Creating Seminar Landscapes (aka summaries)

Creating Seminar Landscapes (aka summaries)

by Nick Kearney -
Number of replies: 3
"the most important thing is to go beyond everyone just posting and sharing."

I think this is a vital insight, if there is one criticism I would level at this and other similar spaces it is that often we stay at that stage, we share, we comment, we may even enlighten each other, but we often leave it there, rather than attempting to move further and draw conclusions. The attitude, I would hazard, is that we feel each can and should draw their own conclusions, and we are often diffident and tentative (how we love those modal verbs) and avoid clear declarations, but I wonder if that is not to waste opportunities. The process of trying to draw conclusions might be a positive way of making sense of the rich variety of perspectives most threads on Scope throw up.

The literature on dialogue, and online facilitation, has often emphasized the "weaver" role. This is perhaps statutory in paid courses; the tutorial obligation to make sense (albeit by hook or by crook) and provide answers is often an institutional requirement. In a voluntary context such as this, the idea may be anathema, running counter to the collegiate atmosphere, that warm buzz. But it might be that this kind of activity would be useful. Perhaps Scope could promote critical friendship.

So, a suggestion: each of the Scope seminars is led as usual by the people that proposed it, but we add the role of one (or more) independent weavers, whose role is to periodically summarize the discussion, identify salient ideas, suggest tags etc. This role should be external, in the sense that it is played by people who though part of Scope, have nothing to do with the seminar in question, and perhaps by people with thick skins, as weaving is not an easy task: things get left out, emphases get changed, and this can provoke controversy. However that process might be enriching.

Nick Kearney

(Edited by Sylvia Currie - original submission Tuesday, 31 August 2010, 01:35 AM Split this topic from the thread SCoPE & Web 2.0

In reply to Nick Kearney

Creating Seminar Landscapes (aka summaries)

by Sylvia Currie -
I feel like we're coming close to articulating what we want in these "summaries". Looking to the literature on online facilitation the authors of Facilitating Online Learning: Effective Strategies for Moderators (excellent book!) suggest portraying a landscape as a way to help participants build meaning from their discussions. Although the focus of that technique is to advance dialogue, it could also apply to creating summaries.

As Nick suggests, the person in this role may need to have a thick skin. But probably key here is that the weaver suspend judgment, and that really is a quality of good facilitation. In that sense could the seminar facilitator also take on the summarizing role? Usually the challenge is TIME, and also it can be a lonely process. Ideally the participants would contribute in some way to the outcome resource. It would be useful to identify some facilitation processes that would draw out reflective/summary type contributions from the participants.

Does this summary resource need to take a certain shape? A consistent format (template) would probably make the process more efficient. Parts of it can be automated (participation data, feeds from Marginalia tags, Web 3.0 as Colby suggests--need to explore that!). We've had a few attempts at creating summary wikis alongside seminars, and what I've heard from SCoPE members is that they are VERY useful for latecomers to a discussion, or for the time-challenged. So an evolving summary makes more sense than something that is done at the end of an event.

Here are a few examples of summary wikis that might serve as starting points:

In reply to Nick Kearney

Re: Creating Seminar Landscapes (aka summaries)

by Cindy Xin -


Sylvia has prompted me to provide an example of using Marginalia to write weaving messages. I thought I would use this message to demonstrate one way of doing this.

There are only two messages posted under this thread, but still many good points are raised about the importance and functions of weaving/summary messages. In particular, I have marked a few points jumped at me, commented on them, and quoted them in the following using Marginalia. (You may see these annotations by selecting "All annotations" option on the Marginalia drop down menu at the upper right corner of the screen.)

Nick Kearney wrote,

add the role of one (or more) independent weavers

Cindy follows: e.g., one collects all the resources mentioned, one summarizes the emerging themes, one identifies the disagreements, and one summarizes the summaries.

Nick Kearney wrote,

This role should be external

Cindy says: However, an internal discussant maybe easier to recruit as a weaver. She is likely more aware and sensitive to the context and dynamics of the discussion.

Sylvia Currie wrote,

an evolving summary makes more sense than something that is done at the end of an event

Cindy says: Agree! Such summary messages advance a dialogue rather than just end it.

As you can see this is a quick way of drawing on the salient points in a discussion and putting them together in a single message. I could further make connections between these points, draw inferences, and raise more questions for further discussion, but I'm going to stop here. I hope this gives you an idea on how to leveraging Marginalia in facilitating the writing of weaving messages, an often difficult and time-consuming yet important task as we all know.

In reply to Cindy Xin

Re: Creating Seminar Landscapes (aka summaries)

by Sylvia Currie -
Cindy, thanks so much for modeling how to write weaving messages using Marginalia. I plan to try out this method as weekly summaries in the next seminar that starts tomorrow: Humanizing the Online Experience 2 with Jesai Jayhmes. I hope everyone will join us for the seminar launch using CoroCall, high quality videoconferencing at 18:00 GMT.

Fall semester start up took over my life but I do plan to get back to this Reflections and Next Steps discussion to prepare a summary. As usual you have all offered some excellent feedback and suggestions for the future of SCoPE!