What role can technology play in building a community? In building a learning community? What technology tools and applications have you used to build community, and how have you used them?

Tags: community, technology, tools

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I think communities form around common interests. Technology can be used to reach more people with similar interests to invite such people to gather at central forums. However, in any forum, the group's knowledge is limited to the range of experiences and knowledge the people in the group can bring to the process. No matter how much people know, it's usually just a small fraction of what is known by others around the world about any topic. Furthermore, it's almost impossible in a face to face meeting, or group brainstorming session, to share all we each know with everyone else in any meaningful, or in depth way.

This leads to another use of technology to support communities. We can create libraries of knowledge around certain topics, via links from one web site to many other web sites, or links of many web sites to many other web sites. If we can organize and diagram this knowledge, it can expand the knowledge any member brings to a group, and it can also host the knowledge of specific members of any group. This expanded knowledge can support the innovations and decisions and actions of the community.

I apply the principle to my work in building a community of people who operate volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and other cities, and who support such programs, or should support such programs. You can browse this information at http://www.tutormentorconnection.org/TMLearningNetwork/LinksLibrary...

You can see a map showing the organization of the links, and relationships of one set of knowledge to the others, at http://cmapspublic.ihmc.us/servlet/SBReadResourceServlet?rid=118011...

(NOTE: the links on this cmap page are broken and I'm trying to figure why. If any of you have experience with this, let me know.)

At http://cmapspublic.ihmc.us/servlet/SBReadResourceServlet?rid=118011... you can see another map where the links are working, and see how we use this to blueprint our vision.

I've been collecting this information for 15 years and have been looking for a way to diagram it for as long. We started using cMaps a few months ago, and now I believe this is a way any community can collect knowledge about what is important to that community.

You'll notice that on the links other people can rate and write reviews and can submit new links. Thus the quality of the knowlege can be determined by the users, and the users can constantly expand the knowlege the group has available.

If you browse other areas of the T/MC site you'll see how we're linking our knowledge to Geographic Information Systems as a way of helping people understand all of the places in Chicago where tutor/mentor programs are needed, based on poverty or locations of poorly performing schools. This is another example of how we can use technology to support groups of people.

If you'd like to add new links to the site, please do.

Dan Bassill
Chicago

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