20 November 2008

Weeks 15 & 16

Assignment 3: Evaluate the facilitation of an online event - what we learned!

Organisation and promotion of the event
  • Planning - the draft proposal was posted in our blogs in Week 9 - Elaine and mine . We both actively participated in the preparation of the online event. It allowed us to consider pre-conceived problems, our interaction with others (or lack of), our communication methods and having to take risks!

  • Promotion - as Leigh suggested to us both (before and after the event), we needed to assist in the promotion of the events and in getting a group of people to attend. Prior to the event we assumed a group would evolve from the FOC community and would just come along … yet we ignored the lack of discussion in the forum and failed to actively promote our event. In Elaine’s post she quotes from Leigh …
    "It is a false idea to think that "if we build it they will come".”
    We are both now fully aware of the importance of actively (and consistently) encouraging participation in the discussion forum before the event.

    Once Leigh realised no other people had joined our session, he immediately made connections with his contacts and within only a couple of minutes, we had a group (audience). (Thank you Leigh)!

While I was in Auckland with our planned guest speaker, Jennie, the week prior to our mini conference, we checked access to Elluminate and completed a ‘dummy’ run. She was going to be in Raglan at her holiday home prior to the conference but had assumed that internet access would not be a problem. Plan A was to have Jennifer Goddard (Master Trainer) however she was still flying back to the Gold Coast at the time of the conference. Plan B was to have Jennie Vickers (Senior Advanced Coach). Plan C wasn’t considered (at that stage)!

Setting the stage

I set up the Elluminate site with a visual representation of the Laws of Mind Maps for participants to view during the presentation.

Management of the event

As Russ had suggested in an early posting:
“Facilitation in this environment feels like and sounds like being nudged gently in the right directions by the community with the possibility that someone in that community takes responsibility for the general direction of that.”
In the planning stages it was decided that Elaine and I would co-facilitate in Elluminate, however at the last minute she became the sole facilitator. She liaised with Leigh to ensure we were able to gather an audience, provided a warm and friendly welcome at the beginning, introduced the “guest speaker”, explained the format of the presentation by engaging them, and demonstrated the ability to provide direction and support to build an online relationship with the participants, in a neutral and facilitative manner. Elaine also demonstrated her skills in managing the online discussions by managing the audio and chat and ensuring I was aware of these communications.

We ended up going over time by a few minutes, Elaine managed to review the session and ensured the chat and audio recordings were posted in the FOC Course Mini conference wiki page within a couple of days.

Follow-up - what’s next in Mind Mapping?

We wondered whether we should have post further information on the Discussion Forum and have now done so, with new information about being in new 3-D mind map software in Second Life.

What went well?

Elaine was left to facilitate the online event on her own, felt the fear and did really well. She created a friendly, social environment for learning. She especially encouraged participation using a friendly, personal tone. Elaine:
  • demonstrated the ability to provide direction and support to learners
  • displayed a capacity for relationship building within the group
  • provided appropriate listening and feedback skills
  • remained the “guide on the side”
  • maintained a nurturing pace for responses
  • kept her cool (even though she may not have felt so)!
What could be improved
  • We could have added a weblink to a YouTube video and asked the audience view beforehand. It is a 5-minute introduction by Tony Buzan, which demonstrates the basics of mind maps. The online event could have then been as a ‘show & tell’ session, or the sharing of experiences, barriers, uptake etc. computer-generated MM software and freeware, collaborative mind mapping, FreeMind (writing on a tablet) …
  • At the last minute (Plan C) I had no option but to take the role of the presenter and quite rightly as Leigh stated
    "It was a lecture ... very teacherly."
    What I failed to consider was that participants may have come in with that prior knowledge of the Laws of Mind Mapping and just wanted to share their experiences and frustrations of its use in the classroom. We should have placed more emphasis on trying to gather interest and comments from our Discussion Forum. The laws could have been included in some ‘pre-reading’ and from that questions may have been prompted that would ‘set the scene’ for the facilitation of the online event, instead of a ‘show and instruct’ session.
  • We did not acknowledge or gauge the diversity of participants’ backgrounds and interests.

  • We did not consider nor design a regular, manageable feedback loop and managing our time more effectively – we realised afterwards we should have paused at the end of each “branch” of the map to ask for questions – rather than wait till half way through the presentation.

As I reflect on the process that Leigh clearly set out for our team (Elaine and I), we realise now how unconsciously unprepared we were. We have now experienced the process - we both felt like total newbies similar to our first classroom experience as a teacher). Immediately afterwards, we completed a debrief, shared our feelings and reactions, identified fairly quickly what we would do differently and since then have spent the past couple of weeks analysing and reflecting on the experience.
I believe we both have a far-better appreciation of the importance of the skills and roles required of a facilitator and have moved to becoming more conscious of our incompetence … and more conscious of Leigh’s expert facilitating skills!

This opportunity provided us with a concrete experience that has served as a practice, preparing and training us for future facilitative roles. By being part of the experience, we have extracted and learnt meaningful, relevant and essential knowledge and skills that can be transferred and used in our roles as online facilitators.

Overall, I found the learning process challenging, relevant and fun, and I have developed a far greater awareness and admiration of the skills required as a facilitator in an online environment - especially not to impose a point of view on the discussion - and to demonstrate the art of leadership in group communication.

I believe we have both become more aware to test and apply those lessons learnt in a similar situation (for continual improvement)! However, we felt the fear and did it anyway!

11 November 2008

Week 14

Reflection - What I’ve learned so far

The differences between a community, a group and a team

Within the FOC community, there are separate groups who have formed, for example, a network of Blog list connections.

Another example of a group more recently would be those who joined in various online events being offered within the FOC course.

Elaine (my study buddy) and I formed a team with the intention of facilitating an online event.

Differing roles of teacher, moderator and facilitator

I can remember being quite frustrated and challenged when Leigh would question my interpretation of the differing roles. I now realise how my limited understanding did not allow me to value the differences. Only now am I beginning to appreciate the flexibility and appropriateness of when the role of teacher, moderator and facilitator can be quite separate, rather than, at all times, be integrated; and am slowly beginning to realise that facilitation is the art of leadership in group communication.

I quote from the first statement that appears on the FOC Wikieducator site:
“Facilitation is a rare and valuable skill to have. It is a service that is often used in conferences, debates, panels and tutorials, or simply where groups of people are meeting and need someone to help negotiate meaning and understanding, and to keep everyone engaged and on task. Good online facilitation depends on good online communication skills."
Referring to Vida Thompson’s recording of her mini conference: The role of a facilitator: Leigh was asked about how he facilitates .. and stated:
“be central in passing the speaking hat round and keeping the topic moving, but never imposing a point of view on the discussion.”
For our online event, TLC (Think, Learn & Create) with Mind Maps, at the last minute (Plan B) I needed to take the role of "guest speaker" and quite rightly as Leigh stated ...
“It was a lecture … very teacherly."
I presented the online event as I could have done as a teacher in a F2F lecture! Oh no!!

As a facilitator at this event, Elaine created a friendly, social environment for learning, especially encourage participation using a friendly, personal tone and set the agenda and objectives of the discussion.

As a moderator, Elaine's role would be to facilitate the learning by focusing any discussions on crucial points, asking questions and probing responses to encourage students to expand and build on comments. As she mentioned in her blog, she didn't have the subject matter expertise to do this.

As I evaluate the facilitation of our event in Weeks 15 & 16 I will expand my comments.

Weeks 12 & 13

Facilitating an online community event

Facilitators: Kay Lewis and Elaine Dittert

The DRAFT plan for the online event was posted in Week 9 of this blog.

The details of our event were listed in the WikiEducator FOC course mini conference page

(We decided the previous day to deliver the presentation using the 24/7 Elluminate room, as no-one had indicated their attendance and we didn’t want to be stalled by possible participants who may not have had access to Skype and we could record the text chat and voice recordings using Elluminate).

We monitored the discussion page here, however we did not receive any comments until after the event!

As Leigh had suggested to us both, we needed to assist in the promotion of the events and in getting people to attend.

At the last minute, Elaine acted as the Facilitator and I became the Guest Speaker as our planned speaker, Jennie Vickers, was at her Raglan holiday home and was not able to access Elluminate, even though all went well when I set up a “dummy run” from her Auckland residence earlier in the week!

The focus of the presentation centred around the Laws of Mind Mapping:

Both Elaine and I were away for most of the week the events were being held and had commitments at the weekend that were impossible to avoid.

10 November 2008

Week 11

Looking for online community: social networking platforms

My experiences so far

As I was not able to access Ning and LinkedIn here at work, I set up a Facebook site. A number of years ago I joined Old Friends and occasionally pop in to view any updates, although I wouldn't consider myself an active user of this community.

My experience in Facebook to date: I set up a Facebook site three months ago, simply because I knew it would be part of my study in the FOC paper. Since then I have invited people in to join me. Currently there are 120 millions users and ranks 28= in the Top 100 Learning Tools for 2008.

As a Facebook user I have been able to choose to join one or more networks – they are organized by city, workplace, school, and region. These networks have helped me connect with members of the same network. So far I have connected with friends and colleagues, giving them access to their friends' or colleagues’ profiles. I have found this especially interesting when I and one of my contacts know the same person, but through different ways.

How facilitation could work in a chosen community

From a tertiary education community perspective, Facebook, an online community where members share specific or focused interests. For example an ePortfolio, where learners collect examples of their work or record their achievements. Teachers could also set up groups for synchronous and asynchronous discussion using the chat feature to collaborate on learning activities. Facebook could also be used as a library - for books, digital references, events, journal articles, library search, news, photos, reference resources, RSS/Web Feeds, social bookmarking, user guides, video/YouTube video box, wikis.

Facilitation skills in this public area would firstly require the establishment of the environment, creating a sense of trust, encouraging them to look at issues around permissions and the sharing of personal information, balancing the content, respecting diversity, actively listening and be able to capture the conversations, break any deadlocks and summarise actions.

It is important to remember the facilitator needs to have an appreciation of how this tool can aid good social interaction and learning.
Do not covet illustrious titles and certificates; practise your technique and adhere to the Way, for the wind will not read."
- F. L. Lovret
  • Rule number #1
    Practise more than you read.

    BUT take time to study the principle and theories too ...
    ... If I practise how to use a knife to do surgery without the study of medicine I might kill you, not heal you.
    Integrate study and practice of structured facilitation methods
  • Rule # 2
    People know what's best for themselves.
    "By adulthood people are self-directing. This is the concept that lies at the heart of andragogy ... andragogy is therefore student-centred, experience-based, problem-oriented and collaborative very much in the spirit of the humanist approach to learning and education ... the whole educational activity turns on the student." - Burns
I refer to Elaine's comment where she states that students currently question the value of using a social networking tool, as well as our current issues with access in educational institutions.

We need to consider how well integrated students feel within their social and academic environments. Is there a connection? Should there be a connection? If I consider the rules above and practice, there may become better ways to facilitate, using this tool more effectively in tertiary education.

Week 10

Looking for online community: Virtual Worlds

Second Life username: Lillee Quintessa

Communities that exist in Second Life

Second Life (founded in 1999), is a 3D virtual world created by its Residents (users) that offers social interaction in a free-roaming environment. The Second Life Grid™ provides the platform where the Second Life world resides. Business, educators, government, non-profit organisations, and entrepreneurs can create both public and private spaces using the tools and technologies powering Second Life for collaboration, communication and training that provides user-created community-driven experiences.

The Second Life Grid is for adults only (aged 18+). There is also Teen Second Life which is strictly for teens (aged 13-17).

From my very limited experience in the Second Life online communities, they appear to offer a way to meet new people from all corners of the world and possibly become friends with them. I can wander into a cyberspace, check out the environment, products or services and be chatting to people from literally anywhere in the world.

Educational institutions can use the Second Life Grid to create a safe environment (by taking the words from lectures and textbooks) to create (or enhance) a truly experiential learning opportunity by allowing individuals to practice skills, try new ideas, and learn from their mistakes, designed to prepare students or employees by modelling real-world experiences using Second Life as a simulation.

Students and educators can work together on the Second Life Grid from anywhere in the world as part of a globally networked virtual classroom environment. Using the Second Life Grid as a supplement to traditional classroom environments also provides new opportunities for enriching an existing curriculum.

The Second Life Grid platform provides a powerful platform for interactive experiences. Over 200 educators from nearly as many universities and colleges use it for classes, research, learning and projects with their students, bringing a new dimension to learning. a large, active education community is engaged in the Grid. Harvard University, Texas State University, and Stanford University have set up virtual campuses where students can meet, attend classes, and create content together.

More local, a project “Second Life Education in New Zealand” (SLENZ) has been recently set up, with joint project leader Terry Neal and Leigh Blackall. Its aims are to set out a process for designing learning activities to achieve the SLENZ project objectives:
  • Identify learning objectives related to publicly funded and approved courses that are currently being run in more than one educational organisation that will be the basis of learning experiences.
  • Develop a range of learning activities to assist people to achieve those learning objectives.
  • Develop a list of reference materials and resources that will be used in the learning activities.
  • Details of any learning support services that are required or available for people to use throughout their involvement in the learning activities.
How I might operate as a facilitator for a community communicating on Second Life

To operate as a facilitator in SL I believe the overarching skill would to ‘be myself’(from Thought Leaders Ltd).

Essential skills include:
  1. establish the environment
  2. remove an personal agenda/s
  3. create trust
  4. respect diversity
  5. actively listen
Competent skills
  1. capture conversations
  2. check for understanding
  3. hold the space in tension
  4. balance content
  5. expose all opinions
Masterful skills
  1. ability to drill down on an issue
  2. shift levels of abstraction
  3. break deadlocks
  4. manage energy
  5. summarise actions
After downloading, installing and creating a username in Second Life and having wandered around rather aimlessly, I met up with my FOC Study Buddy, Elaine Dittert where we 'found each other' and went 'trekking' together. Lots of laughs and it certainly inspired us to start thinking of SL from an educational perspective. The type of tasks I could undertake (that are relevant to my current role) may include:
  • Hold in-person meetings without leaving my office, using real-time 3D collaboration
  • Conduct training
  • Offer seminars and workshops to include distant staff and students
  • Receive feedback from clients
  • Build a collaborative, experiential community around a concept
I valued the opportunity that Leigh provided - to be 'transported' to Jokaydia to meet other FOC members. It is essential to introduce this environment with minimal barriers and ensure ease of access.

Finally I believe we need to remember to take what is difficult in real life (and not to replicate what is easily done in real life) and recreate it in SL to experiment collaboratively and creatively.

28 September 2008

Week 9

Looking for online community - wiki collaborators

Assignment 2 - draft concept

TLC (Think, Learn & Create) using Mind Maps
- online discussion
- online presentation (using Elluminate or Skype)

Collaborative facilitation with Elaine Dittert

This session is designed to provide participants with pointers to help you gather and organise large amounts of data and provide a clear overview, analyse your thoughts, identify problem solving ideas and generate more ideas with clarity, efficiency and accuracy.

Promotions for the session:
Possible presenters:
  • Jennifer Goddard, BBus (Admin), Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Master Trainer in Buzan Advanced Learning Techniques, inspirational Director of the Buzan Centre in Australia and New Zealand and co-founder of Mindwerx International.

  • Jennie Vickers, Buzan Licensed Instructor, (senior advanced coach), Masters of Management, Diploma in BA, BA Law (Hons), Leadership NZ alumnus.
Summary: Have you had difficult keeping up with the 'overload of information' during this course? Got confused or lost by trying to view all the discussion threads? Have you jotted down some thoughts and ideas you've read and heard and by the time you're ready to read and make your notes they make no sense? If this sounds like you, this session may be just what you need.

Mind maps are a dynamic way to capture significant points of information. They use a global format, allowing information to be displayed in the same way that our brain functions in many directions simultaneously.

Key Links:
Friday 31 October 11 am (+13 hrs GMT)

Background information .....

Discussion starters ..... (taken from Discussion postings and threads from potential participants) .....

Technical support services:
  • Skype - Conference call (internet access, preferably Broadband, webcam and headset with microphone)
  • Access to YouTube, Wikieducator, Wikipedia
  • Adobe Reader
  • Microsoft Office - MS Word, MS PowerPoint
  • Register to a free online collaborative mind map program ....
Contingency plan
Issues to consider:
  • time of online event (may conflict, respond to feedback)
  • if oversubscribed (maximum 24 participants at session), arrange alternative event/s
  • loss of internet connection ... Plan B?
record of event
  • History of conversation .....
If you wish to post a question on our Wiki discussion area, please click here.

22 September 2008

Week 7

Blog networks

About blogospheres

The terms ‘Blogsphere’ and 'Blogosphere' are used as collective terms in order to describe all of the blogs on the internet as they function as a social network or as a community.

From the article Customer engagement, in the See Also section of FOC 906.703 Week 7, my initiative for engagement as a customer prompted me to search for and consider two different areas of online, connected communities - one consumer-led and one company-led, for both professional and personal interest. This led me to:
  1. Teeline shorthand: I am a Teeline trainer (Leigh, sorry, but I couldn’t bring myself to use teacher, moderator or facilitator :-)) and decided to research various ways to support the learning in a more flexible manner as part of a personal business plan. Despite this recent article Shorthand dying skill in age of technology shorthand writing is still recognised as an essential skill for verbatim notetaking notably in the Commonwealth and USA in areas such as journalism, Parliament, medical, business (for example, minute taking) and the legal field (court reporting) for the accurate recording of information (without the reliance of technology). It is a core subject (at 80 wpm) in New Zealand to become a qualified journalist.

    There’s a website Online Shorthand that WITT journalism students subscribe to that provides fully asynchronous online training. They support Skype for synchronous communication (for real-time dictation) however I could not find any networked connections within the site to Teeline communities of practice for social engagement and academic support. An online alumni community (for past students and staff) would also be an opportunity to engage possible consumers.

    Further searching revealed a number of personal Teeline blogs containing very limited interaction. Of interest I found a link to YouTube that suggested writing Teeline to a song sung by Tina Turner, When the heartache …; and Teeline shorthand resources - set up nearly two years ago. While only a few responses (4/5 this year), there's been 870 hits. In the “Blogs about Teeline” posting there is a thread that asks about how to write Maori in Teeline! And another ... Teeline Torture!

  2. Real estate: I have a friend, ex-colleague who set up her own real estate company. She has just set up a blog through her own (commercially-sponsored) website Wendy Goss Real Estate, but also has one with Real Estate New Zealand. Shevlin’s definition of customer engagement (adapted by Richard Sedley suggests:

    "Repeated interactions strengthen the emotional, psychological or physical investment a customer has in a brand”.

    I am interested in following the development of her blog to identify the purpose and benefits to her company, her current and potential customers, her colleagues and the industry as a whole as her time (and money) is invested in this medium.
Reviewing of FOC 906.703 blogging network

I believe it does connect to the outer network. Under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License the content is available to anyone with access to the Internet using Wikieducator and is aligned to Wikieducator’s purpose.

It needs to attract and engage target ‘customers’ to further the objectives of this network. This develops empowerment of the consumer (learner) and the opportunity to engage with others of similar interests – in an applied sense (business and educationally intertwined).

Does the network have a facilitator or should it need one?

It’s been fascinating for me to reflect on my own struggles with participating online in this paper and the barriers that are stopping me engaging more freely. In Shane’s posting about the concept of community, he says:
“The information they generate is independent of me, however they form a significant part of what is me. My facilitation of these is simply seek, sort and utilise."
I am still at this stage!

I believe there are various levels of ‘guidance’ a facilitator can provide that is unique and personal to each participant. For example, for a newbie to blogging, the prompting of Leigh as our facilitator has provided me with a safe environment for non-threatening discussion and has helped other participants feel less intimidated, has provided management of synchronous meetings and has kept the discussion focused on the issue, with a fresh, objective approach. Leigh states in his FOC 703 blog:
“Not long now and we will be collaborating in the organisation of an online conference. I wonder how many people we will have with us for that? How many of us have started thinking what we will do for it? and how will we do it. Will we have panels, debates, discussion threads with summaries, photo stories, the development of a wiki document... I wonder?”
Eeek, his gradual nudging is to ensure we do not become overly dependent on him as a facilitator and therefore may not learn the skills and strategies necessary for facilitating an online community!

Consider my role in helping to develop this blogging network

Leigh has stated it as a comment (and is also very appropriate to me) So I need to:
  • respond to comments on my blog (much much more);
  • browse through the blogs I have linked into my bloglist and post a few comments (much more);
  • post to my blog with references to the work of others (I realise this has been my priority, and needs to change); and
  • nurture and build personal connections (network, network, network)
to ensure I give and not just receive.

Comment on the strengths and weaknesses of a blogging network for online community development

Blogs are capable of presenting facts. By using this Web.20 tool it has encouraged us to not only read but write. It appears blogs continue to gain credibility because people want a greater variety of opinions which is promoting the collaborative development of knowledge.

Accuracy (or verification) although blogs have a self-correcting mechanism through reader comment and ratings. Blogs are subject to being biased.

Bloggers need to recognise that what they are publishing is public and as a result there are certain ethical obligations to their community, the people they write about, and society in general.

I feel it’s important to identify the strengths and weaknesses — not only does it provide us with an opportunity to work on our weaknesses, it helps move us past the roadblocks that our weaknesses identify.

19 September 2008

Week 6

Online community: Discussion forums


Road cycling: I have recently purchased a road bike and now want to become familiar with finding interesting and challenging distances to ride as I come to grips with the training. I joined the Manawatu Masters Cycling Club (MMCC) but at present prefer to do most of my training independently until I become more confident with using my bike, especially with hill climbing, before riding in a pack.

I need information on road cycling for newbies, cross-training, nutrition, find cycling routes, clothing, and networking with others, locally, nationally and internationally.

I was recommended a commercially-sponsored website MapMyRide.com. The site states: “users are able to visualize their health and fitness training progress through the use of maps, workout logs, fitness calculators/tools, and user-led community groups”. As a newbie to this sport, so far it appears to offer a wide range of information, to support my initiation into road cycling! I have been able to plot maps of my rides without a GPS, search for rides or routes globally, keep track of my routes including distances, and even calculate how many calories I’ve burned on one route versus another! Tabs in the site include:
  • Map new ride
  • Search for rides
  • My training log
  • Cycling races and events
  • Community
  • Stories and photos
  • New features
I need to register (free) on the site to become a member to access all the content. I have yet to do so, but was still able to search many features that are useful for my current needs: I easily found rides for Palmerston North and could simply map my ride from my home. I could select my map settings (e.g. elevation, follow roads, etc), map my ride then see the distance and elevation for my journey.

How would the forum benefit from facilitation services?

Within the Community tab, there are currently seven forum categories:
  • cycling forum
  • cycling gear
  • road cycling
  • general fitness and nutrition
  • cycling clubs and groups
  • cycling routes
  • mountain biking
Each category shows the last post, who posted it (and when), the number of topics and number of postings within the topics. Each posting shows the category of the forum, who started it, how many comments, last comment and when it was last active. Profiles of users are available with a star rating and number of views log. It is a ‘private’ forum in the sense I have to register on the site to be able to participate.

A block in the discussion forums page monitors the statistics for discussions, comments, newest user and postings in the last 24 hours.

I would have liked to see a star rating in the Discussion Forums facilitated by the community within this community. It could assist me in trying to find qualitative information. Events listed can be rated.

In the Help area, under the heading "Elevation descent/ascent seem to be wrong", it states … another reason we've released the raw data is so that we can collaborate to improve this feature. We'll soon be adding forums to the site, and we'll have a community collaboration on improving the elevation calculation functions”. I believe this would benefit its development and promote confidence, especially for novices like me, that promote are valid and substantiated comments.

Already I have found the site to be helpful as it is easy to see the forums and their threads that have generated the most interest and most frequently asked questions from ‘old’ posts (maybe weeks, months or even years ago), that are still relevant.

List of facilitation techniques useful in assisting community communications

The role of an online facilitator has been expressed by Tammara R. Winn in her blog, Epiphany 2008. While her heading identifies ‘facilitator’ Tammara refers to techniques for an online ‘instructor’. I agree with her statements that identify pedagogical, social, managerial and technical aspects to promote good facilitation, summarising with what she sees as most important: be patient! I did feel she could also include reference to Web 2.0 tools such as collaboration by use of blogs and wikis.

Elaine's post identified a practical list of really useful points with relevant examples that I relate to with my limited experience to date.

A link to ‘The Art of Hosting Good Communication online’ by Howard Reingold lists sensible, practical techniques within the following topics:
  • What an online host wants to achieve
  • Good online discussions
  • What a host does, what a host tries to grow
  • Host behaviour
An article Facilitating and hosting a virtual community by Nancy White, identifies the four frameworks for online facilitation, group processes, applications, key skills, and links to relevant articles. When discussing ‘Facilitators as Role Models’ she states … “they are often the first members to be challenged. Integrity, patience, a good sense of humour and a love of other people will be valued in any host”. The key skills she identified included:
  • Group facilitation skills
  • Cybrarianship
  • Passion for community
  • Ability to facilitate facilitative behaviours within the community
If the facilitator is acting also as the ‘referee’, Ms White identified the key skills as:
  • Thick skin and slow fuse
  • Internet experience
  • Familiarity with common netiquette
I related particularly the statement she quoted from virtual communitarian Howard Rheingold “One point of heart is worth ten points of intellect” – a skill I have observed in Leigh’s facilitation.

31 August 2008

Weeks 4 & 5

Facilitating, moderating or teaching


In the last couple of weeks I have been reflecting on my teaching, learning and facilitating journey in all areas of my life so will bring to this posting a number of concepts that I have been drawn to over the years and how they have help frame my current thoughts.

I have spent some time trawling through a number of FOC 906.703 blogs to gain an understanding of the community of which I am a member. What has struck me is the diversity of participants. It would be interesting to analyse the demographics? An example - it appears the majority of participants are women?

I am no longer worrying about currently being a lurker ... postings are being read and considered. I am reflecting and trying to let go of starting with the end in mind, realising that it's OK to not know where my learning will lead, relax and enjoy the journey.

My journey, my lessons so far

After leaving school and before I started teaching I served 4 years in the NZ Army – I loved the discipline at a relatively young age and (mostly) adapted to the structure and rigid nature of such an institution. I learned some valuable lessons that still guide me today, but quickly realised I didn’t want to remain a “student” conforming. I learned the basics of survival, was hungry to learn, wanted to challenge the boundaries and become an independent thinker.

I then trained as a secondary school teacher (teaching students aged 13-17 years) and remember learning about Maslow’s and Karl Marx’s theories. We didn't learn about thinking styles, learning styles, multiple intelligences, 6 Thinking Hats, cycles of learning. The 16 Habits of the Mind didn't exist.

Freshly graduated and teaching in a tertiary institution (students ranged in ages from 16-70+), technology was a banda machine and carbon paper (coloured paper was an expensive luxury). We put up with chalk dust and fingernails being scratched along the blackboard (no, not a Blackboard LMS)! There was time to play and doodle (and we’d never heard of Moodle)! Progress in those days was the thrill of a whiteboard and a set of coloured marker pens (of more than two colours)! Next were OHP and OHTs! Typewriters were for secretaries. Filing cabinets in classrooms were kept locked by the ‘teacher in charge of that room’. You didn't dare ask to share resources. I was young, na├»ve, had energy, an enquiring mind and a passion for life and believing I could make a difference. I wanted to teach and be good at it. There was no independent study and students were not allowed to collaborate (that would be seen as cheating)!
“The mediocre teacher tells … the good teacher explains … the superior teacher demonstrates … the great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

Over time, the generations I taught moved from being close to my age, to becoming a ‘generation gap’ I felt I no longer related to them (or, should I say, they didn't relate to me). I completed a Diploma in Holistic Education, which provided me with skills to promote a new way of learning for my students. I learned the value of diversity by embracing the knowledge of my students’ learning styles alongside my teaching style and promoting more discussion – still face-to-face in the classroom. As I reflect, I realise I was moving into a more facilitative role in the classroom …
“It seems that we learn the lessons when we least expect the, but always when we need them the most, and, the true gift in these lessons always lies in the learning process itself.” Cathy Lee Crosby
Now, that was fine, or so I thought – as you sometimes do – for a moment.

About six years ago New Zealand experienced an influx of international students (mainly Japanese) who knew how to rote learn extremely well but found great difficulty in developing critical thinking skills in an applied sense (as they studied towards a Diploma in Business). These students did not want to discuss or question, so I struggled to find ways to moderate. Another journey began for me in finding ways to promote a facilitation within and outside of the classroom.

Around the same time along came Blackboard (the LMS) to our institution. I meddled in the technology, but made myself ‘too busy’ facilitating in the classroom to become an ‘early adopter’. However, curiosity got the better of me (as it does) and I accepted a secondment for a year as the institution’s Blackboard Trainer and Developer – and I didn’t even have a Blackboard site! I had no idea what LMS, CMS, VLE, HTML code, hyperlinks and many other unique identifiers in this environment.
"When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: there will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly." Patrick Overton
I’m not sure I flew, but I had something solid to stand on … my patient computer-savvy colleagues, my years of experience as a learner, a teacher and moderator helped me become a skilled facilitator, enabling student-centred critical thinking in a participative, collaborative environment to take place. My Blackboard site Discussion Forum for the F2F students became the place to discuss current and often contentious legal issues, I moderated, I facilitated, I also became a more reflective learner as they taught me. The Whiteboard (in Bb) became theirs - they drew legal scenarios to help them remember legal cases.

At the same time my son was also entering the teenage world. Not only was I grappling with how to involve students with 'push-pull' technology, I was dealing with the norms of teenage development (his on the way up, mine on the way down)! I thought I was learning to facilitate - in hindsight I now know it was the other way round - teacher (mother)-centred to learner (teenager)-centred! Many times since I have been the student again learning to moderate, negotiate and facilitate.

I relate to and agree with Steve Mackenzie’s “Chinese wisdom” posting on 20 August 2008 in Leigh’s blog "To facilitate or to teach".

I can also relate to the blog posting: Random walk in learning: Salmon's 5-stage model and digital natives. The digital native and the digital migrant. In my institution teaching staff comprise mostly of "digital migrants".


I suggest the skills of a teacher, moderator and facilitator need not be mutually exclusive but overlap, a varying degrees, depending on the level, purpose of the lesson, the power of the questions you pose, the information you need ...

To become better at it? Time, belief, perseverance and attitude. Whether as a teacher, moderator or facilitator, the lesson/s, no matter the mode of delivery (a face-to-face classroom or an online environment) needs support and guidance by teaching, moderating and facilitating. With fine tuning, learning new stuff as well as processing all new knowledge we have and will be experiencing during this course, re-capping the things that were taught and revealing our learning journey from it. (A Maori saying is ‘to walk into the future backwards').

Acquisition of complex knowledge and skills requires extended learner effort and guided practice. Without the learner’s motivation to learn the willingness to exert this effort. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People can easily apply to our community of practice in this paper.

I particularly enjoyed reading Shane Robert's post Teaching and Teching: Teaching or Facilitating and his supporting statements that reinforce the need to initially construct the learning environment. "Through this process, involving constructivist, connectivist and transformative approaches to learning, I provide the means for students to independently and collaboratively learn from others and to collaborate to build knowledge." I believe he has articulated the well-researched theory alongside the reality of learning for teachers, moderators and facilitators. The wisdom in each of these roles is knowing when to let go .....
"The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind." - Kahlil Gibran
And the wisdom of Dr Seuss ---
Oh, the Places You'll Go!

"... And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right ...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.."

"... And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.) ..."

15 August 2008

Weeks 2 & 3

The meaning of an online community and its uses

For the purpose of this paper, I intend to apply my thoughts and experiences to my current involvement - the myLearn Project 2008 which commenced 28 July 2008.

Background of this online community

The Tertiary Accord of New Zealand (TANZ) is a network of six (of 19) ITPs (Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics of New Zealand). Its members comprise:
  • NorthTec (Northland);
  • UCOL (Palmerston North);
  • EIT (Hawkes Bay);
  • NMIT (Nelson, Marlborough);
  • CPIT (Christchurch);
  • Otago Polytechnic (Dunedin).
The vision of TANZ is to be the leader in collaborative applied vocational education and training. The mission/purpose of TANZ is to work collaboratively as an Accord to identify, design, develop, deliver and evaluate applied vocational quality products for tertiary learners. TANZ has a strong focus and commitment to a sectoral leadership ‘by doing’ role.

myLearn pilot project: purpose

The myLearn pilot project is using Moodle, by virtual connection (from Otago Polytechnic) to create a networked process for distributing seamlessly, six New Zealand Diploma in Business (NZDB) Level 5 papers, materials and information, assessments and combining class spaces for learners and online tutors. Each of the six TANZ partners delivers one NZDB paper each. Students enrol at any one of the six TANZ polytechnics or institutions (within their local region) into any one of the six NZDB papers. A student logs on through Moodle from their enrolling institution or polytechnic. They connect to Otago Polytechnic’s Moodle site, and then may be ‘redirected’ to the polytechnic or institute that is delivering the paper they have enrolled in.

This pilot project is an example of finding a way to address the changing Government policy requirements where institutions can only enrol students from their own region. Incentives to find ways to work more collaboratively are encouraged.

Identifying features

Using Moodle LMS the aim of the myLearn project is to create a networked process for distributing NZDB papers and resources across multiple providers (currently the 6 TANZ members) to simultaneously provide appropriate staff support for eLearning capability developing. The project is currently focused on:
  • people and processes rather than further infrastructure;

  • finding ways to reduce the current administrative burden and improving eLearning programme content, learning resources, activities and assessment across multiple providers by updating the process from a single centralised source;

  • providing knowledge management of the learnings generated from this project from learners, and all those involved in the delivery of this pilot programme;

  • identifying ways to enable, support and maintain communities of practice that focus on workplace-based elearning, support the development of excellence in eLearning practices and raise the capability in eLearning best practice.

Within the TANZ Network Support Moodle site, two (main) Network Support Communities of Practice have been set up for this project:
  1. myLearn Pilot - NZ Diploma in Business - available to TANZ members to discuss the collaborative development of the myLearn Pilot - NZ Diploma in Business.

    Topics include: General, Operational issues, Technical and Moodle administration, eLearning advisors, Steering committee, Libraries, Elluminate sessions.

  2. myLearn NZDipBus - Tutor & Action Research Site. Available to myLearn pilot members for discussing and developing resources for the NZDipBus online courses & action research involvement.

    Topics include: Course facilitation issues; myLearn NZDB practitioner Action Research site.
Each community contains a number of sub-committees(?) containing essential documentation for collaborative use, as well as Discussion Forums and Wikis.

What’s made it a successful community so far?
  1. It existing for a reason – there’s a clear identity and understanding why the COP exists.

  2. It's been positive, simple, safe, supportive, where knowledge is being developed at the core level.

  3. It's relevantly applied by being attuned to real practices (in the sense the myLearn Project networked support is also using Moodle as the communication platform).

  4. Is like-minded in purpose for the 6 TANZ partners involved in delivery of the 6 NZDB papers which has (and will) draw other users in as the initiative grows.

  5. Has a retained knowledge of shared history and culture (for support, reflection and reference - e.g. for action research; for newbies coming on board).

  6. There’s an audience - synchronously (using Elluminate) and asynchronously (using Discussion Forums and Wikis) as well as the assigning of editing rights that promotes negotiable strategies and fine tuning of processes, internally and externally.

This Project is providing an environment by creating an online community of practice that offers the opportunity for those involved in eLearning to demonstrate and involve F2F staff in more flexible modes of delivery that engages them in an applied sense – as part of ‘their’ changing environment for planning, preparation, not just facilitation of online learning – by seeking first to understand and experience this form of communication. My current focus is to support current F2F NZDB tutors as they move to becoming effective Online Tutors - by gaining experience from a learner's perspective using Discussion Forums, Wikis, Blogs, Chat Rooms, Skype, RSS Feeds and then to encourage and support them to creating a collaborative online learning environment for their students. All staff I am working with are from the Baby Boomers Generation :-) (no Gen X or Y ...) :-(

It is providing the opportunity for those new to online tutoring and online communication to step up and step into roles that this project is providing as well as the shared sense of the value of being together that has and will evolved through this project, formally and informally, with shared responsibilities.

Sherman states:
"The bottom line: online community building is about the people first, the shared interests or experiences next, and the tools are the means of bringing people together in new ways."
I agree. The ongoing adventures for me is the continual seeking to understand before finding value in ways to apply that knowledge.


O'Reilly Media. (2007). Building online communities. Retrieved August 8, 2008 from http://www.oreillynet.com

Sherman, A. (2008). Building online community brick by virtual brick. Retrieved August 8, 2008 from http://webworkerdaily.com.2008/04/27

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Virtual community. Retrieved August 10, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_community

03 August 2008

Week 1

Getting Started

With the first week procrastinating and the conscious awareness that Leigh will ring me (again) if I don't hurry up and get started, here I go.

This is my fourth paper towards the Grad Cert in eLearning, so the temptation to take some time out from study has been challenging, however the thought of getting past half-way is the incentive to keep going. I tend to lurk then commit to a frantic long haul of study at the last minute but am aware that this technique will not work, especially so for this paper, nor is it how I would would want my students to study online!

I wish to get out of this course the skills to ensure I can establish a routine of smaller chunks of learning by consistently participating to online communication, rather than trying to juggle it all at the last minute.

I would like to find better ways to support F2F teachers in a tertiary environment who are currently moving into the role of online tutoring. We have had three out of six staff leave in the last few weeks, so I am working with three new staff who are totally new to either NZ, the tertiary environment and/or teaching! None of them have used LMS before (we use both Blackboard and Moodle) so they also have to learn two LMS - Blackboard for their F2F classes, Moodle for our fully online New Zealand Diploma in Business (NZDB) programme.

My challenge is to also encourage staff to use the online communication tools (Discussion Forums, Chat Rooms) and Web 2.0 tools such as YouTube, TeacherTube, Wikipedia, Wicktionary, RSS Feeds and demonstrate ways they can tie these into collaborative, constructivist learning that can be assessed and still meet internal and external moderation requirements.

I also want a clear understanding of how and when a blog or a wiki would be best used for student learning.

I have discovered a colleague here at UCOL who is also enrolled in this paper who is also feeling challenged with time so we're 'buddying' up to keep kicking each other's butt to ensure we succeed. I'm also looking forward to meeting an awesome group of fellow learners on this journey.