Monday, January 24, 2005

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 there hope?

JF answers (I think: good Q & A technique: JF commented on the question ("Very interesting point Aaron") and and restated the question for the audience - two solid presentation tools). But, I don't understand JF's answer really.

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.)


At January 24, 2005 at 8:58 PM, Blogger Bruna said...

Great job. I liked your analysis and your comments. Even though there is a comment feature with blogs we still don't know whether the posts are read or not. This is similar to a posting on a discussion thread. Right? Or am I missing something here?

At January 24, 2005 at 9:15 PM, Blogger Cleve said...

Hi Bruna! Well, we know our posts are read if we get a nice comment like yours - thanks.
Also, with trackbacks you can get pinged if someone links to you (in their blog), but I'm not sure about this and I don't know if Blogger supports this (or what would, for that matter)...a good question for the wiki "FAQ" section.

At January 25, 2005 at 3:49 AM, Blogger aaron said...

Cleve...very nice summary, helpful for those who missed it. Your voice comes through nicely too.

As for trackback, Blogger doesn't support this feature yet. However, you can insert some code in your template from a service like Haloscan, which will allow you to use the feature on your Blogger blog, as we have done on the collective blog.

At January 25, 2005 at 4:20 AM, Blogger Lesley said...

Hi Cleve, Thanks for blogging the session. Reading your summary and comments give me a feeling of vicarious participation (I was relegated to the mac sidelines). Lesley

At January 25, 2005 at 7:54 AM, Blogger (Seyyedeh) Susan Marandi said...

Hi, Cleve! Thanks for the great work; you must have been at it for hours! Although I was there yesterday, it helped a lot to see everything in writing again.

Thanks again!
Susan @>---;--
Tehran, Iran

At January 25, 2005 at 9:02 AM, Blogger Graham said...

Hi Cleve - great summary, and very nicely presented too. I wanted to tidy up my live blog, but I was just too tired to do so - I'm hoping to find time to do it later today, or tomorrow, and I might use your live blog to add to my notes (if you don't mind of course!)

How did you like the experience? I found it was quite a buzz, although it was impossible to keep up with everything, and I missed lots of very interesting points.

I'd be more than happy to do it again though, and it would be much easier / better the second time.

At January 25, 2005 at 9:19 AM, Blogger Cleve said...

Hey Graham! Yeah, it took me about 45 minutes to transform what was often a near random string of letters into the post. Of course feel free to use whatever is helpful. Also, much (all?) of the audio is on James' site.

As to the experience, you're right that it was a buzz. If I find the time I'd like to introspect a bit about what liveblogging did for me as a learner...I have a feeling that my relationship with the event was so much more active, and the (conceptual) interaction so much richer, that I gained quite a bit more than if I had been a "listener + a question or two" only, which was my previous profile. But exhausting, especially for a two-finger typist.

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