The Ripe Environment: Connection

This is the first in a series of posts about The Ripe Environment, my thoughts on how to create a space for educators and learners to want to become better educators and learners (although, one could argue that educators and learners are or should be the same thing).

The first of the 10 prerequisites for The Ripe Environment is “Educators and learners must have a genuine need to be heard by others and, in one way or another, receive feedback for contributions.” This need for input and feedback equates to a continual longing for connection. Our ideas must be connected to other’s for them to have value. They must be experienced by someone out there somewhere who is intrigued, disgusted, embarrassed, or in some other way affected.

Connection is different in The Ripe Environment, though. It is no longer sufficient to meet someone and shake his or her hand. This is not a connection; it is merely a coincidence that both of you happen to be in the same room. A connection is something that is felt when ideas/personalities/beliefs meet one another and are challenged, bettered, or assimilated. Two people can be talking about the similar ideas or completely opposite opinions, but until a link is made between the two, neither are aware of the similarities and differences. That means, that there is no value held within either. And truly, connection is all about creating value for the the two people doing the connecting.

The three types of connections that create the most value are as follows:

  • The 1:1
    • Definition: Two people with the same aims. A friend. An adversary. A person who encourages you to do your best work.
    • Examples: A twitter friend. Someone you e-mail/IM regularly that asks you exchange questions and answers with. A collaborative document (i.e., Google Docs)
  • The autograph (aka 1:many)
    • Definition: A fan or follower of someone else’s ideas. An inspiration. A person that creates (or attempts to create) a movement.
    • Examples: A twitter follower. A blog that you read or write. A podcast. A comment on a blog post.
  • The frame (aka many:many)
    • Definition: A builder upon other’s ideas. A new context for established content. A collaborative network.
    • Examples: A tweet. A Meme. A trackback. A Wiki. A webcast. A social network.

All three of these connections are essential for the culture of collaboration to occur. If we stop at merely 1:1 interaction, collective intelligence is wasted. If, on the other hand, if all we are doing is framing other’s ideas out in the open, there is never any time to develop personal relationships with those that can directly benefit from our ideas and help them to grow.

So, we can blend the three types of connections. A link within a blog is both a 1:1 and a 1:many, as is a comment. Blending personal and public connections is a way of introducing our own contacts to our greater network; it is a way of getting rid of the apprehension that people have about putting themselves “out there.”

For example, a colleague of mine writes great e-mails. They are concise and beautifully written. They are based in both theory and practice. They ask amazing questions and beg me to go deeper with everything I am working on. So, I tell him to start blogging the e-mails, and I ask him if I can podcast about them. What I am doing is introducing his ideas to some of the other people I am connecting to. These are the connections that make sense in The Ripe Environment because they don’t allow any good idea to stay archived in an e-mail folder, never to be heard from again.

My hope is that we start honoring these types of connections for the inspiration and passion that give to our daily lives. We cannot settle for an atmosphere of acquaintanceship in our learning communities. We must strive for an culture of connection.

This post is in draft form. My hope is that it will expand to include better definitions of each type of connection as well as examples. Please feel free to comment to that affect, or if you would prefer a more 1:1 connection, please e-mail me at benwilkoff@gmail.com. I would also like to thank those of you who are already interested in expanding upon this idea (Patrick Higgins, Chris Lehmann, Alec Couros, TechKnow, and Christian Long) . Please write as much about as you can. It is the only way that The Ripe Environment will actually occur.

  • http://thinklab.typepad.com/ Christian Long

    You wrote: “We must strive for a culture of connection.” I nod in full agreement. Great to see you developing your initial “Ripe Environment” ideas further already. Going to enjoy the updates hear on out.

    Cheers, Christian

  • http://plennig.wordpress.com Page Lennig

    Ben – Thanks for the blog mention. This idea of “connection” that you describe in this post is exactly why I began to blog. It took me a while to realize the true difference between reading other blogs (and commenting occasionally) and actually writing my own posts. You did a nice job summarizing it here. I am eager to keep up the conversation. thanks.

  • http://schools.dcsdk12.org/bhwilkoff yongesonne

    Page:

    You are absolutely right about the difference between passively consuming blog posts and actively creating posts. I think that the jump between these two disciplines needs more exploration. I hope you will join me thinking about how to get more would-be advocates for change to make that transition.

  • http://thetechcurve.com Kern Kelley

    One thing that strikes me from reading this post is how natural and easier it has been for me to make these connections with my students, rather than many of the teachers I work with. With few exceptions most of the staff I work with do not have a “need to be heard by others”
    I’m not saying that it’s a good thing, I’m just wondering how to get those who most need to be in this conversation, here.

  • http://bhwilkoff.podomatic.com Ben Wilkoff

    Kern:
    Do you think it is that they don’t need to be heard by others, or merely that this need has been silenced so many times by an environment that is anything but ripe? I just can’t imagine not wanting feedback on my ideas and lessons, but perhaps that is just my willingness to reflect and write coming through.

    I really want this idea to be applicable to as many people as possible, so I think that this may be a point to explore further. How do we get this “need” to come to the forefront. I think that perhaps Yahoo Teachers has a good idea going in merely sharing resources, rather than getting bogged down in all of the other social network things that Classroom 2.0 has to offer. Is this a good starting point, or can we simply assume that this need will happen if we produce the right situations for teachers?

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