Sunday, August 15, 2010

Week 4 in FO2010

5 Stages of Moderation
This past week in the open Facilitating Online 2010 (FO2010) course our topic was What is Online Facilitation. One of the readings that really stood out for me this week was Gilly Salmon's 5 stages of moderation model. Gilly used a variety of ways to convey the role of facilitator and how it changes at the various stages that participants go through when learning on-line. Her use of a variety of visuals really helped to bring home her message. I plan to go back to this article again when I start facilitating a new group. I definitely recommend reading the article if you are planning to facilitate online.

Nancy White's Elluminate Session
Another standout from this week was the Elluminate session with Nancy White. I was not able to attend the session live, but really enjoyed the recording. One problem was that I kept wishing I could chime into the discussion! I have attended one of Nancy's sessions before and she does a wonderful job. Here are my notes from the session:

Volunteer Facilitators
Our volunteer facilitators, Carole and Sharon did a wonderful job. They started off by describing their prep for the session (they Skyped prior to discuss how they wished to do things, they entered the room early, they liaised with Nancy to see how she wanted the session to look), and they introduced themselves and Nancy. As the session progressed they did a good job of ensuring that those that wanted to speak got their opportunity, they welcomed latecomers, and they made sure that the session kept to the prearranged time (often a difficult thing to do!)

Diving In
Nancy started off by getting people to use the whiteboard to write down what they were most interested in learning in the session. Before doing this she polled the room to see who knew how to use the whiteboard and who didn't. There were a number who did not know how to use it, but instead of Nancy explaining how, she asked one of the group who said they did know how to explain to the group. She did this again later with regards to adding a new page to the whiteboard. I though this was a good way to do things--it allows the group members to share their knowledge. Spreading facilitation about the group!

Once everyone had written on the whiteboard she showed them how to move items around on the whiteboard to clarify things. One strategy is to allow different participants the opportunity to sort items on the whiteboard. She mentioned that sorting is an important facilitation tool. The use of colours and boxes (around similar ideas) can help too. She asked them to think about how the space feels for participants--was it chaotic, how did it feel if someone wrote in your text box or over your text? Then as an experiment she made everyone facilitators/moderators. From the feedback many people found this a great experience. Elluminate does look a little different when you have moderator privileges and of course you have control over many more things.

On the Importance of a Wingman
Nancy mentioned, and that has become clearer to me as I've attended more of the FO2010 sessions, that it can be crazy to try and facilitate a group by yourself (unless it is a group that has met many times and where many people in the group are de facto facilitators), you really need a wingman (wingperson?) The co-facilitator or helper is in a good position to see where there might be problems and step in to help them.

Chaos and Contraints
One of the themes that Nancy touched on was the tension between chaos and constraint. She had everyone draw on the whiteboard at the same time and for some it felt very chaotic, for some it was frustrating because their space was being invaded. She then set up constraints by way of putting a grid on the whiteboard and asking everyone to pick a square and draw inside the square. This was more organized, however for some participants this might feel too controlled. Part of the challenge of facilitating is striking the right balance between creative chaos and constraint. Context plays a big part in helping you to decide on this balance. A group that has met many times might be better able to handle the more chaotic approach, while with a one time meeting of a large group you may need to err more on the side of constraint.

Providing Summaries
When someone arrived late to the session Nancy welcomed them and asked someone to give a good 4 sentence summary of where the session was at. It was a good way to get the new person up to speed and a way for the group as a whole to think about what had been experienced so far. She also mentioned that recapping is an art and that if we wanted to see an example of an amazing recapper, to check out Jerry Michalski who hosts a YiTan call, which lasts approx 35min which he then recaps at the end. Nancy said that she tries not to do too much synthesizing for the group. The group then discussed the benefits of summarizing and one of the key things that came out of that discussion for me was that the summary should be brief and about the content, and we should not do the 'meaning making' for the participants. Also, when we give over to a participant the responsibility of summarizing it shows the other participants the importance of summarizing. This brought up the interesting question of 'What layers are we facilitating?' At the end of the session Nancy went back to the whiteboards and summarized the discussions the group had had and in particular she went back to an earlier screen where participants had written down what they were most interested in discussing and she asked them to put an x or a check next to each one to indicate whether they felt those items were discussed. This was a good way to review the objectives of the session.

Communities, Networks and Loose Connections
Another topic that came up was the distinction between Communities and Networks. Nancy talked about the fact that communities are bounded groups where we give up part of our 'me' identity to take on a 'we' identity. Communities often have a shared purpose or goal. Networks on the other hand have fuzzier boundaries or intersecting boundaries.

ニコニコ動画 2007年12月07日 総合ランキング(本日) 再生 タグ共起ネットワーク
ニコニコ動画 2007年12月07日 総合ランキング(本日) 再生 タグ共起ネットワーク by kynbit with a creative commons attribution license.

If you are facilitating a community you are going to have to do it differently than when you are facilitating a network. In networks there is often lots of choice and more diversity than in a community. In a network if there is a road bump or a problem you can avoid it or go around it. Communities don't scale--they can become too big to be effective. A problem of too much or too little control can kill a community. Communities, however, can be great at getting things accomplished. Nancy used the imagery of facilitation as network weaving. The area in between networks and communities are where you have looser connections. But these looser connections are often where interesting things occur. I wonder if this is the same as the idea of the strength of weak ties as per Mark Granovetter?

A Question
One thing I wondered about the Elluminate session was that some people had (profile) after their names and if you hovered your mouse over them a little box came up with their photo and bit of information about them. I thought this was a really neat tool--the rest of the people in the group become more real when you have a better sense of who they are. For example, I'm terrible with names, but if there is a photo of the person I am better able to remember who they are and to connect with them.

The Wrap Up
It was a good week. I'm learning a lot and connecting with more people in the FO2010 class. I look forward to what we'll learn this coming week. If you have any thoughts on what I've written I'd love to hear from you! As always, thanks for reading what I write.


  1. Appreciate your thorough rendering of the last Elluminate session with Nancy White particularly as I was not able to make it and have not yet found my way to the recording. I definitely will now!

  2. This whole idea of using a profile is a good one because it helps you connect to people , so I think its worth taking time to do that properly...which then takes u back again to online identity. What information do you think is important to include in a profile like that in an Elluminate meeting?

  3. @Karen, thanks for your comment. I'm glad you've found my post helpful!

    @Sarah, when I'm in an online session I want to know who else is in the room with me, and I want people to know that I'm me and not some other Claire. Lots of times I've attended sessions where people only give their first names so then I spend part of the time texting "Hey are you Heather Wilson or Heather Johnson?". Knowing who is there builds up trust and allows the learning/collaborating to really take off. I think an Elluminate profile should include your name or 'handle' (as long as it allows people to know who you are) and a photo of yourself or the avatar that your online network would recognize you by. For example, most of us in the course know who Coach Carole is. If she were to use her proper surname and no 'Coach', many of us might be confused. A short 'what I do' description might be helpful too. Now I just have to figure out how to set up my profile in Elluminate!

  4. Hi Claire, thanks for this review of the session. You have done a beautiful job of weaving the elements together. I found your post interesting and engaging to read. You had exactly the right mix of personal and process information. I didn't realise that a profile of each participant was available during the Elluminate session. I can see how having that available does foster connection and community building. I'll have to figure out how to do that too!

  5. Thanks Carolyn for your kind words! This was the first session where I noticed the profiles in Elluminate (though they were probably there before). Not everyone had one so I'm interested in finding out more about this.

  6. What particularly resonated with me in this wonderfully thorough overview is your comments around the area of 'chaos'. You talked of a wingman in an eClass. Yes - indeed! Have always had a wingman in my technology lessons. But back to chaos... have had to develop a tolerance of chaos with technology-moderated classes. (This is part of the "letting go" theme I was trying to express a few weeks ago in my blog but didn't quite get there.) In a technology classroom the students (inevitably) have more autonomy. Over in that corner a student is in her email, here another doesn't have access for some reason, (forgotten password, some other breakdown), there a student uses the lab session as an opportunity to quickly finish another teacher's assignment... and through it all I'm teaching my curriculum content. Those students, the emailing student and the student doing another assignment, the blogging student, the student on fb... they have all set their own priorities and made deliberate decisions about using the time and place for their own purposes. I'm not convinced I should challenge those decisions and therefore have to be prepared for the potential of chaos; of students all at different places in the material needing different levels of assistance. A wingman is essential, and also (I believe) a willingness to let go of your agenda. Some teachers struggle with this. They've been taught to have tightly ordered logical lessons following a prescribed plan, and have been criticised by their trainers if any student is not 'on-task' for 3 minutes. Conducting a class that has the potential to reflect badly on their schema of what a good teacher is, especially in such concerning economic times... whoah! Thoughts on this?

  7. But... this wasn't your point was it. Your comments on chaos related more to patterns of interaction within the class; to how the teacher faciliated this communication. I loved the way Nancy demonstrated this with such flexibility... (am working on an analogy to match - any ideas?).

  8. Hi Katherine,
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment :-) I agree with you that sometimes we just have to let students make their own decisions as they are the ones who need to live with the consequences of their actions. I would have issues if what they are choosing to do is disruptive or preventing other students from accomplishing their work. This would also depend on the age of the students--you are in a post secondary setting so all of your students are old enough that they *should* be able to handle the level of freedom they are being allowed.

    As teachers though, I think we also have to take a look at our lessons and ask ourselves if the off task behaviour is a result of things within our control? Is it because the lesson is not engaging? Should we be offering more opportunities for collaboration and modelling how to do this? Or is it just that our students have a lot on their plates (or haven't the skills yet to manage their time effectively) and so are just doing what they have to do.

    As for an analogy for the creative chaos that Nancy facilitated the other day... I look forward to what you come up with ;-)


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