Monday, November 24, 2008

FOC 08 Final Post...

Well, FOC 08 is over. I made it!

At the beginning I really thought I wouldn't. It was just so over my head. I was scared literally from day one in July. Looking at the wikieducator site for the first time, having to set up a blog, figure out what RSS Feeds were, and then try and read what seemed like hundreds of introductions from people from all over the world who seemed to know so much more than me. I was terrified, what had I got myself into this time?

The very week the course began, I had just heard my job was on the line - of the three of us in our little section at the tertiary institute I work at, one of us was going to be made redundant, so my motivation/interest was at an all time low. As it turned out one of the others took voluntary redundancy, but with that came the added stress of having to take over subjects I had never taught before as well as my own (for other teachers reading this you can appreciate the extra prep now that was required etc.) To be frank it was a nightmare...

Luckily I had Kay Lewis to help me along. Kay also works at the same institute but in a different area. We decided to buddy up from Day 1 as we were both feeling very out of our depth. If it wasn't for Kay I probably would have pulled out in about week 3.

So in this very public arena - thanks Kay. You were my rock over this semseter, I really could not have done this without your gentle nudging to meet each week to see what had to be done, or what was coming up. I know in the end I also helped you along too, but you were the initial booster to get me working on this. My heartfelt thanks and appreciation Kay :-)

What have I got out of FOC 08?

I fully appreciate now why there is the need for a paper about facilitation of online communities - at the beginning I did not appreciate really what a facilitator was. After the event I facilitated with Kay however, I certainly did! Appreciating that difference between the teaching role that I currently hold with the very different facilitation role that I have witnessed Leigh hold (and what I briefly did for a scary 30 minute period!) has been an eye opener.

I said as a comment in Joy's blog that:
"the practice was so much better than any theory could have done. What better way
to find out what a facilitator does than to try and be one!"
That says it all really. Leigh really wanted us to appreciate the difference between teachers, facilitators and moderators and having to do it in reality really was the best way for us to learn I believe. The terrifying thought and anticipation of being the facilitator was, on reflection, much worse than the reality (even though as I have already said I could have been much better prepared).

What else did I learn? The different online communities such as Second Life, Facebook and LinkedIn, blogospheres and online forums such as Travelblog have opened a new world of opportunity to me. Ideas fly through my head now as to what I could do for my students in my current blended delivery classes, (and for the fully online students I hope to teach in the future).

I know my downfall through the paper was not reading enough of others blogs, making comments and creating a network even after FOC 08 has finished. However I have endeavoured to comment on some other blogs over the last couple of weeks (after gentle prodding from Leigh). I know I have not done enough in this area, my only excuse being lack of time to get on to it, focussing on "what had to be done", over "what would be good to do if only there was more time".

Thanks finally to Leigh. I know I have not been the easiest student to "facilitate". He would ring my cell phone and I would hardly ever be in a position to talk to him! Either in class or unable to answer because I was in the car picking up one of the kids, or in the middle of the supermarket with my 20 month old in tow, not a great time to talk as you can imagine :-) The lovely detailed messages he would leave me however, making sure I knew what was expected of me in the coming weeks, really did keep me focussed. I think you did a great job Leigh, from someone who really wasn't that motivated at the beginning, your help and guidance turned me around!

Now I wait to hear if I have "passed" this paper to add to the three others I have already completed towards my Graduate Certificate in Applied eLearning. If I get this one I only have two more papers to go. At least then I can say I'm over half way there now.

For those who may be continuing on this eLearning journey: Kay, Joy etc, I'll see you next year!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Week 13 - Facilitating an online event - Reflection

The online event is over - phew!

For the second assignment for FOC 08 paper we had to facilitate an online event. Kay Lewis and I decided to collaborate on this. Our event occurred on Friday Nov 7th 11.30 - 12 noon (NZ time). The topic was Think, Learn, Create (TLC) using Mind Mapping. We used Elluminate for the venue. We had discussed using Skype but in the end decided Elluminate was an easier venue and could be recorded - although Leigh had to help us with that one.

The chat recording shows how that part of it went (I was the Staff Member). You can also hear the voice recording of the event.

Reflections - how did it go?

I found the experience quite stressful - but mostly for personal reasons! Having been away on a UCOL student trip the four days previous to the event, I felt completely unprepared on the Friday morning when I joined Kay in her office to make final preparations. I had only arrived back late the evening before, and was still exhausted from taking my tourism and travel students around Taupo and Rotorua, visiting and experiencing what these major destinations have to offer in terms of attractions and activities. Photos on my Facebook site will show the fun we had! A definite perk of my job I have to say!!!

Anyway, back to the event. The worst part for me was when our guest speaker dropped out at literally the last minute, (due to her internet crashing from home). This meant that our whole schedule changed dramatically from both Kay and I being facilitators, to Kay having to become the guest speaker. We had a plan which had just got thrown out the window!

So thrown into a tailspin we reverted to our contingency plan of Kay being the guest speaker but we did not think it through far enough in that Kay then was not able to show her facilitation skills...

Despite all the added stress, in the end on reflection I realise I did enjoy the facilitation side of it. It was good to let the "guest speaker" (Kay) take over the content side of the event, leaving me to be the "host". I almost felt like an MC at a conference or wedding; welcoming members, latecomers, providing comment to the chat, trying to keep control of the schedule etc.

I would like to say the difference between the role of a teacher and a facilitator was made abundantly clear to me through this exercise. I had no real knowledge of Mind Mapping (ie I do not consider I have sufficient knowledge to teach the subject) however I was able to facilitate the session (I hope to a relatively good degree) - making sure the members knew I was there, keeping the session on track etc. A facilitator needs to know the objectives/outcomes required of the session. A facilitator is there to guide (control is too strong a word) the session. I hope I achieved these requirements of a facilitator. But on reflection there was so much more I should have done...

What could have been done differently?

I wish we had thought of doing a dry (practice) run before the real thing actually occurred. It may have prepared us more. Although Elluminate is not exactly difficult to navigate, I needed Leigh to help with the recording etc. I had listened in on other events to see how things worked. Kay had managed to sort out the mind map picture on the Elluminate whiteboard which I have to admit looked really impressive when you logged on, (picture shown on right), but we were really not sure what was going to happen once people showed up - and of course apart from Leigh, no one did for a while. Leigh invited others in his networks to come and so some did, thank goodness! Lesson learned, the amount of promotion we did could have been a lot more. No excuses - we thought that people on the FOC course would come, if they'd read the Wikieducator page, why wouldn't they??? Leigh in his most recent post commented on this very point.

"It is a false idea to think that "if we build it they will come".
As I said, an important lesson learned. Promotion is key and not to be taken for granted!

As a facilitator I think you really need to take the "bull by the horns" so to speak. I remember thinking about half way through that perhaps I should stop Kay during her talk at more frequent intervals to allow for questions, but I thought that would have appeared rude! I hate people who interrupt me when I'm in full flow so did not want to do the same to Kay! However I know that as a result it became more of a lecture instead of a facilitation session. As the facilitator I realise it was not my responsibility to answer the questions which cropped up during the chat session but I know now I should have made Kay aware of these questions as soon as they arose instead of letting her finish her session first. Lack of confidence would be my reasoning here, would I appear inept to the group if I interrupted the "guest speaker" or would I make her feel as if she hadn't been paying enough attention?

As soon as the event ended we immediately acknowledged to each other that we should have decided at the start that Kay should talk about one branch of the mind map at a time, then stop for discussion, questions etc. instead of continuing on without a break.

One point I will note and it is a fault on my part - I still struggle to multi task! I can do it as a wife and mother but I've found I cannot follow chat conversations and listen to someone else talking at the same time! I was so intent on following the chat, thinking about when or if I should speak, looking to see if new people had entered or left the session, that I heard probably only half of what Kay said as the guest speaker.

Do facilitators need to be able to follow every aspect of a session? No I don't think so. As a teacher I am used to control of my class, and I swiftly intervene if there is a part I become aware I am not in control of. I realise now that facilitators cannot possibly follow all the paths that an online community could take. Blogs, chat, email, wikis, I think it would take an enormous effort to keep up with every single one. I think a facilitator has to learn to trust their group - more than a teacher would - to let them find their own learning paths with just some guidance from you.

Finally I would like to apologise to the others in the FOC 08 group whose sessions I was not able to attend. The timing could not have been worse for me in terms of work taking precedence over study. Being nowhere near a computer for those 4 days was unfortunate but unavoidable. I hear that many of the sessions were well worth attending and I will endeavour to listen to as many recordings as I can over the next couple of weeks.


I learned that facilitating an online event is no piece of cake, that's for sure! It takes preparation, skill and quite a lot of multi tasking. It involves promotion, patience and the ability to step back and let the session members find their own path. Guidance is the key, not control.

Would I be comfortable facilitating another online session - yes probably! Would I be more prepared for one - yes definitely! :-)