Gather with Purpose

I have found that the intersection of community, technology and learning is more meaningful when I step back and ask myself and my colleagues the following question:

What meaningful work can we do together that we could not accomplish individually?

In other words, how can we gather with purpose?

The phrase Gather with Purpose came to me while my MS Learning and Organizational Change (MSLOC) colleague, Jeff Merrell, and I were preparing a case study about creating a collaborative learning community for the 2011 Chicago E-learning Tech Showcase.

We shared three themes that we (MSLOC staff and faculty) had begun to identify as important for stewarding collaborative learning communities:

  1. Make Emotional Connections
  2. Encourage Discovery
  3. Gather with Purpose

During and after the case study presentation the theme that has resonated the most with people is Gather with Purpose. As Jeff Merrell mentions in a blog post, perhaps this is because so many of us have sat through class sessions (virtually or face-to-face) and meetings that seem like a waste of time. An instructional video or e-mail update would have sufficed.

In order to come up with the themes, we thought about the ways that a collaborative learning community has been fostered within the MSLOC program and then grouped them together. Some examples of gathering with purpose are:

  • Video Presentations: Student teams create video presentations that are shared with the whole class prior to a class session. The class session is used for discussing and critiquing the presentations in order to make connections and go deeper.
  • Simulations & Role Plays: A virtual class session is used to practice consulting. The instructors act as clients and students act as consultants. A scoping call with the “client” happens prior to the virtual session.
  • Knowledge Jam: Instructor gathers a panel of subject matter experts to participate in a knowledge jam with the students around a particular topic.
  • Group Reflection/Brainstorming via Google Docs: 15 – 25 students simultaneously answer questions, reflect or brainstorm a topic at the same time during hybrid or virtual class sessions. Everyone has a voice, not just the extroverts!

For me, the phrase Gather with Purpose is a reminder to slow down and be intentional about designing and planning virtual, face-to-face and hybrid gatherings/meetings/class sessions. The phrase helps me be more present during both the planning phase and the actual gathering. It also allows me as a participant to be more present because it acknowledges that all of our voices are needed when we gather. Our lives are all so busy and it is easy to just quickly slap together a ppt deck rather than take time to ask ourselves why we are gathering.

  • What is it that we can do together that we cannot achieve alone?
  • How can we make emotional connections and be energized by our gathering?
  • How can we design gatherings that hold people’s attention and perhaps even allow participants to go deep and stop multitasking?
  • What is the content or knowledge needed for this meeting and how will that be delivered or acquired prior to the session?

I hope that this blog can help me be more intentional with my own learning and reflection. Perhaps it will allow me to gather with more purpose online. While I am entering into blogging as purely an individual endeavor, I have a feeling it will open up some new connections and maybe even increase my own personal learning network along the way!

Related Resources

image from slightlyeverything on flickr

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