Transforming Classrooms into Communities Builds a Better Future

Our students are joining digital communities at very young ages and not reflecting on their roles as community members. Every member has rights and responsibilities which make their communities flourish. When members do not make it their duty to respect the rules, norms, or other members then the community suffers. The problem is our digital communities consist of millions and several members do not ever reflect on their roles and responsibilities as members of the community or care much about the people or value of their digital communities. This is why responsibility to one’s online and real world communities is one of the main themes and objectives students learn in my new book, Hacking Digital Learning Strategies: 10 Ways to Launch EdTech Missions.

Community begins in the classroom. This begins with a class conversation preferably in a circle, which signifies equality and connection. You come up with the rules together and talk about what it means to be a member of your classroom community. Discuss the duties, rights, and responsibilities. After they share ideas collect these in one area and turn this into the code of conducts they sign and agree to.

Also, discuss how the community is impacted when someone doesn’t follow the community codes of conduct. When students don’t follow the codes of conduct, don’t punish them. Instead, get students to reflect on how their actions hurt the class community. We need students to see their actions have real consequences and impact the lives of others. We need them to own this and want to care to do better.

Make sure students drive the conversation so they reflect on what it means to serve a community. Also, ask students to think about the online communities they belong to and their roles and responsibilities. Ask them how they can better serve these communities. If students are constantly learning about what it means to serve a community in your classroom then they will better serve their digital communities. For more ideas see my post, Icebreakers for Relationship Building, We Aren’t a Class! We are a Community!, and Resources for Creating a Safe Classroom Environment.

Challenge– Transform your class into a community.

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Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell),, and on her blog,, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at

1 comment

  1. That’s why I wrote my book, Classroom Community Builders: I’ve got a few activities for setting rules in there plus activities that start students working together as a group on meaningful tasks from day one. But I really like the issues you’ve raised here, including discussing how the community is impacted by misbehavior.

    Now I’m off to click all the links in your article.

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