Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quotes & Links FOC08

On learning and instructional design

On the Online Toys and Tools discussion forum, Sirin Soyoz from Istambul statesAs far as I experience, it is instructional design that facilitates learning and learners must take on new roles in the learning process.This is very much the discussion now taking place in Week 6 of the FOC08 course, which I am also following and participating in so I have decided to bring them together. Connecting thoughts, weaving threads and ideas.Like Stephen, I am skeptic of words like “must” and a universal solution. I question the whole industry of e-moderation, e-facilitation that has come in the wake of the e-hype and forces people into fragmented views and compartments.While instructional design may seem an efficient way of accomplishing tasks, I do not see it necessarily conducing to learning. Instructional design is just another name for teaching - acting upon or transmitting (through various methods, techniques and psychological & motivational maneuvers) the content or behaviour deemed to be correct or required for a certain end. So its motives reside outside the learners even if they are requested to take part and may influence the design.Learning, on the other hand, is a continuous personal quest towards sense making, expressing it and making it work so as to accomplish not only our individual but also collective needs. Beautiful design, instruction, role taking may facilitate learning but are not a pre-condition for it to occur. Children learn different strategies and have insights while playing without any conscious design or control on the part of their parents.As Stephen illustrates well, in for some people in some groups or the software community, learning occurs in spite ofcommonality of purpose (some people are professionals, others merely interested), far from universal motivation to learn (others signed on for any of a variety of motives) and certainly no professional e-moderation.He asks:Given the absence of the elements claimed to be necessary to support learning - the absence of instructional design, the absence of professional e-moderation, the absence of commonality of purpose - then we have to ask, what is it, really, that is fostering the learning in such a situation.As I see it, from my own experience as a learner/teacher/mother/daughter/wife/citizen and many other perspectives I have acquired during my life, learning happens continuously consciously and unconsciously, by being immersed in life and not separated from it. We observe, relate to others, read, compare and contrast, expose ourselves, dip into the pool of collective knowledge trying to find answers to our questions, try, fail and endlessly repeat what seems to us the correct pattern with slight variations trying to perfect whatever we find incomplete or lacking.Very often we learn incidentally through exposure, immersion and observing what does not work or went wrong, which is not necessarily very “efficient” if measured against “time and ROI” which seem to drive everyone’s actions nowadays.I must say I have been very fortunate to have had many people who walked with me along the way - they shared with me some of their own insight, sometimes held my hand, sometimes instructed me, sometimes nudged or challenged me to overcome self-built obstacles - they helped me stretch a bit further each time. There are many roads that lead to knowledge and we cannot take them all as this experiment/course well illustrates. Each one of us will follow our own path according to background, assumptions, choices and needs.However, do we all have the choice, the time, the people and the resources to learn, expand and share our knowledge with others ? Does the economy/society we live in today allow for and recognize this kind of learning ? How can theories map a dynamic process? (remembering that the map is not the territory). Is it possible to measure and evaluate it? What for and how? Don’t we prescribe and obfuscate emergence by enforcing a model, a theory?

There were many valuable lessons that I learned in life without setting out to learn them. There were challenges in which I thought I needed my usual tools to work with and the absence of the tools required new learning. Afterward I learned that the very tools that had enabled me had also limited me. I understand what people are trying to do on the Internet, but I think that in their desire to have some kind of complete freedom that people are limiting themselves from exploring more traditional avenues.

While learning serendipitously is unavoidable for those individuals who seek through adventure, I don't know to what degree that could apply to a community. Communities gather around activities. At least a loose structure can be flexible enough for different types of learning. Even though a carefully planned course may unite a community, it still may allow individuals to move at their own pace and work on different aspects of the program.

I want to design such a program for communities to use to engage people collectively. The program will get down to basics. But people may coordinate their projects with lots of learning flexibility and go through the program using an individualized approach. The benefit is that some standards are achieved collectively. People have the same basic experiences with discussion form, and acquire similar training in communication andleadership skills for democratically organized web community.

I couldn't agree more. However in my experience newbies to online environments get a bit "freaked out" by too much choice, and really need step by step hand-holding through the mire of many platforms. The trick is how many to introduce at once and should we wait until everyone feels comfortable before moving on to the next one?

Jessica Mathews points out in her essay "Power Shift" which appeared in a recent issue of Foreign Affairs:
Networks have no person at the top and no center. Instead, they have multiple nodes where collections of individuals or groups interact for different purposes. Businesses, citizens organizations, ethnic groups, and crime cartels have all readily adopted the network model. Governments, on the other hand, are quintessential hierarchies, wedded to an organizational form incompatible with all that the new technologies make possible. AND What kind of community can be forged in an internetted world, where the structure of the technology promotes anarchy, with its emphasis on complete freedom of expression and lack of regard for authority?
I add in contrast that the web community is hierarchal, since the platforms are developed and owned by the technocrats. The web community has it's origins in the technocrats understanding of electronic circuitry. The circuitry is hierarchal and it has an owner or small group of owners. Those who own it, control it. So I don't see how it can appear decentralized to the contributers. The contributers are subject to whatever rules the owner makes. This is anti-community because the primary purpose is to promote the ownership and the whole web is a hierarchy of ownership.

To facilitate or to teach...Accomplished Jointly "Community exists because the members share a common purpose which can only be accomplished jointly." .. 12 Principles of Collaboration

Text Chatting: Facilitator or Distractor? (FOC08)I would recommend posting in a traditional ordinal form such as a circle. I think that would greatly enhance people's comprehension of the discussion. Actually, if someone were to post in circle form, we could for once call it a true "discussion" since a discussion is an organization of people and their speech.

Future Labs
He cites confirmation that “personal narrative is vital to online learning communities. Personal stories and experiences add closeness, and provide identity, thus strengthening online communities.”

It has been interesting as a lurker on the discussion-board to watch as those who embody the traditional sense of learning (i.e. that which is structured, has a purpose, defined and directed) go about constructing a scenario where those needs can be met (i.e. setting up a meeting with someone in another time zone and keeping it). While this appears to be meeting the needs of a group of our participants, I have noticed that another group that was once active has taken somewhat of a back seat to all of this. What I find extremely interesting in this 2 week long observation is that it points out some of the differences in how people learn and what they expect from a teacher in a learning setting.

So, for me, connecting is much more than having a plug, or a computer that can “transport” us to these cyber-spaces. Connecting is about transforming such virtual spaces in real, meaningful and cosy environments where we feel at ease to bond with people. Humankind has always felt the need to work together. We all need peer support. We all want to be reassured by our “neighbors”.

Greg Barcelon
Facilitator, Moderator and Teacher I believe we get caught in such a dilemma when we take Facilitating as an exclusive term. The dilemma is resolved once we go back to its basic definition as: “to make possible or easier” And this is where context plays a very important role, because in the context of ‘facilitating as making it possible or easier,” then we can be facilitating as Teachers when we make learning possible or easier, and we can be facilitating as Moderator when we make discussion or exchange of information possible/easier. In the same manner, we can facilitate as a Teacher when we make whatever we do (lectures, presentations, demonstrations, etc.) easier.

Illya - role playing leaders
A further question in my mind is how fixed the role of facilitator is. Couldn’t others take over this role in understanding of the responsibility that goes with it? Must it be a formal role that is given like a title to ‘the person in charge’? I prefer the idea of a flexible facilitator who is also anxious to learn from the others without the urge to dominate the conversation , and is willing to let other members lead the way.So what is the difference between a facilitator and a moderator? Does it lie in the institutional nature of the group? I would love some opinion here, as I wonder if maybe I’ve mixed the two up.
Role playing leaders
The final point that has come up in the threads of conversation quickly but not been expanded on is the role of those who do not actively participate, more commonly and less nicely known as lurkers.Often the question comes up as to how to integrate these members. First, I’d like clarification as to when such a person is a member of a community and when he or she is an observer. In a course like the FOC I’d think that by way of signing up, one has committed oneself to the community. But there are many other communities out there, and the idea of 90 non-active to 10 active participants makes me think about what the 90 % are doing. Are they following what is going on and processing it? Or have they emotionally and physically disengaged from the community? The names may still be on the list, but that doesn’t mean that they are.
They become a viewing audience which stimulates the collection of individuals to post in the dramatic mode.FOC in short


My definition would include all the diverse definitions, from Derek Chirnside's My Take on Communities where he says:
Community is about people. With a cause. [eg Educational designer, Clinicalhealth education, Media studies teachers, Non-hodgekinsone lymphona sufferers, waste water engineers] Dare I say some passion and care. Care for the cause and for other people. They need some level of shared experience, history, trust and/or understanding.

Deb Thompson
blog I've just read Shane's blog and he said: "How do you facilitate a community to encourage participation by many, when open registration will result in a range of abilities and needs? There needs to be the chance for lurking if that is what the participant wishes, but the facilitator would no doubt want engaged interaction to enable learning. I know that in any group situation there will be members who dominate the conversation, how do we encourage the "shy" to contribute. As a teacher in face to face environments this is a little easier. You can "see" the people not engaging. Whereas online, are they lurking, or are they not there at all?"The circle form charges the members with the responsibilty to speak or at least verify that they are in attendence.

Cathy Deckers

So the adage “if you build it they will come” does not apply with communities of practice.
Communities of practice “are groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis” (Wenger, McDermott, Snyder, Cultivating Communities of Practice, 2002 p. 4) This interaction serves as the foundation of learning together - where the community is transformed as much as the individuals through the process of the learning that takes place. The presence of varying levels of expertise within the community allows for this transformation to take place. The community develops a common sense of identity through the interaction, creation of artifacts and tools, and engagement in collaboration.
Take this one step further and imagine a world where communities of practice are more than just isolated systems of knowledge, collaboration, and collegiality but are social networks where information that is shared is utilized to inform another community of practice. Howard Reingold’s Vlog featuring Mike Elliot illustrates this very concept - and he says it much better than I ever could.
Communities need a space and time to create the type of collaboration that is outlined above. Stephen Downes, 2006 does a nice job of identifying some distinctive characteristics between groups and networks that I saw as a “historical”/”old school” versus “new world”/”Web 2.0″ observation of how people interact. What was particularly interesting for me was the identification of the tools and artifacts that are utilized to create and maintain collaboration between people.
How about blending the two?
I am a BIG believer in lifelong learning and see that the wealth of tools available for that within the Web 2.0 culture has endless possibilities for us as instructors and learners. I am particularly interested in the informal learning that is happening in on-line communities and other experiences (i.e. MMORP & Second Life). As instructors, it is important for us to recognize that our role in this type of learning is one of facilitation rather than lecturer. That knowledge creation is driven by the learner and the community through their interactions. More importantly, these new forums allow for us to continue our lifelong learning journey as we teach and facilitate.

Bruna blog
I know I open myself up to all sorts of ridicule from those very talented tech geeks out there who will argue up and down that magic has nothing to do with our wondrous online world. But, of course, I know better! LOL It is indeed least to me and I would venture to say many, many people all over the world.Yeah, there is no magical formula, only the magic. Things can happen.
I was part of an online cohort many years ago when I first discovered that online communities are so much more than people brought together by interests or shared purpose. I think that it was a celebration of the web with loose focus upon the actual topics. We are through that phase.
I was part of an online cohort many years ago when I first discovered that online communities are so much more than people brought together by interests or shared purpose.
Some people just hang out on the Internet and are with other people because they are online at the same time. If they find people who share a common time and have a common interest, that's a bonus to them.

Bronwyn Hegarty blog
So how did I get to these questions? To start with on the email forum, I found that I agreed with Bronwyn Stuckey's example about learning. "For me a worrying area is when people call a class of learners a CoP and say that learning is the practice. That is really too large and amorphous to be one practice. A class of students learning accounting by engaging in scenarios as practitioners, possibly with real practitioners in the class as mentors is beginning to take on a CoP approach. According to what you state this course is not a community of practice of online facilitators. We're going there. "What does the community practice' There must be a skills building program. Traditional service organizations provide training.

Nancy Riffer
How much intamcy in community? In work or activity-focused communities, there is a specific reason to be together. This is the kind of community described by Wenger (CoPs) and O'Reilly. People get together based on common interests. They have personal relationships with some other group members usually focused around some aspect of the task at hand. Jeffrey Keefer describes such an interaction with Barbara Dieu that begins with work and opens into a broader conversation.

George Siemens Curatorial Teaching Discussion
"What is it that causes learners to want to push back at how we want to use technology?"
Maybe the cause is that technology enervates traditional form?

clare atkins
To Faciliatate or to Teach? Clare Atkins The big advantage of asynchronicity is that everyone can explore information at their own pace and react to it before hearing the views and interpretations of others. Wait. How is that an advantage to react before hearing? Why not use a better listening model that requires people to respond after hearing the views and interpretations of others. Asynchronicty has promoted an incorrect method. What's worse is that asynchronicty squelches any fair evalution of itself because it will not submit itself to an assessment through measurement.

Bronwyn Hegarty Kirsten you have a great philosophy about always seeking feedback and evaluating to check quality. I wonder if your enthusiasm for this comes from your recent experiences as a student or the discipline in which you are qualified?It is not always easy to ask for critique of things we have spent an age creating. I have always found feedback from colleagues to be a very useful device in improving my game both in teaching and in educational development. You have to feel safe though and so do those doing the critiquing. I have often been amazed by the time people are willing to contribute to assisting in reviewing eLearning developments.We observed a class of teacher education students using an online module and sought their feedback via a questionnaire and focus group. several did not even bother to come and collect their book vouchers....did it in the sake of being they found the module helped them in writing their assignment - always a bonus.I agree wholeheartedly with your statements, "Teachers need to meet the various learning styles of all students and make sure that any resources used are of good quality. The quality must be high in regards to the content and also the technical side as well."poor technical quality is so frustrating and also raises issues about access and equity. I am interested to hear more about how your organisation works to ensure quality - do you have checklists against which new developments are checked or other methods? standards for animations and videos?

Sylvia Currie Webbed Feat
During the first two weeks of the Facilitating Online Communities course the topic of blogging versus forums was raised by participants. This was one of the course "process" items I was curious about from the onset. How do you organize group communication through blogs? And why would you want to? First a bit of context. There are 71 individuals/blogs on the course list. There is a course blog which is where Leigh the facilitator posts reminders about what we should be focusing on as well as reflections the course itself. Also the course wiki contains the main course details, nicely organized so we always know where to check in. There is also a Google Group which is useful for Q&A and for day-to-day discussion. There are 107 members on that list, so obviously some people are following along without enrolling in the course. Leigh has been cross-posting his blog entries to the Google Group to make sure everyone receives them. We also have an open Elluminate room in case we want to drop in for more spontaneous synchronous interactions. The room is also used for scheduled meetings. So far this seems like a good choice of tools for the course. The breadth and depth of contributions to the course through personal blogs have been just excellent. I'm not sure we would have seen that using only a forum; a blog offers a space to post your very own reflections without being concerned with replies, finding the right thread, staying on topic, or missing an opportunity to contribute because the conversation has moved on. But having a forum is essential. I don't think we could survive without the Google Group as a way to connect and support one another, through the orientation at least. However, there are no organized forum/email discussions. Do the blogs replace that completely? If so, where is the facilitation? Some participants have chosen to discuss the key issues using the forum, others are posting to their blogs and commenting on other blogs. Some folks are doing a little of both, occasionally linking back to blog posts, so the forum discussion becomes an extension of the blog. Leigh has acknowledged individual contributions, sharpened the focus a bit, and advanced certain topics in the forum. But so far I haven't seen any direct references to content in blog posts brought back to the group. Come to think of it, in organized communication through blogs, where is the group? Where does the facilitator do the weaving, connecting, summarizing...encouraging deeper dialogue, if not speaking to a group? Maybe the fact that I'm asking these questions means that I'm stuck in teacher mode. During the next 2 weeks we will be examining the differences among facilitator, teacher, and moderator roles. Perhaps some of this will become a little clearer!
A useful nuance from the statement is the absence of any mention of quantity or percentage of community members who should be fully engaged. However, a community can only have so many voices and members before it reaches an unmanageable size. I believe that size limitations apply in both the online and physical worlds when talking about community effectiveness.
The goal for a healthy community is to encourage leadership that builds the community’s value along with a stable or growing base of supporters who reinforce changes and decisions made by the leaders...
People who wish to communicate with each other and, presumably, have a specific topic (or group of topics) form a “community” by agreeing to focus on the topic(s) at hand and avoiding irrelevant, tangential discussions. In an online community-type setting, the community members have chosen to be there and should expect to observe and engage in the discussions...
As with real world” communities there is a reasonable likelihood of miscreants being present...
Aside from the leaders, a group of people with a common interest should also respond to problems to ensure they do not threaten the main purpose of the group’s interaction or the process of interaction...
A useful nuance from the statement is the absence of any mention of quantity or percentage of community members who should be fully engaged. However, a community can only have so many voices and members before it reaches an unmanageable size. I believe that size limitations apply in both the online and physical worlds when talking about community effectiveness.

In any case, it would be good to get a a chart of everyone's time zone and anything that affects their conscious time, like working nights or insomnia. I agree that talking asynchronously is great. But I want to promote more options. So grouping people to when they are naturally online is good for everybody. I am not suggesting anything really different. People already congregate according to when they are online. It may help to document that and formalize it. I would like to communicate asynchronistically (if that's the word?) but I think it would be very valuable to have a directory of established clubs so that someone who wants to do efficient training in online communications will know that there is a group that they belong to and they are needed there. A small group.I'm thinking about some of the best traditional service groups I've been fortunate to be a part of. We had a meeting. At the end of the meeting the Vice President would call out all of the meeting roles, VP "Who wants to be Grammarian?" Bertha: "I'll do that?"VP: OK. I'll put Bertha down for Grammarian.Albert: I can lead a discussion from the manual!VP: Great! Albert is scheduled to lead a discussion from the Beginners Manual. Who can be Vote Counter? Fremda?Fremda: I don't think I'll be here next week. But give me an assignment for the next meeting.It is assumed that people will be there. None of this traipsing in and out. Your membership is measurable. If there is a dispute in a business session, we don't get Mr. or Ms. Old-Timer who posted 6 months ago coming in to vote. S/he's an Inactive Member.We will know at any moment how many real members there are because it's an ongoing skills training program. The members design the program as a coordinated global activity and all of the clubs use the same constitution. But they administer the constitution and the programs in their local clubs. Just like a service club. Just like Rotary or Lions or any other global club.What other option do we have? To bring in 100 people for a "global community" and expect to make some sense out of it on a daily basis? It's too much. It's not even global. people are gathering according to the regions they are in because they share the same conscious day. All of our communications here are governed by immutable physical laws. I'm talking to you because you are here online. You're here online because you're awake. Other people are asleep because that's the way the world is turning.I want to get us out from under the thumbs of all these Internet myths and document the facts and accept them and begin working with them.We can organize according to the "common ground" and the "commonality" that Bee and ElderBob were pointing to in traditional communities. If you and I have a common ground it divides us from others who share their common ground. By dividing the community along it's natural boundaries, we can greatly strengthen it.If you are in Rotary, you don't have to have everyone in the whole organization together at the same time. All of the biggest organizations in the world come down to the small group.I know my own limits. I can handle 10 - 20 people meeting every one or two weeks. I can handle 2 or 3 groups. But that's plenty. I don't want people having to drag themselves out of bed at 3 am or having to deal with hundreds of people.When it comes to organizing people along the lines of latitudes, we will need to come up with new or varied forms but first let's restore the traditional forms by applying them to the time limits as if they were actual geographical limits.This will allow a complete renaissance in the traditional meaning of words like "member", "majority" "discussion" "debate" "community" "active member" "inactive member" "rational"I'm sitting here scratching my head because over 100 people signed up for this course and only 12 were at the last meeting. Could it just be that ... time conversion is a real problem... that privacy is a concern... that feeling lost is another concern... that fitting in is a concern...that new platforms confuse people?

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