Sunday, October 31, 2010

Learning how to learn online - Reflections of FO2010

Preparation for course commencement

I had looked at FOC09, however as I was pregnant and preparing for a birth in mid June, not to mention a new baby in the second half of 2009, I thought better of starting a course that I was going to struggle to complete. Therefore when the FO2010 course commenced in July I was very ready to get stuck into it. I had not read many of the readings, which I had initially intended whilst on mat leave but I must admit I was satisfied that I could manage the weekly activities by reading texts and investigating the links provided.

Blogging and connecting with others' blogs

One of the initial activities was to create a blog and indicate on in a post my intentions in joining the course. In looking back at this I have written that my goal was "networking with an international group of people who are also interested in oline facilitation". Have I achieved this? I believe this has been one of the areas that I have not succeeded as well as I could have. By coordinating new blog posts to feed into Google Reader I would have been made aware of new postings and then able to comment on posts.

Commenting on blogposts is a key way to initiate communication and recognise the work of another FO2010 participant. Instead of organising my RSS feeds to blogs I used the participant page to navigate who had added a post that I had not yet read (as once read the title goes blue). I think the reason I did this was that I saw the huge number of participants who initially enrolled in the course and I expected that keeping up with all blogs would be an impossible task, little did I know then that probably 60% of original participants would drop out of the course.

Blogging for me has been an excellent opportunity to reflect and coordinate where I was going and what I was thinking. It is a way for me to direct my thoughts ie. when I hear an idea or point of view and I am considering my opinion/position, I think 'how would I blog about that?'. This has been a key skill that I have developed during the course, and still have a long way to go. Listening to and participating in Karen's mini conf session has inspired me to become a better blogger because this is a major way to present yourself online, which in turn brings interaction and recognition from others which in turn leads to more learning and growing.

Live sessions

Using Elluminate to attend weekly group sessions has allowed me to become very familiar with this tool, from a participant's perspective. I still need a bit of practise from a facilitator perspective however I am not sure if Elluminate will be available to me in the future so I will focus on it then. As a participant I find Elluminate very easy to use.
WizIQ was a great tool for online meetings although I had challenges it made it that much more rewarding, as I discussed in my blog post.

During the process of this course I have developed and learned how to use my Personal Learning Network within a couple of Personal Learning Environments. Twitter has been a key tool allowing me to connect with a network that I have built over the last few months. I have been able to play with soooo many new learning tools (web 2.0) which I now realise was one of my key objectives. I also have a network to continue to find out more tools.
I am a real fan of WizIQ and on occasion will log in to find out what tutorials/lessons are available.

So in summary ....
  • I should have coordinated all blogposts into Google reader and kept up to date then commented to initiate communication and build strong network relationships.

  • I am a twitter addict

  • I am committed to becoming a better blogger

My next steps...

Create my eportfolio - I am really keen to coordinate an eportfolio for myself. I am very committed to maintaining an open source method of sharing learning and so believe that I would be best to use freely available tools (that I have learned to use in FO2010) to create my folio however have to decide whether to do this with a blog as my core.

Tweet more - I must admit to having become a twitter addict, it is like an online course via links. I can find out so much about educational technology and online learning by just signing into twitter regularly. I also need to learn how to add value by tweeting more myself.

Blog more - I need to actually do the blogging, I think the thoughts, consider my position on a topic and then don't seem to get a chance to write it down or it ends up in edit mode for too long and becomes redundant. Perhaps I need to restrict my word count (as is done with twitter) to ensure I am concise and then maybe have subsequent posts that follow a point or argument. I need to put more links to illustrate what I am thinking...this is what I find more interesting when reading others' blog posts.

I have also decided to take up with my previous blog 'Kim's thinking' as this blog (that you are reading now) was designed specifically for FO2010.
I have many more thought running through my mind but in the interests of actually putting these thoughts out there I am going to publish this post. Looking forward to Fridays session - 'Pulling it all together'.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Having fun with Voicethreads

I am still working on my mini-conference plan but am having a bit of fun with Voicethreads.

I'll see what happens .. I have shared the link with all FO2010 participants by email .... I hope somebody wants to play along.
Update as at 23 Oct 2010....
Carole and Sarah have both commented on my 'Highs and lows of online learning' voicethread.
Carole has empathised with the amount of info and my frustrations with technology. Her Voicethread presentation is 'amazing' check it out...epCop Voices
Carole has been a great help with technical aspects of getting my voicethread up and running. Thanks so much Carole
Sarah is interested in discussing more about the amount of information that we have to deal with throughout the course.
What info and activities should be dropped out and what should be left in the course?
How to keep things manageable but engage participants and give them the skills to think about online facilitation in a way that is going to be useful to them.
What are your thoughts?
Using Voicethread for facilitating a conversation
Sarah has challenged me to consider....
how I attract people to Voicethread
how I will keep the conversation gonig
what I want my outcome to be
how I instruct people about what Vt is
..........leave it with me Sarah ... I'll get back to you
How would you use Voicethread to facilitate a conversation?
Update as at 26th Oct
Sarah I am finally answering your questions about how to use Vt to facilitate a conversation.
I am thinking that I can attract people to Voicethread by making it as easy as possible to understand how to use it. I plan on making a screencast (using screenr) of how to use Vt and I am going to send (yet another) email telling them that other people have made comment on my Vt, so appealing to their curiosity.
How will I keep the conversation going?
So far the comments that have been made by Carole and Jane have been very honest and I think really insightful. the nature of Vt means that I t uhought I would be unable to add another comment but I have played around and worked out that I can add another comment to another slide/page in Vt. I have also attempted to continue the conversation here in my blogpost. I thought about linking it to a Facebook conversation but they never seemed to be very successful amongst the group.
My outcome..I had no intended outcome for this activity other than to familiarise myself with how Vt works and ask others to comment to play or introduce them to Vt. So far there has not been a huge response however the comments made have been valuable and I believe generated a very honest discussion.
How do I instruct people about what Vt is? I am thinking that I might create the screencast to istruct on how to use Vt, this would give me another opportunity to send an email communication. I could also use this screencast down the track, plus I will get a chance to play around in screencast (who knows what that could turn up?).
NB: I have coloured text for no other reason than to make it easier to read.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Getting lost in a good way

I am thinking about preparation for my Mini-conference assignement which I want to conduct an asynchronous seesion about survey questions.

In researching past mini-conference events I have been getting list in various links to people and things they are/were/have been thinking about.

Strategies for managing multi-membership in Social Networks' by Bronwyn, Jeffrey, Sue and Sylvia..great work! This event was makes me realise that the power is in keeping it simplle but relevant to the audience. It got me thinking about how I manage my social networks and I got some great hints on how I can improve.

Everytime I go into Voicethreads it is a buzz, I find it so insightful (between the podcasts and voicethreads I think I am becoming an auditory learner..who would have thunk it?) Maybe I will use Voicethreads, might have a bit of a play with it first.
Oh how you learn from your mistakes...I just accidentally posted this blog to the FO2010 course blog...Sarah had given me access to blog on tips for WizIQ...I don't think I can be trusted anymore Sarah, maybe it is just too late in the evening.
I am enjoying making mistakes I learn so much. Oh yeah that's what the mini-conf is for.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reflecting on a session where the facilitator learned more than anyone

The following blogpost has been written as a form of reflection for myself and and as an example for others on why you should have a back up plan for anything that may go wrong when you are facilitating an online session, because if something can go wrong it probably will go wrong .... then also have a back up plan for that back up plan.

WizIQ session 12th Oct 2010 'FO2010 Evaluation Strategies'

The WizIQ session for week 11 ended up being a really great session, there was a lot of learning done, particularly on my part as the facilitator, lots of troubleshooting.

The overriding theme for the whole experience was to ... have a back up plan.

I had nominated myself to facilitate our Week 11 class in WizIQ which the group had never used before, this was an exciting challenge and I had seen a session in WizIQ facilitated by Nellie Deutsch who coincidentally was our guest speaker for the session, so I was very confident in Nellie's skills in using the tool.

I had sent an email to the group with details of times which was also on the course schedule on the wiki. One thing I did not include was the link to World clock to allow participants to easily check the time of the session in their timezone. As a result one of the participants had miscalculated the time and missed most of the session. Definitely a lesson learned on my part to avoid participant frustrations and dissapointment, simple things like the world clock allow participants to be prepared and show up to the session at the correct time, and as a facilitator one thing you need is ...'participants or learners'.

As the class had not used WizIQ (as a class) Sarah and I decided to have a practice session. During this practice there was terrible audio feedback on my part which caused the conversaton to be really disjointed. I was determined to do all that I could to make the session run as smoothly as possible so I investigated further on WizIQ.

As a result of the problems we encountered in the practice session I realised I had to learn more about WizIQ so I sat in on a Tutorial in WizIQ led by Shivani Vadehra titled 'WizIQ rules for teachers', just a 20 min session giving a brief rundown using WizIQto it's best. From this session I published a blogpost on FO2010 blog to give participants a brief on what was needed for the session. Feedback indicated that this info was helpful in preparing for the session.

The information provided in the rules for teachers tutorial indicated that Wi FI internet access really causes audio problems, so I knew that I had to use a cable to access the internet on the day of the session. The plan was to plug into a port in our downstairs office. This also solved the problem of having screaming children in the background. I would be in a quiet environment with no interruptions for the hour of the session.

Internet access is a very neccessary part of any online facilitation. The internet access that I normally have is fairly reliable however as our family are changing internet service providers the change over was to happen on the day that I was facilitating the session so that meant that my old provider was disconnecting me and my new modem had not yet arrived. We managed to connect tot he internet the night prior to the session by using the old modem accessing via a temp method whith the new provider, it was working fine the night before so I breathed a sigh of relief and went to bed for a 6:30 wake up with a 7am session start time. Of course the next morning the access I had enjoyed the night before was ... no longer!

The next back up plan was put into action. I have a good friend who lives close by and has internet access, I had called her the night before just in case something went wrong and asked if I could use her internet access, on the day it was a mad dash with my netbook over to her place. I was in a bit of a panic as I was not sure if the session would commence without me having launched the class and then participants would perhaps think the session was not on.

I knocked on the door, her son had just woken up, so had she but she kindly set me up in her office and brought me a cup of tea, so I was connected to the internet. I logged into WizIQ a few minutes late for the session to find that participants had access to the class and were chatting using the chatroll function. I started to talk but participants indicated in the chatroll tha my mic audio (speaking) was patchy and really not good at all. I was able to hand over audio, video and write access to Nellie Deutsch who was our very gracious guest speaker for the day.

There were several comments in the chatroll to indicate that everyone could hear Nellie very clearly, they were impressed that the audio quality was much better than that of Elluminate. My audio (listening) was still very patchy and I needed Nellie to type instructions of what I should do to fix i t as I could not make out what she was sad that saying. Nellie suggested that I log out of WizIQ then log back in, but I was concerned that this might end the session as I was the moderator. I was easily able to log out of WizIQ and back in and the audio was perfect.

Nellie gave us details about the tools that she uses to obtain feedback and evaluation methods.

The chatroll is the first form of feedback that Nellie uses, she explained that this is how she gauges participants responses to what she is saying, because she is unable to see our faces. Nellie encourages participants to detail their responses into the chatbox.

Google docs offer templates for producing surveys which is what Nellie often uses to obtain feedback from her participants.

Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter are also networks that allow Nellie to receive feedback and also via email.

The group had an opportunity to write questions or comments on the whiteboard which did cause some frustration as the whiteboard can be scrolled when everyone has write access and as a result people were trying to write but losing their spot, perhaps this is something to note for future sessions that when a group are writing on whiteboard to limit to the top left to ensure no scrolling, maybe this would work.

Gloria provided a good example of providing constructive/critical feedback to a facilitator/presenter at a session she attended however the presenter did not take the feedback on rather they made excuses for themselves. This prompted a discussion about the importance of accepting feedback & how our responses to feedback as facilitators is very important.

The above reflection does not a completely cover all the discussion during the session so if you would like to listen to the recording click here.

Nellie is a really calm and relaxed presenter and as a result the session (with all it's hiccups) was a very easy learning experience. General feedback on the session indicated that participants did learn about evaluation and feedback.

WizIQ is a great tool for conducting online learning/classes, I would highly recommend it. But as with ANY technology remember to have a backup plan and hope that you never have to use it.

For all the stresses that I experienced in preparing for the session I was on such a high at the conclusion of the hour. Sarah wanted to catch up for a debrief which I was unable to do, as I had to let my friend get to work. I found that I needed to go home and record my thoughts and feelings about the whole experience which resulted in this blogpost.