Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Week 11 - Social Networking Platforms

This week at least I had some prior knowledge of the topic (for a change!)

Social Networking platforms are incredibly popular. I think they are great for those of us who move away from our home countries and as a result are apt to lose touch quickly with those we grew up with! Another excellent site I use frequently is Friends Reunited which is a UK based site where I have found many old friends and classmates.

Description of my experience in Facebook

I have been a member of Facebook for several months now. It was recommended to me by an old work colleague. Since then I have loved finding old friends and colleagues; for some old school friends its been over 20 years since we've been in touch. I've joined groups such as NZ parents and Ex pats from Northern Ireland and have even found other old friends through these groups. I like the fact I can see who's online when I am and have a quick "chat" with them, or post a message to their wall. I would log on each morning in anticipation of who had answered or contacted me overnight.

So it was not a surprise when I found that many of my students are addicted to sites such as Facebook - until that is the tertiary institute I work at banned the site in July of this year as it was "not conducive to effective learning"! I have to say that many times I have had to tell students to get off the site to continue with an assignment instead of looking at the photos of last weekend's party, so in a way I could understand the reasoning behind the decision to make it unavailable! I was told it was one rule for all and that staff would be banned from the site as well as students - unfortunately. I had to plead for the site to be re-instated to use again for this FOC study but I believe it will be taken off again at the end of the semester :-(

Ideas on how facilitation would work in Facebook

I could not find an "educational" group in Facebook which looked like a group involved in learning requiring the need for a facilitator. However I don't see why it couldn't be used for such a reason, but I would think that one drawback is that students as I mentioned earlier get hooked on the social side and may find it hard to motivate themselves to stick to the eduational side!

In the article Schools' Web 2.0 ban contributes to social exclusion it was stated that:

"participating in online networks provided the research participants with a
way to develop and sustain their personal social networks"

and that

"Online networks provided these students with ways to participate in society
that were social, cultural, civic, economic and educative

What a difference from my days at school where the only social networks were built in the playground or after school walking to the bus stop!

In the article Networks, Connections and Community: Learning with Social Software it was stated that social software could:

"offer learning opportunities to learner groups previously unable to
participate, eg some disabled, disengaged and remote learners not previously
learning in traditional classroom environments".

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement but I don't think a site like Facebook is the correct forum to do it in. With my students I found that they valued the social networking side although I would question the educational value of them! Certainly in an educational environment such as where I work where such sites are blocked, being able to use them would be impossible until the educational value could be proven to those who make such decisions.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Week 10 - Second Life - my thoughts

Second Life name: Ela Gravois

Yet another eye opener this week. I eventually managed to have a "play" in Second Life (after having to wait for my work to "unblock" the site - it was banned for use under the "Games/Personal relationships category).

What sort of communities are in Second Life?

From the many weird and wonderful individulas I saw I would imagine the types of groups available will be the same I think! From what I could see there are countless different categories of groups/communities in Second Life. I went to the Dresden Gallery (by accident) and saw there was a group belonging to that area but didn't really know what I was doing, I stumbled through the museum and didn't find anyone else there!

The short time that I met with some other FOC members we went to Tempura Island which I enjoyed, however I found the "chat" hard to follow ( I always struggle with on-line chat when there are lots of people involved). As someone who likes things to follow a logical order, I couldn't keep up with who was replying to who. In Help Island I also struggled with the jargon used by many of the others, like a foreign language sometimes!

I must admit I felt quite intimidated by and uncomfortable in the environment, especially when on Help Island someone kept following me and then told me they loved me after a few minutes! I quickly left that situation as I am not au fait with the etiquette yet and wasn't sure if they were just trying to be friendly or something else! :-)

On the second foray into SL I was thankful I had Kay with me as my buddy as we blundered through together! We had a laugh trying to change appearances (Kay losing her hair and some of her clothes in the process!)

I remember watching an episode of CSI New York a few months ago where it featured something similar to Second Life (can't remember if it actually was SL) and how someone had murdered another person in reality after getting obsessed with them in the virtual world. Does this really happen? I guess it could if you get immersed in this virtual reality.

Ideas on how you might operate as a facilitator for a community communicating on Second Life

As Leigh did I would imagine the best way to facilitate a community in Second Life would be to organise specific times and locations for "meetings". Obviously I have not had a sufficient opportunity to investigate Second Life enough to make definitive comments but I think that the availability of meeting rooms, areas would be a very interesting way to get members together.

Choosing a different location each time may give members a new perspective each time, however depending on the type of group, they may prefer to have a specified place to call their own? I could't get my microphone to work so I couldn't hear others properly, but I would imagine it would be a great experience to talk to other members in this virtual world.

Experiencing Second Life definitely made me think so much more about the many online communities there are. A whole new world. I can see how it could become addictive. When the academic year is over and I have more than 5 minutes spare I will give it another try and see what more I can find!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Week 9 - Wiki Collaborators

Yet again I have ventured into unchartered waters this week... Now we are asked to set up and facilitate an online mini conference! So how to go about this task?

Background information:

Kay Lewis and I work at the same educational institute and have been buddying up since this course began. Both of us are in the same boat of being relative newbies to wikis, blogs etc and so we have been encouraging each other along (thank goodness).

So when it came to this week we decided the best way to get over this next hurdle was to collaborate on the online mini conference. We thought that with joint facilitation we would not feel too isolated, and would have each other for support.

How did we come up with the idea? Well both of us have really struggled with the sheer amount of information to get through in this course. Blogs, wikis, discussions forums, postings, comments... how on earth could we keep it all together? (and ourselves sane!) Kay is a Buzan Licensed Instructor in Mind Mapping and someone had made a comment on her blog which made us think - would others be interested in this technique? It helps us organise our thoughts, how about the others in FOC 08 group?

So our idea for the mini conference is all about the topic of Mind Mapping, with the headline (TLC) Think, Learn & Create using Mind Maps.

Overview of mini conference

TLC (Think, Learn & Create) using Mind Maps.

This will take the form of an online discussion, followed by an online presentation (using Elluminate or Skype)

Jointly with Kay Lewis

This session is designed to provide participants with pointers to help gather and organise large amounts of data and provide a clear overview, analyse thoughts, identify problem solving ideas and generate more ideas with clarity, efficiency and accuracy.

Promotions for the session:
We hope to have the following presenters as guest speakers:
  • Jennifer Goddard, BBus (Admin), Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Master Trainer in Buzan Advanced Learning Techniques, inspirational Director of the Buzan Centre in Australia and New Zealand and co-founder of Mindwerx International.
  • Jennie Vickers, Buzan Licensed Instructor, (senior advanced coach), Masters of Management, Diploma in BA, BA Law (Hons), Leadership NZ alumnus.
Summary of the mini conference:
  • Have you had difficulty keeping up with the 'overload of information' during this course?
  • Got confused or lost by trying to view all the discussion threads?
  • Have you jotted down some thoughts and ideas you've read and heard but by the time you're ready to read and make your notes they make no sense?
If this sounds like you, this session may be just what you need. Mind maps are a dynamic way to capture significant points of information. They use a global format, allowing information to be displayed in the same way that our brain functions in many directions simultaneously.

Event time:
Friday 31 October 11 am (New Zealand Daylight Savings Time DST) (Note that NZ time is now UTC+13 hrs)

Discussion starters:
In the Course Mini Conference Discussion thread we have asked for ideas and questions from potential participants. We will monitor this prior to the online conference.

Technical support services:
For this mini conference we plan to use either:
  • Skype - Conference call (participants will need: internet access, preferably Broadband, webcam and headset with microphone preferably) OR
  • Elluminate through the 24/7 Discussion Forum

Participants will also need access to:

  • YouTube
  • Wikipedia/Wikieducator
  • Adobe Reader
  • Microsoft Office - MS Word, MS PowerPoint

Contingency plan:

There are several issues we need to consider:

  • Time of online event (may conflict with another event, respond to feedback given in the discussion thread)
  • If oversubscribed (maximum 24 participants at a Skype session), will we need to arrange alternative event/s
  • Loss of internet connection (either us as facilitators or the participants)
  • Recording of the event: In Skype History of conversation can be used.


We hope that this online mini conference will attract people from the FOC 08 course to help them with information overload and how to deal with it.

If you would like to post a question on our Wiki discussion area, please click here.