Friday, November 2, 2007
As you prepare to facilitate, try not to teach
The technologies used in this course were never meant to be central I believe, but the dynamics in the questions around facilitation and online communities were.
I'm still ranting and raving to anyone who will listen about the differences I see between facilitation and teaching, and that post I wrote to my blog has attracted quite a few comments (thanks). The question is far from sorted in my head, and I get the feeling that it is not so sorted in the heads of those around me too. So it seems to me that we need to explore this for some time, and perhaps the questions will remain beyond the bounds of this course.
For anyone who may have tuned out of the discussion that sparked on my blog, it might be worth revisiting it. I'm hoping we can keep this issue in our minds as we all prepare to facilitate some form of online communication as part of the assessments in this course.
Why is this course called facilitate online learning communities and not teach online learning communities? Is teaching and facilitation really interchangeable? Is facilitation simply one of many techniques that a teacher employs in their work? Or is teaching just one of many 3rd party services that a facilitator might call on in their work? Is it possible to be both a teacher and a facilitator within the same group of people? What are the differences in the roles and what are the social dynamics in play when they function?
In some ways we debated a related issue very early on in this forum. Remember the ice breaker debate? I think I was wrong to dismiss the value of ice breaker activities. I think the thing I really should have been challenging was the often prescribed and teacherly way in which these types of activities are done. Ever experienced the trite and trivial discussion groups at conferences that people begrudgingly take part in? Or15 minute team building activities? These sorts of things are in my mind poor examples of attempts to build learning communities in short spaces of time. But attempts to create a sense of social bond that we might recognise as a community are important - especially in the online context. I suspect that Aaron Griffiths will be able to talk directly to this when we discuss some of his thinking about Second Life.
So, this post is just a little prompt. One of many that try to shake us from our comfort zones a little and into a zone of questions. Try to put the technologies aside for a spell, step outside them and look at them for what they challenging us with other than skills acquisition. To my mind the disruptive aspects of these technologies (in our profession at least) speak directly towards the facilitate or teach question and other issues to do with social power dynamics.