Viral Professional Development: June 2 - 22, 2008

The What and the Who of VPD

The What and the Who of VPD

by Jennifer Jones -
Number of replies: 35
My original blog post about VPD can be found here, for those of you interested in learning more about my particular observations. It explains more about what VPD is, or can be. I think the most important part of the post is the comments that followed. From there, you will find links to others who have discovered they are already doing VPD. You are probably are too, but haven't found a way to identify it yet. To continue the conversation, please share your thoughts with the group. Some of the activities below may be a good starting point:

1. After reading the blog post and others, share what pieces resonated with you and your current PD situation.
2. If you couldn't relate to anything discussed in the post or comments, please share your thoughts and why VPD may not be a viable option for you.
3. Follow some of the links in the comments, or perform your own search and share links you find to other VPD sites.
In reply to Jennifer Jones

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Geoff Cain -
I have a viral side to my work and a stodgy old familiar side. I have a traditional weekly workshop set up but few attend. For me, that is just fine. I have four a quarter on Blackboard that are always well attended and the rest of the workshops are sporadically attended. Workshops on PowerPoint and mind/concept mapping tend to do well. The real benefit to my workshops often is not the workshops themselves. I will send out a quarterly schedule of workshops and then a weekly reminder. I get some RSVPs but more often than not I get a message that says "I can't make it but can we get together to see what I can do about fixing some online assignments that are not working." It lets the faculty know why I am here and what I can do. On the other side of all that, my first year of workshops allowed me to identify my early adopters and those who are enthusiastic about teaching and solving problems with technology. I am finding small handfuls of experts around the campus. Occasionally I get these wonderful phone calls from one who will say "I just heard about this wiki thing! I need you to tell me everything I need to know!" I was walking down the hall at a conference and she came out of a presentation that second on web 2.0 and pointed at me and said "We need to make an appointment ASAP!" The viral side to my work is that I trust the enthusiasm and commitment of these faculty. I have tools of communication that I use for these faculty and the difference between what I think Jennifer does and what I am doing is that she is implementing the viral bit institutionally. I want to try this as well. In my fantasies I see myself putting together what I need to communicate on ning and then just wandering off to the golf course.

One thing that my traditional workshops are good at is fixing problems with faculty. My job would be easier if I only had to preach to the choir, but I have faculty who still think that a .pdf storage site is an online course (that the students get charged for!). I have faculty who think that because it is an online course, it is ok to collect all of their English papers and then give them back graded at the end of the quarter with little feedback throughout the course. I get these teachers in formal workshops because we are meeting face-to-face. They tend not to be comfortable with technology so they would not click on the link that connected them to an Elluminate session. They come to my face-to-face sessions because they are sometimes sent or they are there for the PAUs. Some of the ones who come are the ones who are the most frustrated with all the technology in the first place. So I need a place where I can talk to them about online pedagogy and how to make online learning work.

I am glad you asked for links because there is another online discussion about VPD coming up in July that I am interested in.
In reply to Geoff Cain

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Jennifer Jones -
I love that you are so aware of how your formal events can lead to informal learning. Sometimes you just have to get people to bite. You are doing great stuff there. One thing that is different in my work, is that we had no eLearning program before I came here last year. I don't have instructors PDF'ing their text books and calling it eLearning! Thanks for posting the link to Drape's project. I look forward to seeing how that goes as well.
In reply to Jennifer Jones

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -

90% of what I do to prepare physicians to be better teachers is f2f because that is their preference. That said I have had a Medical Education Blog for two years, my personal wiki which I use to share links post workshops has had over 3,000 hits and I recently started a new wiki that I'm hoping will replace my online Blackboard course. I'm negotiating with the powers that be to have wiki writing recognized as a scholarly activity equivalent to presenting at a conference with the hope that will involve more physicians in writing. I've had some success using Camtasia to record PowerPoint lectures and faculty are starting to do that. They are also sold on student response system clickers and PowerPoint games (one of our faculty is posting review games online). I'm the editor of the Active Learning Blog Carnival as more of a personal endeavour.

As a medical education department, we have 3-4 Elluminate sessions per year and are hoping to increase that number next year. We also have had moderately successful online book clubs.

I'm the early adopter in my university, earlier even than the IT department which is more cautious in its focus big grin but I'm also the early deserter. If it doesn't have enough bang, I abandon the tool because there are too many possibilities out there. I tried setting up a Ning group for physicians and it failed miserably because people didn't join (they saw the concept as too time consuming). Similar issues arose when I initially tried podcasting, Slideshare, VoiceThread and others.

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -
A cautionary tale I'm struggling with! I have been moderately successful in encouraging faculty to use wikis for committees (10 committees signed on) but the tool the university chose is very cumbersome (poor editor/no widgets) and committee secretaries refused to learn to use it. So people reverted back to email. I had hoped that using a wiki in a committee would increase the likelihood of classroom use because it was familiar instead familiarity seems to have bred contempt.
In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Sylvia Currie -
Deirdre's cautionary tale about people reverting back to email strikes a chord with me.

I'm sure there are many tales of failed attempts to create a group discussion among faculty to openly share, discuss, ask questions, and reciprocate by answering questions from others. In Deidre's story the tool itself was probably to blame. But even with the best possible tools and support this often doesn't work. People slip back into email mode so quickly, and often resort to one-on-one -- then others don't benefit from the question, or complaint, or whatever.

So there's obviously a knack for fostering VPD in an institution, and some great ideas are starting to emerge in this discussion. I imagine it starts with modeling -- walk the talk. Lead by example. Showcase your work. Write about your experiences -- what works what didn't. Encourage those hidden early adopters Jim mentions to get out in the open.

The College of the Rockies in British Columbia has an interesting program in place. If you attend a PD event that is funded by the insitution you have to publish a piece on the college website about the format, highlights, what you learned, etc. Nice!


In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Dr. Nellie Deutsch -
Deirdre,
I think some people are intimidated by the coding system used by some of the wikis. I have an account with wikispaces, pb wiki, wetpaint, google, wikieducator, and some others I lost count of. Each of the wikis has some merits and drawbacks. However, the main issue with using wikis is people's mindsets. Not everyone feels at ease with having another person change their hard work. I think a wiki can provide a wonderful opportunity for people to grow personally and professionally. I would first introduce the concept of sharing before going into a wiki.
In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by David Millar -
Deirdre, could you compare experiences with the wiki, and with threaded discussions like Ning in more detail? I think I remember viewing your Ning for educators, or was that Nellie Deutsch's?

BTW there are new free wiki sites that have widgets. See link in my Introduction message.
In reply to David Millar

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -

David, you are a member of the instructional designers Ning group with me. I like the idea of Ning, I actually have joined about 30 Ning groups but am disappointed at the lack of interaction in most of them. Ning also doesn't have a great notification system; if something new is posted to the main page, you have to log in to find out. I've just stopped checking many of the Ning sites because I am so busy.

I've recently created a couple of WetPaint free wiki sites. I like the idea that I can watch changes (receive emails) about certain pages. It has widgets and discussion tools on every page. The editor is ok, not great. It will turn off advertisements for educational wikis.

One of the most useful things about SCoPE is its email notices. I can ignore or read without logging in. I can choose not to attend certain discussions. SCoPE has one of the best editors around. As a result, I have consistently participated in SCoPE for two years.

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Dr. Nellie Deutsch -
Deirdre and David,
I have created a few public and private nings. You have to set your preferences on how you want to receive the notifications, just as you do on the Moodle. I use Moodle, nings, and wikis with my students because the Moodle does not seem to satisfy students need for social networks such as ning and facebook.

I agree with Deidre's statement about lack of interactions on some of the ning groups. However, I seem to have hit a cord on a discussion on free e-learning on learning town.

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Jennifer Jones -
Last week I started removing myself from several of my Ning memberships because I rarely participate in them. I think people need to have something besides the technology to engage them. There needs to be another connection. Just because people are interested in a common subject, doesn't mean they will necessarily form an active social network.
In reply to Jennifer Jones

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Heather Ross -
It really is interesting to look at some online communities and see them thriving while others either whither and die or never seem to get off the ground at all.

I think that having some kind of a face-to-face component (which you can do with many workplaces) helps, but not in every situation.

It would be great if there was some magic formula.
In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Jennifer Jones -
Thanks for posting all those wonderful resources! I would love to hear more about your struggles to get wiki-writing accepted as a scholarly activity. Wow! You're onto something when you talk about being an early deserter. It's very challenging trying to find the right communication tool for a loosely defined network. Ning has worked for my group, for the most part, but I've seen it bomb horribly. I've also never seen a wiki work for a sustained social network.
In reply to Jennifer Jones

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Jim Julius -
I resonated with much of your post on VPD, Jennifer.

As an institution we have been laying a good deal of groundwork over the last three years and are ready to turn some major corners on our faculty development model, especially as it relates to teaching with technology. Where it used to be heavily dependent on F2F workshops - highly mechanical, tech-oriented workshops - combined with 1-1 consultation, we are now ready to pull the plug on most workshops, point people to online resources for "tech training", and run an ongoing series of faculty learning opportunities ranging from more formal Faculty Learning Communities to more informal drop-in learning/sharing opportunities tied to various themes and topics ranging from the technical to the pedagogical. We also work closely with our campus center for learning and teaching and their various lunch series.

Our "pilot" has been in the use of clickers (classroom response system). We hold four lunches per semester and run a listserv for adopting faculty. This combination has been very successful with a technology that isn't all that easy to work with from a technical point of view, and has tremendous pedagogical possibilities when done well. I have been very careful to limit my advocacy of this technology to faculty who have expressed interest, and as much as possible put the current faculty in the limelight and have them share the hows and whys. This "controlled" model of VPD has helped our program to have a very high success rate, but VPD is really kicking in now, 2 years in, as we have new faculty adopting all the time whom I have never even met, because they are hearing about this technology not only from other faculty, but also their students!

One of the challenges of VPD is that often the early adopters, if they have adopted largely on their own, aren't necessarily highly visible, nor are necessarily the best fit for helping other faculty who are interested but less adept. One other big help for us has been a grant-funded summer institute which is now in its fourth year. Faculty participants come from a variety of disciplines and, while required to have a basic level of technical proficiency, are rarely "wizards." Thus, when they present their projects a year or so later to other faculty, their stories are very accessible - they don't come across as having learned things or accomplished things that a "regular faculty" couldn't hope to do.


In reply to Jim Julius

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Jennifer Jones -
I love hearing from someone who's been at it for 2 years and sees evidence of success! I have a bit of the opposite problem with my early adopters. They are very visible on campus, so admin and even some other faculty just brush them aside as early adopters and want to focus more attention on the others. I prefer to keep pushing things to the early adopters and letting them share!
In reply to Jennifer Jones

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Jeffry Curtis -
"They are very visible on campus, so admin and even some other faculty just brush them aside as early adopters and want to focus more attention on the others."

Hi Jen,

Interesting phenomenon eh?

All are told to achieve excellence, yet as they strive towards their goals they get bad vibes. It does not always give warm fuzzies for those involved.
In reply to Jeffry Curtis

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Jennifer Jones -
As long as you guys know I'll keep being your champion! It is interesting to hear how different it is on other campuses. At least we're lucky to have admin interested in technology and funding adoption. We just need to convince them of the merits of giving it to those who want to use it. I think one of the best ways to keep you guys funded for as much as you want, is for you all to visibly distribute your knowledge.
In reply to Jim Julius

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Philip Watland -
Hi there,

I thought I might make a post to this forum in support of the idea and question regarding VPD and pedagogy.

It seems that much of what is being shared relates to technology and its use.

In my view of VPD, there needs to be, in the first instance, a shift in understanding and agreement that pedagogical interventions need to be thought through as the students experience in the class room is quite different than online. This might sound straight forward to this group but in my limited experience this seems to be the biggest challenge.

I would be interested to hear more about the pedagogical aspect of VPD.

Philip
In reply to Philip Watland

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Jennifer Jones -
Philip, are you referring to the pedagogy of viral professional development, or using VPD to teach classroom pedagogy? The experiences I share with VPD are mostly referencing instructor PD around eLearning. We do actually spend quite a bit of time talking about classroom pedagogy as well. It is common for instructors to want to fully replicate a face to face classroom when they transition to eLearning. We begin to discuss the differences, but this leads to great inquiry about the effectiveness of existing classroom instruction practices. Many of our instructors have changed the way they teach in the classroom, the more they discover learner-centered approaches, which may, or may not be facilitated through technology.
In reply to Jennifer Jones

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Philip Watland -
Hi Jennifer,

Sorry for the confusion ... I was not thinking about the pedagogy of VPD.

Rather the point that I wanted to make was that VPD needs, I think, to consider pedagogy as part of the discussion with instructors in situations where classroom instruction is considered the gold standard and that we need to replicate the f2f experience online. On reading the postings, it seemed that there was less discussion of VPD as a vehicle to do this.

Once we get past the idea of replicating the f2f experience and looking at eLearning as a different learning experience then I think we have a good bases to start a discussion on technology.

Philip

In reply to Philip Watland

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Jeffry Curtis -
Hi Philip,

"Rather the point that I wanted to make was that VPD needs, I think, to consider pedagogy as part of the discussion with instructors in situations where classroom instruction is considered the gold standard and that we need to replicate the f2f experience online."

With all due respect, IMHO the "gold standard" is not so golden anymore. How we address this with VPD?

Just a consideration. I don't want to play the pendant with words here.

J
In reply to Jeffry Curtis

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Philip Watland -
Hi Jeff,

I agree and I did not say that this was my personal view. In the College where I work there is a long tradition of f2f classroom instruction. When moving to online, for the most part, in discussions with instructors this is the position that online is contrasted with.

Philip
In reply to Philip Watland

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -
I'm in complete agreementwith you Phillip. I've seen too many badly thought out courses online that didn't promote thinking, too many "wow look what I can do with this technology" courses that didn't teach students to replicate tasks. This statement is also true for F2F of course. According to Ken Bain, the best university teachers ask themselves four questions:

  1. What should my students be able to do intellectually, physically, or emotionally as a result of what they learn in my class?
  2. How can I best help and encourage them to develop those abilities and the habits of heart and mind to use them?
  3. How can my students and I best understand the nature, quality and progress of their learning?
  4. How can I evaluate my efforts to foster their learning?

If you want to see my answers to these questions see http://medicaleducation.wetpaint.com/page/Classroom+Teaching+Techniques

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Philip Watland -
Hi Deirdre,

Thank you for the informative resource! A number of great ideas and ways of presenting them in a straight forward practical way that will be very helpful in my work.

I think that for VPD (as I understand it) I also need to be aware that "wow look what I can do with this technology" is only one way of assisting a more effective use of technology in online courses.

All the best

Philip
In reply to Philip Watland

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -

"wow look what I can do with this technology"  is useful for getting initial buyin to use a tool. I don't like this approach to teaching people how to use technology because it tends to impress people without improving their skills. My biggest frustration with tech people doing training in this area is coming out of a session with no idea how I can do what I just saw.

So I'm an advocate of constructionism (not constructivism), which I define as the art of teaching people how to create their own.

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Heather Ross -
I was at a conference recently where a speaker talked about a few applications and what you can do with them. Unfortunately, he was wrong about some of the things that you can do with them. I fear that this happens a lot at conferences and instructors come back to their "tech people" and ask "How do I do what he/she said I can do". Then they get frustrated when it turns out that they can't do those things. This only ends up discouraging these instructors.

I'm not sure how best to counteract this problem, but I would think that some sort of ongoing support network (like SCoPE or one that is workplace-based) may offer some assistance. To me, this is a big part of VPD.
In reply to Heather Ross

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers -
Hi Heather,
It would be good to have a "VPD SCOPE Tech Resource of frequently asked questions" and people could deposit in categoes -- and revise like a wikipedia.
Jo Ann
In reply to Heather Ross

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Jeffrey Keefer -
Wow, really? I have never encountered this before (probably never knew enough or tried enough to encounter it). Was this brought to the person's attention, or did it just end with people eager to try an impossibility?
In reply to Heather Ross

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -

I've had similar experiences and am unsure if the speaker really said .... or if the participant misunderstood. I think this illustrates one of my frustrations with conferences that don't provide some kind of recording of the event. My memory for the spoken word is terrible.

On the other hand, I've heard people say .... and they have been out to lunch or inexperienced in the tool they are referring to. This can be very difficult to counteract, especially if they are viewed as experts.

I've also had IT people say "yes, but we haven't enabled that ability on our system." They then make some statement to the effect "it is too confusing for instructors to use, so you can't use it either."

Technology, I have a love/hate relationship with the reality as opposed to the ideal.

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Sylvia Currie -
This spring my colleague June Kaminski and I facilitated workshops on First Nations Pedagogy for Online Learning. Our goal was to better understand how we can support educators, curriculum developers, edtech staff, educational leaders, etc in the design and implementation of online learning experiences for Aboriginal learners.

During one session with a very creative bunch we discussed some of the problems with our educational system -- the imposed time constraints on courses, the organization of curriculum into consumable units, courses that disappear off the server (along with all the students' work) at the end of the semester, etc. We also talked about the lack of access to tools and support educators need to create rich learning opportunities. As we shared our stories about firewalls, labs and support for nothing but Microsoft products, etc. (the typical gripe session!), one instructor from a remote community said "Your first problem is that you have an IT department".

This comment has stayed with me. Essentially this individual was suggesting that:
1. You can provide better support by distributing it differently.
2. The frustrations educators are experiencing are directly related to the increase in new opportunities they learn about (from colleagues ...VPD approve)
3. The technologies educators and learners need access to are not necessarily those licensed/provided by the institution.

If we haven't experienced it directly we've certainly all heard stories about battles with IT departments, frustrations with administrators who are locked into one LMS, and so on. Does VPD have a role in changing the way our institutions are structured?
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Jennifer Jones -
So much of VPD has to do with culture. Culture can help promote or inhibit it. VPD also can help change culture. I'm seeing evidence of this at our institution. We have high level administrators who want to be recognized as innovators and are supporting technology adoption. They are putting pressure on IT to make changes to help support instruction.
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -

Wow, have you captured some of my frustration with IT departments well. We are purchasing a new wiki tool at our campus and I was told that editing tools were a low priority compared with the ability to synchronize with other university systems. Renegade that I am I created a wetpaint wiki instead, but that isn't an option for faculty who need class lists imported and firewalls maintained. If I hear another IT person refer to me dismissively as someone on the cutting edge, tongueout.

As for VPD, I consider myself to be miles from cutting edge. It wasn't until colleagues showed me all the things other wikis did that I started evaluating ours unfavourably. I just thought all wiki code was a pain to use (I cut my ed tech teeth on hypercard, I'll put up with a lot).

We have been very successful bringing clickers to the campus because it was a faculty driven initiative with faculty saying this is how we want to use this tool. This built into a tidal wave and all large classrooms are equipped with clickers.

My apologies to all the IT people here. The very fact that you are here says loads. I have invited IT and media people from across the province on numerous occasions and they have never attended a single SCoPE session.

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by parker owens -
I'm a tech person and I regularly READ scope, but don't have time to craft responses. I get a lot out of it and I thank you.

I am in the 'IT Dept', so I thought I'd throw my 2 cents in. There are often reasons why the IT dept puts the kibosh on various technology. For instance, some blogs and wikis are not accessible, and if a faculty requires their use, it opens up the university to getting sued. This is something faculty rarely consider. In another case, Second Life was considered, but in the end we could not support it. Second Life issues updates almost weekly, and there is no way we could configure a lab to make this work out. Now, you could leave it to the individual students to download the software each time, but the rights they are given may or may not let the application be installed. If they have problems, who will they call? IT, and we don't have the staff to support it. Additionally, Second Life requires extra hardware, microphones and video cards, etc. And then there is faculty training...

So I just wanted to poke my head in here and say that we are not trying to ruin your attempts at using cutting edge technology, there are reasons why it won't work sometimes. If you really want to use something, there is no reason why you can't, just know that if the official policy is that you can't use it in your class, and you do, you could be sued.
In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Jeffry Curtis -
IMHO this is our obstacle. Almost 40 years ago I read this and things are the same as they have always been. And will continue to be. (~!|

"There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all of those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries - and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have actual experience of it."

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, The Prince

In reply to Jeffry Curtis

Re: The What and the Who of VPD

by Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers -
Hi Curtis and all,
Though your quote rings true, change is inevitable. Instead of asking, for example, which side of change does each of us choose -- to move on or to stay, or perhaps, an alternative, do we experience more things in order to understand and move forward, perhaps, we could ask ourself, who am I as a particle part in the change wave? I like to think myself as having my own responsibility in the whole of what is happening. There are many changes that are happening already and many people who are making them. I ask myself -- where do I want to put my energy and talents, how do I find the will and inspriation to contribute what I am able to bring to the whole, and the wisdom to let go of what is not working and the faith to embrace anew. In my life time, there have been so many changes, and in the future, it is the wise use of technology within diverse disciplines and contexts, that I envision the challenge. Thanks for all the super posts that people have contributed. Jo Ann
In reply to Jennifer Jones

Re: discussion of this topic at blendedlear.ning.com

by David Millar -

Nellie Deutsch is being modest - her blendedlear.ning.com forum was discussing this topic earlier this year. Some posts are still appearing there.