Category Archives: Community

Levels of Scaffolding

The first blog post I wrote as an EDCMOOC student shared the scaffolding I put in place around myself as a learner in order to avoid dropping out of the course. I am happy to report that I stayed engaged the whole time and am ready for more MOOC’ing! Last week, Peter Taylor, left the following comment on my scaffolding post:

A blog post on different levels of scaffolding, http://wp.me/p1gwfa-sK
The first level is the one we think of in education, but I’d be interested to hear discussion on how that kind of scaffolding in MOOCs could lead to the other levels
[“1. Someone starts with a final structure in mind and provide the workers (or students) a safe scaffolding they use to complete the structure (or students come to understand the ideas and be proficient in the practices)…..”]

I am not an expert on scaffolding (I’ll leave that my colleague Kimberly Scott and others like Peter). However, I do think Peter’s question is an interesting one. How might the kind of scaffolding that I describe in the #EDCMOOC – Week 1 Scaffolding to Avoid Dropping Out post lead to the other levels of scaffolding that Peter describes for MOOC participants? But also, how does the scaffolding put in place by the instructors and other course participants enhance learners experiences and help them go deeper?

When I read Peter’s Scaffolding post, Level 3 stuck out for me. I’ll come back to levels 4 and 5 – need some more thinking time on those.

3. Someone (or someones) has (have) a synergistic cooperative or collaborative situation in mind—drawn from past experience and current understanding—and provides scaffolding to more than one group of workers (potential cooperators) to lead them towards a place where, if and when the groups meet, their interaction creates more than the sum of the parts. That is, like two sides of a bridge joining in a stable arch, the resulting situation is something no group could provide for itself (see strategic participatory planning)

In the Voice Thread group I’ve been part of during the EDCMOOC, we have been discussing ideas for ways to support various types of MOOC learners — how to provide scaffolding — so that individuals can meet their personal learning goals whatever they might be. I think that the EDCMOOC team at the University of Edinburgh definitely had a synergistic cooperative situation in mind, this EDCMOOC, and provided scaffolding to all of us which led us to all sorts of places where we met up and interacted. And from my own personal experience the interactions I’ve had with both the Voice Thread group and the group of #edcmchat students in the live Twitter chats have produced interactions and content that is much more than the sum of the parts.

So what does the scaffolding look like that produces the outcome described in Peter’s level 3 scaffolding? In the case of this particular MOOC, some of the ways that the teaching team provided scaffolding to foster 1 + 1 = 4 outcomes are listed below:

  • Designed a final assessment that is peer-reviewed instead of instructor-reviewed. This meant that in some cases people were forming groups or using existing social media communities to share their work prior to submitting. My Voice Thread group, for example, had a Google+ Hangout well before the due date of the final assignment where we shared drafts of the digital artifact and conducted a peer review that helped us iterate and tweak our final submissions.
  • Encouraged various ways of connecting with other students and course content. While there was a Coursera discussion area, it was not frowned upon if particular students, like me, wanted to interact on Twitter, Google+ or other places. In fact, it was encouraged (even though this makes the measurement of a MOOC difficult). In the two Google+ hangouts hosted by the teaching team, they answered questions on Google+ and Twitter — they met the participants where we were, not where the teaching team deemed we should be.
  • Directed participants to various groups to facilitate connecting with other students. During the second Google+ hangout, Christine Sinclair, spent some time talking about various groups  that were forming, specifically the Over 60 group. Jen Ross shared the EDCMOOC Voice Thread group with others in a blog post.

I also think that in a MOOC, the teachers/facilitators themselves are actually not able to provide all the scaffolding. Participants start emerging who provide some of this scaffolding. For example, Ary Aranguiz started the #edcmchat Twitter chat which was not part of the course design. Ary along with other Twitter chat hosts AndyDMMitchell, Eleni Zazani , and @kmallwein (list not meant to be comprehensive – many others played a role) did an excellent job of including Twitter newbies in the conversation with tweets like this one:

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 10.37.03 AM

Felicia Sullivan artfully provided scaffolding by being a quiet leader in the Voice Thread conversation. She seeded the conversation with a prompt and then replied quickly to member’s comments throughout the course, keeping us coming back for more!

But this is my experience. What are your thoughts on this topic?

  1. What are other kinds of scaffolding that could be used in future MOOCs to facilitate this kind of cooperation and collaboration amongst and between groups?
  2. Who was left out despite these various scaffolding methods?
  3. Were there things that didn’t work for you?
  4. Have you seen examples in other MOOCs where scaffolding was not put in place or didn’t naturally emerge? What happened?

photo credit: pni via photopin cc

My Human Element in the EDCMOOC

Authentic conversation is our human way of thinking together” (Brown, 2005, p. 204).

A few years ago I realized that a common theme in my life is the formation of community. After I had my first child I started a play group that met weekly for several years. I have been part of a women’s spirituality group for over eight years. When my son started a new school for first grade I quickly went about compiling a class roster and helped create a Facebook group so that the parents could connect and support each other. The part of my job that I enjoy the most is fostering community and knowledge sharing within MSLOC’s private online social learning community. Not surprisingly, I quickly found a community within this massive, global E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC course. It was not planned nor do I know where it is headed. But I do know that it has increased my level of engagement and connection. I feel supported and validated. What was initially a bit scary, sharing my learning journey publicly, now feels energizing.

As I work my way through the videos and readings for the Reasserting the human topic (week 3) in the EDCMOOC, I have been reflecting on community and how to support learning with authentic conversation and human connection. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how community forms and is sustained within a complex adaptive system, such as a MOOC. Complex adaptive systems are unpredictable, nonlinear, adaptive, emergent and self-organizing (Pascale, 2000; Tsoukas, 2005; Uhl-Bien et al., 2007). I’d say this #EDCMOOC qualifies! The self-organizing piece is what I find fascinating.

The Kolowich (2010) reading called The Human Element resonated with me on several levels, as a higher education learning professional, as a former graduate student who took classes in various formats and as an EDCMOOC student.

The Human Element in the Blended Learning Environment

Over the past several years, my colleagues and I in the MSLOC program  at Northwestern University have identified that making emotional connections has been a key factor in supporting a healthy, collaborative blended learning community. Some ways that we do this is by sharing webcams in virtual class sessions, by taking time to end virtual sessions with intention and reflection instead of just abruptly hanging up, and by creating instructor welcome videos for our alternative schedule classes that include sharing some personal information. (See more info here.)

make emotional connections Similar to Douglas Hersh, Dean of the School of Media Arts at Santa Barbara City College, who is referenced in the Kolowich article, we have found that incorporating more video and audio into our courses has helped our students feel more connected to their instructors before they ever meet them in person. We coach our faculty to share their authentic selves on camera as much as possible. Our videos are not heavily produced – the focus is on the authentic human connection, not on creating slick videos. You can see an example of one of our instructor videos here: Managing Transitions (notice how Dorie Blesoff shares her personal stories in the video).

Just like Hersh, we have also moved mostly off of Blackboard in favor of a private social learning community powered by Jive Software. In this nonlinear, organic online platform, members of our community are able to make connections, collaborate and share knowledge across and above class instances while still allowing for private class groups. Members of the learning community are able to have social presence in various ways, such as micro-blogging via status updates.

My Human Element Within EDCMOOC

The description of Hersch’s Human Presence Learning Environment  where students can post audio responses to discussion threads sounds like what I’m calling My Human Element within the EDCMOOC course, a Voice Thread discussion started by Felicia Sullivan on February 6, 2013. Basically, we each upload a picture to a Voice Thread profile and then we can make audio or text comments when we are able. The comments get put into one long recording and it is easy to move to a particular location – I typically find the last comment I heard and then start listening there. Visual cues are given to show who is talking.

I drew the image below to represent my EDCMOOC group which has slowly grown each day as new people join in.

voicethread-EDCMOOC Felicia Sullivan (@feliciasullivan) kicked off the Voice Thread by asking fellow MOOCers the following questions:

What is really most present in your mind right now related to EDCMOOC? What is the burning thing you are seeking out or researching or questioning? What really is top of mind?

She has adeptly continued to facilitate the conversation by responding regularly and making us feel that we all own this conversation/convergence. We have been discussing various topics such as e-learning and social media tools, the interesting position of studying something that you are also doing at the same time (going meta on MOOCs), the priviledge afforded to English speakers in this EDCMOOC, the possible inequities of MOOCs (see a recent post about this by Jen Ross – @jar) as well as the Voice Thread tool itself.

banksy - bird singing in a tree - 2

banksy – bird singing in a tree – 2

By sharing our voices, we hear each others accents, share a bit of personal information and make an emotional connection. Simply from hearing the background noises in the audio tracks and picking up on visual images in the pictures students have chosen to share, I have learned the following: Beth D. has a Dachshund (listen), Virginia has birds chirping nearby (listen), Rick seems to like the outdoors, Beth and Virginia both like to drink tea or coffee from mugs. Rick from Fresno, CA reflected on the power of sound in one of his Voice Thread remarks, “Hearing the birds chirping and dogs barking helps to personalize some of these interactions we’ve been having, largely via text.”

So I’d like to thank the students who have shared their voices on this Voice Thread: Felicia (Boston, MA), Rick (Fresno, CA), Miguel, Beth S. (Yorkshire, UK), Beth D. (Wisconsin), Virginia (USA), Sherene (USA), Fran (Australia), Luis Rafael (Venezuela), Marianne (Gainesville, FL). You have inserted a bit of predictability and safety into an otherwise nonlinear, sometimes overwhelming experience. This Voice Thread is the place I go before starting my EDCMOOC reading/viewing or checking my various streams. It is what I’ve been listening to as I start and end my day. I look forward to hearing more voices as the course continues! I have a feeling others have been listening and wonder what will compel (or prevent) people to join in.

What have been your experiences with self-organization in this MOOC or other similar environments?

What is the story of your own small group if you have one?

What does community mean to you within this context?

Related Content

EDCMOOC Voice Thread by Felicia Sullivan

Blog Posts

Online Content from members of the Voice Thread

Felicia’s Blog: http://www.feliciasullivan.net/
Rick’s Blog: http://drrbb2nd.blogspot.com/
Beth D.’s Blog: http://selfdirection.blogspot.com/
Fran’s Blog: https://elearningmoocedinburgh.wordpress.com/

Reasserting the Human – Week 3 Readings / Viewing

Humanity 2.0: defining humanity – Steve Fuller’s TEDx Warwick talk (24:08)

Badmington, Neil (2000) Introduction: approaching posthumanism. Posthumanism. Houndmills; New York: Palgrave

Kolowich, S (2010) The Human Element. Inside Higher Ed

Monke, L (2004) The Human Touch, EducationNext

Videos

Photo Credits

Photo Credit: Make Emotional Connnections by sorokti cc
Photo Credit: My Human Element by sorokti cc
Photo Credit for bansky bird: Eva Blue via Compfight cc

References

Brown, J. (2005). The World Café: Shaping our futures through conversations that matter. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Kolowich, S (2010) The Human Element. Inside Higher Ed http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/03/29/lms

Pascale, R. (2000). Surfing the edge of chaos : The laws of nature and the new laws of business (1st ed.). New York: Crown Publishers.

Tsoukas, H. (2005). Chaos, complexity, and organization theory. In Complex knowledge: Studies in organizational epistemology (pp. 210-229). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Uhl-Bien, M., Marion, R., & McKelvey, B. (2007). Complexity leadership theory: Shifting leadership from the industrial age to the knowledge era. The Leadership Quarterly, 18(4), 298-318.

We write to taste life twice. ~ Anais Nin

A colleague of mine, Georgianne Hewett (@georgianneh), just shared a fun Twitter tool called All My Tweets that shows you all of your tweets on one page. She asked the question, what do your tweets say over time?

She then shared her favorite quote from her own list of tweets:

We write to taste life twice. ~ Anais Nin

This quote couldn’t have come to me at a better time (I started this blog earlier this week). Rather than getting hung up on worrying about how I will come across to whoever happens upon this little space I’m occupying on the web, I’m just focusing on writing, on tasting life twice and reflecting publicly.

This is also why I love Twitter. Not only did I read an inspirational quote, I also found a new tool. Plus I pasted all of my tweets into Evernote so that I can now search them. I went back and looked at my first tweets which made me realize how much has changed in my digital literacy journey since 2009 when I created my Twitter account.

  • Tweet #1: setting up a twitter account – finally taking the plunge Jun 27, 2009
  • Tweet #2: Attended a social media workshop today and finally understand the benefits of twitter – or is it just one more thing to distract me? Jun 27, 2009
  • Tweet #3: won’t get much of a following with so few “tweets” – so far Twitter hasn’t pulled me away from FB – wonder what will grab me about it? Jul 03, 2009

I guess 3 1/2 years later I’ve answered my question about what will grab me about Twitter. It expands my personal learning network, it helps connect me to something larger than myself, and it sends me little gifts.

1573 tweets later, I’m convinced!

Gather with Purpose

I have found that the intersection of community, technology and learning is more meaningful when I step back and ask myself and my colleagues the following question:

What meaningful work can we do together that we could not accomplish individually?

In other words, how can we gather with purpose?

The phrase Gather with Purpose came to me while my MS Learning and Organizational Change (MSLOC) colleague, Jeff Merrell, and I were preparing a case study about creating a collaborative learning community for the 2011 Chicago E-learning Tech Showcase.

We shared three themes that we (MSLOC staff and faculty) had begun to identify as important for stewarding collaborative learning communities:

  1. Make Emotional Connections
  2. Encourage Discovery
  3. Gather with Purpose

During and after the case study presentation the theme that has resonated the most with people is Gather with Purpose. As Jeff Merrell mentions in a blog post, perhaps this is because so many of us have sat through class sessions (virtually or face-to-face) and meetings that seem like a waste of time. An instructional video or e-mail update would have sufficed.

In order to come up with the themes, we thought about the ways that a collaborative learning community has been fostered within the MSLOC program and then grouped them together. Some examples of gathering with purpose are:

  • Video Presentations: Student teams create video presentations that are shared with the whole class prior to a class session. The class session is used for discussing and critiquing the presentations in order to make connections and go deeper.
  • Simulations & Role Plays: A virtual class session is used to practice consulting. The instructors act as clients and students act as consultants. A scoping call with the “client” happens prior to the virtual session.
  • Knowledge Jam: Instructor gathers a panel of subject matter experts to participate in a knowledge jam with the students around a particular topic.
  • Group Reflection/Brainstorming via Google Docs: 15 – 25 students simultaneously answer questions, reflect or brainstorm a topic at the same time during hybrid or virtual class sessions. Everyone has a voice, not just the extroverts!

For me, the phrase Gather with Purpose is a reminder to slow down and be intentional about designing and planning virtual, face-to-face and hybrid gatherings/meetings/class sessions. The phrase helps me be more present during both the planning phase and the actual gathering. It also allows me as a participant to be more present because it acknowledges that all of our voices are needed when we gather. Our lives are all so busy and it is easy to just quickly slap together a ppt deck rather than take time to ask ourselves why we are gathering.

  • What is it that we can do together that we cannot achieve alone?
  • How can we make emotional connections and be energized by our gathering?
  • How can we design gatherings that hold people’s attention and perhaps even allow participants to go deep and stop multitasking?
  • What is the content or knowledge needed for this meeting and how will that be delivered or acquired prior to the session?

I hope that this blog can help me be more intentional with my own learning and reflection. Perhaps it will allow me to gather with more purpose online. While I am entering into blogging as purely an individual endeavor, I have a feeling it will open up some new connections and maybe even increase my own personal learning network along the way!

Related Resources

image from slightlyeverything on flickr