How Do You Handle Multimembership?

What, not sure about what Multimembership is?

In a succinct way, multimembership refers to being a member of several social networking environments, communities, platforms, and technologies at once. You know, I blog here and Tweet there and participate in Facebook over there (among many others); but how do I manage all this?

Managing Multimembership in Social Networks: Oct 27-Nov 9, 2008

If you are as interested in exploring this issue, you may want to join our upcoming discussion: Managing Multimembership in Social Networks: Oct 27-Nov 9, 2008. We are holding this discussion in conjunction with the Facilitating Online Communities class, where class attendees were asked to participate in a mini-conference. We are thinking broadly about our topic, and want to reach as wide an audience as possible to get the most ideas out there from the many people who face the same challenges.

Multimembership Survey

Want to participate before the session itself formally begins? If so, consider taking our quick and painless online survey so we can get some data to share with the participants when we begin in another week and a half.

Did I mention our online Multimembership discussion is free, thanks to the support of SCoPE? Please, invite your friends—there is wisdom and power in the network!

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Transformative Learning & FOC08

There has been some rather loud sharing of alternate perspectives this week in our Facilitating Online Communities (FOC08) course. I commented in an email to the class:

I think these related discussions are quite interesting. It is very difficult to tolerate differences in worldview or educational perspective (among other things), and I think that courses that promote giving voice to alternative perspectives can in turn open learners to a world beyond their own comfort levels. This is one of the features that attracts me to Mezirow’s Transformative Learning.

I do wonder, though, at what point does a discussion sink to a level where facts (though not their meanings) begin to get clouded. Perhaps I am musing myself into a new blog post about this . . .

I am not overly interested in the discussions, but I think Leigh, the class facilitator, handled the increasing tensions exceedingly well. Learning happens differently for different people, and making and encouraging a space for that to happen is a good lesson for us educators.

The situation recalled when I first studied Jack Mezirow, who defined his concept of Transformative Learning as:

“the process by which we transform our taken-for-granted frames of reference (meaning perspectives, habits of mind, mind-sets) to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open, emotionally capable of change, and reflective so they may generate beliefs and opinions that will prove more true or justified to guide action”  (Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning to think like an adult: Core concepts of transformation theory. In J. Mezirow & Associates (Eds.), Learning as transformation (pp. 3-33). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass).

In other words, when our we face something that does not fit into our previously-constructed worldview, we can either shrink back and take comfort (or hide) in our assumptions or face the fact that how we previously saw the world no longer fits; we must grow and in the process enlarge our worldview. This is the core of transformative learning as Mezirow describes it, and it is interesting how Leigh’s email has started me thinking about previous learning that is so fitting in this context.

BTW, transformative learning is a very painful experience; any time our values and beliefs get challenged and we run out of excuses for them can cause quite a stir.

Blogging Network Musings via FOC08

This week in the Facilitating Online Communities (FOC08) course, our assignment is to consider blogging networks. What an interesting idea, blogging communities. I can’t say I ever thought about this before, though if I did it would have been about 2 years ago or so when blogs seemed to be the main social media technology.

Picture by LaDonna Coy, coyenator, on Flickr A blogging network is a community of blogs. Nice and simple (seemingly) at first, until I start to think of some of the implications. I usually think about the blogs as extensions of the authors, though some blogs that I regularly read and find very valuable, such as Mashable and CogDogBlog, I think of in an impersonal way and without thinking about the authors. Not quite sure why; perhaps larger than life or because I do not know the authors well (only meeting F2F in passing)? With those two (as examples), I read and follow, but think it is mainly in a one way direction (I do not think they read my blog, for example).

Whatever the case, I never really considered a blogging network as the Blogosphere. I always thought of the Blogosphere as the place in the giant network in the sky where all the blogs lived. Of course, social media and Web 2.0 are so much more complicated now that it is not even completely simple to even define a blog any longer, much less to speak about the Blogosphere as if such as a (stable) community could exist any longer.

Regardless, many of those in our online course (FOC08) do follow and comment on one another’s blogs. However, I am not sure if this happens enough to consider their blogs a community. While my first thought is that something such as this could never have a facilitator, I am beginning to think that the vastness of the Internet makes it easy to get distracted and lost and overwhelmed and thus behind or distanced from one another (ironically, as the Internet is nothing if it is not distance!). Perhaps blog community facilitation is a new area of inquiry and practice?

What to do about this? Dedicated RSS feeds or field trips or commitments to comment or even set due and comment deadlines? I am now wondering if there is any research out there about this . . .

Let’s see how well this works; I wonder what my colleagues think?

The Search for Online Community (FOC08)

How time flies!

Week 6 of the online class I am taking, Facilitating Online Communities, is just finishing, and our assignment is to search out an online community and identify the features of why it is one. To be fair, the assignment is a little more involved, but this is the part I am planning to focus upon.

SCoPE arrows SCoPE jumps to mind. Sylvia Currie, one of my colleagues at a distance who is also taking this class and with whom I have participated in several online events, is the community organizer of this wonderful online association.

When I started attending professional development workshops at this online community, with the by-line “SCoPE brings together individuals who share an interest in educational research and practice,” I really was rather new to the concept of online community. In fact, the only reason I attended after all is because I did not have any other available professional education and development opportunities at the time. I had no concept of it as a community, nor was that something I would have sought out even had I recognized it as one. At the time, I saw education and professional development as something that one (me) does independently to improve one’s own classroom experiences. I had no idea about the collaborative and connected power of getting people together who have some common interests and experiences to share and develop together. That is something that came about from attending a number of the SCoPE sessions where I gradually experienced these benefits.

I have learned and reflected a lot on online communities over the past couple of years, and am finally trying to put into words what identifying features I now think I am looking for in an online community:

  1. Similar Interests — I am looking for people who have some similar interests, whether professional interests, academic interests, hobbies, or the like. I find it easier to work with people I meet in SCoPE who have similar interests in online learning, qualitative research, and educational technology for adult education. That many of these people also are interested in professional development opportunities and gladly share what they have learned to help others (me) not re-invent the wheel is an added bonus.
  2. Passion for Work — A number of the people who I have met along the way and with whom I am always happy to share continued online opportunities and sessions are those who are not afraid to work for something they want. They have a passion for going above and beyond the minimum in order to have (and share) the best experiences they can toward similar and related goals.
  3. Active Communication — Good communication is one of those hidden factors that supports or dooms communities. Maintaining connections online, with the variety of social media and communication media available, can be a challenge at times, and those who communicate in ways that their listeners and colleagues can best hear their messages and reply are those who are most effective at building and supporting communities.

There indeed may be other factors to consider, and for them and for other perspectives on this topic I will in turn look at my own community in this class, such as Illya Arnet-Clark, Mike Bogle, Nellie Deutsch, Barbara Dieu, and Amy Lenzo. What better resources than colleagues considering some of the same issues?

To end this thinking here, I suppose facilitating these factors involves the similar interests, passion, and communication that I listed above. Of course, organization and time management and project planning and staying current are also important. This reminds me of the Technology Stewardship discussions that other colleagues, John Smith, Nancy White, and Etienne Wenger, have been building and sharing with the larger community.

I think I have a lot of good examples to continue to learn from!

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Email vs. Blog Postings for FOC08

FOC08 Google Group

Seems some people (myself includes) have been using the Facilitating Online Communities email list from the Google Group for our class more than blog posting and threaded commenting.

I will quote my reply about this from earlier today:

One of the reasons I think this may be happening is because emails are immediate. I am able to reply to your email question while sitting in a train waiting for it to leave via my BlackBerry. Though underground, this response will get sent as soon as I go above ground again.

I cannot blog from here, and as I want to reply immediately, this seems the best option.

That GoogleGroups archives and makes all this searchable only seems to increase its use.

So, now I am blogging about my email response. Perhaps they can be used concurrently?

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CIDER and FOC08 Live Online Sessions Today

There are two wonderful professional development opportunities today that I am hoping to attend:

  1. Gale Parchoma of Lancaster University will be speaking live online via CIDER (Canadian Institute of Distance Education Research) at 11:00 MDT (time conversion here). Her topic is “Adoption of Technology Enhanced Learning in Higher Education.”
  2. Leigh Blackall will have the first of two conference calls for his Facilitating Online Communities sessions this evening at UTC 9:00 PM (time conversion here).

Both of these promise to be wonderful free learning events for those of us who work with online learning, communities of practice, and educational technology.

Online Communities and the Removal of Distance

I think online communities of practice and even online classes are changing the ways we think about distance. It almost seems, from the perspective of community, that distance no longer exists. Does it matter if I email colleagues who are spread across the globe? Speak with them via Skype whenever and wherever they may be, as long as I get the timezones correct? Has this flattening of our world changed the way we think about people in other cultural contexts, within national identities, and exotic (and not so exotic) locales?

As my work and research begins to more formally be online, do I  have to be concerned with distance at all?

Further to my point here, what does all this mean for where and how communities form and interact? Leigh asked us to consider what online communities are in our FOC08 class, and I have managed to say exactly what they are not–they are not separated by distance.

I started this post before and finished after having a delightful conversation with a colleague in Brazil, Barbara Dieu. We started speaking (via skype text, which is speaking with the fingers) about Second Life and the FOC08 Course, and the next thing I knew is that Bee asked me what interests me and what I want to learn more about. I gushed about Lyotard’s “incredulity toward metanarrative, Mezirow’s transformative learning, Denzin / Lincoln / Guba’s work in qualitative research, Freire, Brookfield, pugs, cities, theories, technology, and Madame Butterfly.

I think that community is in there someplace. Something about openness to ideas and encouragement to grow and learn and become more present. Something about being with others who share a space next to us along the journey, whatever and wherever it may lead.

This conversation would never have happened without the community focus of this course, and how our different interests and experiences helps to inform and realize them. To all this, community adds and supports, and it has an amazing capacity to do all this without regard to distance.

Perhaps communities of practice help realize the Internet’s claim to make the world a smaller place, though one with more individual possibilities?