Hello Everyone,

I'm trying to think through some parts of the basic operation-manual for Fireside Learning, the part of the manual that has to do with discussion guidelines and the "tone" of the network. My idea as I created the network was to set up an environment that is conducive to conversation, much like sitting around a fireside can create that atmosphere. A group discussion about this would be useful, I believe.

I'm thinking of certain guidelines that we'd generally be glad to go by--manners, perhaps--and trying to sort through how we best join together in conversation, with a sense of propriety and sensitivity that network participants find comfortable.
We certainly don't want to get too fussy; we absolutely are not promoting the view that participants have to agree with each other about the topics being discussed. We want discourse, and want to express and listen to a wide variety of views.

Would you say that's true?

So here is my characterization of the atmosphere I think is right--I'll put my view out there and then people can react and help to define and refine network expectations ("guidelines," "standards," "tone") for collegial conversation. These things have a starting point--and often evolve as we go on.

I'm thinking that being at Fireside Learning is like sitting by the hearth in someone's living room, or around a woodstove in a cabin. It might be later on in the evening so not a lot of kids are up, but some might be, and some will possibly walk through and hear the conversation. Maybe we're in a ski lodge; elders sit with us, a toddler is in someone's arms, a few young teens are hanging out playing a board game, older teens are joining into the conversation now and then.

Or how about this: we're all working in a mixed-age group on a construction site, such as building a house for Habitat for Humanity. Some people are obviously the leaders in particular activities. Some have a lot of know-how and past experience, others are trying to figure out how to use a handsaw. And younger people are both watching and joining in. The fire is only metaphorical in this case; it's in our spirits, it's in the energy of what we're building.

In all these settings, we'd want to be good listeners and learners, we'd want to stay somewhat on topic (with ramblings being ok now and then, along with refocusing on the main point). Am I right that in general we want to give out a lot of encouragement and support--whenever we can--and when we disagree, we want to do so respectfully?

Is this about right so far?

What am I leaving out, or putting in that doesn't belong as part of the picture?
Right now, would you be comfortable with your extended family stepping into Fireside Learning?

Is that a fair and useful standard to start with?

One reason I'm asking is because right now I have to keep my students off the network because of a poem that was posted. I can imagine other things coming up that would create the same limitation: graphic violence for instance. (My students don't see Fireside a lot, but do come through as they're looking at network design and maintenance. And I know of some parents who have signed on with their young adult child, both with the same user name.)

The poem that's up has a purpose for being there, and is high-quality writing. But does that make it appropriate? How do we judge what's appropriate?

Well, maybe this is enough to begin the conversation.

What's your view about the standards and tone we should use here? What are we after?

Maybe we can eventually get it down to a few sentences that serve as guidelines.

Anyone want to try? Let's begin.

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*MY* feeling of this fireside chat space was much less oriented toward children. My students are all grad students so I can't imagine they'd find anything offensive here. I kinda wish they'd find something *interesting* here, but that's another question and more a reflection on the class than the space.

The "poem in question" being an issue strikes me as an interesting discussion point. Of course I can see the issue being raised if some kid sees it and reports breathlessly to a parent. There's not much we can do to fix that problem -- and it is a problem -- a huge one. So, if the choice is, keep "kids" out or keep the discussion in-offensive enough to allow them in, my vote is keep them out. If somebody's child isn't capable of dealing with Rimbaud, then why would the other discussions here be of interest?

The question "would I be comfortable with my extended family stepping ...?" Sure. I got no problem. My 9yr old and 12yr old are mature enough to deal with the place, and smart enough to find places that are more interesting to tweens. :) My brothers and sisters aren't going to object and I can't imagine my cousins, aunts, uncles, and associated in-law and out-law relatives would find a lot to be outraged over. Spouse? Sure. Why not? None of the grandparents are alive, so that's moot.

The problem with that answer is that my liberal views on what I'm willing to censor in the name of "protection" are waaaaay outside the norm. I don't happen to believe it's ok to protect one kid if it harms others and I believe that keeping kids ignorant harms them. But that's me. And it may be a failure of imagination but I can't imagine a conversation that we might have here that any kid (or parent) should have trouble with. Rimbaud, notwithstanding.

Connie, from your description you obviously have a different perception of what you'd like this place to be. I thought it was a kind of "teachers lounge." Your take on it is very different. Do we need guidelines? If so, then I'm perfectly happy having the person who built it, lay them out and enforce them. If I get tired of the "Connie Weber view," I vote with my feet and move on - no harm, no foul.

Seems to me that's the nature of the space.
I basically agree with you, Nathan. It's not about me, it's not about censorship, it's about letting the conversations happen. Still, I have to admit a bit of disappointment that now this space has to be off-limits to the kids I was mentoring in network-shaping. Oh well, they have plenty of other places they can go to learn. Do you think I'm being too much of a Polyanna about an explicitly sexual poem? I feel I can't make the decision parents have to make.
Perhaps I'm Ann of Green Gables then. I must say I wasn't expecting a display of in-my-face sexuality. I don't want it for myself, let alone anyone else. And now I've read this thing, my self is not the same.
Thanks Connie,
My first comment is, collegial as we are it's still your fireside, it's your invitation, and it's our responsibility to keep your 'hearth rules'. I'm attracted to the conversation view - but they are educational conversations - kicking around ideas, questions, techniques which are themed to the lives of education practitioners.

There are other things dear to my heart, but there are other networks for those, or if not I can start one that suits. In the meantime, and here I need to be self-aware, controlled. What that means to me is that I obtrude some comments - in my case they're often religious, or just smart alecky - but try to ensure they're not intrusive and keep to the main point.
Perhaps there needs to be a gracious way of the community being able to say - "excuse me, is this comment better in hobby-horse corner".

Anyway, the shower's free so I've go to go and get ready for the last few days of my holiday. (Hobby-horse corner?)
I don't know, Ian, how self-aware and controlled you have to be. I've grown used to your religious and smart-alecky comments, and have grown to love them. Mainly because you're such a good listener. You put your view out there, and then really hear the other viewpoints. Personally, I think you're brilliant, and that we're all enriched by your thoughts.
Yes, well I don't have any problems with that personally. No, I'm not that keen on self-deprecation, other people can do it for me - and so much better ;-)
But on the self-aware and controlled stuff, I don't mean to show up here as a tightly scripted inauthentic avatar (-can I be - I'd have to be a simulacrum at best!), but to be aware of context and purpose. In the nature of a fireside chat, we wander, and throw out opinions and brag a bit. But it's a fireside, and a chat, it's not an invitation nor a place to grandstand or harangue at length.
I think there is a level of self-government needed, on those terms.
Ian is a smart-alec?? I had no idea! Hmm, must have gone over my head, I have to admit there are tons of references in these discussions I don't get : )

He has always (ok, for the week or so I have been on) seemed so gentle and perceptive : )). Hi, Ian!
Hi Connie, I don't really have any guidelines to propose - I just wanted to say that I have been really pleased with the way discussions have evolved here; and I've also really enjoyed the balance people have struck between person to person messages via the comment wall and the discussions at large.

I teach in a college environment, so all my work is with adults, and if any of my students followed my winding Internet trail to end up here, I think they would really enjoy seeing these conversations (although they are all so busy on Facebook I doubt they would wind up here anyway, ha ha.)

Over at classroom2.0 there have been problems with people posting materials that were either commercial in nature (hawking software) or self-promotional (blog crosspostings with no interest in actual discussion) - I haven't seen a trace of anything like that here. When problems like that came up at classroom2.0, I would just leave a note for Steve Hargadon and he seemed to have a genius instinct for finding the right solution each time. I don't know if he has actual guidelines written up, but he did a great job of handling one very weird situation over there, with bizarre and borderline abusive comments from a fellow who treated that ning as his personal technical support staff.

Anyway, I think things are going just great here - I don't have guidelines to share, but if there is anything you need us to keep an eye out for, just let us know. I'm enjoying this ning very much.

Just in terms of Guidelines, I have to point out something funny at a brand-new ning for people writing in Latin (very cool idea!) - schola.ning.com - the creator of the ning put up a warning to people that any posts NOT written in Latin would be deleted... but he put that post up in Latin! Ha ha. I wonder what someone will do who doesn't understand the Guidelines he posted in Latin. Guidelines are tricky - the people you most need to read them are usually the ones they are least likely to reach, eh? :-)
Hi Laura,
I am also very happy with the way discussions have evolved, and I think it's healthy that there's a good deal of diversity here. I like how we're not coming from any one place or viewpoint; there's always a wide range of views.
What do you mean by the message board? The chat? Is that ever used? Trying to think of what you're referring to. Oh, you mean individuals' walls on their profile pages?

I was talking with Steve Hargadon this afternoon when your response came through, and I read him what you said about how he has a genius instinct for finding the right solution. (He was deeply grateful, and, as always, very humble about it. "Oh no, it's just luck and timing; I was following my gut and hoping for the best," etc. He has no idea what a visionary he is.) Anyhow, Laura, you're so right. Steve is an amazing model and superb catalyst. He presents something to aspire to!

Thanks for your note of encouragement and affirmation. You have been a key ingredient in making Fireside the way it is. Thanks for saying that you're willing to keep an eye out; a self-monitoring environment is best. I guess it's all about watching over the tone, and I agree, the tone seems good. So probably nothing needs to change; let's just keep supporting the evolution of the collegiality of this site.
Yes yes, exactly, the "comment wall" on people's profile pages. I'd never seen one of those in action until I used a ning, and I really like how it is kind of private but kind of public at the same time. Very intriguing. I have learned a lot from the ning world, and I like it very much! :-)
Oh Connie, we put the toddlers to sleep with our droning, the teenagers are bored out of their minds and hit the slopes, and the ones in the middle, if they notice or get it at all, look at each other and giggle, Are they talking about what I think they are talking about? Tee-he, tee-he.

Stories of rape, torture and murder are told to our children every night across multiple channels on prime time network TV- year after year after year of it. Individual parents deal with that however they see fit, but the government lets it go on.

I appreciate the difficulty you have with letting your students have access to our discussions. You are in the position of being "the parent" for each of them, and must take into account each family's ideas of appropriate content for their children. As the teacher for their children, they have the right to expect that of you. For myself, I would not like to see our discussions circumvented so... The ideas and sensibilities of thirty or more parents are pretty stiff guidelines to live with outside of the classroom.
That's the message I'm getting from Nathan, too--forget the consideration of kids coming through; it can make the conversation stilted. So I think let's just let the network evolve and take things as they come, discussing the issues as they come up along the way.
I think we're getting to know each other better, getting a sense of wholeness and ease with the back-and-forth of things. There's always a lot to figure out, think through.


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