Tuesday, September 29, 2009

twitter et al

Hi Herve
I am not sure if Sarah will reply to you here, but thought I would add a comment. I have been particpating in the eFEST / Teaching and Learning Conference here at UCOL this week (still am) and all I seem to be hearing is TWITTER/.......people (educators) seem to be embracing it, but I suspect that is because it was used as a social tool for getting people to connect prior to, and during the conference. I have been involved in discussions where educators have new ideas about how to use it with their students, but mainly as a replacement for texting.....and I think it is because its new to them and some of the presenters are strong advocates. But I have heard twitter mentioned in the context of things like ""I can use twitter to have a conversation with my students "" - that is a bit scary to me, because it seems so one -sided. Yes, its quick and you can get the message out there really easily- you don;t have to worry about whether the student is connected to the LMS before they get your message (if they are online, they get the tweet..).. etc etc. But can you have a conversation??? Will be interested to hear others comments....


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blogging Networks- at least starting to think about them...

I haven't done much investigative work yet (oops- time is marching by again), but I have been reading the blogs on this course. I am getting more interested in the history of the blogging regime, and how its being used in Education (and other areas). It seems that as the forms of web 2.0 communication evolve more, the uses change and blogs are now being used for a lot more than perhaps they were originally intended? Even for Business purposes Rachel? -I checked out our own institutes public web site and there is even a blog there-sadly though-its not being used obviously :-( so not much marketing there....)

I found this comment with respect to blogging being the killer Web 2.0 application that has the capacity to engage huge numbers of people (again) . It got me thinking about the reading we did earlier from Mark Pesce
"This, That and the Other") and the need for a 'something' to contextualize our social networks(of which Blogging is part). It seems that Blogoshere is a start.....I will need to keep reading it seems...I recognise 'Technorati' but only just...

I always thought of blogging as a just a reflective journey, more for self interest, rather than a social medium. From an education point of view, though, it looks like "it" ("This?") is starting to replace that weekly trip to the library where you used to go and read through all the latest journals and serials (to keep an eye on publications and news- I know, years ago, before we had the Internet on our Desktop computers at work). Now- you track your learned colleagues' blogs straight from our desks, and there are so many of them it seems!!! How do we start to connect? How do we chose who to follow?

It seems that 'the web' is a huge, huge, hyperlinked hyperspace that needs a huge commitment to start with, but once the connections are started, you just have to keep on the tracks and never get off, otherwise it will be too hard to reconnect- if you do, then there will likely be some new Web 2.0 software that reconnects you...

A good place I thought I would start with is with previous eFEST conferences, and check out people who I listened to over the last couple of years- see what they have been blogging about-

I'll post again when I have done more research....


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another note on Forums

I was reading Herve's post and saw Sarah's comments about how many discussions forums are actually like "real communities" and do they need to be real communities etc. After spending a bit more time reading the different FOC blogs, there seems to be perhaps a bit of a theme (and maybe someone else has already noted it as well), in that the level of support and community feeling is based around the purpose of the forum- perhaps the community is more apparent in the social forum settings. Perhaps in some of the educational forums, the posts are so few and far between, hence the community feeling is not there at all. I thought of a forum I do belong to, which I rarely use for my own purpose, but I still get all the posts. It is the TANZ Network Support forum for Tutors who work on the Nat.Cert. Business (First Line Management).

Now, it's used as a network more than a group (I think), but it is 'not an open forum', and works across all the TANZ institutions delivering the programme ( support for both Blackboard LMS and Moodle). It is facilitated in a way, in that there is one person/group responsible for all the admin bits, and keeping the content current- and who makes sure that the queries are answered. It used as a technical forum, a way of keeping all the different tutors connected with all the changes on the programme, a way of accessing marking schedules (all the providers are delivering the same programme-all 'online'). It's "the place" to go to for all things to do with the programme. I have always thought it a bit 'dry' and not very receptive to chatting, but recently, I posted a query related on uploading Assignments on Moodle (not for this particular programme, but for a similar one, on Moodle). I was a bit overwhelmed by the responses, and the people who replied were a great support.I got the replies really quickly too. So in terms of the community feel, it sort of seemed to me at the time, that there are people 'out there' who are happy to help and connect, but they are not "there" all the time. If I look at the forums now, they look quite inactive, but I suggest that when the time comes, people are "out there", ready to post!! So the community is acting abit like on an "as needed" basis. perhaps not a really active community but an effective network never-the-less (for me anyway :-))

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Discussion Forums-finally a posting

Hi All

Can't believe how quickly this fortnight has gone. I admit, I haven't yet looked at the readings for this topic yet- that will happen this weekend. But I thought I would post this before the meeting tonight.

Heather and I have been talking about this a bit in the office during the week, and we both decided that its actually quite hard to pick just one, as there are so many different types of "presences' online now. And given that we are still getting our own heads around what an online community consists of, and whether the community is a group, or a network, I couldn't help but think of the special 'community' aspect when I was choosing "my forum".
So the forum I set out to research for this topic is the KiwiBiker Forum.

I ride a motorbike and already knew that the forum existed. I have used it for checking out information previously, but I am not a member. I was however, able to talk to a regular member, and we had a good chat about how the forum works. The reason why I thought this would be a good example, is that it has been running since 2002-or 2003. There is already a strong community feeling amongst 'bikers', it's almost a sub-culture, and even if you don't know anyone else who rides a bike, you only need to pull up to a petrol station or cafe and if there are any other bikers there, a conversation will soon start up. I was quite sure then, that the online
forum would show the same sense of community.
The posts are conversational, usually short and to the point, with plenty of 'slang and MTB lingo' used, with a few 'unmentionables' for good measure. A glossary of terms would probably be useful or 'newbies', and in this case, there is probably legitimate reason for 'lurking' so that newbies can get a sense of the culture. Thankfully the site allows this.

After speding some time looking at the forum collections, I could almost be persuaded to say its both a 'network' (open for veiwing, and provides connective information) and a 'group' (closed to non-members for contributing but has boundaries by way of each of the threads being self-limiting, no cross over).

The features that I have looked for here (in an online community) are based on the other blogs and the meeting we had, as follows:

-same interests/purpose
-communicate towards a common objective
-able to gain something by taking away something (shared knowledge, questions answered (in the case of the discussion forums))
-like-minded people
-level of contribution is by choice
-"trust", this can be an issue in terms of can it be built up 'online', and how long does it take???

I was quite impressed with the web site layout, and as a first-timer you are immediately drawn to a FAQ's link, which also lets you know that you may have to register to "post" anything. I discussed with my forum member interviewee the
differences in 'facilitating' and 'moderating' that we as a group have discussed recently, and we both came to the conclusion that this forum (which is actually a collection place of many smaller forums) is 'moderated', rather than 'facilitated', and that the forums are in fact 'self-facilitating'. I mean that the contributors themselves tend to keep an eye on what is happening. The layout of the website tended to help with this. The top of the forum 'home page' starts with the general forum, then as you scroll down the different groups are displayed-
general, motorcycle sub-groups, mechanics, competition etc.
In each section, there is a link to the forum, and a short description, then on
the right hand side of the screen, a link to the latest post, with the number of threads, and the number of posts, the most recent first.
I am amazed at the sheer numbers, and my interveiwee thought that this was one of the longest standing active discussion forum arenas (NZ based only). He goes onto the site every day or so, but doesn't always contribute. He has regular 'forums' that he visits, and follows those more with more interest.

In terms of the features I listed above, this web meeting place is definately a 'community', that uses the services of moderators rather than facilitators. We couldn't see an immediate benefit of have a facilitator present, unless it was
for the section where meetings and events are listed. The events are posted by the moderators, not the members.There is a clear link to the moderators details for each forum. They act as housekeepers, they move posts into more appropriate
collections, they track posts for misleading content (that might put riders in danger for example), and generally keep an eye on things. There is also a website administrator, who ensures that the links are working, and that the registration is working.

In terms of any other benefits of having the services of facilitators, the idea of 'co-ordinated events' appears to already happen, by nature of the different threads starting up, each one a mini-event. My interviewee thought this
'just happened'. But he also thought that if some posts weren't moving along, the moderators "helped out", in which case they may be acting as facilitators :-)!!

It's an open community, membership is voluntary, and you can view the posts without subscribing, but can't "do" anything until you 'register', thus the members are protected in a way, therefore dealing with the trust issue. As a non-member, I cannot click on a link to see someone's details. I suspect that in this type of environment, people who are "flamers" and "timewasters", "show offs" etc would soon get 'moved on'....... or dealt with publically. I get the feeling that mostly, its an environment that is encouraging and supportive, while being razor sharp on current issues.

It seems that most of the participants are males, it's welcoming and well thought out (im my opinion anyway). There is a "forum" for women bikers however.

We also talked about the sheer size of the 'forums'. There is an archive
(restricted to text only, no graphics). However, all the threads are searchable. Again, you have to be a member to do this, thus forcing contribution.

Threads: 102,271, Posts: 2,220,992, Members: 16,451, Active Members: 4,487
WOW- how does that compare to Google Groups ? I don;t know, will have to look I guess.

Hopefully I'll make it online tonight and hear how the rest of you are getting along.