Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I have just read Stephen's blog and found the following point to note/consider in terms of a facilitator being a member of an (online) group (or is that network ???)-from Nancy White's guide:

Facilitators as Role Models
Facilitators are the most emulated members of a group -- no matter if they are modeling positive or negative behaviors. They are often the first members to be challenged. Integrity, patience, a good sense of humor and a love of other people will be valued in any host. And as virtual communitarian Howard Rheingold so aptly wrote, "One point of heart is worth ten points of intellect."

Sometimes the facilitator is also a "member" of the group. Keep in mind when playing multiple roles in a community that people may not know what role you are "playing" at any one time and react in ways you might not anticipate. Facilitators might see themselves as also "just members" of the community. Members may not. This distinction becomes critical when there is cause for intervention or problem solving. No longer will you be perceived as "just a member." And in some cases, you will never again be considered in that role. You are most often held to a higher standard.

I had just assumed that the Facilitator would be considered to be a member of an online group (or network or community?)- but this suggests otherwise. Already, connotations of the facilitator appear here as the "higher being", therefore the blurring of the role of teacher/facilitator comes to my mind again...and the need for the expectations of each role/part to play to be made clear. More to ponder...

Monday, August 24, 2009


I was doing some reading in preparation for this weeks topic- and came across this link-
Nancy White's glossary is mentioned in the extra resources on the Wiki for the previous topic (Online Communities), and the new book she is co-author on looks very interesting, Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for communities. Have a look at her blog, anyway, looks like some good reading there.

It's been interesting to read some of the blog entries, while I try and determine the roles/skills of teacher, facilitator or moderator. Krishan and Rosceli have captured some great definitions.

To teach is to provide instruction, to impart knowledge, but I also note that Webster also tells us that to teach is also to 'guide us' in the studies of.....

'To be taught' is to acquire knowledge or skill, to know how to do something.

How is this different from the role of a facilitator? i.e one that helps bring about an 'outcome', by providing assistance or guidance?

Could a teacher guide us in our studies by facilitating our learning?

To facilitate then, suggests that the process is more informal than the formal imparting of knowledge. A facilitator I believe is more like the 'guide on the side', rather than the 'sage on the stage'. However the roles seem to overlap, and interpretation differs (http://www.members.shaw.ca/priscillatheroux/teacherrole.html). Mark Nicols explains this well-as a reply post in Leigh Blackall's blog "...to be a good teacher is to be a flexible and committed agent dedicated to student's learning, and multiple strategies will be applied. Sometimes you just have to tell (them-to teach). other times, suggest and explore (facilitate their learning)..."

There is a huge amount of comment on Leigh's blog, and I am still working my way through it all. A particpant in last year FOC08 came up with a great thought (http://darylcook.com/facilitating-moderating-or-teaching) that the meanings will be different depending on the context (as with our own evolving FOC09 community).
Like Daryl, I find the shift in a teacher's role-to being one of a facilitator (see above) as noted in the Australian Flexible Learning Quick Guide to Effective Online facilitation- to be changing in our e-learning environment. In a f2f environment, the role of teacher and facilitator can be seperated, (i.e teacher-lecture versus tutor-tutorial) but I am starting to think that the terms (or roles?) maybe merging together in an online environment. Online facilitation is the act of managing learners and their learning through the online medium, as we ourselves are discovering, this is most importantly managing our communication as well. It may be a teacher performing the role, but the role they perform is that of a facilitator. More guiding is needed online to bring out the best in us (so to speak). Our communication is managed, but also we get direction, support and motivation by the facilitator.

I feel like the definitions are merging further when I now think about the term 'moderator' . A teacher who facilitates, can also moderate (or mediate).

To moderate=to arbitrate.

A moderator is a term widely used as well, and means different things in different contexts. Rosceli's diagram at the end of the blog is like a light at the end of the tunnel.

Moderator- an elected presiding official, a presenter, a person who is given special powers to enforce rules (wikipedia). My first thoughts in trying to define a moderator don't come from an education slant, more from someone who makes the checks and keeps the time, prepares the meetings and in a way acts in an administrative manner. Not instinctively related to an e-learning environment, until I read about "e-moderation" in Gilly Salmon's model and while I have seen this model before, I never appreaciated that her term appears to be synonomous to that of teacher-facilitator in an online environment, but also in an almost administrative role as well, especially initially (Stages 1 and 2).

I read in the Flexible Learning Quick Guide that there is another model (Collison, Elbaum, Haavind and Tinker's Facilitation Model), which is based on techniques used by the moderator to guide and facilitate the learning. The terms are merging again
Oh dear.

Skills Mini summary-

Teacher:- Traditionally a subject expert and qualified or trained appropriately in the manner of teaching.
Facilitator: Nutures rather than teaches, guides and encourages participation, not neccessarily a subject expert, but most importantly, able to foster and encourage communication.
Moderator: Maybe more of an organisational role, setting boundaries, acts as mediator, unbiased.

In terms of when the roles might 'undermine each other', my inital thoughts are along the lines of what is the context, and what is the means of communication (delivery). I could imagine that the roles cross over more so in the e-learning environment, as already discussed (and as this is a big topic, I am only touching on the surface, more thinking to do). Student-centered versus teacher-centred will influence the use of the roles, as will level of expertise and experience of the people fulfilling the roles.

An an environment such as one in which this course exists (as an example), a 'teacher' might undermine the 'facilitator' if experience or opinions start to over-rule. The teacher may not 'approve' of the direction of the communication that the facilitator is leading, for example.

A moderator could "squash" a facilitated forum envionment by being too restrictive. Where a facilitator could provoke, and prompt, a moderator with too much 'power' may have a negative effect.

And, the role of facilitator could undermine the roles of teacher or moderator by the reverse: an experienced facilitator could possibly be more 'tuned into' the students, via their various conversations and communications, than the teacher- perhaps the teacher prefers to remain as the "sage on the stage", and doesn't see things the same way that the facilitator does.

Of course, as Leigh suggests in his blog, the expectations of the students also play an important part. Teaching infers structure and knowledge being imparted by the sage; facilitating infers guiding and drawing out the inherent knowledge of the learners (by the guide); and moderation infers the controlled atmosphere this occurs in. If a student has different expectations that any of the role players have, then undermining could also occur.
I don't think I have finished with this topic at all, but I need to connect with some of the blogs.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Online Communities Part 2

I have done the readings, but left my 'notes' at home, so will just have to put a bit of summary in off the top of my head.

I too found Micheal Wesch's video a mission to complete, and it was a week ago now that I listened to it. I had never considered Youtube to be a 'community' environment, more of a media for sharing your videos etc.But it looks like that is changing. It seems that with these Web 2.0 things, there is often a different way of looking at the uses. The idea of staring at an electronic eye though, to 'communicate and connect' with people was interesting. I personally would prefer the text-based and the verbal communication 'on line' than the web-cam idea- and I am not sure (yet) how Youtube can represent a sense of community in the same way that other, more traditional methods do. Sure, the anonymity suits some people, but there was also talk about the 'mob' versus 'community / group/ aspect'. People maybe get a bit more carried away in a Youtube-like environment, and it's easier to follow the 'mob'. Less restrictions and less formality than a co-ordinated effort such as a forum or discussion group. I guess the differences can also be said to be dependent on the context as well.
Stephen Downes is a bit more organic in his explantions- and even though he was bit biased away from the 'group' way of doing things, I agree that 'networks' are more appropriate for on-line learning (in terms of the discourse). Like Herve- I noted that Stephens 'discussion' was 3 years ago now, and open group-like learning is much more common now. There will always be arguements about Open Learning MS vs. Closed LMS I guess, but dedicated educators at least can keep doing the research and keep people informed (through networks ??). The concept of Dunbar's number though is fascinating, and I am actually surpised that the number is as many as 150. I don't have a FaceBook site, nor do I want one at the moment anyway, but I have heard many comments about the social acceptability of 'how many friends' you have etc etc, the more the merrier it seems, but at what consequence (for younger people especially). Will we be a society that measures our worth on the number of connections that we have made on the Internet? How meaningful are these connections? Will quantity over-ride quality? Does everything have to be 'instant"- I like the idea of forming relationships over time- building trust and using common backgrounds.

"This, That and the Other" presentation ( Mark Marlaro) was a lot more absorbing for me. The idea of a social contextualiser- wow- that we need to be reminded of who we "know"- ""because "this" is making us crazy""...hyperconnectivity-hmm, could end up being a bit of a hype ( remember the days when we wrote letters to our aunties overseas?-this type of communication was planned more,and we waited for weeks-the response was carefully thought out, and we treasured the letter. Today- we do tweets, we post comments on Facebooks, we text and we chat/email- often short, quick and without long, meaningful responses. Because of the abilities of our new hyperconnectivity, and the 'power of the mob', our communications are so different, we move from 'idea to idea' quickly now. What would have been written 6 weeks prior to the Aunties reply would likely be considered no longer relevent by todays teenager. "That"= the sharpness and ease of the connectivity; the method of informing ourselves, the power of the mob. But can we think for ourselves- can we evaluate the usefulness? can we react and collaborate?
This is the "OTHER"- it's now so easy to moan and groan online and not do anything- we are sitting at home complaining to each other about whatever,through Youtube. ""We behave like crowds when we really ought to be organizing like a community"-we need to "Turn the chaos into a co-ordinated approach"".
Of course, these 2 presentations are quite evangelical and possibly need quite a bit consideration in terms of social importance.

In summary, the features that are useful in an 'online community' are:
Context:- a shared understanding of this- with guidelines and common ground/aims/goals, perhaps 'facilitated';
Shared experiences of the technology:-with more than one choice of channel, so everyone can connect;
Active enquiry- participation at levels that everyone feels comfortable with,
A progressive journey with trust and familarity building up over time.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Catch up

Sorry guys, I missed out on Monday's meeting. I had booked a day's annual leave, and was at home working outside. My preference is for the evening sessions for elluminate meetings, but I will try very hard to get to the day times- have to find a quiet space at work, as I share an office with 15 others, so having an Elluminate meeting just won't work- too noisy.

I haven't yet completed all the readings (or "listenings") for this section, and I now feel like I have already strayed from the group, simply because I didn't attend the session on Monday- but I have listened to half the recording so far, and am really sorry I missed out "live", but having the recording is almost as valuable. Hence, I feel the need to post something on my Blog sooner rather than later, so I get "heard"... Maybe this is what Leigh wants to happen, to get our connections working asynchronously via the blogs initially- so we can dip in and out of the 'conversations' through the RSS feeds (BTW- I set up most of the feeds through Google Reader, and I thought that once I have added all the particpants to the feed, this should work for me). The Pageflakes is a bit like Netvibes??? hadn;t heard of that before but I did set up a Netvibes page a couple of years ago for a PD task at work.
This feeling I have at the moment of 'straying' helps me to define what I think an online community might be, and how it is different to a f-2-f community. I think it's important to have more than one CHANNEL- to capture all of us, since its going to be impossible for everyone to be in one place at any time. And even if we aren't contributing to the topic of the 'moment', (online in realtime), we can still be thinking about things in the background, asynchronously, and can 'catch up on the blogs'- the connections will still be made, through the feeds, knowing that someone will read it eventually :-). yes, lurking is OK- as long as participation occurs, and that particpation can be in different forms for some of us. It's the contribution that is important I guess.

I was already forming an impression that at this stage of the course, we are probably more of a network or group, rather than a community (yet). To me, a community will take a bit more time to evolve, as we get to know each other and I left the Elluminate Recording just when this topic was about to be aired. There is so much to think about, and the YouTube presentation blew me away as well, I will certainly have another go at working through that one, and post my thoughts soon. I always thought of Youtube as more of a soapbox than a 'community voice'- however, it seems to be that with all Web 2.0 technologies, they seem to morph depending on who is using them (or how they are being used).

Effective communication depends on choosing the most appropriate channel and of course, the context that the message is 'delivered'- it's the difference between 'intended' message and 'interpreted' message that I get worried about during online communication, as without the non-verbal communication, the message can get 'mixed' sometimes? So where does that sit with our 'online community' concept??? Keeping the channels varied so that participation is enabled as much as possible, and allowing time for relationships to build...
Till next time
PS- I am keen to follow some of your comments, Rachel, so I best start getting connected and replying on the blogs ay?