Posted by: lindapemik | October 24, 2010

Banding together

There is a picture of musk-ox above my home office desk.  As I sat here gathering my thoughts for this post about building an online community the picture became my symbol for community.  We are all likely familiar with how musk ox join together in a circle when threatened by predators and how they share responsibility for protecting the weak and  instinctually know that there is power in numbers.

That simple fact about survival forms the foundation for why all peoples gather in communities. Communities provide not only the strength of numbers when under attack they also provide the means for sharing and making the most effective use of resources.  There is power too in the formation of virtual communities-power and opportunity. In this class we have been able to catch a glimpse of the power and opportunity that exist in online communities and the way in which the means stimulate the desire to share.  Dean Shareski has some interesting thoughts on the morality of sharing.

My growing knowledge about open learning and social media has motivated me to think more deeply about how to tap into this power which is available to us through the Web.   It appears that the choice to reach out to others via the Web often stems from teachers’  inherent desire to share knowledge with others and help their students link to the vast resources available to them.  I have also caught an intriguing glimpse into a community of educators who are virtually banding together to bring about change in the world of education; people who are using social media tools to not only share knowledge but to use their influence to bring about changes in their schools, their work places and ultimately stimulate changes in education policy and practice beyond their local area.

Recognizing the power of banding together to promote change I have decided to use my new found knowledge to create an online learning community at Arctic College, a virtual space for conversations about teaching and learning and technology.  The initial focus will be on how we can prepare to use online tools and technologies as we make our move to becoming a connected college.  There is a lot to think about in planning for a learning community.  Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach warns us that “just because you build it doesn’t mean in online community that they will come”.

With that thought in mind I have been asking myself what can I do to create a dynamic community that will not only invite people in but will cause them to want to become contributing members of  the community.  Tony Karrer quotes Jack Merklein.  Jack says if the value is high enough and you are focused on problems that they are faced with, they will come.”  Karrer expands that thought:  “If I can bring together outside experts and/or people from across the organization with expertise and facilitate a conversation on the critical business issues you are facing and help you capture that so it can be distributed in the organization–is that something you would want?  Absolutely!  In fact we all want that all the time“.. And this is especially desirable in Arctic College’s geographically disbursed organization.  I want to not only invite people in but cause them to stay to become contributing members.

So this is my eci831 project and goal:  to create an Arctic College conversation–a virtual “staff room” where faculty and staff can dialogue about teaching practice and the implications of the technology changes that are approaching us in the coming year.  To get started I’ve collected some  practical strategies and advice from FeverBee, ( bookmarked in Delicious, tagged eci831, if you are looking for tips on building online communities).  I have personally contacted 8 of our staff members whom I know have an interest and maybe even a passion for connected teaching.  With their support and participation I am planning to create a group blog linked to our College website by mid November.  maybe we will call it the Umingmak (musk ox) Village Commons–don’t know yet, the name is yet to be decided!

One lesson I have learned already: there is power in numbers and like the musk ox we can achieve more together than by standing alone.



  1. This sounds like a wonderful project. I look forward to reading your further posts.

  2. Great blog Linda. As a biology geek from university I loved the analogy of musk ox to a learning community. I think your project idea is great and it seems like you have already started to build you own learning community at your college. Good luck and keep the blogs coming I enjoy reading you posts.


  3. Thank you for this post, Linda. I am really enjoying the way you craft your ideas, and love your analogy of the muskoxen.

    I am excited for your project, and please let me know when/if I can be of assistance.

  4. i like your thinking… i get things so much better via anaologies/fractals..

    community is so important… Dave Cormier says – community is the curriculum. this idea of yours is spot on.

    your piece about the value being high enough – made me think of 2 teds. Ethan Zuckerman’s global voices and Dave Logan’s tribal leadership. both talk about making connections in unlikely places and with unlikely people. i think that’s where value and intrigue comes in… the potential to innovate/learn is stretched.

    best wishes. soak up all you can with Alec.

  5. Linda,
    I love the analoty to the musk ox and how your inspiration has been incorporated into the potential blog name for your project. I look forward to seeing this unfold.

    I have already checked out the link you mention to FeverBee as I am searching for information on how to effectively set up online learning communities. Thank you for sharing.

    Take care.

  6. Hi Linda,

    Can’t wait to read more about the virtual connectedness of Arctic College on the horizon. As one of the satellite community instructors, I know this is a huge step in the right direction.


    • hi tara
      great to see someone from the college dropping hopes for change at the college lie with people like you who are already helping their students develop media literacy skills. It was great to hear about what you and your students are doing in a very small isolated community like Qiqiktarjuak!


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