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!