Monday, September 28, 2009

28th September Looking for online community: Wiki collaborators

This week we will begin organising our course mini conference where you will each facilitate an online session. We will use a wiki to coordinate our events, so we can each experience collaboration through a wiki. Online communities through wikis are harder to identify as they usually focus around the creation of shared content. Wikis usually have a discussion tab with each page, and you can sometimes see community-like communication there.

To do

1. Write to your blog the initial ideas you have for your assignment 2 - facilitating your event in the course mini conference. Describe who or what you plan to bring to the group and through what channel of communication.

2. Add your proposed event to the course mini conference web page, and use that wiki page's discussion tab to negotiate and discuss and develop the mini conference ie. start a discussion forum thread for your proposed event and describe your idea in more detail, including any questions or concerns you have that the group may be able to help with. Respond to other people's threads and get the wiki happening.

3. Review the links in the navigation box titled "community" to the left of this wiki, and see if you can detect key members of the Wikiversity community.

4. Join the online meeting where I will interview a key member of a wiki community, asking where they think facilitation skills and services are needed. We will also discuss the up coming course mini conference and everyone's thoughts and ideas for it.

The provisional date and time for the meeting is Wednesday 7th October 8pm New Zealand time (international time zones here) - I will get back to you in the next few days to confirm the date and time. I haven't arranged a meeting this week because many people are away on holiday. However, if you would like an informal meeting this week, please let me know.

Extra resources to help you understand more about wiki can be found here.

I am sure there will be lots of questions thrown around over the next few weeks so feel free to ask them in the course wiki, as per instructions above.


Image: 'Rainbow' jakerome

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting our heads around blogs, forums, Twitter and facilitation

At today's online meeting we had a great discussion about networking, facilitation and the difference between blogs, forums and Twitter. The recording of today's meeting can be found here.

I think it is important to understand the difference between a discussion forum and blog so that you can then go on to recognise how to use facilitation in those different forums. A blog is a web site that is under the personal control of the owner. It can be used for personal reflection, disseminating information, creating discussions and networking. Ultimately, its use is dictated by the blog owner. A forum is collectively owned by the people who use it to discuss issues. There will be a forum owner or moderator who makes the rules and keeps track on what is going on in the forum.

Twitter is synchronous communication tool. It is an instant message system whereby you can only use up to 140 characters. It is used for disseminating information, connecting with people, giving out your personal ideas and thoughts, advertising synchronous events, and as another form of RSS. Some people use Twitter to advertise their latest blog post. I use Twitter to keep in touch with people, while my blog posts tend to be a deeper reflection of what I have been doing and thinking.

Here is what Problogger has to say about Twitter and blogging. And here is another conversation about the pros and cons of Twitter and blogs on Steve Wheeler's blog.

If you want to follow conversations on Twitter, follow the tags (hashtags #) that are put on tweets to identity them. A lot of people use a tool called Tweetdeck that allows them to do this.

Blogging network
A blogging network is a group of blogs that connect together. This may be under the umbrella of an organization or company. One example of this is the Education Australia that has an online platform called "edna", which includes personal blogs.

In my experience, the more dynamic blogging networks are formed naturally as a result of people's interests and desire to communicate with each other. A blogging network will not suddenly form just because you have set up a blog or collection of blogs. You will become a part of a blogging network and/or community when you regularly read other blogs, leave comments, join discussions, take the discussion back to your blog, and link with other blogs.

Sue Waters and Edublogger
A good example of blogging networks and facilitation is the work of Sue Waters. Sue set up her own blog a few years ago to help teachers to learn more about the use of technology in their teaching practice. As a result, her blog has become a major link in a network of educators who blog and use social media and technology in education. She is now employed by The Edublogger and facilitates free online meetings for her network.

So my message to you this week is: if you want to find active blogging networks, you need to look beyond constructed blogging groups to the informal networks that have formed as a result shared interests and commitment to blogging and communication.

A few blog posts to look at
There have been some really interesting blog posts written by course participants this fortnight. Debra is getting her head around what a blog is and how it can be used. Rachel has picked up a few good tips about blogging which are to write regular posts, post from your experience and use a clean blog design. Catherine has challenged me to reflect on how I have been facilitating this course. In her latest blog post, she talks about the differences between a teacher, moderator and facilitator. Stephen's post about forums and facilitation has attracted some interesting discussion. In particular I have enjoyed Nancy White's definition of the difference between community and networks. She says "community often “nests” inside of networks". And the other post I followed a link to was that of WiserEarth in which Angus talked about 'weaving' a community as opposed to facilitating it.


Image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht,

Monday, September 14, 2009

Online meeting to discuss blogging networks an facilitation

Just a quick note to confirm our next online meeting will be Wednesday 23rd September 12.00 New Zealand time where we will discuss blogging, networks and facilitation. For other time zones, please click here.

As always, the meeting room is open, so please feel free to use it this week if you wish to arrange a more informal student meeting amongst yourselves.


Friday, September 11, 2009

14th September Looking for online community: Blog networks

A blogging network is what we are building in this course. We each have a blog, we each should be monitoring each other's progress, and we should be commenting and cross referencing each other's posts from time to time. Hopefully by now, we ARE doing all this and are starting to see how a blogging network can function. But ours is a small and time dependent network. Real blogging networks develop over longer periods of time and include strong and weak connections between people, and a much more diverse range of topics.

To do

1. Look at the Wikipedia entry for Blogosphere and pay particular attention to the See Also section. Read up on one of the listed blogospheres in that section and write a post to your blog that explains in your own words what a Blogging Network is and can be - cite examples.

2. Make contact with a member of a blogging network you have identified and interview them for comments and ideas on how they think their blogging network could benefit from facilitation services. It might be they'd appreciate a chance to conference with each other on a particular topic, they might like to meet each other in person, etc.

3. Some of you will be contacted to present in this topic's meeting.

Next online meeting/s
Please see my previous blog post about arrangements for the next online meeting/s and let me know what you would prefer to do so I can get on and make appropriate arrangements.


Image: 'Britain Going Blog Crazy - Metro Article' Annie Mole

What we've learned about online forums

Last night we had a great meeting where we discussed online forums, what elements of community we saw in them and how the forums would benefit from facilitation services. It was fascinating to hear about the different discussion forums, people's various interests and experiences of interviewing people in the can read more in course participants' blogs. The recording of the meeting can be found here.

NB: I am writing this on a computer that does not give me access to Elluminate, so I am not 100% sure if I have given you the correct link to the recording...please could one of you check and let me know if there are any problems with the link or recording.

Summary of the discussion
I have to say that I didn't feel I did a very good job of facilitating the meeting. I could feel myself starting to impose my own opinion and I didn't summarize or conclude the meeting very well. So here's a quick summary of some of the main points.
  • There are many, many forums around of varying quality and relevance. It can be challenging getting access and joining, but they can be very interesting and supportive.
  • People talked about a continuum starting at being a lurker, where you find out about the group and how to communicate through to being an active, regular participant.
  • Clearly there is a need for moderation in order to deal with conflict, spam and other issues and many forums have moderators. We have to be careful we do not confuse moderation and facilitation in this context.
  • Some forums spontaneously 'facilitate' themselves, other forums look like they would benefit from facilitation services.
  • We weren't sure how facilitation would work in the context of online forums, especially in 'volunteer' forums...would anyone have the inclination to do it without payment, would payment be required, how would payment be organized?
If you have any further comments or feel I have summarized our discussion incorrectly, please feel free to leave a comment on this post.

Next meeting
We seem to have settled into a pattern of weekly online meetings...informal meeting one week to discuss whatever takes our fancy, and a more formal meeting the next week to discuss the latest activity. So, theoretically, we should be in line for an informal meeting next week, and then the week starting 21st September, we should be scheduled to talk about blogging and online community.

However I am away the week of the 21st September and cannot facilitate a meeting that week. So we have several choices...please could you get in touch either on this blog or email group about what you think is the best arrangement, as soon as possible.
  1. Have a meeting about blogging and community at the end of next week and no meeting the week of the 21st September.
  2. Have a meeting about blogging and community at the end of next week, and an informal meeting next week facilitated by a course participant.
  3. Have an informal meeting next week and the blogging meeting the following week, facilitated by a course participant.
Hope that makes sense!?

Let me know which option you prefer...and if you like the idea of a meeting in the week of the 21st September, please feel free to volunteer to facilitate it which will include setting a date and time, and letting everyone know about the meeting...great practice for assignment 2 :)

On a personal note
I am also a student at the moment, looking at how to develop appropriate learning environments for learners. One of my assignments for this course is to 'teach' a session and have it observed and critiqued. I thought I would use one of our informal meetings to do this (if that's OK with the group).

So my question to you is: what would you find useful to look at...for me to 'teach'...I would be aiming to do this session at the end of September/beginning of October. The topic doesn't have to be directly to do with this course...maybe you'd like to know more about social tools....?? Please let me know what would be useful for you.


Image: 'untitled' starlights_

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Looking at online forums

This is just a quick reminder about what you should be doing this week.

Identifying 'community' in online forums
By now you need to have located an online forum and looked at it to identify what aspects of 'community' you see in the forum. Information about what an online community is can be found in our meeting discussions on the 10th August, as well as the blogs of course participants. You'll probably have to look at the forum archives to get a real sense of how the forum operates.

Blog post
Then you need to interview a member of the forum to find out how she/he thinks the forum could use a facilitator. Once you have done this, write up your findings into a blog post.

Once you have published your blog post, send the link in an email to the course email group.

Next online meeting
Our next online meeting is on Thursday 10th September 8pm New Zealand time (international time zones here). Be prepared to present the findings of your investigations at the meeting.

Swanning off to Darwin
I am currently in Darwin, Sydney and Adelaide for five weeks. I am still available in all my usual online places if you want to get in touch. If you need to speak to me, let me know a convenient time and I will phone you.

Thinking of you all as I swelter in the tropical heat. Sarah

Image: Bicentennial Park, Darwin, Australia yeowatzup

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Filling in a few blank spaces

Yesterday we had an online meeting in which we had a couple of informal discussions that will be of interest. The link to the recording is here.

Informal and formal students
In the first part of the meeting we talked to Leigh about the model of formal/informal learning that this course follows. Leigh explained the difference in the 'services' that informal/formal students received. He reiterated that it is not the type of enrollment that is important but rather the learning that is shared by course participants.

Writing blog posts

We thought that blog posts differed depending on the type of enrollment, that posts by informal students tended to be shorter, more concise and 'friendlier'. This is a lesson for formal students - your blog posts do not need to be mini essays but rather concise reflections and summaries of your personal learning. And do not be afraid to add stories from your own experience, and link to wider reading beyond recommended texts and resources.

Clarifying this week's activities
The second half of the meeting we spent clarifying what is required in this week's activities. You need to find a discussion forum in the form of an email discussion group or bulletin board. I came up with a couple of examples that ranged from the Google email "networked learning group" to discussion forums on Trademe and Amazon.

Type of forum
The forum you look at may be one based on education, or it may be focused on a special interest, hobby or health/family issue - the choice is up to you. You will not have time to immerse yourself in the community so you'll need to be able to access the forum archives to get a sense of how that particular community works. However, when you are blogging about the forum, please be mindful of confidentiality issues ie do not identify people or issues if the group is a closed forum.

Hope this helps to clarify questions....if it doesn't, please get back to me.


PS: The picture has no relevance to the course other than we are welcoming Spring here in New Zealand :)

Image: 'That's a BIG Noise from a Lil+lamb..:O)))' law_keven