Case Study thoughts

Continuing my rushed prep for the Fri 20th August meeting, I’ve had a quick (far too quick) look at the Case Studies, with mixed results.

#1 eMentoring
I recognise the resistance of IT shops to Skype. Jenny’s approach is the same as I’ve seen have success with other new technologies.  If you can get it to the people who want to use it and will get benefit from it, they create the push to get it accepted.

#2 Virtual Conference
I facilitated two of the sessions for this 24-hour event.  I had one big learning point.  My laptop crashed midway through one of the sessions.  I was able to grab my wife’s laptop and was back on air in about 7 minutes.  Salutory lesson – be prepared!  To be fair to myself, I had done plenty of homework in terms of liaising with the two presenters and working out how the sessions would run, so the mantra “perparation, preparation, preparation” means all aspects of the session.

#3 Facilitating asynchronous discussion
I’m running out of time, and I can’t get the link to work 😦  Asynchronous interaction is one area I’m particularly interested in as I have very little experience, especially as a facilitator.  I’ll have to come back next week and try to sort out the technology issuette.

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Week 4 rush

I’ve had a really full couple of weeks, and have had little time to devote to FO2010.  I missed the last virtual meeting but I’ve at last managed to make some time and start getting back in the loop.  Yesterday evening, I helped Carolyn Hastie track down a problem where the link to her blog wasn’t working on the participants’ page of the course wiki.  I felt the years rolling back as I went into debug mode.  Yes, I do miss being a regular IT guy! Thanks Carolyn for the kind words in your blog when you wrote up the problem and its resolution 😀

I’ve wizzed through the reading for week 4.  Overall what stood out for me was that while the material was all about online education, I think there are several nuggets that can be used more generally when facilitating online.  First, however, a few words about each of the resources.

CoP Series #10: Stewarding Technology for Community by Nancy White
I found sections 1 and 2 very refreshing – my old hobby horse of requirements before design.  I liked the categorisation in section 2 of what types of tools support which learning activity – without naming specific examples.

I love the concept of “technology steward”.  I think I do this from time to time, and I enjoy it.

It was good to see a discussion about security.  My opinion is make things open unles there’s a really good reason to close them.  Nancy White gives some good examples, e.g. the unconfident learner, so support that individual appropriately.  But try to bring them into the open, if they’re at all willing.

Wearing Four Pairs of Shoes: The Roles of E-Learning Facilitators by Ed Hootstein

I thought this was a very workable and usable model – and I think our Sarah wears all four pairs of shoes well.

5 stages of moderation model by Gilly Salmon

I can see how this model makes sense in any online learning context, even though the description speaks mainly to asynchronous environments.  As a group, I think quite a few FO2010 participants are already constructing knowledge, and I think most are at least somewhere between socialisation and information exchange.

Netiquette by Learn the Net

This was not new to me, but I thought it was nicely arranged.  I particularly valued the Wikipedia reference, wherein key points for me were the wide variability of what’s considered acceptable and the health warning abotu publishing (or not!) guides to acceptable practice.  In my experience, best practice is now for organisations to have an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).  Something for us all to think about outside FO2010.


The biggest takeaway of all for me is that we need to think about what our clients/students/participants have/want to do, and then what sorts of tools and technologies will best help them to achieve their goals.

I think understanding the concept of a technology steward and acting in that role will stand any online facilitator in good stead – whether in education or elsewhere.

From the four pairs of shoes, I think the Social Director, Program Manager and Technical Assistant pairs shoudl be worn in any online facilitation context.  The Instructor is likely only to be appropriate in a learning environment.

I think Gilly Salmon’s 5 stages of moderation could be a useful model outside education for any group that’s going to be together for a while. Obviously it won’t apply for one-off sessions, which do occur quite a lot.  In fact, my current day job is mostly rnning these sorts of one-off workshops.

And now, it’s off to week 5’s material in time for the next virtual meeting due to start in only a couple of hours.  Nothing like last minute prep!

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Virtual Teams

I’ve just read the paper “Working effectively in a virtual team” by Terry Neal (our speaker on Friday 6th August) and Clare Atkins, signposted by Sarah.  These are my initial thoughts:

  • The success criteria for a virtual team are an extension (superset?) of those for physical or face-to-face teams.  It seems right intuitively, so it’s reassuring to have experimental evidence to support this.
  • I didn’t note any explicit comparisons between managing a virtual team and managing a physical but dispersed team.  I would posit that the needs for extra effort in communications would be similar in both.
  • I’ve worked in innovation teams, so it was personally interesting to read those aspects of the project.  A couple of points that chimed with me were:
    • Innovation has no best practice on which to call (except for the innovation process itself of course)
    • The need for a “jack of all trades”.  You can’t use traditional software development methods when you’re innovating
  • Working from home was cited as a benefit (towards the end of the “Introduction” section).  I’m delighted to hear that it was, but one should be aware that working from home doesn’t suit everyone.  Some people need the structure of working alongside colleagues, or just in an office of other employees of the same organisation.
  • I liked Kimball’s table early in the “Others’ learning” section.
  • In “Norming”, the authors talked of the difficulty of retrieving files stored in the “Google group”.  I found this interesting as it reflects a “file and folder” mindset rather than moving the project team to the “label/tag and search” paradigm, which is a hallmark of Google – and of Web 2.0 more generally.  As we start working in virtual teams, we should perhaps consider this move (I refuse to say “paradigm shift”!) as a lot of the collaboration tools we’ll consider for our work will have a label/tag and search feel to them.
  • I’ve left the point that struck me most to last – having two project leaders.  In the last paragraph in “Norming”, the authors note that having two people monitoring meant it was more likely they would identify issues, particularly of dysfunction.  I’d like to add that I think it probably helped that the two leaders were responsible for different aspects of the project so had slightly different individual goals – even though they shared the same overall goals for the project of course.  They would be looking at how the team and individuals within it were performing thought different lenses.  I imagine they could well have helped each other out solving team dysfunction problems with those different perspectives.

Looking forward to the meeting on Friday, after I get back from the pub, delivering this week’s quiz.  It will just be Friday for me 🙂

Apologies for not getting round other people’s blogs and their Week 3 postings.  I’ve had a really busy week including house guests so I just haven’t had the time.  Hope to get a bit more study time next week when the house will be back to normal when Granny gets back from Maryland – yes, we’ve just had our second grandchild.  😀

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Week 3 study thoughts

I’ve managed to check out all four pieces from the course wiki – not sure how I managed it though!  Here are my thoughts…

Did you know 4.0 (xplanevisualthinking)

Some of the numbers are quite staggering, but I have seen these sorts of figures before.  On the face of it, I’d hazard a guess that they’re related in some way to Moore’s Law.  (Health warning – I’ve done no analysis to support this assertion.)  I know that for it’s original domain, Moore’s Law still holds, and if anything the curve is getting slightly steeper – even though we really are getting close to some of the physical limits on microchips.  I’ve also heard that other computer related hardware also follows Moore’s Law.  As the numbers in Did you know 4.0 are about consumer computer electronics ownership (e.g. mobile phones) or about software services that are underpinned by computer hardware, it feels like a reasonable hypothesis that these would follow an exponential increase.

On the newspaper front, it will be interesting to see what happens in the UK, where The Times has introduced a paid model for access to its content online.  Is News Corporation doing this in other countries?

On a light-hearted note, did anyone watch the spoof Did you know 5.0 that got highlighted as a suggestion by YouTube when I watched 4.0?  Quite entertaining – and perhaps brings those of us who get a bit too much into our technology down to earth a bit.  IT is not real life!

Last of all for Did you know 4.0, if I only took one thing away it’s the predicted move to mobile access to the web.  What does that mean for online facilitation and online learning.  Matt Blackstock’s trying it out on this course, so I wonder if he has any thoughts on this particular future yet.

Communities, networks and what sits in between (Nancy White)

Some interesting thoughts about the differences between communities and networks.  Communities are more tightly bound than networks, and the sorts of things one might do are more constrained in the former than the latter.  I liked Nancy’s example of the chocolate network to explain networks and how one does not have to give up something of the “me” to join a network.

I wasn’t sure what White meant by the spaces between Communities and Networks.  I can’t, immediately, work out what sorts of groups might inhabit that space.  I’ll have to do some more thinking about the two sets of characteristics and see if I can imagine an in-between set.  There was an interesting post by Lawrence Liu about adding “Teams” to this area of study – thus “Networks vs. Communities (vs. Teams)”.  Unfortunately, none of Liu’s URLs seem valid so I couldn’t explore his thinking any more deeply than the brief comment to White’s page:

Essentially, networks consist of individuals, who have potential ties with others. Communities consist of loosely connected groups of people, who have weak ties (e.g. common interest) with each other. And teams consist of tightly connected groups of people, who have strong ties (e.g. common objective) with each other.

In the end, I think White’s video gives us some useful behaviours and characteristics to think about, but I don’t think we should get hung up about “correctly” categorising a particular group.  The insights will probably be helpful as we see how members in a group we’re facilitating (and indeed the group itself) behave, so we are better prepared for what arises.  A particular label for a (type of) group is useful shorthand especially when discussing that group with others – but that’s about as far as it needs to be taken, IMHO.

Building Online Communities (chromatic)

There are what seem to be good principles in this piece.  I say “seem to be” as I haven’t yet tried to build an online community yet.  The things that stood out for me were:

  • thinking about the role of the leader/moderator
  • tests for a healthy community
  • how the types of usage/membership follow a bell curve
  • the pros and cons of setting barriers to entry (e.g. allowing or forbidding anonymous posting)
  • having rules – and being consistent in how you apply them, and having them ready before you need them.

The piece is dated from a technological standpoint, but in my opinion its fundamental assertions are valid for any online context and stand the test of time.

Seven key skills of workshop facilitation (Jan Delmas)

I like the seven skills Delmas has chosen to describe, and I especially like “trust the group” and the fact that this is the last of the seven to be stated.  The summary is good too.  I have to say I was a bit concerned when early in the video Delmas talks about putting your own spin on a workshop as a facilitator.  This feels inappropriate to me.  Delmas used the analogy of a conductor for a facilitator, which is good in terms of bringing out the members of the workshop but still, in my opinion, risks the facilitator contributing.  I like the analogy of a catalyst, betraying that my first degree was in chemistry.  A catalyst changes the rate of a reaction but remains unchanged itself.

If I only had one takeaway from this video, it would be that the group cares about the “what”, but not the “how”.  That’s the facilitator’s job.


That’s about it for now.  I’ll need to do a bit more thinking to see if there’s something to be drawn together from these four resources – and to check out some of the other participants’ blogs for their thoughts.  Goodnight all.

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End of Week 2

It’s been a hectic week, what with a family weekend, a fun dog show, still managing the puppy tout seule, and with news of a second Granddaughter from across the pond. Managed to attend the second virtual meeting, which I thoroughly enjoyed even though it was the very small hours for me!

I realised, from other posts (especially liked Carolyn’s video – well done Thinkbirth) that I hadn’t actually checked off everything on the list, so I just watched Clive Shepherd’s “Welcome to the Virtual Classroom“.  While the concepts were not particularly new to me (I’m not in education, but reasonably comfortable and familiar with Web 2.0 stuff), I liked how it was organised, and the flow of content.  I liked the way synchronous and asynchronous communications were explained – might have to borrow, with attribution of course.

I’ve already posted about what I’d like to get from the course.  To make it happen, I need more business!

I also checked out the Slideshare that Sarah blogged (correction – tweeted) on Network Literacy.  Looks brilliant – just wish the audio was available.  I’ve seen a personal learning network (I think that’s what Sarah posted a couple of weeks ago) and I love the closing quite from Tagore – “Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time”  How true for our course!

Later today, puppy permitting, I’ll start looking forward to Week 3.  Anyone who’s really interested in Bagel, check out her blog.

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Well, that turned into just as interesting meeting as the first Introductory get together – but about completely different things.

We had a really interesting conversation about how to manage asynchronous conversations when there are so many channels to choose from. It’s easy to imagine starting with a blog post that someone else tweets and which subsequently moves over to email. To paraphrase Derek’s observation, that’s just life. I think such conversations will self manage. The different channels have different characteristics and uses and I think the participants in a conversation will use what’s appropriate. Imagine a phone conversation about throwing a party, followed by something in writing when you begin to plan the guest list or the menu. We don’t think it’s hard to follow because we write down things that are complex or hard to remember or need passing on in some way.

The other main point I drew from this evening’s meeting (that’s Thursday evening UK time) is that there are a lot of people new to the world of blogs and other collaborative tools. I must make sure I give people the room to ask about terms or technology with which they’re unfamiliar.

It was a much smaller group (only half the size), but still managed to cover western North America, several parts of Australia, both main islands in NZ and the UK. Claire Thompson created a Google Map where we can place pins in our locations and demonstrate visually just how far flung we are. Check out Claire’s blog post and get your pin on the map.

I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a good course with a great bunch of friendly, enthusiastic, supportive students.

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Between meetings

I’ve managed to get round all the blogs as listed on the Participants page of the course wiki. There are a few with no postings so I haven’t commented there, and there is one blog that’s only allowing invited followers, but I’ve commented on all the others! I won’t be doing that regularly, but I thought it was important to participate as widely as possible at the start of the course. A massive “hello world”, I guess.

I attended the first meeting this morning, UK time. Over 20 participants from all over the world. Much of the time was spent ensuring people could speak and hear over Elluminate and then introductions. Floyd posted frequent tweets tagged #FO2010, and I think that sort of thing’s going to be really good.

I’m going to attend the second meeting as well, later this evening UK time. But now it’s time to cook the evening meal, then feed the puppy and hope she’s settled again by the time the meeting starts.

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Time for bed, said Zebedee

… with apologies to Magic Roundabout fans.

Well, I’ve timed out attempting to post a comment on everyone’s blog. I’m getting up at 5:30 at present to post the puppy out for a pee, so at nearly midnight I’m past doing anything more tonight. Perhaps tomorrow between the two meetings…

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Getting organised – 55 blogs!

I’ve managed to carve out a bit of time in advance of the opening meeting to make sure I’m subscribing to all the blogs. I think they must be mushrooms cos every time I go back to the participants page on the course wiki, there are more people registered. There are 55 people listed, including Sarah the course facilitator, as I write! I have got all the blogs added to my Google reader except one – who hasn’t given open permission for anyone to follow.

Now I need to make sure I’m following all the Twitter handles that have been listed and to visit all the blogs to see what people’s opening thoughts on the course are. I hope to post a comment to every one – at least for this introductory week. I’m sure I won’t manage to keep that sort level of activity up as the course work really kicks in.

Looking forward to tomorrow’s meetings (great idea of Sarah’s to schedule a second one) – I’m going to try to attend both and they’re both Thursday, UK time.

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Meet Chris

I’m a freelance Facilitator, working face to face and online. I have one major client and I’m looking for more – not enough income and I don’t like all my eggs in one basket. I have a good relationship with my “handler” and the events team (2 hard working women) in my client company. The workshops are all about IT, as my client is an IT Membership organisation.
I’m also interested in IT and its modern uses. I like the social networking platforms that are available, and I really like my new phone – HTC Desire using Google’s Android. Delighted that there’s a WordPress app, so I can post on the move.
I’m really pleased to have been commissioned by a University Business School to write and deliver a course on IT for SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises). I’m not a geek, but I’ve been in IT for over 30 years and understand a lot about using IT in business.

As if that wouldn’t take enough of my time, I’m Clerk to Governors for three small rural schools – two primary schools (children aged rising 5 to 11, each with 50-60 children taught in 3 classes) and one nursery (20 pre-school children).

A bit of personal stuff. I live in Monyash a small village in the Peak District – the second most used National Park on the planet. My office is a posh shed, which we call the pod, in our garden. I have two children, two step-children, a step-grandaughter and another step-grandchild due this very Thursday. We also have a 12-week old Australian Shepherd puppy (you can read more about her in her blog), who’s in my care as my wife has just flown to Maryland to help out with her grandaughter as the second grandchild makes her/his entrance into the world.

If you want to know more about my business (curiosity, or perhaps you’re interested in working together), let me know and we can chat offline. I don’t think it’s appropriate to develop business on the course blog [grin].

I started facilitating on a part-time basis early in 1999 when I worked for the Research Group at what was then The Post Office, and is now Royal Mail. Most of my sessions were Creative Problem Solving (CPS) but I also ran strategy sessions for senior management teams as well as workshops for client/customer working teams.

I’m interested in formalising what I’ve learned and picked up about facilitation, and I’m always looking to learn from others and share the things I have found that work. I’m also hoping to find out about more and more web-based IT services and how people use IT. In my experience, the most important IT questions and problems are not about the technology. To misquote Clinton, “it’s the people, stupid”.

Here’s one learning point I’ve worked out from my own experience. Facilitating, especially for CPS workshops, means keeping on your toes for when the session changes direction – as often as not unexpected in time and direction. Learning to deal with this chaos is a transferable skill, in particular in helping improve my presentation skills/technique. Has anyone else had a similar experience?

That’s it for now. More introductory stuff at Thursday’s meeting.

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