Tuesday, January 12, 2010

• Facilitate an event for the course mini conference

My mini conference was a nightmare for me from the beginning! It wasn’t so much that I was nervous about facilitating a meeting (I felt I could bluff my way through that one) or even using the technology, it was that I was apprehensive about what the subject will be. The reason for my apprehension came from a misunderstanding of the ‘topic’ relating to a conversation I’d had earlier with Sarah (via one of our regular meetings) and later at an online meeting with Leigh. I was sure Sarah had said that any topic could be presented but Leigh then said it had to be ‘online facilitation’ related! Luckily, not everyone was as puzzled as me and a range of topics emerged so I followed suit with a related but semi unrelated(to online facilitation) idea.

So, I had my topic sorted and the timeframe for the mini conference was getting closer. Elluminate was to be the media of choice but that choice soon soured when Elluminate was “uncooperative” at UCOL. Many hours were spent by our IT department, myself, Debra and the Otago IT department trying to figure out why Ellluminate wouldn’t work for more than one user, on one computer, at a time! By the end of what seemed like three or four weeks of curfuffle both Debra and I had had enough and we both decided to go with something else. So Dimdim became my media of choice. At this stage I didn’t have a backup media but was trying out other things to find one.

In the week leading up to the conference the presenter I had arranged became unavailable on the date I had reserved. Now it was panic time!!! It was around this time I was asked to attend our BICT Degree third year industry project presentations. It was here that I met my new presenter Mark Leonard Jones with an interesting presentation on his use of Google docs to create a virtual office for a charitable organisation (which also tied in nicely with online facilitation/meetings etc). The rescheduled presentation was a godsend for Mark who was, at the time, busy writing up his final report for the degree. I updated my conference details on the course wiki which prompted a phone call from Sarah telling me if I wanted the mini conference marked she would have to be present and she wasn’t available at the date and time I’d picked. So I choose another date, two weeks on from the original date!

Call me a defeatist if you want but I decided at that stage that this was the final change: I was using Dimdim and if that didn’t work ( at UCOL, because I knew it worked superbly at home) I’d forfeit the conference (and fail the course) and so “Back Up Plan: googlegroups email for cancellation if Dimdim doesnt work!” was written to the wike

A comment was made that I could have advertised my event more fully beforehand but to be fair I did what most other people did: I advertised it on the wiki, I answered private emails from other course participants about the conference and I advertised it to my (PLN) own friends list via Facebook. Perhaps I could have sent out a Googlegroups email to the FOC09 group, but to be honest by the end of the course I hated the overuse of that email group. It seemed like every day there was at least 15 emails (including multiple replies to emails) that were beginning to clog my inbox. It was like spam gone wild! LOL. So, no that was one thing I didn’t do.

Logging into Dimdim on the day, automatically generated a reminder that the meeting was on. It is not something that I intended to send out and given the chance I would have deleted it, simply because if people wanted to attend they would have logged in by then and at that stage most people would have thought it was too late to attend (even if they had intended attending). In a normal meeting situation it is a good feature but not in this case. It was disappointing that only two people attended my event but not surprising given that it had to be postponed a week and a half later than the latest event. The date corresponded with end of course dates at my institute and I suspect at the others as well. I appreciated the attendance of Sarah and Debra and don't consider the event a failure because of the low attendance or the low attendance attributed to the topic....it was just circumstantial as far as I'm concerned.

Mark was great even when we experienced technical difficulties that I couldnt fix. The audio was intermittent and ghosty throughout the presentation. In practices we hadnt experienced that problem so I'm not sure what went wrong there. It wasn't so bad that we had to abandon the event but it was annoying and offputting to hear the delay in your ear. I can only imagine that at times the participants were left with lag during the event. That's a shame because that sort of failure can detract attention from the event. One good thing that came from this event though, was that it was possible to have a tool with multiple connections work in this workplace.....amazing because that didn't happen with Elluminate this year.

The questions flowed thick and fast from the participants throughtout the event, and I think I kept up well with replying and reiterating Marks answers via the chat facility (in case the intermittent sound issues caused the answers to be he unheard).

In terms of starting on time and finishing within the stated timeframe the event worked well. I was feeling a little flustered at the beginning of the event because when you start you meeting in Dimdim a reminder email is sent to participants and people logged in are kept in a waiting room. As I didnt want participants being held up, I opened the waiting room immediately but at the same time that caused a wee panic for me! I have absolutlely no doubt those 'nerves' would diminish with practice though, so no big deal really.

What would I have changed about the way in which this event was run? In the future I would probably get firm committment from participants that they could attend.This time around it didn't concern me that others couldn't attend (because the event had been put off for an extra week and a bit) but I do realise that it's not about me and it would have been nice for Mark to have a bigger audience. A backup plan for having the event marked could be developed for future courses so that if the marker is not available to attend an event another person can stand in his/her place perhaps. Or participants of that event could give a written evaluation (with guidelines) of how they thought an event went.

A few suggestions have been given to me, one was about providing a photo of myself and the presenter at the event so that participants can see who we are. Another suggestion was to allow the participants to introduce themselves to the presenter so that the presenter knew who they were talking to. This suggestion may be useful if a small number of participants were involved (like at my event) but not possible when lots of people attend (for obvious reasons).

Anyway, overall I enjoyed doing the event, listening and attending others events and participating in the course. I didn't (and don't) enjoy blogging, probably because I am a little lazy and because I'm not a really public person so don't really enjoy writing stuff about myself for all the world to see.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Social Networking Sites

Social networking platforms come in many different forms and names. Twitter, Ning, Bebo, MySpace, Facebook are but a few. How many have you tried? How many have you signed up for and have since forgotten your login/password? If you’re anything like me the answer will be more than a few! Facebook (FB) and I have been friends for a few years now. I find FB a great way to keep informed of my friends updates. I have many ‘friends’ on FB that I have never met and I have categorised these people under their appropriate titles, i.e friends, friends of friends, gaming buddies, contacts for apps etc.

One of my concerns when signing up for anything online is the need (on the part of the website) to use your personal details including identifiable information (name, dob, address, city, country, phone numbers, colour of underwear (lol) etc). More often than not to protect my identity from potential identity theft and/ or just identification, I use a false DOB in combination with my own name. This however can cause problems as in the case of my friends on FB sending me birthday greeting 7 months before my birthday because the DOB I used. LOL, I now have two birthdays a year! Something that isn’t really needed once you pass the age of about 18.

I can now appreciate how Social Networking sites can be used for teaching and learning in some circumstances and how these sites could be used to encourage younger learners to interact with each other with written communication. I have learnt on this course that while Social networking sites have their place for social experiences (hence the name) they also have their place in education even if that place is to just encourage communication in some form or another.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Virtual Worlds

Second Life was introduced to me via this course. I had heard of it but never ventured past the entrance portal. As it had been installed at UCOL for eFest and the Teaching and Learning conference 2009 we (Debra M and myself) thought ‘great, we can explore SL at work”. How wrong were we! Although it was still installed on the machines and allowed new users to create an account, once you had created the account you weren’t able to enter SL until the updates were installed and run. That’s easy you may be thinking but is it? No....to install updates at UCOL you have to have administrative authority and not all staff are created equally (in terms of group profiles). So at first official meeting in SL that Sarah organised,Debra and I spent most of the hour getting assistance from the IT team to install the updates and allow us access to the required room/island. Eventually we did get in and dutifully scared a visitor from the USA out of the room/area we arrived in. It was easier for me to access it from home and I spent many hours practising the controls and familiarising myself with the various commands of the programme.

Learning to fly was fun, as was exploring the islands. I don’t know that I fully understand how people can spend hours on SL and how some people can meet others and form deep relationships with them based on what they see and do on SL . I have seen documentaries on SL (on TV) in the past and there are some very real relationships being formed globally, so it must be happening and perhaps it’s just that I haven’t spent the time and energy to get involved that I lack the understanding.

On the other hand I have had my eyes opened to the educational aspects of SL and find it a positive place to see and learn skills in a practical way. Unfortunately, I can’t see the courses I teach being easily converted to SL classrooms or lessons but I can see the benefits for other types of classes in this environment.

Virtual worlds are not a new thing to education...... both my children played online at Habbo.com.au when they were younger and while they thought they were just having fun it was evident in their writing and reading (on the screen) that they were learning at the same time.

The following predictions about Virtual worlds is interesting reading and can be found in full at the following webpage. Looking through the 2009 predictions and seeing how many of them were predicted correctly was alarming and perhaps the author of this list is really 'on to it" for virtual worlds. ;)


Virtual worlds predictions for 2010
Posted by Lowell Cremorne on December 29, 2009

Having completed our review of our 2009 predictions, we’re back for another round
for the coming year.

1. OpenSim will continue or even improve on its growth trajectory – the momentum will continue, although a handful of larger grids are likely to have the lion’s share of that growth, with all the challenges that go along with it.

2. Australia will have its first government funded virtual environment – a proposal is already underway to see this come to fruition. Education will be the focus, but the foresight of the proposal’s facilitators is likely to ensure it involves business, education and government in a collaborative partnership.

3. Closures – it’s not a desirable prediction to make, but unfortunately it’s also a fairly safe one. There’ll be company and/or platform failures. Some may be bought out, but like Metaplace in the past week, there’s going to be some outright shuttering of some environments. I have some specific ones in mind but don’t have the data to support naming them specifically as being on a ‘death watch’.

4. Intellectual property disputes – The Eros vs Linden Lab action is likely to be resolved during 2010 and it will generate a large precedent in regards to virtual goods. Linden Lab will probably defend the action successfully, but the playing field will still have changed considerably.

5. Integration – Whether it be Second Life or Habbo Hotel, the level of integration between virtual environments and social media services will increase. Whether it’s a Facebook Connect sign-in or the ability to Tweet from Second Life, that functionality will move from the plugin / add-on phase to core architecture more commonly.

6. ABC in Second Life – I don’t have any inside knowledge on this, and I really hope I’m proved wrong, but I can’t see the ABC continuing to fund its Second Life presence beyond 2010. For the past year, the majority of the activity on ABC Island has come from its tight-knit community, with support from ABC staff. With the burgeoning ABC Online continuing to grow, there’s always the risk that the Second Life component will be squeezed out. Please, prove us wrong on this one.

7. The mandatory ISP filter – If the legislation passes during 2010, there remains a real possibility of adult content in Second Life and elsewhere falling foul of the filter. There were some gob-smackingly naive acceptances of Linden Lab’s claim they’d heard nothing about being affected by the filter and therefore were not concerned. There’s a chance everything will be fine but given the blacklist isn’t defined, nothing is certain at this stage. Our prediction: Australia-specific verification mechanisms will need to be put in place for Second Life and other environments where content creation occurs.

8. Taxation of virtual goods – 2010 will see the United States further formalise taxation arrangements in regard to virtual goods. I doubt the Australian Tax Office will make any substantive rulings in the coming twelve months.

9. Gaming worlds – 2010 is going to see the largest MMO launch since World of Warcraft: Star Wars The Old Republic. It won’t eclipse the incumbent but it will become the solid number 2 player in the short-term, with all bets off in the longer term. The second half of 2010 also sees the launch of the next World of Warcraft expansion, called Cataclysm. Head-to-head clashes in the MMO industry don’t get much bigger, and it’ll make for some fascinating times.

10. Social games – this year saw social games like Farmville take off in a big way. There’ll be some significant fatigue from users with these platforms, but there’ll also be further innovation to make them more engaging and with easier integration of virtual goods without the spam-like accompaniments that plague people’s Twitter or Facebook timelines. Overall: continuation of exponential growth, albeit not at the same level it has been the past six months.

Again, over to you. What’s in your crystal ball for the coming year?
Other sites with some interesting 2010 predictions:
Eddi Haskell
Daniel Voyager
Adam Frisby
Living on a Prim (some damn funny ones here!)
All Virtual (focused on virtual events)
Second Sins (NSFW)
Tateru Nino
Adric Antfarm

Discussion Forums

I searched the internet for a discussion forum that took my fancy but alas I have discovered I am a very boring person!!!! So instead of finding a forum that would hold my attention I decided to look at a few unconventional sites and see what was happening. The TradeMe discussion forum is by far the most interesting and inclusive forum I visited. A range of topics is discussed; sometimes the topics are so diverse you have to wonder if you are still on a trading site! The boards appear to be self moderated, that is the users of the board appear to moderate content themselves through their responses to the threads although abusive and/or offensive behaviour is monitored by and removed by TradeMe administrators. Members can also vote to remove offensive or abusive threads. On the whole, members are supportive of each other but as with everything there are a few vocal numbskulls that need to be heard (or read) even when they have nothing of substance to say.

If I thought Trademe was diverse you can probably imagine my surprise when entering the message board at NZDating.co.nz . Goodness, gracious there is are 5 different categories of boards to decipher so I decided to stick with the General board. Why did I choose this site? Honestly, I don't know...I was sick of looking for something interesting to read and when I did find boards that looked like they might be of interest I found that I had to be invited (private forum) or my application wasn't acknowledged in the two week timeframe. So I went to this very public forum for some insight into dating and related topics. Before you rush off and sign up to this site thinking that you are missing out on the latest and greatest dating tips, stop! turn the browser off and thank your lucky stars you read this first! This site is the most uninteresting, repetitive site I have come across yet. Some of the threads are interesting...most however are not! Although is this supposed to be a dating and friendship site if you venture past the general boards you might wonder how some of these people get dates let alone remain friends. If there was one example of how an online community doesn’t function well, this site may very well be it!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Facilitating, Moderating, or Teaching

Primarily my job is to teach in a face to face environment. As part of my employment I also mark assessment in a face to face and a blended environment. While the marking criteria is essentially the same, the feedback is completely different. In a face to face environment it is easier for the student to form a relationship with the teacher, ask questions of the teacher and get immediate feedback from the teacher. In the blended (online) environment it appears to take longer to form a relationship with the teacher, get relative and relevant feedback and in some cases create a rapport with the teacher and fellow classmates.
Facilitating, moderating or teaching...hmmmm which is which and what are they exactly? Are they the same online as they are offline or is there a significant difference? There are always going to be a range of answers to the questions posed with diverse opinions coming from the different experiences of the person answering the questions. Here are my opinions:

In a face to face environment I believe the following definitions describe each of the entities well.

A Facilitator is a person who engages students and encourages participation in a chosen area. A facilitator may guide the student in a particular direction allowing the student to find the information on their own or they may demonstrate a particular skill that the student then follows. One of the main skills I believe a facilitator should have is the ability to form a rapport with people. A facilitator doesn’t necessarily have to have the expert knowledge of the subject but should have some knowledge of the subject and critical thinking skills.

A Teacher in my opinion is the subject expert, the person with the knowledge to share, the person who can answer the questions of the students off the top of their heads. The teacher directs the student to the information but doesn’t necessarily always encourage critical thinking (not always the case though!)

A Moderator is the person that oversees and evaluates the content of the course and the assessment.

In an online environment the definitions change a little. A Facilitator still encourages and engages students/participants but also may lead discussions more and ask questions of the participants in order to lead them to the information.

The Teacher is still the subject expert however may not have as much interaction with the students online as they do in the classroom, and of course the delivery of material will be a completely different mode.

The Moderator of an online environment is the person in control of environment. They may be the person that evaluates the content on an online discussion or they may be the administrator of the LMS in terms of what is displayed or available for the participants. The Moderator may not have a lot to do with the participants but will have a”behind the scenes” role to play.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Online Communities.

Referring to at least 2 of the items above, write a post to your blog that summarises what they say about online community. Conclude with your own list of at least 3 forms of evidence that YOU would look for when determining an online community.

My thoughts:
A community, whether online or not, needs to have a purpose, a reason for being, a common interest.

In many face to face (f2f) communities the participants are bought together through common interests or the purpose, and generally because they are geographically placed to do so. I live in a small rural town and while the residential and surrounding area is referred to as a community, the only thing that really ties us all together is where we live and who we pay our rates to! There are other examples of communities within my district that better reflect what I believe is a community because they have the reason for being, a common interest or a purpose. Clubs such as the Plunket parents group, the local Scout group, the ("oldies") Friendship group, Board of Trustees, Kohanga Reo komitee, Kindergarten committee, the Childcare facilities and the local sporting clubs all reflect, for me, what makes a community.

An online community should share the same attributes as a f2f community and often they do but sometimes they don't. The main difference between an online community and a f2f is obviously the geographical location. An online community can be made up of people from all over the world coming together.

So does that mean that every "gathering place of people online" ensures they are a cohesive community? I think not. I feel that to put a group of people together (even with a common purpose) does not initially assure these people their inclusion into the 'community'. I believe for people to become members of a community they must involve themselves in the comings and goings of that community and they must find or feel their way into the heirarchy of the community. There is always some sort of heirarchy in an online community, whether it be a commercial entity (website with administrators and users, e.g. the TradeMe community), a teacher/learner situation (online course) or a user defined collaboration (e.g. YouTube community).

I have always thought of YouTube as an online community simply because of the way it is used by some. YouTube is a way for some people to create and attain a public profile in much the same way celebrities do it through the media. Identities on YouTube create for themselves followers, supportive and some not so.

This was reiterated to me by Michael Wesch's video article "An anthropological introduction to YouTube" via his reference to Lonelygirl15. Lonelygirl15 had a massive following with many of her fans/supporters turning against her online personality when they realised she was a character and not the "real deal". Users felt duped in much the same way f2f situations leave people upset and dissappointed when they feel they've been let down. I remember when the Lonelygirl15 situation happened thinking "its online people, wake up its not real" but for some members it was real, it was their life for that short period. I also remember being amazed at what an impact this fictious identity had on its online community. YouTube grows each day, even each hour and the communities change, sometimes daily but one thing that remains constant is that it will always be a platform for entities that attract followers (good and bad) thus creating their own online community.

The article on Building Online Communities (O'Reillynet.com, 2002) begins with the opening line:

The Internet exists to improve communication. Communities can grow anywhere communication occurs.

Although this article was written seven years ago, it made interesting reading. Interesting because the ideas expressed 7 years ago are still true now (in my opinion) for online communties.

3 types of evidence I may look for are:

  • Does the online group have a common purpose or common goal?
  • Are the users, participants in the purpose or goal or just onlookers?
  • Is the community supportive?

As I gather steam in this course I may add more to my list or change it completely but at this stage (and this time of the night...11.32pm on a Sunday) I am confident this is what I may look for.

I welcome your comments :)



Friday, July 31, 2009


My name is Heather Moran and I work as a Business and Computing Lecturer at Universal College of Learning (UCOL) in Palmerston North.

This is my third paper in the elearning certificate (although no.2 isn't quite finished yet...oops)and I look forward with apprehension to pushing my boundaries in terms of being vocal online!!! I am generally an online lurker but have been warned (by previous participants) that I will have to actually post opinions and comments etc....aaaaaaargh! (LOL).

Heather :)