When I was a child, I would rush to school in the early morning to tag homeplate and be ready for the morning game of “pick up” softball. Day after day, at recess, lunch and afterschool, the play would continue with the “ragtag” group of players (boys and girls from many different classes and grade levels) who would self- organize and flexibly design the processes necessary for playing together. There was no official leader, but whomever needed to step up for that role on any particular day would do so. There were no egos that got in the way of our goal to play together, no overshadowing of one another, no winners and losers– just a group of kids who wanted to spend time together engaged in meaningful play.
I was not an athlete, by any stretch of the imagination, and found my niche as pitcher, a position it seemed none of the others wanted to undertake. Each player found their favourite spot, but we all knew to be open to moving around to a different position if someone else wanted to give the position a try. We did not “own” a position, we occupied its space as needed, and day after day each player worked to improve his/her abilities at it. Feedback would spontaneously flow forward — words of encouragement for a job well-done or an empathetic utterance for a miss-step or close call. A feeling of genuine commradary and support.
So, what made this experience so engaging for so many of us and contributed to its success as an ‘enterprise’? Perhaps, it was because we all had the desire to contribute to something greater than ourselves, to create positive experiences for one another through meaningful, engaged play. Possibly, it was because of the true collaboration that underpinned the cohort of players– we never turned away anyone who wanted to play; even if the team was too large, we found ways for everyone to have a place and have turns in the game. We all found our voice in this informal community that had formed and re-formed every day and we encouraged one another on through the successful plays and the challenges because we were united in a purpose– to get better at the game.
This tweet from @fryed, “How do we share the power of #PLN with those not online?” has me thinking and wondering…
I offer my childhood memory of “pick-up softball” as a potential window into understanding ways to engage those that have not yet seen the possibility of the rich learning that Twitter has to offer. Perhaps the reason some of us join Twitter is because of those same positive feelings felt in the spontaneous, self-organizing structures I described above.
I wonder, if others not yet online can find, re-discover, reflect on the times in their lives when they experienced similar sponataneous play, inclusion and engagement and are invited to make a connection to the possibilities of online communities of learning, then maybe, they too will want to “tag homeplate and start-up a game” with those of us who are already playing.
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