Friday, April 10, 2009

What Is Learnt From Community?

Kia ora tātou – Hello EveryoneMap of Fair Isle
North of Scotland, 25 miles south west of the Shetland Islands, lies Frjóey (Sheep Island - from the Norse) or Fair Isle. About 3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, it is the most remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom. Despite its almost complete lack of raw materials, Fair Isle has been occupied since the Bronze Age.

The resourcefulness of the people of Fair Isle is extraordinary.
The principle occupation of the men is crofting. The people subsist almost entirely on their own fine produce of meat and vegetables.

Fair Isle Pattern
The women foster an impressive cottage industry in woollen knitwear, from natural coloured home-spun wool.

Their intricate Fair Isle patterns are legendary and are favourites in fabric and textile industries, local and world-wide.
A wind-powered electricity supply seasonally provides between 50% and 85% of the island’s electricity needs. Fair Isle is a world leader in the use of renewable energy.

In 1900 there were 300 inhabitants. Less than 70 people live there today, ranging in age from 6 months to 96 years old. But what is truly remarkable is that the community has a lifestyle based almost entirely on mutual help and community effort. Disputes between individuals or between families on the island are virtually unknown; such is their dependency on, and commitment to cooperation and mutual support.

The commitment to cooperation and mutual support is self-sustaining.
It is what has permitted the people of Fair Isle to live as a community for thousands of years.

A lesson in community

There is much to be learnt from the people of Fair Isle. In recent years, people networks, groups and communities, and the relevance of their activity in present day education, have captured my attention.

A fascination for the behaviour of communities and a desire to learn how to encourage learners to participate within learning groups, motivated me to become a blogger in May last year.

Through my own practice and research, I’ve discovered that achieving a sustainable online learning community is very difficult. Over the years, and especially recently, I’ve been relieved though not satisfied to learn, from many different sources, that it’s not just me. Teacher/facilitator reports of the endeavour needed to engage online learners in community participation are to be found everywhere I look.

So-called learning communities are capricious in the way they perform. Growing an online learning community needs a specialist skill. It also takes a lot of time, effort and patience. Such undertakings do not always achieve the desired learning successes. In Clark Quinn's recent post Real Community, he questions if what we call online communities are really communities.
I continue to look, learn and try to understand how some communities function and survive.Taking a lesson from the people of Fair Isle, how can a sustained commitment to cooperation and mutual support be brought about in a group of online learners?

 courtesy Lise Sinclair
Haere rā – Farewell


Bonnie K said...

What a gorgeous video to share and a lovely compliment to find my find blog link on your sidebar.
I'm so glad I stopped by today as I read your reflections on online communities.
I am hoping that Sue offers us a comment challenge again so we can continue to reflect and build our online communities.

Kate Foy said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog this morning, and for putting community into practice.

Warm regards to the eastlands from across the ditch!

V Yonkers said...

I too have been very interested in group and community building. One thing that I think many are missing in their research is the impact of proximity and shared culture. It takes a long time to build community. You need only look at the experience of Brazila, an artificially created community which still is trying to find its identity to understand the time commitment for community and group building.

Your example of Fair Isle brings up one of the weaknesses of a strong community, that of letting in "insiders" so the community continues to evolve, while maintaining a strong community identity. Many of the towns in New England have a long history of community involvement. However, as communities aged and businesses moved south, it was hard to attract people from outside of the community because of the strong cultural identity. This is why many towns in Central and Northern New York are nothing more than ghost towns.

On the other hand, I had a very difficult time feeling connected to Denver and my niece had a difficult time connecting to Washington DC as there was a feeling of transience, with a lack of identifiable culture. It was easy for a new comer to enter, but difficult to feel a sense of community. This is the same for many online communities. The difficulty is balancing a strong community identity with an openness to newcomers.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Haere mai
Haerer mai
Haere mai

Kia ora Bonnie!

I'm pleased you liked the vid. I feel that Fair Isle is such a special community that touches the whole world through its culture. I just had to include the music!

Tēnā koe Kate!

Warm regards are much appreciated. The warmer the better! It's like winter here yet. there's over a month to go before autumn finishes. Can't complain though we've had some stunning sunnny days - but brisk!

Kia ora Virginia!

I identify with what you say about artificial 'communities'. In the 70s I lived in Wester Hailes, west of Edinburgh - a concrete jungle of tens of thousands but hardly a community. It is not much different today.

Some communities tend to resist cultural change - and I believe there is good reason for this in that the communities remain as communities by doing this. Newcomers making inroads can take over a community and of course the community disperses and then becomes extinct. This has happened in many towns in the east of Scotland. A tragedy.

Catchya later

Gail Desler said...

Ken, I wandered into your blog via your comment on Bud H's post. Thank you for providing a window into Fair Isle via your description and the beautiful video (which I'm heading back in for the 3rd time today to watch).

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Haere mai Gail!

Yes Fair Isle is a fascinating place. I just love the music of Lise Sinclair - there are other music videos that she has on the web.

Isn't community mysterious?

Nice to have you visit - you are very welcome to look around.

Catchya later