Saturday, August 29, 2009

31st August 2009. Looking for online community: Discussion forums

Since the commencement of this course we have been looking what online community is and defining its features. We came up with some ideas about how to identify an online community in an online meeting, and carried on our discussions in our blogs such as those of Dean Groom, HeatherM and Adrienne.

The last two weeks we have been considering the difference between teaching, facilitation and moderating. Course participants have written some great posts and it has been interesting to see different perspectives of facilitation between educators and non-educators in blogs such as Stephen Blyth, Chris Woodhouse, Rachel, Herve and Hilsconnectionto. And as I said in my last post, we came up with a list of facilitation skills in our last online meeting.

Looking at discussion forums
Over the next two weeks we will be looking at online community and discussion forums. Discussion forums are probably the most used platforms for online communication and community development. Car lovers use them, software developers use them, subcultures use them.

A discussion forum is primarily a text based mode of communication where someone will post a start to a thread and people will respond to that thread. Often, many threads can be going at the same time, with discussion lasting from a few hours to years in some cases! Google Groups and Yahoo Groups host many discussion forums, with the added feature of sending email to participants. Other forums might not have the email feature, relying on users returning to the forum to post.

To do
1. Locate an example of an online forum and post to your blog a link to the forum with an assessment of the forum based on the list of identifying features that we have collaboratively developed in our online meeting.

2. Interview a member of the forum you are looking at and obtain comments and ideas on how the forum might benefit from facilitation services - such as a coordinated event to help focus people around a particular issue, or the writing of a summary to close a thread in the forum.

Course email forum
3. Join this course's email forum (if you haven't done so, or if I haven't joined you up already) and post an email with a link to your blog post containing your write up and interview.

Any questions?
The next online meeting will be on Tuesday 1st September 3pm New Zealand time (international time zones here). I have asked Leigh to talk to us about formal/informal learning which is modeled in this course, as some of you have shown interest in knowing more. We will also be available to answer any questions about what we have done so far and the weeks ahead.

What you have found out about online forums and community
The following online meeting will be on Thursday 10th September 8pm New Zealand time (international time zones here). In this meeting we will be discussing what we have found out about online forums and community, and some of you will be asked to present your findings.

Here is the link for both online meetings.

How are things for you?
I would appreciate a quick sense of how things are going for you, especially those of you who are enrolled into this course, so please feel free to do the poll on the right. If you have any questions or feedback about how the course is going, please feel free to contact me in any way. I will be phoning all enrolled students again over the next few days to check in with you.


Image: 'Sarah laboring under the misconception that partially+obscuring+her+face+will+slow+down+my+picture+taking...+seriously,+how+long+has+she+known+me?'

Friday, August 28, 2009

Great meeting this afternoon

I am thrilled to say (I hope!) that the recording of today's meeting worked, so you can find the link to the recording here, as well as on the course wiki. We had a very lively discussion about the difference between teaching, facilitation and moderating with an excellent example of moderation from yours truly (even if I say so myself).

What I found interesting was that definitions seemed to vary depending on people's context - the recording is really worth listening to if you missed the meeting.

Skills and actions of a facilitator
Here is the list of some of the skills and responsibilities of a facilitator that we came up with - thanks to Stephen Blyth for transcribing. If you want to know more, check out some great blog posts by various course participants.
  • active listener
  • time keeping
  • helps to coordinate an exchange of ideas
  • re-framing contributions
  • guide the learning process
  • challenge the idea, not the person
  • has a toolkit of methods to get wide involvement, eg match-sticks, brainstorming
  • distinguishes process from content
  • summarising and checking
  • guide the learners but brings out areas that they might already know about - and increases the understanding.
Next activity
There appears to be a little confusion about our next activity or module. Some people have started talking about looking at blogging communities, but actually the next section of the course if looking at online forums. So make sure you have the correct details which can be found on the course wiki. I will send out a blog post with more information at the beginning of next week.

Image: '0216' Cia de Foto

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sorting out definitions and roles

Just a quick post to apologise for the poor recording of our session led by Chris last Monday, on how to set up a Pageflakes page - I don't know what happened - there may have been a break down in the technology when my own computer crashed.

Suffice to say, there's no need to panic :) If you want to know more about Pageflakes or iGoogle, have a look at their 'help' pages which will give you information on how to use the platforms. The other way to learn about online resources such as these is to check out Youtube.

In the meantime, don't get distracted with 'bells and whistles' - get stuck into the serious contemplation about the difference between teaching, facilitation and moderating.

Look forward to hearing about your thoughts on Friday at 12pm, New Zealand time.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Managing the chaos

A number of people doing this course is finding it hard to get their heads around how they can follow all the blogs and all the other sources of information. That is a very normal feeling when you are new to a course like this, and it takes a while to settle into a routine that suits you, with tools that work for you.

Today, Chris Woodhouse shared suggestions about what works for him, including Pageflakes and iGoogle. Have a listen to this recording for all sorts of tips about managing online communication. Then have a think about what you can use for yourself, and how you can use them to facilitate communication in an online community.

If anyone would like to have a go at facilitating the next meeting on Friday 28th at 12pm NZ time, please let me know - we will be looking at the difference between teaching, moderating and facilitating.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

17th August: Facilitating, Moderating or Teaching

Many people either don't understand the differences, or too easily confuse the different roles of a facilitator, moderator and teacher. Some teachers believe that teaching is an act of facilitation. Some facilitators see their main role as moderating discussion and keeping order. Over these two weeks we will consider the differences in these three roles and attempt to describe situations where they might be mutually exclusive from one another.

Things to do
Try to determine what the different roles and behaviors are for these three roles:
  • Facilitator
  • Moderator
  • Teacher
You might like to look for their definitions on something like Wikipedia.

As a post to your blog, answer each of the following questions:
  • When might the role of a teacher undermine the role of a facilitator?
  • When might the role of a moderator undermine the role of a facilitator?
  • When might the role of a facilitator undermine the role of a teacher or moderator?
Try and identify some of the skills required to carry out the different roles and post these on your blog.

Attend the next meeting on August Friday 28th August at 12pm New Zealand time (see world clock here) to discuss these roles and work collaboratively to develop a list of skills and techniques for facilitation.

Supporting resources
Have a look on the course wiki for a list of resources that will support your reflections and deliberations.

Image: 'The Evilution of Communication' Torley

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Getting our heads around what an online community is

On Monday we had another great Elluminate meeting in which we got to know each other better, nutted out a few 'house-keeping' issues and discussed what we had learned so far about what an online community is. The link to the recording is here.

Communicating with each other
We are still trying to decide what modes of communication are best for supporting each other and passing on resources. At the moment everything feels a little chaotic but this is normal for a course such as this. As we get to know each other better and become more confident with online communication, then we will settle into using tools that suit our own individual needs.

At the moment the plan is to concentrate on developing our blogs, commenting on other participants' blogs and building a solid blogging network or community.

If you haven't done so already you should have written a blog post in which you explore your reflections and ideas about what an online community is.

If you have any resources you would like to share with course participants, write them up in your blog for others to learn about. Anything that you think is particularly relevant to assignment two and the mini conference, please feel free to add to the course wiki on the "Course Mini Conference Page".

Next online meetings
The next online meeting will be on Monday 17th August 9.30 am New Zealand time (check here for world clock) and will be facilitated by Chris Woodhouse. He will be showing everyone how to set up a Pageflakes page like the one he set up for the course. Please note this is half an hour later than Chris had originally stated in his blog post.

The following meeting will be on Friday 28th August at 12pm New Zealand time - see world clock here. At that meeting we will be concluding our thoughts about the differences between the roles of teacher, facilitator and moderator.

Other free online meetings and resources
Mireille has sent me the details of another free online seminar coming up.

Live Webcast: The Top 10 Tips for Successful Webcasts: Friday, August 21, 2009 1:00 PM ET / 10:00 AM PT / 5:00 PM GMT.

as well as the link to a book called "Online communities in business" . Thank you, Mireille.


Image: 'Digital Media Arts Lab' laffy4k

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Last night's meeting

Last night we had our second attempt at a meeting on Elluminate where we orientated ourselves to the Facilitating Online course. Thankfully everything went well and we had a great time getting to know each other a little better and clarifying aspects of the course. The gold star goes to Mireille, who was attending the meeting in Canada, at 4am!! I think she's mad!

The link to the recording of the meeting can be found here.

Here are a couple of things that cropped up that I would like to bring your attention to.

Chris Woodhouse has been a star and set up a FOC09 Pageflakes page which has brought all the blogs together so we can follow the blogs more easily. This is great work, Chris - thanks so much for doing that for us.

Email group
Some course participants prefer to communicate via email, so here is the link to the FOC09 email group. Please feel free to join it if you prefer that form of communication.

Resources for Assignment Two
When you look at Assignment Two you will see that you have to facilitate an online meeting. You are very welcome to use the Elluminate room or you may wish to use other online meeting resources. If you come across any resources for online meetings that you would like to recommend, please list them on the Mini Conference page of the course wiki. I have made a start and recommended a couple of online meeting tools.

Next online meeting
The next Elluminate meeting will be at 9am Monday 10th August. Here is the link to the world clock and international time zones.

And here is the link to the Elluminate meeting room. We will be discussing what online community is and how to recognise it - further details can be found on the course wiki.


Image: 'HHR Meeting.' ghindo

Sunday, August 2, 2009

3rd August: What is an online community?

During this course we will be looking at how we function as facilitators in the context of online communities. We'll be looking at communities that use blogs, wikis, Second Life and other modes of online communication. But before we launch ourselves off into the ether, we must consider what an online community is.

What is an online community?
You will hear educationalists use the term "online community" to refer to communities of practice, classes, groups, professional bodies, teams, networks, you name it - they have all been referred to as communities at some stage, and when they predominantly operate through the Internet they are called online communities.

But what is an online community really - especially if we want to relate the words to their true and common meaning? Is it a group of people who communicate online, and through that connection they share a sense of belonging and responsibility for one another? Is an online community like this necessary for work teams, classes, professional bodies and all those other things that have been called communities?

Things to do
You have the next two weeks to look at these links:
  • Groups and Networks - video of Stephen Downes 2006. You will need a broadband connection speed to view this video, and I suggest you open the link, press play and then press pause for 10 minutes or so as to let the video load ahead some. Same technique for dial up, but wait much longer on pause.
Write a blog post
Referring to at least two of the items above, write a post to your blog that summarises what they say about online community. Conclude with your own list of at least three forms of evidence that YOU would look for when determining an online community.

Give feedback as a comment on the blog post of at least one other participant from this course.

Course meeting
Attend a meeting to collaboratively develop a list of features to look for when identifying an online community, and to begin a discussion on how such communities would benefit from facilitation services. We will use this list when looking for online communities later in the course.

I will let you know later in the week when/where the meeting will be. To give me a rough idea of when you prefer to attend a live meeting, can you tick the very quick poll at the top right hand corner of this blog.

Extra resources
You can find extra resources to enhance your learning if you click here on the course wiki.

Getting started
Most participants are up and running with their blogs, so drop in and say 'hello' to as many people as you can. You may find that you can't keep up with everything that everyone is writing, and may choose to keep in close contact with a smaller number of participants. Feel free to do what ever suits your style of learning. However, the more interaction you become involved with, the more you will learn.

If you're lucky, someone may work out a way of collecting everyone's blog posts in one 'easy to read' space like Mike Bogle did last year :)


Image: 'flickr contacts - March 28, 2005 {notes}' striatic

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Second introduction meeting

First of all, I must apologise to everyone for the Elluminate meeting we tried to have yesterday but didn't. We were just getting going and then we lost Elluminate - a problem with the Internet server, I think.

Anyway, I'd like to give you another opportunity to attend this meeting on 3rd August Monday evening at 8pm New Zealand time - click here to see international time zones.

To attend the meeting
  1. Click onto this link to the Elluminate meeting.
  2. Enter your name - don't worry about a password - you do not need one.
  3. Wait for Elluminate to download.
  4. Check that you can hear and speak - may need to work your way through the audio setup wizard ->tools -> audio-> audio set up wizard.
All things going well, I will record this meeting for anyone who cannot make it.

First major lesson about facilitation of online events
The failure of this meeting provides us with our first major lesson about facilitating real-time online events. (Yes...that's was a teaching deliberate ploy...NOT!).

I had forgotten one of the cardinal rules of real-time online facilitation, and that is to have a back-up plan for when the technology fails you. So my back-up plan for Monday evening's meeting will be to meet in Skype if Elluminate fails. If there are just a couple of us, we can have a voice-conference. If there more than about five of us, we'll continue the meeting by text chat.

So if you do not have access to Skype, please install it before Monday and add me to your contacts. My Skype name is: sarah.m.stewart.

This is a very important lesson for you to remember when you come to facilitate your own real-time online events for assignment two.

A place for students to meet
The Elluminate room is available all the time for students to meet and hang out. So if ever you wish to have a 'get-together', just click onto the link - you do not have to have Leigh or myself attend with you.

Any questions, please let me know. However, please be mindful that I am in Lumsden being a real midwife for the next two weeks, so will only be available for online real-time conversations during the evenings. I check my email several times a day if you prefer to communicate me that way. However, if you wish to phone me, my number is: +64 277379998

Image: 'Meeting Table' mnadi