Monday, September 29, 2008

If you build it -- they will come -- or will they??

Our parent Ning, has, from the beginning, been a place built by parents for parents. However there is a lot of discussion right now about how schools can utilize the same types of Web 2.0 tools to engage with parents. So I wonder what would happen if the school created a site similar to the community parent Ning and invited parents to join. Would it suffer from the "creepy treehouse" syndrome?? Personally, I think that it might. Ownership, whether of an idea, action or physical space, is a powerful determinant of the investment an individual is willing to make. Parents simply would not invest in a school-owned network the same way they would invest in a parent owned network. And, as I have mentioned, the opposite is true as well. We find ourselves at an impasse.

Or have we?? What if we can each own our individual spaces but passively collaborate to meet the needs of each group?

There have been two key developments, in our situation, that has made this possibility a reality for our community parent Ning. The first, is that the school has begun to publish it's calendar online via Google Calendar. It may not seem like a major development but that simple choice allows the parents to import the "official" school generated calendar into the parent Ning. This has the potential to address one of the Schools major concerns about "misinformation" on the Ning. Now instead of volunteer parents transcribing school events onto our own calendar we avoid any transcription mistakes by using the school's actual calendar. The School can also access any of the parent generated community, club and sport Google calendars that are maintained by parents on the Ning.

The second development is that one of the teachers has started a blog . Through the use of an RSS this can be transported, by parents, to that specific grade group within the Ning. That link to the teacher generated content enriches the environment without the teacher having to actively participate in the space. It maintains a level of separation that is important to school administration at this point.

At one time I bemoaned the fact that the School was unwilling to join us in the Ning. Now I am beginning to wonder if we can each own and control our own space and use threads of collaboration to loosely tie us together. In a way this issue surrounding ownership and collaboration reminds me of "free trade agreements". While we all want to preserve our own space, culture and identity we realize that there are certain commodities that are so valuable and so integral that they should be traded freely. The question then moves from "If we build it will they come?" to "How can we build it so they can be there without coming?"


Lorna Costantini said...

You are so incredibly insightful. I love everything you write. I am so appreciative of the message you bring to the table.

Jeannine St. Amand said...

I really enjoy your updates on the evolution of your original concept. I think you are really on to something with the "free trade" approach - especially with the respect for one's "own space, culture and identity". Keep us posted!

Tech Mom said...

@jeannine and @lorna -- I sure enjoy the "love" you leave on my blog -- it is very encouraging

@jeannine -- it was through an email to Cindy Seibel explaining what was happening that it first struck me that maybe we do need our own space and since web 2.0 is all about collaboration why can't we just do that instead of forcing what may be a difficult and artificial situation. Writing and reflecting sure crystallizes thoughts.

Thanks for reading guys -- it keeps me going.