Third ‘virtual’ Place

Konrad Glogowski’s great presentation at NECC talked about the idea of students having a ‘third place’.

The third place is a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace. In his influential book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg (1989, 1991) argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place.

Oldenburg calls one’s “first place” the home and those that one lives with. The “second place” is the workplace — where people may actually spend most of their time. Third places, then, are “anchors” of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. All societies already have informal meeting places; what is new in modern times is the intentionality of seeking them out as vital to current societal needs. Oldenburg suggests these hallmarks of a true “third place”: free or inexpensive; food and drink, while not essential, are important; highly accessible: proximate for many (walking distance); involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there; welcoming and comfortable; both new friends and old should be found there.

One of the key ‘take aways’ from my NECC experience are photo’s such as this one from the Edublogger cafe. For many advocates of fundamental changes to the way schools are organised (or need de-organising), the way we engage learners, methods, tools we choose – the internet is the ‘third space’.

Photo: Teacherman79 – Konrad live in Jokaydia (SL)

A series of communication tools – skype, gmail, twitter, second life etc., connect people globally in a third ‘virtual’ spaces, as it is impossible to do in a ‘real space’. When they get together in situaltions such as Edubloggercon (in a sub-culture of NECC itself), then the idea becomes more ‘explainable’.

All these people live hundreds if not thousands of miles from each other – but share common conversations through a variety of communication tools. These conversations sustain and promote their ideas, that may otherwise fade in a localised vacuum.

It is no wonder that students create ‘third spaces’ at school – using technology (mobile phones, IM). If we don’t create them for them, they will create their own – just as everyone does.

I will definitely be looking to create more of these spaces at school. I can now better see why the students at my school have been so successful with their ‘Gaming LAN’ room. Perhaps unconsciously, the third space has been created.

In Classroom 2.2 (the second build for 2009), I’ll be looking at how I can create ‘third places’ in the PBL environment. These were not included in the current build, but after seeing how well they worked at NECC, then I think that they will add value to the 2 new classrooms to accommodate 160 new students for 2009. Photo : Konrad Glogowski