Liveblogging James Farmer's session on Communication Dynamics and Communities of Inquiry for EVO 2005
OK, I'm liveblogging a talk by James Farmer on "Communication Dynamics: discussion boards, weblogs, wikis and the development of communities of inquiry in online learning environments"
It'll be hard for a newbie (me) to quadruple task: listen, read slides, think, and write - but I'll give it a go. This'll probably reduce my participation level somewhat.
(Note: The session is held in Alado, in the WebHeads group, with live audio and slides (actually webpages). Participants can speak over a microphone or text chat in a window. Sound quality is good, everything works...but I have a rockin' broadband connection, and I wonder about those who don't).
6:04 starting out...Bee is introducing Andrew, who is the guy behind Alado -thanks Andrew!- and now James Farmer, and his multidisciplinary, provocative blog. Over to James...
(I think: JF makes a great presentation introduction, from a communication standpoint: he states session context, objectives, and organization: 7-slide presentation, then Q&A. Good signposting and metalanguage, in business presentation terms.)
Some important paraphrases from the introduction: "If we view educational environments as means to learner independence, WebCT and Blackboard are sometimes the opposite of this, really...too constrained, rigid."
"Our purpose is to ask, regarding Communities of Inquiry, how do we faciliate these communities, how do these dynamics impact our ability to facilitate them."
First slide: JF shows a model with three key, overlapping areas: social, cognitive, and teaching "presences"...and how they all interact. These form a framework for evaluating dynamics of CoI.
"But what's the medium, and how does it effect these three presences".
Main points here regarding mediums:
+ Lecture halls and long corridors -traditional school architecture- are not conducive to group work.
+ Email is good for 1-to-1 only
+ Discussion boards push anonymity - e.g. avatars that hide our identity. But, it's important for learners to project identity. It's hard to sustain discussion on discussion boards: are the messages read? When? With WebCT and Blackboard we don't know. And, responders don't know if you visit back and read their response. Discussion boards don't allow the sustained discourse that CoIs need. In summary, discussion boards and email are limited tools when teachers need to establish the three "presences". They may be better than nothing, but they just don't do a very good job.
JF stops here to ask for discussion from the group, but the comments are text only, as participants (about 25?) are 1. shy about speaking and 2. on a dial-up connection and/or without microphones.
6:22 JF continues (these are paraphrases) "Yahoo Groups has value, for example you can request email responses to particular messages, but it's limited, and hard to participate."
Now JF asks us whether he should move on, or are there any questions" (I think: again, good group mgmt, as we feel participative.)
6:25 Now on to weblogs...JF explains aggregators as "a huge improvement". (I wonder if has he explained what they are well enough for some of the newer-to-blogging participants).
He points out that blogs are chaotic and organic, instead of rigid, planned and structured (someone types in: like life?). A blog is owned by the blogger. It's very much your own identity.
Now JF showing us a slide of a model of 3 possible structures for learner blog relationship with LMSs:
+ keeps blogs walled off "inside" the LMS, for example the LMS Drupal (I wonder: can Drupal also aggregate from outside itself? I think I saw a comment that it could, somewhere.)
+ Or blogs (2 and 3) can sit outside the LMS, which acts as a more of a "mimimalist aggregator", managing the feeds and folders.
JF announces "penultimate page" (I think: he's doing a great job of using signposting/presentation metalanguage. I've trained hundreds of managers in presentation skills, and most are not nearly as good.)
Paraphrase: "How can weblogs help teachers create and nurture the 3 "presences". With blogs you you create an authentic persona.
+ For cognitive presence, you construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse.
+ For social presence: it's motivating, you have a conversation, with linkbacks, and a discourse which is sustained.
+ For teacher presence: you can influence the design, facilitation and direction of cognitive and social processes. Some ask: what if Ss don't subscribe? Answer: Of course they will. Or you can pre-populate the blogspace. The Ts voice, coming through weblog, is much better than email.
6:35 Final slide (my 2 fingers blur over the keyboard) Where to now? Slide has three logos:
1) Drupal: an open source community management system, blogs within the CMS
2) With Wordpress organization has own blog server
3) Schooltool has the potential to do administration (I wrote "freely" here?) and can integrate with Drupal and Wordpress. So we can have a sustainable -low/no cost- learning environment, very flexible, open source and not propriatary
OK, 6:40, time for questions (I think: what about wikis? Did I miss it?)
Question from Aaron regarding the challenges of implementing blogs inside a traditional, slightly rigid institutional culture...is there hope?
JF asks Aaron: how is Japanese culture vis-a-vis adoption? Aaron answers: challenging; the culture values authority, so much depends on incoming orientation of learners.
(I'm listening to the discussion now and have forgotten to blog - drats!).
Susan Marandi asks a interesting question regarding how to incorporate blogging into the curriculum.
JF answers: journals are a good way. Before, learning/class journals were often filled out in the last 2 weeks of term. Because blogging is socially motivating -with the audience of peers and teacher- journals implemented as blogs are usually maintained throughout the term. Also, you can do private journals as blogs as well, if reflective learning is the idea, so then blogging is the best alternative.
Bee contributes an example here: showing a S's blog, which illustrates many of these points.
James summarizes by offering us a resource: the IncSub organization, which is a good support network for teachers who want to implement blogging, and he invites us all to visit.
We all thank James and we sign off.
(I think: this was great...a discussion led by a global thought-leader, involving interchange among two dozen participants around the world. Fascinating content, fascinating delivery medium.)