Online communities – are now a culture or counter-culture depending on your ideology. Community, culture, churn, sift and drift are the reagents of motivation and at the center of learning anything online.
Communities need culture to operate. Anyone talking about communities in an online world, cannot dismiss its cultural influences. This is however a ver spikey idea – especially to people who prefer the world the way as it was. Big communities are more robust. In times of stress, they spin off into smaller ones rather than shattering. They are easy for newcomers to join, so you spend less time recruiting as there’s always room for one more. They are very attractive to socializers who seem to prefer their inclusive feel. Small communities are fast to develop, the community levels faster (I think there are 4 stages to community: communication, interest, practice and collective action). Small communities are more personal-friendly to newcomers. They tend to be more diverse in their interests and are far more exclusive. Explorers, risk takers and innovators prefer them.
They all suffer from churn, sink and drift.
Churn is the rate people leave. The stronger the community, the less churn. (schools auto-churn students every year). Most of the churn happens in the newcomer days: It’s too hard, I don’t have time, it’s not me etc., A good way to manage churn rates is to offer a trial (as in 10 days game play for nothing). This acts as safety value to ensure the community is not determined by the churn. The community does not want people who can’t strengthen it and are willing for give up revenue and size for this. Much of education is fixated on cost and size, so actually promotes churn. Education is built to churn by offering pilots and taster communities, most of which fail when the community is forced to scale to reach enterprise level. We go from a few classrooms to a few schools to a policy as enforcement. The churn point.
Sink is all about why people engage. Why people sink time and intellectual investment into learning or playing online. It is why people want to use a virtual world – or why they want to learn from YouTube. Drift is why they stop using it, or stop being interested. Community is the hook that pulls people into Educational Technology and what keeps them there. Immersion is what teachers and leaders need to be concerned with. It is rare for a politician to talk about immersing teachers in a culture of … as they have no real access to communities that do – they are not buraucrats.
The strategy of adding more hardware, more tools, more resources, more policy does not promote community of immersion. It promotes churn (I tried, and didn’t like), sink (I wanted to do it, but it was blocked) and drift (I have been using some technology, but that now I’m told its old hat). I think that when you get beyond around 250 members of a community – you will see sub-groups forming with their own sub interests – leading and coordinating those is a whole new level. In EdTech communities; the laws of churn, sink and drift determine everything.
This is why we see teachers churning out the classrooms, sinking thousands of hours into online communities nand drifing away from the ideology and philosphies that were installed in them as pre-teachers. We love our small communities – as we reach that level of participation and action quicky (classrooms, small groups etc) and use the big communities (Twitter, Facebook, Blogs) to locate them.
These communities operate at an almost intutitive level, they defend, promote, create and help constantly, the best ones do it for free and never attempt to rule the members but enable them. Second Classroom reached 250 members this week. A virtual community that now has to level up if it is going to become a big strong one.