Thursday, July 31, 2008

eBooks & Education

An excellent coverage and links resource on the topic, provided by the wwwTools for Education website. This page covers links to articles and resources under headings that include Background Reading, Trends, Software (which eBook format?), Hardware (reading devices), eBook Pros & Cons, eBooks in Education (addressing separate level groupings), eBooks for Professional Reading, and more. Also lists links galore to examples, library services, and collections of eBooks.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Getting started in the Facilitating Online Communities course

We had our first meeting via Elluminate for the Facilitating Online Communities course. Leigh promptly summarized our meeting on the course blog and our Google Groups discussions are underway.

During week 1 we are asked to comment on what we hope to get out of the course. I realize that my interest in this course is just as much about the process as it is about the content. For starters I have never experienced organized communication through blogs. I'm also curious about the commitment level when variables such as open, free, and non-credit are thrown in. The enrolment sits around 60-70, but what will the number of active participants be? (This was a also a topic discussed in Sunday's EdTechTalk session about the upcoming Connectivism and Connect Knowledge online course where they're up to 1200 registrants.) Plus we are aiming for some ambitious projects -- the mini conference planned for weeks 12 & 13 can be administratively complex. But matched with the right tools, like the mini-conference wiki perhaps it can be easily managed as a group.

I'm also interested in watching the facilitation qualities emerge. In just a couple days Leigh is already modeling some very important skills. I started by listing 3, but this quickly turned into 10. This list only relates to communication. Of course there are many other factors related to design, administration, technologies, etc.
  1. Presence
    We all just know that Leigh is right there and available. This counts for a lot. It makes everybody feel very comfortable and motivated.
  2. Responsiveness
    Process type questions that are directed at the facilitator are answered very quickly.
  3. Inclusiveness
    Leigh gave everybody a chance to speak in the orientation meeting and was also very careful to follow up in the forum to ensure those participants who are new to the technologies introduced this week are not feeling overwhelmed.
  4. Negotiation
    Rather than decide how to best manage our course roster and profiles/list of blogs Leigh involved everybody in the conversation. There were many creative suggestions!
  5. Engagement
    Rather than telling us everything Leigh is giving us opportunities to explore.
  6. Focus
    While several people are keen to jump in with new questions and offer solutions to how we can organize ourselves for the course, Leigh continues to bring us back to the main tasks for this week. "Great to see you raring to go, but..."
  7. Pace
    On more than one occasion Leigh has suggested we not jump too far ahead. For example he reminded us that we can "slowly subscribe" to participants' blogs. It doesn't have to all be done today!
  8. Thoroughness
    Leigh obviously puts a lot of time into reading and responding. His thoughts are well-organized, and he is makes an effort to acknowledge contributers.
  9. Tone
    Leigh has a very casual, friendly style. This quality in itself is obviously most effective when combined with #8 -- a little comfort along with respect. :-)
  10. Openness
    Sharing feelings like losing the network connection during the meeting "freaked me out", or dilemmas like not being able to find the Elluminate recording make the participants feel like they can be open as well. Let's all fess up to our blunders and head-scratchers!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Facilitating Online Communities

Tomorrow is Day 1 of the 17-week Facilitating Online Communities course led by Leigh Blackall. If you're familiar with the good work at WikiEducator or have a strong interest in networked learning and open content, then you've probably heard of Leigh.

I first became acquainted with Leigh and his work when volunteering as an "organizing partner" for the 2006 KnowTips online conference. Through that experience my awareness of the value and importance of openness was raised several decibels, in fact to the point of embarrassment for being involved in organizing a very closed online conference.

Leigh asked questions. Lots of questions.
"Will the recording of my presentation be available to the public?"
"How long will the recording be available?"
"Will my Moodle space be open to the public?"
"Can the discussion for my topic take place at TALO instead of the conference site?"
"What happens to the money collected from conference fees?"

As the person in charge of presenters, I took each question back to the conference committee. Who is this person, they asked? Someone we should listen to, I answered. :-)

Once I joined the Teaching and Learning Online Google Group I got a glimpse of Leigh's work. I really admired his facilitation style, his energy, and most of all his devotion to the future of education. It took a bit of convincing around the planning table, but I think (I hope) we were able to accommodate all of Leigh's requests. His conference presentation was outstanding.

Now, look at this great opportunity! Leigh and his colleagues from Otago Polytechnic have developed this online course AND they are offering it for free. No limits on the enrolment, no complicated registration process, no fees. Just introduce yourself to indicate your interest on the course discussion page and get oriented this week! It's not too late to join. All details are on the course wiki.

See you there!

Have you heard about Google Lively yet?

My title's link is to Google's site at lively.com. What's Google Lively? George Siemens said, "A quick initial reaction: it’s Second Life distributed." Google says it's "a chat experience in which you can communicate and express yourself using avatars in your very own space. Choose an avatar and use it to make friends and chat. Create rooms, decorate them to your liking, and make sure to invite your friends over."

Google Lively is a 3D Virtual environment released July 8/08. You construct your own rooms, avatars, and furniture, etc. right in your browser window on your own website or blog rather than having to go to a specific 'game' site. As Tech Crunch said, "Well, this sucks for Second Life."

Here's an introductory video, then you can decide whether you want to link via my title.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

More Facebook Grief


In June I posted about some issues I was having with Facebook. Well yesterday I received a note from Deirdre Bonnycastle that really takes the cake. She wanted to let me know that she has been deleted from Facebook!

Deirdre is editor of the Active Learning Blog, an idea that emerged following the Active Learning Strategies for Online Learning seminar she facilitated at SCoPE. Her blog is collaborative, with each issue inviting articles and encouraging guest editors. As part of that process she sends out notices through Facebook to her friends, all educational professionals like herself, to let them know about upcoming themes, to request articles, and to advise when a new issue is available. She also pops into relevant groups to leave a messages about the Active Learning Blog on walls.

I find it interesting that you can be superpoked all all day long (I don't really know what that means! LOL), toss pumpkins at all your friends, and notify everybody about your results on the Likeness Quiz, but using the existing educational groups and your friend list to broadcast information about something they might care about counts as spam.

Deirdre is not knocking on the doors to get back in:
I'm not all that upset about the deletion because I think Facebook is a disappointing method of social and professional connection. The only thing I find useful is the notification about upcoming events.
But nevertheless the control factor is disturbing. She received email to say that spamming is not allowed in Facebook and her account will be deleted. A couple minutes later POOF it was gone. What about the time and energy she may have invested into contributing content and organizing information -- bookmarking, book reviews, events, discussions? We've been warned that Facebook owns our data. Careful folks! It can be wiped out in 2 minutes!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

R2D2 - Empowering Online Learning

Any day now my copy of Empowering Online Learning: 100+ Activities for Reading, Reflecting, Displaying, and Doing will arrive in the mail. I can't wait! This new book by Curt Bonk and Ke Zhang has been selected for the next discussion in the SCoPE Professional Reading Group series.

I first met Curt Bonk during his visit to Simon Fraser University in the mid-90s. He was invited to share his work with researchers in the TeleLearning Network of Centres of Excellence project and left us with heaps of resources and ideas to use in our own work. Later he facilitated seminar discussion at the Global Educators' Network and we have stayed in touch around conferences and online community events. Over the years I have continued to read his articles, sometimes getting sneak previews, and to visit and refer others to his Indiana University website where I always find little gems to use in my own teaching. Curt is knowledgeable, practical, entertaining, enthusiastic, and also generous -- he has offered the use of SurveyShare (one of his companies) for online community research.

So it's a real treat to have Curt back to facilitate an online seminar, and to meet the R2D2 co-author Ke Zhang. SCoPE seminars are free and open to the public, and the authors are offering some resources for those who are unable to purchase the book. Be sure to join the discussion July 21 - August 3! Access the seminar directly.

Friday, July 4, 2008

July issue of MicroSCoPE and some ramblings about SCoPE

The July issue of MicroSCoPE, the monthly update on SCoPE activities, is now available. In this issue we have quite a hefty "PeriSCoPE" section. It's neat to hear about the projects and activities that SCoPE members are involved in. This month I have been corresponding with graduate students at George Mason University who are using SCoPE as a case study for their project on distance learning. I didn't mention the project in the newsletter because there is no "outcome" document to point to, but they have provided some useful feedback. Here are a few points:
1. Use surveys as a way for lurkers to be involved in providing feedback on the community.
2. Revisit mission statement.
3. Recruit more people.
The first recommendation made me realize that we haven't provided an easy way for lurkers (our largest group!) to participate in improving the community. We have talked about doing more surveys, but get bogged down in the details of what we want to ask. Actually, we want the members to decide what to ask! Our annual "SCoPE Next Steps" seminars, usually scheduled around August/September have been very useful. Perhaps a focus this year can be on research about SCoPE.

The second recommendation made me realize that the information about our audience might be ambiguous. From the beginning there has been a tension about how to present SCoPE as an open, international community but also serve the local audience of the institution that supports the community financially. (SFU supported SCoPE until March, 2008.) I felt very strongly that we should be careful not to present the community as primarily for SFU educational practitioners. I didn't want the rest of the world to feel like they were in some kind of "also welcome" category. I even avoid spelling out SCoPE -- 'S' technically stands for SFU in the Community of Practice for Educators. Can you think of something else the 'S' could stand for? I'd love to hear it!

The third recommendation has me a little stumped. Last count we had 2,026 members, and since SCoPE is wide open there are many, many more members on the periphery. I'm not sure more members is what we need. However, there are certainly many more things we could be doing to improve our experiences in SCoPE, and that requires more help. A high priority would be better support and resources for facilitators, some interface and technical fixes on the site, and my oh my wouldn't it be nice to have a writer -- someone to prepare summaries of seminars and events.

We have a 3-week hiatus from seminar discussions which gives some time to do some tidying up. There are a few special interest groups that need some attention. Some have probably run their course and are ready for archiving. Never a shortage of things to do! I haven't scheduled the "Next Steps" discussion yet because I need to figure out vacation time, but please start thinking about what we can be doing to improve SCoPE!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Education for a Digital World

The long awaited book, Education for a Digital World, is now in print and also available for download in sections or in full from Commonwealth of Learning (COL). The 500-page volume is divided into 5 sections:
* Part 1: The Impact of Instructional Technologies
* Part 2: Preparing Online Courses
* Part 3: Implementing Technology
* Part 4: E-learning in Action
* Part 5: Engagement and Communication
The official launch of the book will take place at COL's Fifth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning in London from 13 - 17 July 2008. Several participants in the book project will be attending the conference, including colleagues from BCcampus, a co-publisher for the book.

I co-authored chapter 13 Planning Your Online Course with June Kaminski. (June designed the cover, and our chapter map.) I was also a contributing editor for the book, and wrote the SCoPE case study for chapter 30, Supporting E-learning through Communities of Practice. The case studies were pruned considerably. Originally they followed Etienne Wenger's 7 principles for cultivating communities of practice. The SCoPE version (which I still need to format properly!) can be found under the Snapshot of Evolution section on this wiki: http://scope.pbwiki.com/

The publication grew from an idea for a "collaborative" book by Sandy Hirtz, Online Community Producer for BCcampus at the time, and David Harper, a Kinesiology faculty member at University College of the Fraser Valley. I remember the first mention of the project during a SCoPE-CPSquare Vancouver Rendezvous of online community practitioners in October, 2005. So from conception to publication it has been quite a long haul, but it's probably proportionate to the size of the beast*!

A BC-grown concept soon spread into an international project through community networking. I actively promoted the project through SCoPE and offered the platform as a public face for the project, attempting to mirror the evolution of book chapter titles and authors, and to relay important information about deadlines and meetings. My efforts were to drum up some interest and also to offer a something that was missing in the equation -- a way for the public to learn about the project and see the structure and chapters taking shape, and to declare interest in collaborating on chapters that had been assigned to "chapter mayors". Sandy held a number of live sessions in Elluminate to coordinate activities and and many interested participants migrated to BCcampus eLearning Marketplace and Expo, a password-protected community which became the central location for communication about the project. In addition, email was used a great deal.

The project grew, and grew, and grew. New chapters were added, bigger chapters were dissected, new authors came on board... and somehow Sandy kept up with managing all the details. She deserves a major award for her role in this project!

There are many lessons learned from the process of publishing this book. It deserves some attention, so I'll need to do some reflecting and later write some more about about the experience itself. Hopefully others will do the same!

* Sandy referred to the project as "the beast"... the final phase being "taming the beast". :-)