Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hanging out and watching videos

If I don't say this all the time I should because I sure think it a lot! I'm so grateful for my membership in  CPsquare, and especially the partnership between SCoPE and CP2 to organize quarterly field trips together. Well, after I typed that I immediately wanted to add also especially the monthly "my practice" series where I learn so much from other community of practice leaders.

Normally for the quarterly field trips John Smith and I invite community stewards to talk about their CoPs and sometimes walk us through their online spaces. This time we did something a little different; we watched videos about communities. John describes it well and has captured the experience on the CP2 blog:
The idea is that our field trips have tended to focus on communities that are formed intentionally, often looking at them through the eyes of someone who's leading or trying to cultivate them. The videos we select would be of communities that are "found" and observed from the outside but are interesting to us for one reason or another.
This turned out to be a very interesting experiment, and valuable exercise in thinking about what we can learn about CoPs from the outside, and useful and meaningful ways to look at CoPs together. It was also an opportunity to explore new technologies and processes for organizing online activities.

The planning phase
The videos (and presentations in other formats) were prepared by Pepperdine University students for a course facilitated by Margaret Riel. John initiated a discussion in the CP2 community asking members to watch a handful of videos to narrow down our choices. We ended up with a shortlist of 3 videos, one that was from an earlier collection of interviews done by John because it provided a nice contrast of listening to one person's perspective rather than looking in and making sense of a CoP from the outside.

The shortlist:
 Ice Skating Sensations
 Joseph Sikeku talks about the technologies he uses at FADECO radio to reach Tanzanian farmers.
 The Gym

The next step was to find a way to view and discuss these videos as a group. I've had some experience doing this in Elluminate, but it wasn't without challenges! We decided to try Google Hangout, and were quite impressed with our trial run -- especially the 'reindeer' button! Check out John's nose! :-)

Next we worked out the logistics of how to gather people together. 

Before Event 
  • Create a Google account 
  • Add Sylvia to your network ( and send her a note to say you want to join the Field Trip ( 
  • Sylvia will add you to her circle "Field Trip" 
  • Install Google voice and video plugin 
  • Test your audio and video: 

Time of Event 
  • Sylvia will create a hangout and invite everyone in the Field Trip circle. 
  • Go to G+ to see a post in your stream letting you know there's a hangout going on. (If you're signed into Google chat you'll receive an IM with a link to the hangout.) 
  • Note only 10 people can be in the hangout at one time, so be quick! 

During Event 
  • Click on the YouTube button, but do not press the play or pause buttons (John Smith is the pilot!) 

Because the room is limited to 10 people, we didn't go beyond sending out a notice to the CP2 and SCoPE community members. We had 8 people RSVP that they would be joining in, so the numbers worked out well!

The Actual Event

After creating the hangout, and sending out the invitation to members of my "Field Trip" circle, folks started to roll in. This, by the way, is a pretty dangerous way to operate! If for some reason I wasn't able to connect then it would not be an easy task for somebody else to round people up into the room. I'm sure there's an easier way, and the enhanced version of hangout may address this but for now it doesn't support YouTube integration.

Once we were all in the Hangout we were able to just get started -- none of the usual audio checks or fumbling with webcams. Everything just worked!

I recorded much of the session using Jing Pro, not realizing that it would only run for 5 minutes at a time. I had to save and restart the recording MANY times, but I don't think I missed too much. One odd thing about Hangout is that you never see yourself in the top section when you are speaking, but others do. So my recording isn't exactly what other participants experienced.

I pieced together the questions and some sections in an effort to keep the video under 10 minutes, but hopefully also captured the essence of our field trip. At the end we have a debrief on the experience (again, an edited version).


  1. Thanks, Sylvia! Producing a recording (and careful reflections) is a lot of work -- and really valuable!

    You said that everything "just worked" -- but I don't think that's quite true. For example, there was something odd about how Google Hangout behaved for Beverly: we could see her talking in the band of videos at the bottom, but her picture didn't jump to the top.

  2. Hmmm, that's true, and also Beverly reported that the YouTube video opened in a separate window. Now I'm trying to remember who did show up when Beverly was speaking. Was it Etienne? Since he was in the same room there might have been a hardware competition.

    I wonder if we might be better off without the "speaker window" feature. Does it really add value? A Brady Bunch display might be better.