Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Renew & Reflect #3: Extending the Challenge!

TeachThought's Reflect and Renew Blog Challenge asks us up the ante of this connected community - get colleagues involved to help create a community of practice. This prompt gives me a chance to brag about what me and the blogger behind Eat the Yolk  are experimenting with on our own campus. 

We both accepted last September's challenge and were immediately hooked - f0r all the good reasons that the TeachThought online community touts as benefits. We both agreed that reserving time to read and write blogs was personally and professionally rewarding. 

So we took a chance. We launched our own little connected community for our campus. Toward the end of the semester, we held a couple small workshops to promote the idea of using blogs to reflect on our practice and connect with each other. We decided on weekly challenges rather than daily. And instead of a single prompt per challenge, the group decided to have two options.

About fifteen or so indicated interest, and by the end of the semester, seven of our peers joined us.  We call ourselves the SWC Bloggers (SWC stands for Southwestern College). Check out the links to my peers' blogs in the right-hand column of this page. A few even were able to post three blogs before the end of the semester. 

At our opening day Professional Development program, Yolkster and I did another workshop to promote our virtual reflection group. We ran a low stakes, high engagement workshop around on Brilliant or Insane: Education on the Edge article that lists the benefits. 

We now have about five more people interested! 

We're working out details and kinks. We're working with our Professional Development folks to get PD credits. Figuring out how to divvy up questions, prompts and announcements so we're collaborating (I have a tendency to get "controlly"). Complicating this, my colleague is one maternity leave - this close to having her baby! 

Being a newbie at connected learning, getting up the "infrastructure" is quite a challenge. 

Despite all that, it's been fun and productive. The benefits outlined in Brilliant or Insane's post are happening. Not in huge leaps and bounds, but in small, personal increments.  

I'm learning more about how to blog by "teaching' others how to blog, which is precisely what I ask students to do: teach each other in order to learn more deeply.

Blogging also helps me feel a stronger bond to my peers. I'm interacting with people new to me and with colleagues I already knew, but in a slightly different context. Since we're a campus of just under 1,000 full-time and adjunct professors, virtual spaces can help reduce isolation and foster interdepartmental communication. We've got folks from counseling, Speech Comm, and Sociology. On tap, someone from Theater/Performing Arts - and a librarian! 

My next step? Getting to work on helping the next round of SWC Bloggers get online!