can be.

This was brought to the forefront yesterday when I wrote something as a part of a f2f group. When asked to share (optionally), I declined, as I often do, but later, I posted this same piece online in an open space, perhaps for the whole world to see. Why the difference?

There are many reasons. First, in online spaces, no one has to read or view my work. It someone wants to look at it, they may, but no one is compelled, and in fact, it takes a special effort to do so. In f2f settings, there is a captive audience, one that I am uncomfortable with (increasingly more so lately).

In f2f environments, I rarely choose to be at the center or to read aloud. I wouldn’t say that I’m shy exactly (those who saw me once get up to speak impromptu for 45 minutes to a large crowd at ISTE can debunk that), but I don’t choose to put myself out there often. When I do, it is because I have been assigned that role.

In online spaces, I am just one of many, many voices and rarely at the center. While in online spaces, there seems to be less often a “center,” there are frequently one or two dominant voices in f2f spaces. The teacher, the presenter, the leader.

Of course, on my own blogs, I am the primary speaker, but this seems very different. For me, my blogs are a place for me to write, to think, to work through things. They are not primarily written for any audience (the possible exception being my personal blog, which is also the one about which I cringe most when I think about people I don’t know reading it, as some do, perhaps because it is also the most interesting blog I write). Because my blogs are for me, not for an audience, I don’t really care who reads them.

Reading or sharing something , though, screams out “I want you to hear this,” and really, I don’t. Not that I actively don’t want an audience to hear it, it’s just not my intent.

Thinking about this makes me reflect on the benefits of sharing. I mostly write for myself, and don’t think that I greatly benefit from sharing. However, it depends on the medium and the community. In f2f settings, the benefits of sharing seem close to zero to me. In social media, sharing is everything – that’s why I’m on social media – and I live for the responses and feedback.

Frankly, my eagerness to share also has to do with the particulars of the community. The more comfortable and bonded I am with the community, the more likely I will be to share. In nearly all the online communities I am a part of (e.g. my mini-constellation of Twitter, P2PU, NWP), I feel close and invested as a member of the group. That is much less often the case for me in a f2f group. There are probably many reasons, which include the length of time we are together, the degree to which I feel connected, and the communication medium itself.

#clmooc has exemplified the kind of community that I love to be a part of and to share with. On more than one occasion in the past few weeks, I’ve thought, “Oh, I can’t wait to share that with #clmooc.” I feel close to many people in #clmooc, some of whom I’ve known for years, others who I’ve just met. A community is more, though, that just the sum of its member people. A community is its values, its culture, its ethos. To me, #clmooc is about sharing, connecting, supporting, and being supported – more so than perhaps any community I’ve been a part of.

One thing #clmooc has made me more comfortable with is sharing my “rough edges.” I have shared thoughts that are half-baked; I have gone on hangouts when I feel unattractive and ill-prepared to say anything; I have tried things that I have been pretty sure wouldn’t work. It is unlike me to show these rough edges, but I have benefited as a result. Thank you #clmooc for that.

Reflecting on sharing
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7 thoughts on “Reflecting on sharing

  • July 16, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Interesting post Karen. I hadn’t really thought about the differences in my willingness to share in f2f vs online spaces. I’m more apt to share if I feel like it is essential to the community (not because my words or thoughts are so necessary, but by not sharing I’m not participating in ways that build community). So I’m more likely to share in NWP-related contexts, less likely in other settings. I’m sharing similar feelings about the clmooc–this is a group where I am anxious and willing to share (things I don’t usually share) and eager to see what others have to say. Thanks!

  • July 17, 2013 at 5:21 am

    There is one word that is the substructure for this fascinating post–trust. Some social networks I don’t trust. For example, the connectedlearningtv chat. I am not saying I don’t trust the people, I just don’t trust the chat tool’s form. I tell myself that it is not the place to engage in any deep or thoughtful way, but I find myself trying anyway… and failing. In space like that I am only trying to say, “Look I have a very different stance on that. Just thought you’d like to know” but it comes across as “You’re wrong and I’m right.” F2f on the other hand is not like that at all for me. F2f replicates my family’s kitchen table.

    Of course, not all f2f works for me either. I think part of my overall distrust has come from having to live under uber-conventional institutional contraints when we unschooled our kids, when I became a teacher in the same system that rejected our overtures for help, when we birthed all of those kids at home, etc, etc. I understand your rough edges and celebrate them. Your blog is yours alone, but it is also a little beacon of border radio broadcasting out past the dry and the dark into you know not where. And we all have a little Wolfman Jack in us, don’t we?

  • July 17, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    A very insightful and brave piece of writing, Karen. Do you imagine that you’ll be sharing this with your face-to-face group? It might be interesting to process with them. Are they online writers? I wonder, too, if what you feel/experience is more universal and may be how our youth understand writing and audience?

  • July 17, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    “I live for the responses and feedback.” and “I don’t think that I greatly benefit from sharing.” and “A community is its values, its culture, its ethos.”

    I thought these three thoughts were an interesting contrast! What is it about the values, culture and ethos of f2f feedback that doesn’t feel like feedback.

    I am also moved by the “rough edges” portion. I’d love to hear how you have benefited by feeling this new freedom.

  • July 18, 2013 at 11:08 am

    This is a really thoughtful and powerful post, Karen. I’ve been thinking that writing-as-making might offer us a more balanced approach to composing– one that helps us remember the best of expressivism and the needs of writers and composers. I love your statement here that sharing doesn’t particularly benefit you as a writer because I think most approaches to teaching writing assume that sharing is essential. You can’t have an effect on an audience if you don’t share, right? We seem to be quite caught up these days with seeing writing as a practice of meeting conventions, and we often focus much more on the needs and expectations of readers rather than the purposes, desires, and needs of writers. This gets really dangerous when we code conventions into algorithms and use machines to score writing, pretending that writing is anything other than a meaning-making practice between human beings.

  • July 19, 2013 at 12:47 am

    Hi Karen, I understand that ” In f2f settings, there is a captive audience, one that I am uncomfortable with (increasingly more so lately).” In f2f I share with colleagues who are also sharing, to garner strategies and solutions to help our students.Even there, I am beginning to feel less inclined because of the “test” and “evaluative” nature of everything that teachers do now.

    In other f2f I am less able to share, not sure if my ideas are valuable in that setting.

    I love the #clmooc because there is an encouraging connection — many facilitators to share the feedback goals– that lifts the spirit so I do contribute. Look at the posts, and find those who dared to jump in. I’m sure it is the encouraging words of the facilitators who said, “Do as you can, when you can.” No pressure. Lurk and Learn, or jump in and learn. Both were welcomed.

    And, like our blogs, the posts might not be read — we’re stepping into a welcoming community with positive feedback, and perhaps not too much notice. So we share. And are accepted. It builds trust and a sense of community, which is what should happen.

    These are the places I will come for inspiration and soul food. Once, my place of work, my f2f was like that. Now, I search out places for support. I wonder if that is true of other teachers these days?

    Anyway, I thank the #clmooc sponsors and facilitators for creating a true learning community. Your feedback, plus1s, and comments to our posts gave confidence for more sharing. The requests for f5f and biweekly reflections based on connections propelled us to connect more. It’s a well-designed and implemented learning community with the values of voice, choice, acceptance, try, trust. Thank you.

    And thanks for sharing these ideas of why we share. Sometimes ” “I don’t think that I greatly benefit from sharing” is true, and sometimes we don’t realize what we’ve learned until later. I think our learning from sharing comes from a reciprocal sharing, where a dialogue occurs, as in the post comments, or even the plus1s. They ask us to rethink what we have written and shared, even if the comments are all positive, we — well I — look back again to wonder what was important and to reflect on what I could have done better. If there were no comment or plus, I would probably just move on without even wondering why no response, because that would be a negative reflection, when what our brains want and need is success. So we just move on. It’s the little connections that help us review, reflect, and learn. Do you think?

  • April 22, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Karen, what a thoughtful, insightful piece. I can only nod my head to many of the points you make. Thanks for being part of the #deeperlearning community, and for the ways you encourage and support all of us to grow in our capabilities.

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