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?

Learning Objective for FOC08, or Is It?

I have been speaking with a few of my colleagues, namely Sylvia Currie and Bronwyn Stuckey, as well as reading some of the blogs of our online class members, including Leigh Blackall (the class facilitator), Joao Alves, and Mike Bogle (whose posting inspired me to write this one), and decided I want to be a little more specific.

What learning objective shall I adopt for this course?

I spoke about this a bit with a new colleague in the class, Lynne Gilliland Garber (congrats on your first blog!), and have been thinking about refining what I initially intended for me to try to accomplish in this class. I can name this or that, such as learn more or experience something or meet people or the like, yet I am not sure that I will be in the same place at the end of December when the class ends. My interests and needs and experiences and expectations all will have changed. Learning itself often means more than developing knowledge or gathering a skill. Can the learning objective I may set today be valuable for me in five months? Will I still care about what I want today when I am in a different place then? Am I just going to be satisfied with wanting something I can envision now, without allowing for or regarding that which I do not even know exists tomorrow?

As an instructional designer, I face and create objectives every day. How else can we measure how successful a class or learning experience is? How else will we be able to establish the direction for our class, or have a glimpse of what we want to get out of the experience?

Let me pose it in a different way–how can we establish an objective and then hold ourselves to it for an experience that we have not had yet? If my objective is to learn to blog, but I walk away from the class with closer friends and colleagues, or a more expanded worldview of how we can foster global communities of practice using technologies and methods I do not yet even know exist, who cares if I learned to blog? Strict learning objectives would have me count the course a failure, as I would not have gotten what I came to get. Given my worldview from transformative learning, with a little spice of Foucault, Denzin, Brookfield, and Lyotard thrown in for good measure, I believe we need to set objectives and goals, but they can change and develop just as we do.

Back to this online course. For my objectives in this course, I want to:

  • apply methods of facilitating online communities to the online courses I am developing at NYU
  • develop my perspective of global online community of practice-based education

Let’s see how these may develop over the class itself.

Facilitating Online Communities (FOC08) Class Notes HERE

As I mentioned earlier this week, I just registered for another online class, Facilitating Online Communities.

I really like how Leigh Blackall, the facilitator for the class, has listed the assignments and is being more than patient with the flurry of email that is moving around from the course Google Group.

The assignments for the first week are:

  1. Set up a blog to record the course notes. Done–I already have my own blog and will use it for this course as well as for my other work.
  2. Listen to the recording for the first week. Not done yet; I have trouble focusing on something like this, and it may be one of the reasons I do not listen to podcasts too often as well. I listen to the radio all the time, but it usually becomes background noise. Thus, my challenge–how to make background noise into something I have to consciously focus on. Will have to try to do this.
  3. Post here what I hope to get from this course. OK; here goes. I hope to learn more about online communities and how best to facilitate them. I have recently started to get active in CPsquare as I find a lot of value in collaborating with people who have different perspectives (due to the international audience and variety of experiences and education) from me in the areas of technology and adult learning. I am hoping that this class, which stretches for several months well into the Fall (in the US, at least) will give me ideas and encourage me to try new things with my online and F2F classes I teach. I am wondering how to apply the research, work, and experience from the communities of practice to higher education classes. I try to teach in a democratic manner, and am wondering how students may be encouraged to learn differently from this perspective. I hope Leigh’s class will help me think this through.
  4. Introduce myself on the course discussion page. Done. Additionally, I just added my blog to my post there.
  5. Set up an RSS blog reader, and subscribe to the blog posts of those in the class. Well, I use FeedDemon, which is an offline reader that synchs online (so I can access the same feeds home and at work).  I like having these things offline, but there has been so much talk about Google Reader, that perhaps I should check that one out as well. My question here is how to get all the RSS feeds for the class? Some people have tried to do this with various tools, but all the lists appear inconsistent. Will have to consider this on my own I suppose.

Let me speak for a moment on my first impressions. Leigh has done a tremendous amount of preparation for this class. Kudos to him! It does seem, however, that some of the students have started a flurry of discussion about tools and technology and the like–so much that I am already having trouble keeping up. Now, I am an instructional designer, university adjunct faculty member who teaches in and with technology, and do consider myself somewhat conversant in using technology; yet I am still struggling to keep up with all the emails that are discussing tools and such. I do, however, think it is very valuable to have this conversation, and am always happy to have (and sometimes be one of the) students who have passion and try to share it with others for the betterment of the entire experience. We need passionate people who want to share! My concern is for those who are not as fluent in the tools already and who may be a bit overwhelmed with hearing and seeing too much at once (namely, by day 3!). Interesting experience as I do not normally feel like one of them.

Nevertheless, we are off to a wonderful start, and I only hope that this passion remains and develops! 

Facilitating Online Communities Class

I just learned from my colleague Sylvia Currie at SCoPE┬áthat there is a new, online class that begins today–Facilitating Online Communities. Facilitated by Leigh Blackall at Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand, this seems like another of the intersting summer learning experiences to be aimed at a global audience of community facilitators and educators.

I just signed up for it, and am looking forward to several weeks of learning and meeting new colleagues. I am thinking more and more about a class as a virtual community of practice, and am hoping to learn some ways to integrate this into my online teaching, especially my upcoming Principles and Practices of Online Course Creation and Instructional Design course and the online graduate courses I will teach thereafter.