Just saw a response to our conversation on Neighborhoods by Susan van Gelder, and I wanted to include it here. Great…

Just saw a response to our conversation on Neighborhoods by Susan van Gelder, and I wanted to include it here. Great conversation happening. 



  1. I love the walking through the falling snow, thinking and reflecting on your communities, undeterred by the gentle cold, as you were undeterred by the excellent face2face colleagues, and found an online community to expand your passions. I know the feeling– both the brisk walking weather and the different interests of f2f peers. Thank goodness for the online community — neighborhood — of people who become friends in spots. “Friendship is almost always the union of a part of one mind with the part of another; people are friends in spots.” 

    ~ George Santayana 

    Thanks for showing the power of PLNs ! Sheri

  2. Comments are possible, no matter what type of community exists. We just have to create a space and a time for them. One of the questions I always ask whenever I walk into a classroom is, “Where is your classroom’s backchannel?” 

    What I mean is, where is the one place that your learners (and you) can go in order to showcase your learning, ask questions, and have conversations that you can continually come back to (as opposed to those that are done in the hallways).

    How would you answer that question?

  3. I grew up in a time where passing notes was the backchannel 🙂 We have to help students make that backchannel on task. I think it is not just about showcasing learning but giving an avenue for mulling things over. An idea put out can change once you see the comments of others.

  4. Absolutely! It then takes on an element of idea ownership. Whenever my middle schoolers would create something “on their own”, they would immediately not want others to copy it and they would stop others from building on top of it as well. They wanted their “own wiki pages” and their “own google docs”.

    In a backchannel, and in a connected learning environment, we have to be able to teach them how to build and remix what has been shared. Otherwise, if we are still pursuing all our own ideas, then the backchannel is just a publishing channel and not a platform for further learning.

  5. I used to teach philosophy for children – this was one of the aspects we tried to teach. Once an idea is out there – it is there to be played with – and even the originator could disagree with the idea after hearing what others had to say. Also that disagreeing with an idea is not an attack on the person who stated it.

  6. Yes. I think this is where the concept of the commons needs to come in. If we can create a “commons” for our classroom, it let’s us debate all of the learning that we place there. Perhaps that is a better way of framing the the concept of the back channel. What if all of this is an extension of the commons? What if the commons is where our paths intersect? What if the commons is what we need in every neighborhood? And what if all that it takes to create a commons is to share things in a single space and be okay to pursue the result?

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