Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Final posting for FC09

In this final posting for the FC09 course, I will be attempting to summarise my previous postings

 Technology now allows like-minded people to group themselves on the internet and discuss their common interest(s) wherever their geographical location might be. The methods/tools employed are  diverse and are constantly evolving. Communities are created using various support where participants are interacting with each other.

The art of facilitating can be compared to oiling the cogs in order for a meeting to work better. A facilitator does not get involved into the topic. He/she need to be able to  show diplomacy and able to summarise the participants idea.
A moderator will ensure that a discussion, a meeting, posting in a discussion forum stay within pre-agreed  boundaries.
A teacher will attempt to infuse ideas, knowledge and concepts into his student. The original idea of teaching is a one way transfer of knowledge, but  more and more educators use a range of strategies including facilitating and moderating to help the students to gain the knowledge required.

A discussion forum allows for a fast interaction between participants. As they can easily get impulsive, discussions can get out of hand and discussion forum need a moderator.  As found by interviewing moderators on a discussion group, there is always a time when it is necessary for the moderator to step in.

Blog networks (second posting here)
Blogs are very useful for in depth reflection.  Communities of blogs are created when  a group of people with  a common interest cross reference their posting with each other's blogs, comment on each other's blog. It hasn't got the immediacy of a discussion forum, but still allows replies to postings and therefore dialogue is  taking place.

Wiki collaborators
The wiki interface is really interesting to support a course; all the information are grouped in a central location and the participants are able to comment, discuss, and edit  the content. The only draw back is that the interface is not yet as user friendly for editing as for other interacting medium.

One of my biggest regrets on the course is to have missed Sarah's guided visit of an area of second  life dedicated to learning.  I have visited several areas, but the interaction was missing and I have yet to realise what the full potential use of second life in an educational concept might be.  From what I could gather, it must be the most demanding media to use in term of skills for the educators. The results probably match the effort required to interact.
In First Life it would be difficult for an educational establishment to make extensive use of this type of support, as the bandwidth per user requirements are demanding.
The Keynote address from Dr Scott Diener at Ascilite 09 got me thinking again about  the potential of virtual worlds. The examples he gave to the audience challenged my beliefs and  I will certainly look again at that support in the near future.

I can see the potential of the social learning platform, but not in my present work. I still consider them as dangerous if used by careless users.  From what I have been observing of my students, they are not by in large into practising "safe web", even after explaining the potential dangers at the beginning of my network security course.
May be staying apart from the main SNS would make it safer, as the smaller player in the domain do not seem to be  as targeted by the "baddies".  I enjoyed the discussion in Ning, set up by Debra. However I still think that we can have similar functions in Google group or Yahoo group.

Reflecting on the different kinds of online communities.

Different kind of online communities are using different platforms for different purposes. They acquires an identity over time, based on the personality of the facilitator or moderator and the most frequent participants.
The type of platform used  will vary according to the purpose the group is trying to achieve.
Online communities allows people to get to know each other from the inside out in contrast from the outside in. (Thanks to John Barnett I met today for the analogy). This explains why to physically meet someone in the flesh after working with them on line feels rather different.

The event I facilitated was a challenge in term of having to find a speaker. It did not quite go according to plans due to some technical problems either.  Sarah makes it look so easy!  The secret is probably to do it frequently using a platform you are familiar with and at first with guests you know well.

They were so many interesting events taking place. The only  problem was to be able to find the time to fit them in. It was interesting to see that most of the problems we encountered as a group were linked to to technical issues. This is probably because we were not too familiar with the platforms we were using and the type of situation encountered. There is only so much preparation you can do, and nothing replaces experience.

As  you  have probably  already noticed, there are discrepancies between my previous postings and the summary from today. I have done further reading and thinking about the various topics approached this semester and it is still a work in progress. I suspect it will be the case for a long time. I am still half way through… Twitter for dummies, borrowed from my local library.
Congratulations to Rachel for being nominated for the 2009 Edublog Awards.
It was nice to be able to meet with Krishan and Rosceli last week (I missed Meena by 10 minutes).  Although we have the same employer, we are working on different sites.
I have discovered the full potential of MS Office One notes, a powerful "workpad" which has allowed me to keep a record of my thoughts and notes on all the topics throughout this course.I would prefer to use an Open source software, but could not find what I exactly needed. Let me know if there is one I have missed!

Feed back on the course
This course was thoroughly enjoyable, challenging in term of content and workload, and never boring.  It has already influenced the way I work and I have started to experiment this semester with my students.  This was not necessarily about concepts new to me, but ideas which I had toyed with in my mind in the past but I never implemented. I have also started this semester a Personal Learning Network. As probably for other participants, I did find it difficult to stay on top of the work at time due to a heavy workload. I kept on lurking on most blogs but did not always find the time to post answers. I did find all the mini conference events I was able to attend interesting in term of content and management. As they were all recorded,  I am still catching up with them.
To my surprise I did find it difficult to participate into the web conferencing sessions and often found myself in the position of a lurker. English is my third language but this does not usually stop me from participating in F2F situations (essential for my job!). It has to be something about the lack of visual clues. Who fancy studying this as a research topic?
The course facilitator did a great job, and I would certainly recommend this course to colleagues. I will try to keep an eye on what will happen on FoC10.
The course is not completely over for me as I am intending to look and comments on the final posting of other participants, and to attend Debra's mini conference event on Thursday.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Evaluation of a facilitated online event

I keep being told that I am too self-critical. I think this helps me to constantly improving what I am doing. In this case. I have decided to look at someone's work to get more distance and hopefully have a more positive approach.

The event I will be analysing was advertised as:

Guest Speaker: Bronwyn Hegarty
Venue : Elluminate, back-up Skype
Date and time : November 30, 2009 @ 8:00 PM(NZ)
Facilitator : Rosceli Valdrez
You are cordially Invited visit my blog for more info http://roscelifacilitatingonlinecommunities.blogspot.com/2009_11_01_archive.html

My thoughts are based on memories of the event, since I do not seem to be able to access the recording at the moment. I think that it is not an issue with the recording itself, but probably because of my location behind GFO (Great Firewall of Otara).

The event was promoted through the Wiki, Rosceli's Blog and posting in the Google group. The information was adequate. I feel that may be a reminder to the event sent the previous day might have attracted a few more people on the day. It is not always possible to remember everything that is going on when you are very busy. However I remember seeing a reasonable number of people being present.

Do you feel is it better to advertise in parallel on several media (same information on all platforms) , or to have a main repository for the information then putting shortcut towards it? I have used the first method as s it limits the number of clicks someone has to do to access the information. This is a principle of web design I can remember, but does it work in this situation?

Rosceli had a great presenter in Bronwyn, which really helps to be able to focus on the job of facilitating the event. The event went on smoothly from beginning to the end, and the topic was really interesting. There might have been disruption taking place, but if this was the case the facilitator was right on top of it and I did not notice it. 
All participants were familiar with the Elluminate environment, and I do not think that anyone had any technical difficulties.
After the introduction to the session was made, the facilitator remained neutral throughout and did a round up at the end.  It felt very professional all through the session.

The link towards the recording was provided by Sarah the next day.
 It would have been nice to have had it appearing in the Wiki as well to centralise all the information together. Bronwyn followed up the session by emailing the course participant with further information.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The on-line event

I was quite surprised to find out how few people were confident enough  to speak in an online session. Or was it something else? Here we are, I am falling in the topic discussed Monday during Rosceli's event about being honest in reflective practises…
To prepare for the event, I set up an extra revision session with a class of student earlier in the semester. It was obviously not something that I could facilitate, but I could at least gain experience using online conference tools. I used DimDim in that occasion.
-I tried Elluminate with Eric. We had problems and decided to move to Webex. We played with it for a while. I have been using Webex since aprox. 2005, and never had any problem with it. This contributed to being too self confident with the technical side.
-We agreed on the details of the event.
-I advertised the event on the Wiki, the blog, sending invitation and reminders,  updating the information as it became available. I made sure that the Wiki and the blog were synchronised.
-I read all the info available about hosting a remote session I could find on various blogs, websites….

On the day,
  •  I had my script ready for multiple situations on my desk .
  • I was using my trusted headset, used for numerous events during the last year.
  • I had an experienced speaker

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, my system did not pick up my head set, even after logging out and back. Eric also met the same problem at first.
I ended up as participant instead of host; Heather became a host instead.

It was entertaining to say the least to try fixing technical problem as well as hosting the session.
I should have planned for such difficulties, and not only for complete meltdown. 
We could have chosen the Webex version using  the phone to carry the voice. I rejected that option at the time as I find it disruptive to have to hold a phone and at the same time trying to type or interact with the computer.  It works fine if you can use a headset or a speaker phone.

I used texting as much as I could, but it became difficult as I was not at first picking up any sound from the speakers or headphones. Restarting the laptop was not an option because this would have taken  at least 10 minutes to get back onto the network.
In hindsight, I should have use my old PC at home which could have restarted much quicker, not the laptop with all the bells and whistles .

Eric was great,  and I did manage towards the middle of the session to get the left speaker  on the laptop working feebly. I thing that the microphone also started to work  at that stage.
If anyone had been filming me at the time, it would have gone viral on YouTube by now. I was standing with my left hear on the laptop speaker, trying to understand what was happening. I was at the same time waving people getting in my busy shared office to keep quiet. Not everyone was getting the message.  I was also trying to get clues from the screen and typing text messages. I am sure I could start a new form of yoga using  laptops.  You should try it, it is good exercise for the neck and eyes.  I must admit that I could not see the funny side at the time.

I had good feedback from several participants in the course, so from their point of view,  things must have gone smoothly.  I was also pleasantly surprised by the recording.
I did try to facilitate the event, asking question when I sort of guessed it was relevant (bear in mind ear on the laptop, mouth towards the mic, eyes towards the screen as much as possible).

I only had the time to listen to the recording  and update my learning journal today. This explains why I was still so despondent  during the meeting last night.

It now feels like a really interesting experience.  It would have been good to be able to facilitate small informal sessions within the group beforehand.  This would have without any doubt  improve the "mini conference events" and lower everyone's stress level.

To relax after your mini event, you  can see more of Webex in action on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZDRTNCtVzs . Trust Dr Don!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Using the Webex on-line conference tool

 You are invited to my on-line event: Using the Webex on-line conference tool

Guest Speaker: Eric Kwok
Type: On-line conference
Venue: Webex Conference room. See instructions below
Facilitator: Hervé Carpentier

Date and time: Monday 30th November 2009, 14:00 (2pm), NZ time or  Monday, 30th November 2009 at 01:00 UTC/GMT.
Use this link to convert to your local time zone.

What will be covered:
-the WEBEX conference tool.
-Experience of using an online meeting tool.

The presenter will be Eric Kwok, Technical Manager, AsiaPac, Cisco System. Eric is based in Hong Kong and has been working for Cisco System for 8 years. He is Technical Manager for the Cisco Networking Academy Program. Eric is using Webex daily.

To join this session:
1. Go to Webex
2. Enter your name and email address.
3. Enter the session password: cisco
4. Click "Join Now".
5. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen.

If you encounter any technical issues,
for the FC09 group 
-I will be logged in the Google group/Google mail/Skype (text only)
for participant non members the FC09 group
-I will be at the same time keeping an eye on the comments for this post.

Backup plan:
I have used Webex for more than 5 years and have had no experience of it crashing/not being available. If however we encounter a major setback (technical or otherwise), I will aim to reschedule the session fast.
It does not make sense to talk about a tool without using it.

Looking forward to your company on the day !

Friday, November 6, 2009

The problem with Social networking platforms

To illustrate the point made in my last posting, you just need to look at the article in the Herald today (6/11/2009):

Facebook, MySpace users hit by cyber attacks 

This is one of the reasons why I would be uncomfortable to use these potentially good tools in my day-to-day teaching of young adults who are so sure that it only happens to other people. 

You must also consider your legal position if students who are victim of these attacks blame you for having to use those tools for their courses. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Looking for online community: Social networking platforms

I thought that it was necessary to give further clarification to
explain my reluctance about social networking website (SNS) as
described in the Elluminate meeting. I had no time to read the blog entry beforehand and was caught unprepared for the topic, as it probably came across.
I am sure that Social Networking Platforms , which I will call
SNP in this post, can be a wonderful tool to interact with otherpeople and communities. However I think this is a risky environment.
Are the rewards really worth the risks?
There are several aspects to the problem:
1. your public profile can be used, with other elements of publicly available information for the purpose of ID theft.  You could minimise you profile, but SNPs have been hacked in the past and data stolen.
2. The gadgets made available in these site can be used by hackers to steel your data and/or  take over your account. I remember reading on the BCS website the testimony of a journalist who had a lot of damage done to his reputation after this happened to him. The company running the SNP was extremely unresponsive and he had to take legal action.
3. There has been cases of computers infected with malware (trojan- keyloggers) when their owner were visiting SNP and looking at other profiles. This is not specific to SNPs and can happen any number of ways (rogue email attachment and infected/hacked web sites being the main causes).
4. As for email, social engineering can be used to extract information from you, which can put you in situation 1 or 2. Never trust anyone you do not know on line. If you know them, check they are really who they pretend to be...
If you feel that you have to use a SNP I would advise you not to enter real details into them, check the site track record for security (Google), and at the very minimum have a computer with a good antivirus and firewall up-to-date. This would not protect against zero day attacks, only against known problems.

You can find further info on:
I have found Young People and Social Networking Services interesting, but think that the security part of it lack depth. Does it surprise you?
I have reluctantly joined the Online Facilitators network on Grou.ps.
So we could use SNP, but it comes with a health warning. I would be uncomfortable  to ask young adults/teenagers to use this as a learning tool. If I had to use SNP, I would start by a compulsory session and test on how to minimise the risks associated with them.
I am more comfortable with a closed environment where you can control the membership of the group and moderate the content.

Course miniconference: I have been left high and dry with no speaker, and no ideas. Help!

Looking for online community: Virtual Worlds

Unfortunately,  I could not make it at the last minute to the second life meeting  due to ...my first life commitments.
I have sampled second life a few years ago. As I have completely forgotten what my avatar was, I had to create a new one. I went to the place recommended by Sarah, getting used to the interface again. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the bandwidth requirements are a lot less than  in past. I was able to get away with a 256/128K link, but there were no-one to interact with at the time.
However, a teaching institution having several users using SL at the same time would  have issues with the bandwidth used. I can see SL becoming a source of frustration in this situation.

In the second Life Grad Student Colony page,  part of a sentence sent me warning messages: … since many of us spend way too much time in SL and not nearly enough time actually studying,…
These kind of environment can suck the life out of you if you are not careful!
Wikipedia, referring to an interesting article from Christine  Lagorio in the NY Times mentions that Instructors and researchers in Second Life favour it because it is more personal than traditional distance learning.  The article mentions that at the time of writing in 2007 there were numerous institutions using SL. Looking for more recent information,  I was expecting to find more info on Eduserve, as the latest report about the use of SL is dated from June 2009. The information did not convinced me that the use of SL is developing at least for the UK.
I have tried to create a group in SL. This would have cost me SL$100. This surely cannot help to create communities. I suppose you could create a teaching institution from scratch on SL, without the need for a physical location, but this would come at a cost.

My approach to new Learning technologies is "How can this help me to improve on what I am doing ".  At the present time, I cannot see how SL would help me. I probably lack of experience in using the environment and would have liked to be able to see a demonstration of group interaction in SL.  I can  see that it would help it the case of language learning. It must also be helpful  for other non-technical subject otherwise I dare assuming that it would not be used for educational purposes.

I have no doubt that communities exist in SL, as in everywhere people interact. The kind of interactions happening there would mean that facilitation would be similar to in-person meeting facilitation. One of the source of information mentions that you should limit the open questions asked, to avoid a meeting becoming chaotic.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Using WiZiQ

My work network blocked me from accessing WiZiQ with the rest of the group last week. So following Sarah's suggestion, I did organise another meeting which took place tonight.
Already I was not not impressed from the start, as the registration process requested me to hand over a lot of personal information, unlike for DimDim. This rang alarm bells:  at best I am at risk to be spammed heavily .At worse my data could be stolen from their database for ID theft purpose. Mind you, apart from the email address, there is nothing to force you to tell the truth…

Catherine  and Heather  attended the meeting at different times.
I did find the interface  itself nice and simple.
As the meeting coordinator, you control the ability for the participants to speak on interact with the white board.  It would be better to have a system such as Elluminate where the participant can take turn to speak by clicking a button, without having the coordinator  identifying first who wants to talk, then click on a button.

The problem with enabling the speech permanently  (full duplex) is that you can end up with 2 people talking at the same time, as the delay for the speech to arrive to destination was about two seconds. This created a problem with two participants. What would happen with 10 or 20? Chaos!
I have tried to upload documents from the PC to the whiteboard with limited success. I was able to  load one PDF file, one PowerPoint file, one Excel file . A few files got stuck at 50% upload. The Excel file  was only displaying the print area, and you could not navigate between the sheets. The .pps file suddenly appeared after I had lost all hope of seeing it. The delay from to time between the system indicated that the file was loaded and its appearance on screen was of about two or three minutes. This  did not seem to have anything to do with my system or  my internet connection.
 The only way to share videos seems to be through You Tube. I also had the option to use as source the Camptasia plugin (?), but this came to nothing at the end. I attempted to upload video files directly. WiZiQ only seemed to be able to  only identify the .swf video file on my laptop, but any attempt to load the files came to nothing.
It does not appear to be any facilities for desktop sharing.
You can annotate  the uploaded documents, but when attempting to erase the annotations, the text on the document disappeared.  This is not an issue if you are aware of it.
The bandwidth used was acceptable on my modest DSL line, but it looks like a bit more than DimDim or Webex.
I am having another go at DimDim on Monday with some of my students (I know:  labour day - I must be stupid!), and will feed back on the experience.

So to summarise my experience, the interface is nice and easy to use,  but:
- delays gets in the way of communication and file sharing
-limited video sharing facilities
-no desktop sharing facilities
-concerns about privacy

Ideas for assignment 2

Since I am frequently using Webex as a participant, it think that it might be interesting for other people to get information on this excellent tool  from the point of view of a meeting organiser.
I am waiting to hear from the former colleagues at the Birmingham City University to see if one of them would be able to take part in an online event during
 between 9th - 22nd November. The event will probably take place during an evening (NZ time) to be able to cater with the time difference with the UK.

I hope this works out, as I have close to no plan B at the moment.
It would be nice to be able to use Webex for the event, but this is not a free tool. I will see if we can get access the Webex from BCU, but since it is supplied by the Cisco Learning Institute, there is no guarantee this would be possible.
The tools I am planning to use are therefore
3.Dim Dim. I was quite impressed with the possibilities of this free tool, even if I could not access to any sound from work. I will experiment with it to see if my modest bandwidth from home (256/128K) would be able to cope with the traffic.
As soon as I can get confirmation of the participants, I will add my event to  the course mini conference web page.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Blogs, Forums, Twitter and facilitation

A blog is a journal edited by one person. Most blogs would allow to post replies. This frequently leads to exchange of ideas with readers which can themselves be bloggers. These bloggers are likely to have the same interests and would in turn cross reference with other blog, creating a network or community of blogs. A blog network can grow organically, or being actively weaved, as described by Angus.
An on-line discussion forum belongs to all participants. Participants are frequently screened to be registered to the community. They exchange ideas through a platform, and other members reply to the treads/questions
When investing the two formats, looking to the practical implementations of the two platforms, I arrived  to some conclusions. In general,
-Blogs tends to convey ideas which are much more in depth than forum, probably because the feedback is not frequently as fast from other people
-There is a tendency to have more intense discussions in forum.
-Sometimes  loudest people take over  a forum. This can lead its demise  as the other participants get less interested into visiting the forum. This can be counteracted with effective moderation of the forum.

My preconception about Twitter is that it at first feels like a tool for people with short attention span.
A reservation I have into to using it is that it would be an other source of information to have to cope with. I am at the moment spending up to 45 minutes  at work  every morning  reading, filtering, deleting the information arrived overnight through emails, RSS,  and update  on web site such as blogs. On top of that count the "urgent" information requested  from students via IM system, and you realise that the  back ground eNoise is already quite high…
So what would Twitter bring me? Twitter is well described be Sarah Steward on the FC09 blog.
There is not doubt that Twitter is probably be a good way of pushing information out towards other people. However, I feel that I could not effectively cope with an other source of information coming in, especially as I frequently could get it via other existing tools. I feel that it is much more efficient to gather information via limited set of tools such as RSS, eMail, and Update Scanner.  In fact I have rationalised my information input replacing most RSS by U.Scanner. Updates. Update Scanner works in 99% of cases, when RSS is not always implemented on interesting sites.
Let's get back to Twitter. If the people I am trying to push information to via Twitter are in the same situation as me, can I expect them to collect information via this tool, or should I instead pass the information via existing tools? You know by now what solution I would prefer. I will however try to use Twitter in a course I will be delivering next year, and get the feed back from the students. I might get surprised!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Looking for online community: Blog networks

Wikipedia describe the blogosphere as being made up of all blogs and their interconnections and a collection of interconnected communities. But are blogs communities?
A blog consist of one or sometimes several writer , passive readers  and readers actively commenting.
What can be a blogging network? I followed the link for Blogscope then BlogPulse. The idea to be able to search specifically for blogs about a certain topic is new to me. Does it mean that the blogs found concerned about the same topic constitute a community?
The first search was for eLearning. The two search engines are a good source to find blogs about a  specific topic, but it did not meant that the blogs were interconnected together.  It fact it did not seem to be many inter-connection between them at all.  There are  communities of blogs in Tumeke (thanks Rachel!) and KiwiBlogs (thanks Stephen!) These are concerned about NZ politics, but it does not seem to be much cross-references between these blogs either.

Organising blogs seems to be hard work as explained on http://blog.wiserearth.org/how-to-weave-a-tighter-community/ (thanks Sarah!). The paper on which this blog entry was based made for very interesting reading.
Would someone complete such a task without financial incentive? I doubt it.

 A good example of a blogging network would be the FCO9 blog network. Several platforms are used for the blogs, but there are linked by
- a common interest
- links are interconnecting the blogs between each others
- the blogs also refer to each other.
 I have spent quite a bit of time looking for working blog communities.  Like  Stephen, I have found that most are not very active in the sense that most members seem to be active only for a short time.
One of the two properly working blog network I have met is….. The FCO9 network. The other one was link to a course I completed last semester, so was only active for a few months.

Does anybody in the group want to be interviewed for comments and ideas on how you thing the blogging network  could benefit from facilitation services?

 Can a blogging network benefit of a facilitation service? My gut feeling is this could only be happening if a synchronous event takes place. The only situation when I think facilitation services could be useful is when a group of bloggers is sharing a blog, with someone able to modify or withdraw entries if one is deemed to be unacceptable. I can imagine this happening in an educational context, but have not met any example of it yet.  This idea was reinforced by reading Kylee's blog entry this morning.

On-Line forum

I have questionned members of the long running  Yahoo! group UKFoster-Adopt · Fostering and Adoption in the UK.
This is the summary of the information gathered from some of the members.
The discussions about any subject related to adoption and fostering are 'roaming fairly freely'.  There is no point having someone trying to summarising a thread, as in any case, it would not close it. Too many people have to have the last word.
There is moderation taking place on the forum, as there are moderators who read every post after it is published, approve new members, deal with complaints and complete some 'admin stuff'. One of the moderators compared their role to light facilitation.
Sometimes moderators discuss off-line the behaviour of a member of the group giving concerns, and one of them steps in when things turn nasty.
It has happened in the past that members are put onto pre-moderation. In that situation, 'their posts must be read and approved before they are published but this is a rare event and has only happened a handful of times'.
There has been members banned for trying to sell children (!) or for breaking confidentiality agreement.
However the boundaries are  very wide and the discussions can wanders right off the purpose of the group.
One of the members mentions that the discussions on the forum create a learning environment challenging the members ideas and preconceptions. The participants have respect for each other,  challenge each other  respectfully , as they are a group of individuals with a common interest and passion in fostering. There have been occasions where the group came together supported a peer needing help with a positive outcome .
Another  good point was made by an someone else, who noted that 'with any group the dynamic of power and control more often is held by those who are charismatic, vocal and confident. It is dangerous to believe that freedom of opinion, low key monitoring and a lack of dissonance equates to agreement by the majority'.

(thanks to Tia, Mike, Rhys, Kathy, Jon)

This group feels like a real community. By in large the discussions are respectful  and the participants cares for each other . All the participants seem to have a common interest.  However there is no need for facilitation service as there are no plans for any synchronous events.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Catching Up

Coming back to life after a spell into the "Works takes over everything" world.
It is far from a virtual world!
I am summarizing the findings about the forum I have been looking at: UKFoster-Adopt group, and will shortly post them.
I am at the same time listening to the recording of the session I have missed. Who said that men could not multitask?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Week 5 and Week 6 (Part 1)

Looking at discussion forums for these two weeks. The tasks to complete are:

-Locate an example of an online forum and post to your blog a link to the forum with an assessment of the forum.
-Identify what aspects of community can be found.
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.
-Write the findings into a blog post and send the link to the cou
rse email group.

I did find difficult to find a discussion forum where there was a sense of community. I have found that all the open forum I looked at in Yahoo! groups or Google groups were plagued with spam getting in the way of communication. I have applied to join a few of the closed forums, but out of 6 or 7 applications completed last week, I only received once answer to date. The group I have managed to join is "Educating Tomorrow" in Google groups.
Its description:
Educating Tomorrow's mission is to design and help implement best management practices for greening NYC's public schools. Our schools must take the lead in reducing our City's ecological footprint through environmental education and responsible practices, such as school-wide recycling."

However I do not get a feeling of community there. It does not seem to be any discussion taking place. It feels more like an information board with not replies posted to any messages.
I have had an idea last night and have contacted a group where participants are more likely to be interacting with each others. I will keep you updated!
I'll be late, but will get there...

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I am looking at the mini conference information.
Has anyone used any of the tools mentionned in the list? It would be good to have some feedback about the "usability" and performance of each.
I don't think I will have the the time to test them all!

Week 3? 4?

I am already loosing track...

In the posting dated 17th August, Sarah mentioned the confusion between the role of facilitator, moderator and teacher.

What is the difference between the 3 roles? I have been using several resources in an attempt to define this roles.



Dictionnaire Larousse

Oxford dictionary



The role of the facilitator is in a discussion is

  • to help to bring about an outcome by using or providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision.
  • assists in the management of an exchange of ideas, information, and opinions.
  • A neutral person who makes progress easier
  • Expected to offer guidance along the way to making decisions rather than provide expertise on a particular subject relevant to the decisions.

Skills required by a facilitator:


-to be able to gain the trust of the participants

-identify and able to summarise the participant's ideas

-keeping a neutral position


The moderator will let a discussion take place and will only intervene

  1. to iron the excesses out
  2. To enforce the rules of the discussion

There is more an idea of mediating and arbitrating. There is a confusion with the role of facilitator in some of the definition found.

Skills required by a moderator:

-perfect knowledge of the rule of the discussion.



The idea is there to instruct, to impart and inculcate knowledge as you would fill a bucket. A teacher must be an expert in his field. The role of teacher is often formal and ongoing.

Skills required by a teacher:

    -Technical expertise



An online community will need a moderator, and a meeting would benefit from a facilitator.

So should we teach, facilitate or moderate?

The role of an educator varies in between these 3 poles. I have been fortunate enough to teach a range of subject across intermediate, secondary and tertiary education. The techniques used to educate vary and are influenced by the context, subject, topic and public. The personality of the educator will make him/her prefer a technique instead of another.

Modern teaching methods would make an appropriate use of moderation and facilitation.

  • The role of a teacher undermining the role of a facilitator when the teacher is trying to impose his/her views on a group.

  • I cannot think of a situation when the role of a facilitator undermine the role of a teacher or moderator .

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Week 2 (Part 2)

I am working my way through the work, and trying to identify what there is to do on the course. I have been listening to the recording of the online session. It is difficult to keep a sense of community when you have individual posting scattered on blogs. It will be much easier to use an online group (Yahoo group? Google groups?). This would allow to share information much more easily with other course participants . This could act as a central meeting point. May be I am missing something.

Just another thought about when a group becomes a community. Isn't it that a group becomes a community once participants are starting to know each other better, leading to changes in the group dynamic?

I am a bit confused now. I thought that I was already late on the schedule, but I came to give feed back to other participants, I have noticed that I seem to be ahead… Strange. I am not used to that.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Week 2

What is a community? The first words that spring to my mind are similarities, common interests and values.

As could be seen in the fascinating video from Michael Welsh An anthropological introduction to YouTube , the on line communities also allow to break social conventions and rules of acceptable behaviour which can be redefined through the online media. This allows for communities to be created between people who are not likely to have ever met, disregarding borders and even languages.

Tools that allows people to access material of common interest are all very new and are constantly evolving.

The anonymity of performing in front of a web cam allows people to be themselves and relax without the fear of "the others" and of social boundaries.

Why is this happening? There seem to be to a sense of loss of communities. It is in the human nature to need to feel as part of a genuine group not created artificially by the society such as work, school, university…As Mark Pesce mentioned in This, That and the Other "We are human to the degree we are in relationship with our peers."

However as for everything else, people are learning to manipulate the system for various reasons.

According to Stephen Downes , in Groups and Networks groups are different than network. Networks are without walls/boundaries and their membership is very fluid. According to Stephen, the flow of information in a network is multidirectional instead of unidirectional as it tends to happen in groups. It might be better to use networks in eLearning instead of groups, as it seemed to have been happening at the time when the video was made in 2006. However the technology which allows networks to function is a lot more common in 2009. However Stephen's view of sharing knowledge freely to anyone is idealistic and I cannot imagine a time when my employer would allow me to teach a course for free via eLearning. It is not as he mentions "the rich getting richer and the poor poorer" but the reality of an educational establishment trying to generate enough income to be able to pay its employees.

Mark Pesce explains that the maximum size for a community is 150, after which the group can be described as a mob. This is due to the present limits of the human mind not being able to handle more information. The internet is changing very fast the way we learn and Mark thinks that the institutions not able to adapt to the changes will disappear.

Building Online Communities feels like an instruction manual on how to run an online community such as a Blog. It is full of good ideas and suggestions. I have bookmarked it and will get back to it when I can find some time.


To follow/subscribe to blog or web pages which do not support RSS, why not using the Firefox browser fitted with the Update scanner plug-in? This is easy to use and very useful.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Week 1

Hello all,

First post for the Facilitating Online Course at Wikiversity
Looking forwards to this course and to work with all of you. I just hope that I can stay on top of the work!

I am a lecturer in computer networking at the Manukau Institute of Technology and have been using eLearning tools since 2004. I might as well learn how to make the most of them...


This is my second course preparing towards the Graduate Certificate in Applied eLearning.