Facilitating random people in #edcmooc

My purpose is  to continue my discussion about network facilitation. During the last weeks I have tried to do some facilitating operations 🙂 in edcmooc. We have a lot of people there and they come from 154 countries and and I cannot imagine their motivations or interests.  I use my photo of a tree which grows by developing branches to many directions. It could be a metaphor of edcmooc.

CTAworkThere are numerous little groups in the discussion forums or around the blogs. The members move from one group to another following their own interests.

The main groups could be for instance interest to teach better or interest to develop games or understand future perspectives or …

It is called identity-based interest which is rather permanent in adulthood. Some people may follow their friends and have human bond -based orientation. Depending on their educational background participants may have academical interests or very practical ones. This description illustrates my header facilitating random people. I cannot know whom I help or confuse more in this complex emerging environment.

How to model networked learning through openness, transparency of my thinking and connecting with others?  It is experiential, and to truly understand the power of networked learning and openness, students need to participate in a highly collaborative connected culture.  So create successful learning environment for needed experiences.

Could gamification help us to develop random facilitation? Here is what Tarmo Toikkanen says in his blog.

As people find the course, they need to be onboarded. They don’t yet know if they are interested, so it needs to be immediately obvious what the benefits might be and how to start. As people sign up for the course, the scaffolding phase begins. Its goal is to minimize the time that people feel they are not really productive or understanding what’s going on. Some have called this unhappy period the suck phase (since it sucks to do that). So the suck phase needs to be minimized by providing various scaffolding, support, tips, aids, and help, so that people can quickly become familiar and productive with the course and start gaining new knowledge and understanding. After this, the course needs to make it clear how students can achieve mastery, meaning in this case how they can complete the course, excel in it, and even go beyond the minimum results.

I also liked the Different people, different ways of fun – paragraph in the same blog. Some people want hard fun and some easy fun, some serious fun and still one: people fun. There is a flower image describing these options. So, what are you seeking for in edcmooc? What about the quality of scaffolding? It cannot be quite clear and work similarly for all participants. The facilitators are not robots or are we? Is there any difference between human and robotic tutelage? Do we sometimes work in a Teacherbot-like-manner? We copy the guides from the navigation side and say: Yes you can. Yes you may. Be brave and just do it. When a human says it, it is human 🙂

One point which I consider important is recognising the critical moments in one’s learning. This is Christine’s comment in a discussion forum. I copy it because I can trust her words more than my English.

There are quite a lot of things I don’t get, and only some that I feel inclined to want to know about. That point comes, I think, when there is a good reason to want to. So before that it’s probably important to have exposure to some technologies that you’re never going to use; when a desire to use a particular form comes up, at least you may have heard of it.

The trick is not to let it make you feel inadequate. I now recognise that feeling when it starts to arrive, and have learned to talk myself out of it and live with some uncertainty and ‘messiness’. Things will unravel and then can be pulled back together.

Those sentences help me to calm down and continue my random facilitation 🙂 Thanks


Facilitating #edcmooc

Elearning and Digital Cultures, EDCMOOC, is taking place for the third time. And I am there, participating again. I was very pleased when Christine Sinclair sent me an email and asked if I could act as a Community Teaching Assistant, CTA, this time. Her request was easy to accept because  I had enjoyed the course very deeply. I recognised there similar pedagogy which I had developed while working as an online teacher. I felt at home there.

Another CTA, Rajiv Bajaj, gives basic information about the participants in his blog post ‘interesting statistics‘. The course is really global, 35 percent of the participants coming from emergent countries and the number of countries is over 150. The education background varies from none to doctors. Participants’ interests vary more than I can imagine.

The curriculum is open and participants choose what to do. Materials are offered for every week with varying themes and discussion forums are in use. Writing blogs were recommended and the course has its own Twitter hashtag. Blogs are aggregated into daily News. For voluntary image competition the course uses Flickr. The studies are distributed and not followable, choosing one’s own way is the key. What can facilitating be in these circumstances? I can answer only partly. Directs questions for help can be answered or commented and CTAs are needed to help in the Hangouts.

But what could be real facilitating on a mooc like this? Christine has published a blog post about ‘who is the teacher?‘ and she gives an answer: teacher cares about the participants, teacher cares what happens during the course. The post is written for the first edcmooc, but it still helps in a similar way. The expert can say it shortly. The students do the work and they understand that so it must go. Peer learning is very important. The participants who register into edcmooc already know very much about the learning process during MOOCs.

What can be said about networked mentoring?
The term is young and its definition will probably evolve as what we do becomes fleshed out through action. For me this is my third time working as an Expert participant, Teaching assistant and now Community TA.  It is possible to define that  network mentoring means the direct and indirect support of individual in their learning through the affordances made available through networking technologies.

More specific examples are listed below (this was begun in some mooc, I copied from Google Drive creative commons)
1. Write blog comments.  Check regularly the aggregated posts. Comment on individual student posts.  You can provide students with rich feedback and a richer sense of audience (I hope I could 🙂 )  If you blog yourself, add its feeds to the reader so that others can find it.
2. G+ community. Feel free to join this space. We invite you to share links and resources in this space, lead or reply to discussion topics, answer students’ questions,  participate in impromptu Hangouts or act in other ways to support the learning of students and the entire community
3. Hangout or Blackboard. Help the instructors to find students’ needs. I left this to the other CTAs who are much more skillful in technological issues and quicker in speaking and understanding English
4. Twitter #edcmooc, please monitor, engage in converstations with participants, share links and resources, offer support when possible. To do it efficiently you may consider apps such as Tweetdeck  which allow close monitoring of hashtags. Rajiv recommended this.
5. other ideas: create screencasts, videos or other media that might assist in a student’s learning generally or to answer specific questions. You could post these to the G+ community or Twitter.  Create your own blog and participate in course assignments, reflect on weekly sessions and or share resources. Curate content  in other tools (Diigo).

The previous text is more like a to-do-list. Actually it is similar to the course guides given to all participants and many experienced students fill these recommendations without being named as CTAs.

I am most interested in the last guide which is as follows:

In general, model networked learning through openness, transparency of your thinking and connecting with others, This process is experiential and to truly understand the power of networked learning and openness students need to participate in a highly collaborative connected culture.  Create successful learning environment for learning.

If I could do that I could have the identity of a network facilitator. I began my work by conceptualising human presence in the previous post (and many others actually) but it is challenging to go further. Coursera’s guidelines for responding to students are obvious to experienced teachers but they had one good point: Engaging students on questions that leverage your strengths or speak to your personal interests will make your time as a CTA much more enjoyable. Perhaps I have been too cautious this time and only followed the discussions, been afraid of speaking about my interests. I am – as licentiate in psychology- very conscious about this advice:  “feed the community, not your ego”.


This post is long and I feel tired of using the English language, I must go to the kitchen for lunch. Have a good day!

Please take a cup of coffee. This mug is my daughter’s – she sent it into Facebook morning coffee conversations today and I got the permission to use it.

Mug humour is something which we will remember  #edcmooc3 – and Whitney Farmer’s parrot taking away her earring in the first Hangout.


Brookfield about facilitating discussions

Facilitating discussion is one side of being an expert participant. This post will deal with this theme.

A facilitator’s job is to help to manage a process of discussion. While an expert’s role is to offer advice, particularly about the content of a discussion, the facilitator’s role is to help with how the discussion is proceeding. The facilitator’s responsibility is to address the journey, rather than the destination. I found some excellent guides in the web pages of Stephen Brookfield and use them here. What can be said about facilitating discussions?

Participating in discussion does not necessarily mean talking a lot or showing everyone else that you know or have studied a lot. Good discussion participation involves people trying to build on, and synthesize, comments from others, and on showing appreciation for others’ contributions. It also involves inviting others to say more about what they are thinking. This is the same message as Cris Crissman gave in Twitter: the video clip of Diana Laurilland. One of the main messages every teacher should be conscious of. The teacher is a learner, from year to year.

Brookfield gives some advice for quiet moments in discussions:

  • Ask a question or make a comment that shows you are interested in what another person says.
  • Ask a question or make a comment that encourages another person to elaborate on something they have already said.
  • Bring in a resource (a reading, web link, video) not covered in the syllabus but adds new information or perspectives to our learning.
  • Make a comment that underscores the link between two people’s contributions & make this link explicit in your comment.
  • Post a comment on the course forum that summarizes the conversations so far and/or suggests new directions and questions to be explored in the future.
  • Make a comment online indicating that you found another person’s ideas interesting or useful. Be specific as to why this was the case.
  • Contribute something that builds on, or springs from, what someone else has said. Be explicit about the way you are building on the other person’s thoughts.
  • Make a comment that prompts the participants to examine discussion dynamics.
  • Find a way to express appreciation for the enlightenment you have gained from the discussion. Try to be specific about what it was that helped you understand something better.

This last advice is my favorite: When you think it’s appropriate, ask the group for a moment’s silence to slow the pace of conversation to give you, and others, time to think. – I always miss this in synchronous sessions. I am too slow to participate in them.

Is it possible to act using these guides without being an expert of the subject? Could we plan a robot which acts like a good facilitator? I don’t believe we could. A robot could make one question but it would not understand the answer and the thread could stop. Facilitating discussions on a high level of expertise, it does not mean following advices blindly. To become an expert takes 10 000 hours or ten years of experience with reflective practice.

I have to forget the hypothesis about expertise based on social motivation to networking, or should I? Is it something else than these thoughts which I borrowed from Stephen Brookfield?