We have massive amounts of resources / information. All searchable. Within this, I've tried to harness the cognitive surplus of teachers out there - to get participation and sharing. To create a culture of open excitement about the possibility in our classroom. For the most part but limited, that has been a success.
Recently a member shared an assignment for his TESOL masters written about EFL Classroom 2.0. He lurked in the background for months and came up with some really strong conclusions - pluses and minuses. Take a read and I'd love to hear some comments. (see attached).
So we have pluses and minuses. The fire was started and the fire burns. It will continue to burn. However, I've concluded that we need more "attachment" to EFL Classroom. Create value in the minds of our members. I know, I know, you all say, I value EFL Classroom 2.0! But I'm not sure it goes beyond that small heart beat. That there are so many just coming and going and fewer bumping into each other. I want more bumping. I want more acknowledgement of our value - even at the cost of membership or traffic. I've always stated that I'd rather have just 10 engaged and passionate members than a million flies buzzing around.
So, the way forward, an experiment. Effective June 01
1. Make EFL Classroom totally public. You don't have to log in.
This will get us on the search engines (for example, my public blog now gets more traffic than EFL Classroom 2.0 - only because 90% of the traffic is people finding the information/posts from google and other search engines). More traffic will create more people and more passionate members in turn creating more of the passionate "bumping" I want to build.
2. Make EFL Classroom 2.0 sustainable. Pay for the content and contributions.
Up to now, everything has been free. The value of what members have done, much done by myself, has eroded. It has taken time but the value has eroded. I want to put "value" back into our community. It is like a rich kid getting an open check book from Daddy - they value little done by the maid or the father or anyone. So EFL Classroom content, everything except blogs and forums will be only for those who pay the supporter fee ($15).
Those who have contributed to EFL Classroom 2.0 through discussion/resources can request to waive the fee (please do). Just click the "Order Here" button but don't pay. I'll then review your request and add you (might be a little delay).
This will mean too - I will put a lot more effort into presenting things for teachers, training teachers (online sessions) etc.... EFL Classroom 2.0 will become more professional.
So, that's it in a nutshell. I invite any comments, feelings etc....
I think that turning it a payed forum and group will maintain away some teachers. I do not agree with payed web groups. this web group should remain free, since the main goal here sould be "sharing and caring for free" I guess....by the way who will like to pay for it? in my long experience in payd web groups I have found out it is the worse thing a owner of these social networks can do. I had a big web group on ning with 15.000 members..all participating and sending valuable materials for free, but when NING social network have started to charge our group around U$26,96 per month to maintain all the options and resources for the members I had a total crash in my group..now I got just 150 members and my group is being sponsored by PEARSON & LONGMAN now..because they have found the purpose of my group interesting and worthy and they pay just the BASIC PACKAGE for us which is around U$2,95 per month and we have lost all the options from NING and the most cool resources are not anymore available in this price..too bad...so I do not agree with changes/charges like these...the main goal of this group should be SHARING & CARING materials and ideas for free. and for this I have created a new group on google groups all for free again and I have now around 600 members and growing..all is free and our motto is 1 member sending each month (mandatory) at least 1 activity ready for use it inside the classrooms and he/she will receive back to him/her lots of others FREE materials back..IF we are now 600 members and all of them send at least 1 contribution to the group each month he/she will receive back 599 and ttis group is going fine and all members are participating..sharing valuable materials and all are happy...If I change it for a payd web group the things will crash again..because teachers do not earn a good salary around the world and to pay for everything is not possible for lots of them..that is why I am against the charges in groups for teachers...I like the idea of sharing ideas and materials that can help all of us educational professionals. this is just my 5 cents..
I appreciate the comments and know where you are coming from - especially with Ning. Don't get me started!
However with EFL Classroom 2.0, there will still be a lot of "free" and teachers can still have unlimited video / photo / music uploads. Their own customizable page. Share and upload on the forum and blog. Watch thousands of hand picked best videos in EFL. Groups are all free and have much better functionality now. You can upload files there - share for your interest etc.... All this will still be free. So it isn't about paying for social groups. The social groups side of things will be free and I will continue to nurture and support that. It's been my heartfelt passion to do this.
Also - so much outside of the community but still EFL Classroom 2.0, is free. Just the Diigo flashcards alone is worth a lot . But I could go on forever with the amount of resources available outside of EFL Classroom that benefit thousands of teachers daily (just on my public blog alone, I get 1,000+ visits each day from google.).
What will be paid is to get the resources that took years of labor and love. I feel they have been undervalued and a small charge so I don't have to pay the $1300+ for server fees / Ning / bandwidth storage / additional tools is appropriate. And again, any teacher who feels they warrant access but can't pay - I will review and give access to the resources.
It is a heart wrenching decision for me. I have put my soul into helping teachers but kind of like a parent, there comes a time when you have to stop the free lunch and let them take responsibility. I hope teachers will be responsible and pay the small fee and support something that evidently has passion , a purpose and a person there - it isn't a business.
But I still want to hear more 5 cents worth.....
After much thought and consideration, and going on 3 years, I think, of participating and caring for EFL Classroom, I fully support the upcoming changes. Like you, Suzana, I did not at first! The problem with donations is... that system does not work! People just don't donate. Many people use the resources on EFL Classroom, but only a handful or two members at any one time contribute their own resources (including their opinions, thoughts, and time) towards the whole.
What to do? EFL Classroom is a social network (which, as David points out, will remain free and even more open) but it is also a vast repository of EFL materials, over 90% of which David has collected or created himself. Should he also pay $1300/yr for the privilege of sharing this? Shouldn't it at least be fair? And, though I am loathe to admit it, what value are people placing on this resource?
If you are impoverished, a subscription will be free. If you are not impoverished and the resources here are still not worth $15/yr to you to personally support, well, what is the message of that?
Besides, it's actually fun to become a subscriber. It's such a bargain, and having all of David's books available through one link is great... I was always losing where they were located before that. For me, the organization alone is worth $15 a year!
I say, after all he has given us, the hours and hours and the heart and soul and mind, let's show David we support him and cough up the 15 bucks : )
EFL Classroom deserves it!
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Just a thought... when it is one person who is doing 95% of the sharing and caring for free... and he's actually paying $1300 a year to do that, what does that mean? In any other adult relationship, that would be seen as quite unhealthy. And we are grown ups : ) I think it's more than a financial decision. It's also a spiritual one. Just a thought, not a position.
Well I do hope someone will also comment and read the essay about us!
But what can I say? I really believe in what I'm doing and thought A LOT about it. I am not doing this to make money. Make more than I can spend (mostly because I'm always writing/making/designing and not out there in the rat race spending).
What can I say? Ellen, your spirit is indomitable and if it were only you and I here, that would be enough (though I'd make sure to get that $15 bucks from you! ).
I give, I spent 4 years throwing wood on this fire. Quite successfully. Teachers use it. They praise, they complain, that's life and I love each and every one of them. Those that hate things and those that love everything.
My approach now is organic. The community has grown and time for those that can, to help. I don't think $15 is going to break anyone and it will help people put value into what we have. I also think that people have to value more, the "cognitive surplus" as Clay Shirky puts it. Meaning, what is done online, done well, curated and cared for - indeed has to get more renumeration. Teachers think nothing of spending $15 for a book at the bookstore , if you see where I'm going.
But at the end of the day - I'm doing it this way. Teachers will either hate me and make all kinds of false reasonings or else they will see the 4 years and a lifetime of experience devoted here and realize its as big a bargain as they'll ever get.
Suzana. I appreciate your position/opinion. Not trying to argue against it. Reality can have room for many "beings". But you will have to note that on March 23rd I gave you Supporter access (before I started this thread). I've already given many others Supporter access. But I'll decide, I know who is active and helping out teachers - be it here or even elsewhere. If teachers just click the Order Here, they'll go on my admin panel and I can decide. or they can contact me. This isn't about exclusion - just paying the costs as a community.
Now back to my glass of wine. Spent the last 12 hours working on a book with exercises for using commercials - that'll give free to all this week when we officially go public and supporter driven. Using the EnglishCentral commercials. Find themhere. Book coming... but it takes work!
Oh, I forgot to add.
Next week we will have two big NEW things beyond my babble of paying...
1. Groups will have the ability to make pages! Also stronger emailing and contact with the main group. I saw the changes and really like them.... this should revive groups.
2. We will have a new FB like thing for discussion, latest stuff, shout outs. Middle of the page. Like i had briefly before. This one works and I'm excited.
I read the essay : ). I liked it. I think there was one misinterpretation- EFL Classroom is not an online class. As I remember, one criticism of EFL Classroom is that we did not follow/ have a structured curriculum, but we were never meant to do that. I think of us more like a big library with a friendly librarian or two on duty. But unlike the brick and mortar version, you can add your own books here to the collection!
I'm wondering if much that has been written about developing online learning communities is using the structure of an online class as the foundation? In my experience taking online classes, this is a rich area for research and developing best practices! Some of that would apply to our situation too, but some won't. I might be mistaken (I did read it quickly) but I think Gerson needs to differentiate between the needs, goals and outcomes of online learning in a class format (which also uses social networking) and the more free-form structure of a learning/ sharing/ archiving community such as EFL Classroom.
Yes, I do agree with Ellen, there's a bit of confusion about the purpose and aims of this community. I've never thought of it as an online English classroom but as a place for sharing and discussion.
The hardest thing is to make people get involved in going a step further from user level, it's not the commitment, in my case and in many others I guess, but the lack of time. I'd love to share more and to take a more active role but my personal and professional circumstances are too demanding.
As for the payment fee I saw it coming so I just needed a couple of free minutes to do it, without hesitation. That's life, that's the way it is, nothing is free, only our contributions and we share because we care.
EFL Classroom must keep on rocking!
Yes, good point. I get emails / messages continually about training and structured learning. I really wish we could but you know, there is only so much time. but the conclusions are super in his essay and I've been mulling them over.... I do see EFL Classroom 2.0 as a "library" as you suggest. But as Rosa adds - wish there was more "coffeehouse" in it. I do think the forthcoming FB style drop box/activity box will help a lot. When Ning buried our chat and who's online (after our expense - we lost a bundle when they killed widgetlabs which we had wikis, pages etc... running through) - Ning buried a lot of activity. Same with not building much interactivity between groups and the main community.
Great song! I love Neil - was thinking of his music this morning before turning on the machine - Helpless. It was written about where I am from and wherever I've gone in the world, I'd listen to it and be home.
I'm proud that we do have a community with few restrictions. Nice to each other, positive. That means a lot.
About payment. Again, I'll be letting anyone who contributes and/or can't pay for whatever means - through the gates. I know what is going on. I'd like also, once we get our bills paid , to just turn off the subscription but really can't justify it to those who paid. So I don't think that will happen.....
It will take about a month for there to be a dramatic increase in traffic, as we get on the radar of google. I've already noticed a little surge. With that, we'll definitely get more characters but I'll also have to find new ways to deal with spammers etc... always something!