Yesterday, I drove to Richmond, Virginia. It is about a two hour drive from my home. My goal was to attend the open house of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Academic Learning Transformation Lab. I am not a member of the VCU faculty or staff, but because of the open culture nurtured there, I do feel part of the VCU community. After all, I did play along with the recent Thought Vectors in Concept Space course (http://thoughtvectors.net/).
At the ALTLab, the three sessions that I participated in were the Photo Safari (walking the nearby streets with Tom Woodward taking pictures); Communities of Practice (discussions about how faculty and students create a greater community that transcends individual disciplines); and 3D Printing (using it for various types of courses). For me, there was the personal connection of meeting folks in person that I knew (to greater or lesser extent) online.
Two thoughts that are related to Connected Courses come to mind. First, sometimes connecting with other courses has to happen off-line. I could just interact with the VCU folks and their work online, but meeting in person, on their turf, deepens my appreciation of what they are doing, and may lead to future communication and collaboration now that personal IRL relationships are begun.
Secondly, as I was able to see and discuss with my table-mates in the Communities of Practice session, I am beginning to use what I’ve been learning and step out on my own. Blogging about education with other educators is one thing. Now I am taking the concepts to another aspect of my life. A church I am affiliated with is beginning a long-term study of a particular edition of the Bible. Though I am just a learner and not in the leadership, I have created a blog for my own reflections in this course, and will be encouraging others to comment, create their own blogs, etc. Probably most of the participants have never done such a thing as to express their learning online in a public way. As I break my own barriers, perhaps others will have their barriers broken. (If you are interested, the blog is at http://commentsbybill.wordpress.com/)