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.