Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Facilitating Online 2010

I am going to try and catch the wave again this year after successfully completing the course as a formal student in 2009. As yet I am totally disconnected and will need a day or 2 to join all the links together, so I hope to connect with the online meeting tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Final Post for FOC_09

I found it really interesting to actually go back and read some of our comments on all the posts-gosh- we were quite busy weren’t we….. I have just read HervĂ©’s final post and it inspired me, as I too will make the effort to continue to read the summaries and the recordings… and hopefully keep up the contacts. Only problem now is-how to summarize it all a few sentences?

Online Community: All I can say is: ‘you get out of it what you put in’. We ended up as a community but started as a network. We got to know each other a bit better as we became a community…because we had to work together on common projects. I wrote my posts here in two parts, because at the time I felt like I had ‘fallen of the rails’…in terms of participation. A community certainly works better when it is facilitated, (or prompted by a shared need), if the ‘need’ is there, it will flow. Choice of the channel of communication is important- participants need to have access, and be confident with the technology. Trouble is with all the web 2.0 connections- how do we keep track-I still think “all this” is heady stuff…..The idea of a social contextualiser- wow- that we need to be reminded of who we "know"- ""because "this" is making us crazy"".

Facilitating/Moderating/Teaching: There was a huge amount of commentary around this topic- especially relevant to me was the blurring of the roles and whether the facilitator can be a participant (or do they have to have different hats). I still think the meanings depend on the context of the learning situation and the formality- a ""teacher can ‘facilitate’ our learning by guiding us…""to quote a part of this post (again)-… Sometimes you just have to tell (them-to teach). Other times, suggest and explore (facilitate their learning)..."

Discussion Forums: I wrote so much here :-( I think the secret to keeping discussion forums ‘alive’ is to have regular contributors (which may or may not be the moderators) and to have some sort of RSS feed going to make it easy to contribute. Forum posting are usually not as detailed as reflective blog posts. Forums tend to be more synchronous, with less time between posts. Perhaps that’s why Twitter is popular- fast and simple; don’t need to think too much…

Blog Networks: At the beginning of the course, we were experimenting with the uses for the different platforms. I now understand that the secret is ‘filtering the information’ and gauging the ‘context’. Micro-blogging (Twitter) is becoming more popular-but it’s hard work to keep the connections going…you need to take the time to build a PLN and have a way of keeping up with the information- commitment and focus…...But it’s also a skill to be a reflective writer. Networks will change focus as people drop in and out and needs change.

Wiki Collaborators:
This part of the course was a bit challenging-the Wiki has been the hardest platform to get our heads around, but it was good to dissect them and find out what goes on behind the scenes-the community is in the discussion page. I can now appreciate how much effort goes into the community aspect.

Virtual Worlds: I didn’t make a posting here, so there is no link (only a virtual one). But I loved reading Stephen’s post, and some of my experiences mirrored his. I made an avatar- got into second life twice, but missed the meetings with Sarah for a couple of reasons:
1. Did not have the right hardware at home (for the evening sessions)- and have now since brought a laptop, so no excuse I guess.
2. Getting into the Computer lab here at UCOL where it was loaded was restricted to times when students where not using it. Heather and I managed to set up one session, but spent 45 mins with our IT helpdesk trying to get the updates loaded, so we missed Sarah- we ‘text chatted’ to her in 2nd Life but couldn’t ‘meet’ properly. When I did ‘get in’, later on that morning, my only solid experience apart from fling all over the place, was ‘meeting’ another educator from the US but she got a bit bored with our antics, so she disappeared. Obviously she knew I was a novice!!!! Again, the technology overwhelmed me and I ran…My avatar looks quite cute though- so I suspect a bit of “voyeurism” comes out in us all when creating our avatars…..I attended a really good presentation session from the eFEST about the foundation learning unit (click here) and my comments would be that since the learning curve is so steep, and the technology drain so huge, this is the one time where SUPPORT and extreme FACILITATION would be needed, and I am sorry that I missed the FOC_09 sessions. Again, though there is a huge amount of support and information out there, it’s a case of needing a reason and making a commitment- perhaps more than the other networking platforms. However, I think that the same excuses for non-participation would be relevant in 2nd life as in our First Life!! I know who to call when I want to have another go though.

Social Networking Platforms: I didn’t make an official post under this heading either, but I think everyone is familiar with my social platform with NING- what a journey - with 17 members. I had never used a social platform before like this. I confess though, that I was encouraged via the eFEST NING. However, when I was planning what to do with it in my event, I misunderstood the purpose and thought it worked more like a WIKI. One of the disadvantages with the NING was that I missed some posts because I must have switched off the “email notification”….I joined the site , and enjoyed the experience, but haven’t gone back. Did we have a purpose for it? Thank you to HervĂ© for his valuable contributions on Security. Why use Social Networking Platforms in Education? – to gather in people and engage them for a defined purpose/for a certain period of time perhaps?

Reflecting on the different types of Online Communities:
•Choosing the right platform for the purpose of the group is important.
•Having some sort of familiar ‘background’ helps- e.g a community of practice.
•Social communities can be less intimidating than ‘professional’ ones…so if we can be clever, combine the two.
•Based on others people’s comments on this course, the importance of having a PLN are becoming increasingly obvious.
•Like other channels of communication, it’s good to be familiar with more than one. That way the connections that you make are more likely to work if you are use the preferred channel of other participants
•Prioritise, prioritise and allow time to ‘play’ so you understand the differences.

Feedback on the Course: The course has been a really full-on journey, and if I had written this post one week ago- it might have been written differently. But having had some time now to recover from the hectic planning and participating in most of the mini-events, where I felt totally overwhelmed at times, (flat tack at work as well), I have now ‘rested’ for a week or so, and I feel better about my overall level of contribution after refreshing my memory of all the Blog Contributions here. I think we discussed the level of participation and the regularity of posting the weekly tasks on our final Online meeting, its always going to be hard to fit everything in, and lapses are a regular occurrence with our own students- so why should we as learners be any different? So -well done Sarah, for picking up the course and keeping it going after Leigh. I can’t help but wonder if we would have all been able to keep up with him anyway? Yes, it was a challenge, both technically and personally (time wise), but worth it in the end. The synchronous meeting events were always a surprise, we got a range of perspectives each time as we all participated at different sessions, and that was great. I hated the time I spent sorting out Elluminate, as it wasn’t kind to us at UCOL. I prefer the WikiEducator to Wikiversity- but can’t really quantify that. Maybe it was the ‘editing behind the scenes? In terms of doing something better- it would have been spending more time reading peoples Blogs. The recommend 5-6 hours a week is on the low side. I also think we relied on the FOC-09 Google email too much for communication- and not on the Course Wiki- or Course Blog- or was that just throw-back from time limitations towards the end? I think with a course like this- it would be different every time it is run, depending on who participated. In the beginning I got a bit hung up on separating the informal participants vs. the formal participants, so it was neat to see Chris and Wille hanging in there at the end!!!! Thank you all for your contributions. I really don’t know if I could recommend anyone else as a facilitator for next time- so hopefully Sarah will take it on…I would be tempted to sign up again, just for the experience of keeping a network going.
Thanks All.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mini Conference Event- My own evaluation

Event organisation: My event (20th Nov 2009) was planned to be in two complimentary parts- as a lead in, I created a NING social site, for interested participants’ to contribute to, be prompted by and to engage in discussion and Q&A. The second part of the event was to be the facilitated live session Q&A with our eLearning Advisor at UCOL, Kevin Brennan. Kevin and I both thought that we would share the load, and had planned the session sequence around topics as they arose on the NING site. I was also able to introduce Donna Thompson, our Moodle Administrator, as a fervent Twitter user. I was intrigued by the use of NING during the recent eFEST conference, in September, as a prelude to a day of open-face-to-face sessions. I was hugely impressed by the level of participation on the NING prior to my own ‘event’. Thank you everyone for joining, it was a huge learning curve for me- as it got a bit busy at times, but certainly was worth it. As participants added their contributions, it gave me direction for the presentation as well. So this was where ‘relevance to the audience’ was catered for, because the audience was able to contribute and have a resource to link into after the presentation.
Promotion: Initially my thoughts on the event were posted on the Course Wiki, and with some feedback I finalised the format and used the FOC Google group, the WIKI, my own Blog (2 updates), and Twitter (with limited success) to advertise the event. I ran a poll to determine a suitable day but in the end it was down to a suitable time for Kevin, and trying to fit into the original schedule for the FOC course assessment. Colleagues at UCOL were also informed. What was quite interesting for me was that I had two Nursing lecturers from UCOL join the NING as they heard about the event via Sarah’s Tweets. A huge achievement I thought, for me, because this networking was also a follow on from the eFEST/T&L conference held here recently, so Kevin and I were able to create some dialog here at UCOL and we think we will try and repeat the experience in-house here in the New Year. If I had spent more time with Twitter before the event, I probably could have got more people involved but I decided to focus the energy into making sure there was content on the NING site as well. Twitter (or should I say actually using it) is still eluding me, but that is more of a time factor rather than an aversion. Having said that, I was blown away by having nine participants during the live session, plus there were several others who had told me they could not make it. I think as a group, the FOC09 Google group email got a bit overwhelming at times and we did not use the Wiki enough for promotion and updates, so it was quite hard to keep track of all the changes and updates. I would say that most of us probably under estimated the time need for prep and promotion, and centralizing the updates would have helped.
Technical Access and support: There was some confusion about whether my event was to be on Elluminate or not. On the Wiki I had initially advertised it as such, but I decided to engage my (second) back- up plan (sadly without actually saying so on the Wiki). However, it was notified, in time ,on my Blog, on the FOC 09 email group and on the NING site. I had described there that the back up plan was going to be implemented early, (Skype). In my mind I had planned that anyone thinking of attending by that stage would be using the NING page, so apologies for the confusion.
As I have already mentioned earlier on my Blog, I chose Skype because it was the one platform I thought could rely on. Experiences with Dim Dim around the time I was planning were not as successful as we hoped. Elluminate just was not going to be reliable enough at UCOL, and believe me; I spent a considerable number of hours working with IT Help both at UCOL and Otago. It seemed to me that it was worth the risk in Skype. I was also aware that Skype seemed to be reasonably available to most people. My presenters were confident with it. If I had a choice, the platform would be something of a combination of Elluminate and Skype- multiple participants being able to talk together with a shared desktop. In terms of support- I thought I had allowed enough time to be able to scrape up the ‘stragglers’- I knew I had one colleague at UCOL here who could not get into Skype- and I asked the group to wait, no fault of hers- she had a new ‘image’ on her PC and didn’t realise she couldn’t access Skype . One other participant went to the NING and was waiting for the Skype call- I was able to pick her up in time though. So a bit scrappy at first but we survived.
What would I do differently? Not sure if I could do anything really. It always seems to take about 10 minutes to settle into an online session, no matter what the platform. I guess just make sure that you can keep people “amused” with a story or two. I was lucky; I had my presenter(s) in the same room, and not across the globe. So we could even share the headset when Kevin’s call crashed!!!!
One of the little gems for me was seeing the Skype screen with all the little icons flashing as people spoke, and the little pens scribbling across the page when Kevin asked a question. I was kept busy keeping track of the text chat, making sure that people got their questions answered. I have checked the script- I think we covered everything and I promised during the session I would tidy up the script- and I have- shared it on Google Docs. The recording was a 50MB MP3 file. We could not record in Skype- so a downfall was that only the presenter’s side of the session is heard. But I do think that the script covers it, plus our responses. If anybody who participated takes the time to listen, feel free to add comments about your version of the session, as there was some very animated discussions.
General Comments: As others have said, it’s one thing to read about ‘facilitating’ and another to actually ‘do it’, especially in an online environment. If I was a by-stander to my event, I would say it went reasonably smoothly, with a few technical issues, mostly related to the number of users in Skype- and calls dropping out, but nothing that wasn’t handled with care. After listening to the recording, I don’t think I sounded too stressed but there were certainly a few moments dealing with people dropping in and out where I was a bit nervous. I was also aware that some people could ‘chat’ but not ‘hear’. Kevin and I found that humour worked best, and because we chose not to have web cameras, no one could see our gritted teeth. We had a session plan printed out, so we were confident of the content, but of course the one thing you can’t plan for is failure of the technology or the users. We wanted to show some twitter streams, and had practiced the sharing of the desk top- (new version of Skype) but sadly could not share in a multi-user call.
We started setting up for the presentation about 2 hours before hand; made sure the laptop worked, made sure the headsets were working, played with the audio and the recorder- on reflection, I was surprised how much time was spent preparing for the event.
I believe that I was able to provide a facilitated live session that complimented the asynchronous discussions on the NING sit, using a co-presenter/facilitated approach, with plenty of time for Q&A. My lasting impression after this session is that the facilitator is just as busy during the session as the presenter, and plays a big role in preparation and follow up support. As a facilitator I tried to make sure I was as participatory as I could be, due to the nature of my session and that certainly kept me very busy!!!

Thanks again for the experiences everyone.

Part 1

Part 2

Transcript on Google docs:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Summary of my Mini-event

Running a bit behind schedule with finishing up this course. Apologies for the delay in posting a summary of my mini-event. My intentions were good, but I got a bit carried away with listening to as many of the other events as I could.....and didn't get organised Please check my NING Site for an annotation of the Skype discussion, plus a transcript and MP3 recordings of the session. To make the most of the summary- you'll probably need to look at the links on the NING again.

Skype Transcript link here:
Recordings: Part One here
Part Two here

My Reflection of the event to follow shortly.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Update # 2 for Mini Conference

Hi All

After all the flurry last night with Kirshan's event, I thought it timely to update my plans for my event on this Friday 20th, 11am.

As this is, in part, an asynchronous event on my NING site, you need to pre-register on that ( there are some great comments coming through already), so do keep an eye on the postings.

These will contribute to the discussion that Kevin and I will have on Friday. It would also be useful if you created a Twitter account and followed as part of the experience.

Details of the event platform will be posted on NING, as I now plan to use SKYPE so I need to form a group prior to the event. You will be able to text chat to us, maybe even a live chat!!!Believe it or not, but we have had a lot of trouble here at UCOL with use of Elluminate and I really don't want to promise at this stage that we will use Elluminate.

Please let me know if you have any queries, email me via the Google group or direct here


Monday, November 9, 2009

Updated Details

Please check the Course Wiki for Updated details.

Please make sure you visit the NING site prior to the presentation and see what the latest postings are.

Check out the

Thanks to all.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Twitter Joke

I registered on as I thought this clip on Twitter was quite neat

If you can't see the whole joke, just click on the image.