Monday, August 18, 2008

another thought about community involvement

On the way to work this morning I had this extra thought. I've been really busy in the last couple of weeks and have put my involvement in the FOC08 community to one side. But I always knew it was only temporary - as I have more than enough interest in the people and the content to draw me back. Perhaps that's the difference between 'actual' community and 'virtual' community, if I ignore my family, workmates or friends for two weeks I'll be in big trouble - but in this environment a quiet period doesn't necessary mean I'm not coming back. Us on-line facilitators should remember that!

homework weeks 2 and 3

I'm wondering if completing your wk 2/3 homework at the start of week 4 , but BEFORE the working day begins, qualifies as getting it done in time?? Lots of distractions this last couple of weeks (home and work), but I've been doing some reading and thinking about the million $ question: what is an online community? Fortunately one of my distractions has been writing a milestone report for work about my own on-line community so I have a bit to say on the topic! But before it becomes 'all about me' I'll address the wider question.

Just incidentally, the only way I could collect all the thoughts I have on this topic - and what other people have had to say, is to copy and paste quotes from the readings
and the fabulous blogs I'm reading into a word document. I'm not sure if other people work this way - but I'm unable to process everything unless I get it down on paper - A 20th C learner or middle memory problems???

I very much like what Derek said about online communities (and not just because media teachers made it into the formula!):

"Community is about people. With a cause. [eg Educational designer, Clinicalhealth education, Media studies teachers, Non-hodgekinsone lymphona sufferers, waste water engineers] Dare I say some passion and care. Care for the cause and for other people. They need some level of shared experience, history, trust and/or understanding".

I like he said passion and care. It's always been my thought that communities (virtual or otherwise) rise and fall because of the people in them and their CONNECTION with each other. Passion for the shared cause is vital - or they drift off. Care for one another sounds cheesy, but I've seen it work in my own community. People from one end of the country will post a question on the e-mail list or forum and someone they have never met from the other end will offer an answer.

The fact that the answerers are often the same people is also interesting. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach wrote this lovely quote on her blog:

Gathering data is the first step to knowledge and wisdom but sharing data is the first step to community. Henry Gates

I see people step up every day to help others - and those are the people that I see as the building blocks of our community. The PhD abstract Leigh gave us to read (fasinating - a Kiwi in the Andes giving computers to people who had never seen them before!) talked about 'activators of information' - a similar theory I reckon.

But what about the on-line aspect of an on-line community? Technology becomes very important here. I've just surveyed my teachers about their use of the community and barriers to using it - By far the biggest barrier was time, followed a close second by access to the internet (this deserves a whole other post about crappy internet access in this country). I think the time thing is tied up with their perceived notion that using the computer/internet is more time consuming. It's about letting them see that the tools can aid the community, but not I think define it. We are now branching out from a publishing platform - which frankly doesn't encourage sociability into also using a wiki - where I can use web 2.0 tools like voice thread and bubble share photo boards - so they can see and hear each other.
I really like this, from when do you know it's a community?
"Bottom line: Online community building is about the people first, the shared interests or experiences next, and the tools are the means of bringing people together in new ways".
I totally agree
Ui mai koe ki ahau he aha te mea nui o te ao, Maku e ki atu te tangata, he tangata, he tangata
Ask me "What is the greatest thing in the world?" I will reply, "it is people, it is people, it is people".

cheers - need to get some children off to school now!

Monday, August 4, 2008

boot on the other foot

The course has begun and I must say that to my surprise I'm feeling most overwhelmed. I'm assured it will get easier, and it's really just the overwhelming deluge of e-mails and assured writers that are making me break out it a cold sweat. It's a funny thing but it feels a bit like the boot is on the other foot - in my community I'm the nurturer,and almost never the lurker (although I do try to shut up and let the conversation unfurl on the list and in the discussion forum). I've found the pace of e-mails in this course so relentless that even i can't get a word in edgeways. (Those who know me would say this is near impossible!)
I've just read Shane's blog and he said:

"How do you facilitate a community to encourage participation by many, when open registration will result in a range of abilities and needs? There needs to be the chance for lurking if that is what the participant wishes, but the facilitator would no doubt want engaged interaction to enable learning. I know that in any group situation there will be members who dominate the conversation, how do we encourage the "shy" to contribute. As a teacher in face to face environments this is a little easier. You can "see" the people not engaging. Whereas online, are they lurking, or are they not there at all?"

It made me think about how I might now feel differently/cope with the people I THINK are lurking in my community and not contributing. I've got a fair idea how many people visit and look, thanks to Google analytics, but how do I know what they are getting out of their 'lurkage'? And as I have to account for my 'community success' to the Ministry - what constitutes community involvement??? Something to think about.

I'm also not coping well with where abouts to air some of my comments. If one person publishes something that I'd like to comment on, and then someone else says a similar thing on their blog - how do I make the connection between those two people (and I may be the only link between them). And if I like what someone else says (e.g Shane's comments above) do I reply here or on his blog???? Am about to go copy most of this to his blog so at least he knows I'm reading it.
Am obviously getting way too esoteric here, so off to watch some crappy TV.

Watch the font conference video in my vodpod - it's very funny and clever.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Just a little bit more about me and why I'm doing the on-line facilitation course. I'm an ex Secondary Media Studies teacher (well for the moment anyway - I really miss it so...) I work for Team Solutions which is the school support service for the Auckland/Northland region. As well as being the face to face facilitator for approx 150 teachers in our region, I also look after the Media Studies on-line community.
To cut a long story shortish, Media Studies is a small but fiesty subject in NZ and growing rapidly (about 350 teachers). In order to provide at least some support for teachers, the Ministry of Education have contracted TS to provide a person (moi) to support the media teachers nationwide. In the absence of any other advisors I do my job via e-mail, phone and a small but growing on-line support network. The Media Studies kete on the Ministry portal TKI is comprised of an open access area and a private community - a password protected area for media teachers. This area houses discussion forums, a place to subscribe to a mailing list, resources for teaching and teacher PD, updates for the community etc.
As it's primarily on a publishing platform (ezypublish), I've found I need to utilise the ubiquitous web 2.0 tools to try and get a community going rather than just me posting stuff for the teachers to look at. I've just set up a wiki so that I can link to student video examples, show my links, use voicethread etc etc etc. I'm taking baby steps, and very much learning as I go - but I'm determined that it can't all come from me. It's a daily struggle to be honest - most teachers have very little extra time and would, I'm sure, prefer it if I just 'gave them the stuff'. There is a strong core of great people, who generously contribute in lots of ways, and I know it won't happen over night (a kiwi joke - if you are reading this anywhere else in the world!)
So - that's my first thoughts. Am about to put my blog on the list for the course participants and go and have a look at some others. If anybody can tell me how to add a link roll to this blog - I'd appreciate it! I'm finding this blogger thing a bit trickier than wikispaces (hope google don't shut down my blog for that!)

Monday, July 28, 2008

a reason to blog!

Ha! I finally have a good reason to use this blog and improve my on-line skills. I've (informally) joined a course run through Otago Polytech called facilitating online communities. Since this is what I'm meant to do - I figure it can only be helpful. And interesting! It seems that there are a variety of interesting people from all round the world also keen to do this course - starting tomorrow I'll be posting my course contributions/thoughts etc here (and hoping someone will read them!)
So here goes!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

No Kiwi Restaurants

Here's a really great example of what students can do with film-making. It won the ID360 competition in 2007. Have a look.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

media 2.0

This video from David Gauntlett at Warwick University explains how media ownership, production and distribution are changing. He gives a clear and simple explanation that could easily be used with your students. Interesting - especially if you think about how our NCEA media courses in NZ have been set up round concepts that are in essence not the same as they were when we started using them - there was an interesting article about this in the latest Media Magazine Issue 24 (a British mag from the English and Media centre well worth getting - e-mail ). There's a media 2.0 forum you can read or join if you're interested.