Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sharing, trust, relationships and learning--

A Wednesday evening, the first free Wednesday evening in 8 weeks--

And this popped up in my Twitter feed--

That followed this from the week before:

—a true testament to the power of relationships online –relationships built on trust, for:
"...trust is the glue that binds the members of a community to act in sharing and adapting manner. Without trust, members would hoard their knowledge and experience and would not go through the trouble of sharing with or learning from others.” (Nichani & Hung, 2002, p. 51)Nichani, M., & Hung, D. (2002). Can a community of practice exist online? Educational Technology, 42(4), 49-54.

Why those tweets?

For just 8 weeks, at 7 pm EST, a group of passioned educators met in Elluminate to share and dig deeper into concepts of Connected Coaching following a week of conversations in the online course space. During both the week 7 and week 8 webinars, comments in both audio and chat bemoaned the fact the scheduled learning of the group was coming to an end. The final affirmations – personal and heartfelt-- validated more clearly that indeed, a learning community had been developed.

The importance of trust in online learning communities can’t be understated!

In the communities of practice I’ve had the privilege to lead for the last few years, I’ve seen that trust and those relationships develop and grow over a period of 8 months. Teams and communities have come to engage in deep collegial conversations that have led to significant shifts in thinking and practice, many of which are documented here and here. And more recently, in the six month pilot of the Connected Coaches program, an extraordinary learning community developed in which each offered support to others, pushed back, asked difficult questions and consequently adopted new dispositions around coaching.

In those communities and in particular with the Connected Coaching pilot, taking time to build trust was purposeful and with intent. During the pilot, Dean Shareski led us in experimenting, playing --leveraging the affordances of technology to do just that—to develop collegial relationships that would support deep learning. We played with images of meaning to us, shared why, honored each other’s ideas; we used audio files to introduce ideas, more fully bringing understanding to our passions and our thoughts. Video files, faces paired with voices, sometimes fresh from working in the garden, other times while traveling on a train brought us closer together. Sharing family moments, sharing passions, sharing aspirations.

In the recent 8 week course, we did the same—and what I knew could develop for colleagues who worked together face to face, for colleagues who virtually collaborated over a number of months – the building of trust and subsequent collegial relationships—developed truly over the short course of just 2 months!

Coincidentally, Jane, wondered as she reflected on leading a “virtual” team”

“So, is this therefore a 21st C skill and ability to be considered? If we are to begin to increasingly work with others online in collaborative forums, the ability to use online technologies to ‘virtually’ build relationships – the development of ‘online human leadership’ skills – must become an incredibly important one to consider.”

After she noted:
“You don’t really ‘know’ the people, their lifestyles and passions, out of work commitments; nor, do you have the regular everyday opportunity to build the relationships essential to leading those involved.”

Growing virtual relationships, building trust online— I’d suggest, yes it is a new leadership skill and one, that when practiced, enables deeper thinking, deeper learning, and opportunities for systemic change in education.

In chapter 4 of our book, The Connected Educator, we share:
"Connected learners have to work harder to establish trust. In our face to face interactions, we get to know people over time through causal interactions. We see them come in, take off their coats, complain about traffic. We get to know their families through pictures in frames on their desks and through conversations about the baby having a fever and children’s sports events. The steps are all there but shared in covert business as usual ways. We do not have to create intentional acts to share this information. It just happens naturally. In online spaces, we have the same casual interaction if we think through how to make them happen. And these intentional acts have the same trust building effect as those that occur naturally. We upload pictures, type stories about our children, create and share videos of sports events and tweet about traffic jams."
Yes, Jane, nurturing those human relationships in online spaces— building trust is essential to knowledge construction and sharing from which change is birthed –

Intentional acts of casual sharing in online spaces can lead to incredible trust building and the development of meaningful relationships and learning not even imagined—even in 8 short weeks!

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