Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Day Nine, Learning Commuities - Geeks in Sleeping Bags

We are in for a treat today. Today, we stop in a community where everyone is a geek like us, but we get to meet each member of the community in person. Not only that, the level of interactivity is super high...almost everyone here participates in some way. This particular community of learners is a blended community, that is, it exists not only online but also Face 2 Face. This community is called BarCamp. The BarCamp community is generally informal and relies on mixed-mode delivery to provide for learning. The scaffolding of the community is the Open Space Technology format. The learning content of such communities is very much user driven. The BarCamp facilitators may put together a list of potential subject areas for discussion and learning, but in the end, it is totally up to the learners as to which subjects will be included in the BarCamp. Furthermore, the content itself is completely controlled by the participants. There are no hired presenters...just participants who are willing to share their knowledge with other participants. And finally, membership in the BarCamp community, requires each member to promise to present on some subject matter. F2F BarCamps generally occur in centralized cities in a free meeting space, and it is not unusual, due to the scaffolding for the BarCamp to advertise itself is "round-the-clock" learning, and because of that, often boast of "bring a sleeping bag" overnight accomodations (people gotta sleep dont they?).

The on-line part of this community is then heavily reliant on blogs, photo sharing (often similar to power point presentations), social bookmarking and wikis to follow-up the subject matters encountered in the F2F portion of a BarCamp. There are also a couple of E-lists that carry BarCamp discussions (I've listed the best below).

What is the BarCamp's role in "Learning Communities"? I am not sure there is an answer to that yet. BarCamps may be a passing fad, or they may be the inevitable result of the social side of on-line learning communities. Only time is going to tell us where BarCamps fit in our Learning Communities model.

Additional Reads:
BarCamp for Dummies
BarCamp Wiki - A terrific list of BarCamps that were, and BarCamps that are yet to come.
The Nuts and Bolts of BarCamp
Google Groups Bar Camp - Probably the best e-list group on BarCamps.

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