Most of us are not strangers to the concept of the forum. Forums are attached to nearly every type of community building platform that hopes to encourage continuing discussion. But what do we do with forums? If you’re anything like me, you dip your typing fingers in the forum pool about twice a year, but mostly forget they exist. In their recent article “The Discussion Forum is Dead; Long Live the Discussion Forum,” Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel claim “the forum itself does not automatically promote meaningful conversation — or conversation at all.” In truth, the forum, any forum, is a metaphorically empty room when no one is in it. But it is much more than just a potential place to gather. It is a space with potential: “In the right hands, it can do wonders,” Sean and Jesse remind us.
In his chapter on “Spatial Stories” out of the book The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel deCerteau explains the difference between ‘place’ and ‘space.’ A ‘place’ defines a location — it “excludes the possibility of two things being the same location.” Place is stable, it can be marked on a map. “Space,” deCerteau tells us, “is a practiced place”: “Space is composed of intersections of mobile elements. It is in a sense actuated by the ensemble of movements deployed within it.” The forum can be marked on a digital site map, and by that delineation, it is a place. But once we inhabit it with mobile ideas — once we begin to move those ideas around within it — the forum becomes a space where we practice community building around a theme.
The goal with Hybrid Pedagogy has always been to build community, and the journal has had a forum as a beta experiment since its launch. This month, we are launching it more officially — working to build the Hybrid Pedagogy Commons into a space for our readers — a space with as much potential and practice as we build within our Hybrid Pedagogy community. The Commons is a space where people can gather, synchronously or asynchronously, like the forever moving Burkean parlor, to pose questions, discuss ideas, share visions, and make new questions. We purposefully use the term “commons” to promote a sense of community — and therefore a heightened sense of space.
From May 27th – June 2nd, Hybrid Pedagogy will host the first ever Hybrid Pedagogy Commons Virtual Unconference.
HOW DOES A VIRTUAL UNCONFERENCE WORK?
The virtual unconference is run by you — the contributors to the commons. For those of you who participated in MOOC MOOC, it’s kind of like that — but in molasses. For those of you familiar with THATCamp, it will also be a lot like that, but with us all working from very different physical places. As an unconference, we’ll propose sessions, vote on them to decide which will be featured on which days. From there, you can jump in and out, participating wherever it suits you, on whichever days suit you. We invite you to participate as much or as little as you choose.
The theme for our first virtual unconference in the Commons is broad, “Critical and Digital Pedagogies”:
What are some strategies you use to hybridize your class?
How has thinking about Digital Natives evolved?
How can we use technology to help build community?
How are the economic concerns of our students changing?
How do you use your LMS?
Anything goes. These questions are just a starting place.
First, we need virtual session proposals from you. You can create a proposal in the commons starting right now, and up until Friday, May 24th. On May 24th, we will all convene on the Commons to vote on topics.
HOW DO I PROPOSE A VIRTUAL SESSION?
Visit the thread “Critical and Digital Pedagogies Virtual Unconference Proposals” to propose a session. Submit about 200 words before May 24th.
Then, sit around by yourself and wait. Better yet, get on Twitter, and push ideas around with your tweeps (using hashtag #digped). Get more ideas, bring people into the commons, widen the space by adding invested minds, or build interest in your own topic. If space is what we make it, then let’s make this a great community experience.
WHAT IF MY PROPOSAL GETS SELECTED?
We’ll vote on sessions throughout the day on May 24th. If your proposal is selected, we’ll give you a day, (Monday through Friday), and you’ll jump start the discussion. Need some deep conversation on a specific topic? Perfect. Got a cool activity? Give it a shot. Want to stir up a debate? Go for it. The unconference will happen right inside the commons via forum discussion, links to stuff outside the commons, and a #digped backchannel on Twitter. Sessions will be asynchronous but may have synchronous components.
The virtual unconference will run from Monday to Friday, May 27th – May 31st, with Saturday, June 1st and Sunday, June 2nd reserved for reflections devoted to building a better Commons the next time we convene for an event of this sort.
WHEN IS IT OVER?
The beauty of the Commons is that it never really has to be over. Feel free to continue your discussions as long as you want, or start new ones. However, to keep the space fresh and free of cobwebs, we’ll be holding events there regularly, pushing the boundaries of what a traditional forum space is for.
Sean and Jesse write, “while certain kinds of communities can be built through regular posts and responses to those posts, these are communities of commentary, and not the kinds of communities that further online and hybrid learning.” With regular colloquia and continuing conversations, the Hybrid Pedagogy Commons will become a space for sharing, exchanging, and questioning — a space that encourages a community of contribution (not just commentary).
[Photo by CJ Isherwood]