I do a lot of reading about online communities: what creates them, how "real" they are, their dangers, and so on. I have not really participated actively in one until this month. And I'm thinking today about the online communities that have been created by the SOLS challenge.
I "slice" with my students, too, and I have noticed an effect from this activity. About half of the class participates--it isn't mandatory--and I see a difference in the way those of us who are participating interact in class. We KNOW things about each other--our fears, our challenges, the details of life that don't usually get shared in class. I feel closer to my students, and I think they feel closer to each other because of the online community we have built outside of class. It's what I always hope for in a writing class--and we've built it. Through writing, yes, but outside of class. Interesting.
In addition, I feel that I have some online "friends" who respond to my posts with some regularity and whose posts I respond to. I have found myself doing some things I never anticipated I would: replying to others' blogs and looking forward to the comments that follow mine, wondering what I wrote that might spark a response in others. I don't know these people in the sense that I would recognize them on the street or that I know what they do or where they live. I only know them because for a few moments in March, we had connections: our lives intersected and were enriched because of the words (ideas) we shared. How cool is that?! I never would have anticipated it. I joined because I needed to get back into the habit of daily writing. I got that. . . and so much more.
A few weeks ago, one of my students wrote that he thought he would miss this SOLS connection when it ended. I am feeling that way today. I am flying to Washington D. C. to try to talk to legislators about funding for National Writing Project. I don't know what my online access will be in the next two days. I hope I will be able to "slice." If not, I will miss it even sooner than I intended.