Talking the Walk: Narratives of OLC: March 22-April 02, 2006

Understanding Collaboration

Understanding Collaboration

by Sylvia Currie -
Number of replies: 34
Paul started us off with some serious homework! :-) I've decided to go back to some of my first experiences with collaborative learning as an online student and I'm working on a description. This is taking me back 10 years so it's a real test of my memory!

One thing I've noticed over the years is that the word "collaboration" is tossed around quite casually. I remember in a workshop on active learning strategies an instructor described collaboration in her online course design like this:

And I will include a discussion forum where students can collaborate on course content

This is a problem! Have others encountered this? Maybe we should take some time to work through what collaboration is, and what it isn't.
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Understanding Collaboration

by chris macrae -

I am obsessed by improving all our competences at collaboration because back in 1984 I co-authored the first "death of distance" future historty (a genre now also popularised by Friedman's world is flat). According to our story: the 1984-2024 generation worldwide will be challenged by unprecedented change revolutions. We timelined 7 waves each capable of improving everyone's lives and livelihoods or ending sustainability of future generations -see eg http://globalcharters.blogspot.com for waves or http://clubofdc.blogspot.com for some scripts from 30 years of archives of entrepreneurial revolution started by my father at The Economist in 1976

Entrepreneurial actually stems from the French take back - as in the ultimate collaboration revolutions where societies take back liberte and egalite

To the extent that collaboration may get diluted (and boy does the word competition too) , we could list some different contexts. If social revolutions are the biggest, we can concretely anchor collaboration in projects http://project30000.blogspot.com or indeed in visioning what learning means in an internetworked age. I believe that it should revolutionise education (one of the waves). We teach children to use the net to find their own deepest mentors through life and help others do likewise - more on learning networks ideas I have been monitoring over 2 decades at http://ninenow.blogspot.com/1999_12_01_ninenow_archive.html

One more issue if you google the combination of 3 words +collaboration +knowledge +city - you will see 40 million bookmarks. some connect with the http://clubofcity.blogspot.com  weblogs which our transparency communities and meta-networks are co-editing across cities. We have been doing a survey of what does a city need to enable for netizens to collaborate across cities - 16 attributes seem key so far

chris macrae wcbn007@easynet.co.uk

In reply to chris macrae

Anchoring colloboration on the web

by Paul Beaufait -
Chris suggests, "...[W]e can concretely anchor collaboration in projects... or indeed in visioning what learning means in an internetworked age," and expresses belief that collaboration ought to revolutionise education (Re: Understanding Collaboration; Thu Mar 23 10:10:00 2006).

I guess a question here might be whether we can anchor collaboration in stories and reflections as well as in projects and visions. If so, perhaps we could revolutionize history, or hers!

Cheers, Paul
In reply to Sylvia Currie

When does it become collaborative?

by Derek Chirnside -
Have others encountered this?

Yes. 
Went to a workshop yesterday on 'Collaborative Assessment"
Students uploaded some documents (three short pieces in a particular structure) bu 12.00 mindight and met the next morning for two hours.
They were then to read and creat links between the documents.  "Joe also reflects on this" - "Sally makes a contrasting Point" etc etc.

A fine exercise, which I'm sure had learning benefits.

Collaboration is not the same as working along side of.
Not even using the results of other's work.
It must be more than this.
There needs to be **inter**dependence.
But I guess I am still old fashioned enough to not like results handed in for assessment with group grades.  B ut the process of getting there I want to see collaboration built in.

I'm a fan of the idea in Vygotsky's "Zone of Proximal development"

-Derek
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Interdependence, or not!

by Paul Beaufait -
From Derek's post "When does it become collaborative?" I get a distinct impression that the "fine exercise" Derek described misfits the subsequent definition of collaboration:

Collaboration is not the same as working along side of.
Not even using the results of other's work.
It must be more than this.
There needs to be **inter**dependence.
(Thursday, 23 March 2006, 01:36 PM)

That definition looks like poetry to me. Perhaps Derek is suggesting that the exercise he describes is something child psychologists might call parallel play, as in: Sandbox + shovels + buckets are insufficient to stimulate interaction, much less interdependence. Then he guesses he's old-fashioned.

Cheers, Paul
In reply to Paul Beaufait

The missed out word!!!!

by Derek Chirnside -
Hi Paul, thanks for this, I think I missed out a word (but) which makes my intent clearer:

A fine exercise, which I'm sure had learning benefits.
BUT:

Collaboration is not the same as working along side of.
Not even using the results of other's work.
It must be more than this.
There needs to be **inter**dependence.

I know what I was trying to say: it was a good and worthwhile exercise, but not collaborative.  Yes, sandbox play it could be like.
Is this a pipe dream: we ran a pilot course for a new qual last year.  Our hope was community based learning with it not being posible to finish the course and acheive the learning outcomes without genuine collaboration.  Soon we run the course for real.

In reply to Derek Chirnside

I understand: A story in the making?

by Paul Beaufait -
Hi Derek, I understand that you see valuable learning outcomes from the exercise you described, though you deem it uncollaborative.

I also gather that you're fostering community-based learning, but stipulating collaborative requirements. Sounds like a story in the making! Cheers, Paul
In reply to Paul Beaufait

A story in the making? - coming.

by Derek Chirnside -
I'm back Paul.
I wrote my story over the weekend, but on Monday morning a smal error message on my laptop prompted me to gat IT in.  He looked at it, mutered something about making a copy.  He did make a copy, but not what I thought.  1 hour later I had lost three week's work in a corrupted database that was my desktop files.  "hank goodness you've made a copy" I said.  He'd only copied the corrupted database.  The synchonisation deleted all my desktop files which is where I've done tons of current work.  I've not recovered yet.  :-)
This litle discussion has proved very rich, but I'm only just dipng back into it properly.

In reply to Derek Chirnside

Sorry to hear you lost all your desktop files

by Paul Beaufait -
Welcome back, Derek.

I'm sorry to hear you lost all of your desktop files. I'm sure you have lots of important material to recover and relaborate.

I gather your visits to the Walk are usually more than a couple days apart. With all that work to redo, ... I still hope we'll hear from you again before this seminar is up.

Cheers, Paul
In reply to Derek Chirnside

10 (or more) Elements of Collaboration

by Sylvia Currie -
Derek stresses that there must be interdependence for any kind of genuine collaboration. It sort of feels like we're building a hierarchical model here of what we mean by collaboration, leaving what it isn't on the lower tiers.

My earlier example is of an instructor implying that providing a venue to talk is sufficient. This is a bottom rung for sure. I think we agree that communication is a requirement, but without structure it may not amount to anything.

Working along side of might be an example of the next level up, perhaps cooperation? I imagine much of what is referred to as collaboration really hasn't gone beyond cooperation. Chris mentions that the word competition gets diluted. I'm curious how competition factors into cooperation & collaboration.

So collaboration is perched on the top of the hierarchy. What are the elements that make it collaborative?
  1. Chris in Re: Understanding Collaboration by chris.macrae on Thu Mar 23 10:10:00 2006: mentions that we need to improve all our competences at collaboration. This suggests that as individuals working together, we need to understand how to collaborate. This needs to be made explicit.
  2. Chris pointed us to some fascinating web sites, all of which bring the words authentic and purposeful to mind. These sites have some examples of real projects for improving our lives.
  3. Derek mentions in his post When does it become collaborative? by derekc on Thu Mar 23 13:36:00 2006: Vygotsky's "Zone of Proximal development". So for activities to be collaborative there should be scaffolding, assisting learners to go about their work in a meaningful way, relating to past knowledge and experiences.
Do you agree that these are all essential elements of collaboration? Can we get up to 10 here? (Why is it I always feel compelled to have 10 of everything? big grin)


In reply to Sylvia Currie

A note about Marginalia and Smart Copy

by Sylvia Currie -
An aside...some participants joined us at SCoPE recently to check out the Marginalia annotation tool. In my previous post (10 (or more) Elements of Collaboration by scurrie on Mon Mar 27 07:07:00 2006):
you'll notice the references are linked back to the source. This is done automatically using a feature that was installed with Marginalia.

From Web Annotation Demo by Geof Glass:

In addition to annotation, Firefox users will be able to try smart copy. Select some text, then copy it somewhere (e.g. into an email message, a word processor document, or the text box at the bottom of this page). The copied text will be prefixed by information about the source of the copy. This is intended as a feature for discussion forums, so that users can more easily refer to other messages when they quote them.
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: A note about Marginalia and Smart Copy [Any toggle keys?]

by Paul Beaufait -
Interesting,...

You mean that you've got Marginalia and Smart Copy installed on the SCoPE moodle? That would explain why all the clippings I take from it in Camino (a mozilla built browser like Firefox) come with strings attached.

That's a cool feature for annotations in an online discussion, or quick quotes to a working outline offline. However, it's a bit problematic when all you want is a simple string.

For example, I started to track down the first of Sarah's references (Swan & Shea), but unwittingly stuck the following in the Google search field instead:

From unlinear musings on interdependence and what it might look like... by sarahh on Mon Mar 27 17:48:00 2006:
Swan & Shea, 2005

For Smart Copy, is there anything like a command key plus cut-and-paste sequence that will avoid clipping the provenence info. and backlinks?

Cheers, Paul
In reply to Paul Beaufait

Re: A note about Marginalia and Smart Copy [Any toggle keys?]

by Geoffrey Glass -
I agree, that is a problem, and I really like you're solution. The problem is, I can't do it.

You see, Smartcopy is a huge hack. Cutting and pasting is all taken care of by the browser; the particular web page and site you're viewing at the time have nothing to do with it. So Smartcopy does not know - cannot know - when you perform a copy operation, whether it's via the edit menu, ctrl-C, whatever.

Instead, Smartcopy keeps track of when you use the mouse to select text. It secretly inserts the thread title, author, and date into the web page wherever you have made your selection. You can't see it, but it's there (you may see some flickering of the text sometimes when smartcopy is on - this is why). Then, when (if) you copy the text, the additional information will be included. (If you click somewhere else and remove your selection, the additional information is silently deleted.)

It would, on the other hand, be possible to test for a command key (or what have you) when you select the text, but that seems unintuitive. It would also be possible to allow users to explicitly switch Smartcopy on and off.

Ideally, Smartcopy is a feature that should be in the browser or a browser extension, but that won't happen anytime soon because the browser won't know what all that information is (post title, author, date, etc.). A standard may be coming (the hAtom microformat for the curious); perhaps in 5 years or so this can be resolved properly.
In reply to Geoffrey Glass

...Smart Copy...: Explicit switching would be great!

by Paul Beaufait -

Thank you, Geoffrey, for background and projections re: Smartcopy. Being able to quickly and easily turn it off might help avoid a variety of glitches above and beyond flickering (in Camino, at least). Cheers, Paul

In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: 10 (or more) Elements of Collaboration

by chris macrae -

Sylvie, nearly 10 years ago, I was still very innocent: I thought creativity, innovation were values that we all encourage in the organisational systems we seek to develop. Then I moderated a year-long egroup discussion (by hand before there were automated egroups), and people at the top of big organisations' R&D etc looked in; they spilled the beans; most big organisational systems talk creativity are perfect at stifling most people's creativity. Same goes for collaboration.

It is not rewarded, it is usually punished by organisations, and their accountants, and leaders' professional performance advisers, and even by schools, and even in cities and places- especially when a collaborative innovation would benefit te vast majority of people but not a few vested interest powers.

When it comes to people across the world collaborating - even when they are of goodwill and want to see humanity flourish- there are at least 16 enablers or blockers in the way society is structured that we have now identified. And most cities score about 5 out of 16 in helping their citizens help humanity around the world. I am quite happy to list a rough version of our 16 point profile if that's what you want; but it starts with who is the top person, and are they trusted to open up collaboration; it goes through broadcast media, measurement, schooling, professions, whether there are social spaces where people of all cultures can meet, how safe people feel, what emotional literacies are encouraged, how we grant people time and relationship permissions, how much communal trust flows.... sadly it has to be said that since the spreadsheet got invented in the mid 1980s numbers have had 80 compound quarters to slice and dice collaboration- its not something that globalisation's accounting maths could be better designed to devalue if you tried 

chris wcbn007@easynet.co.uk http://bestforworld.blogspot.com

In reply to chris macrae

Re: 10 (or more) Elements of Collaboration

by Sylvia Currie -
Chris mentions that organizations fail to recognize collaboration. Is it a carry over from what we learn during our years in schools? We reward learners for their ability to retain facts, when maybe we should be rewarding them for their resourcefulness. We encourage duplication of theories and facts that already exisit, when maybe we should be focusing on exploring new ideas.

Years ago I was preparing a Math "lesson" on estimation for grade 5 students. I started with an overview of what is involved in creating estimates, giving examples. Then the next step was to check students' understanding of what I prepared for them in the lesson. Then they were to undertake their own estimation project in groups and I outlined the steps for them to take, much like a fill-in-the-blank form. Finally, each group was to share their results with the class.

After hearing about my project plans for these students a colleague said to me: Why don't you forget about all those steps and just say: See that building? How many bricks are there in that building? Then let the students come up with the process for figuring it out. Somewhere along the way you might mention that they're learning about estimation.

That was yet another one of those life changing moments as a teacher! approve (Paul mentioned that when thinking about our stories to share "best need not mean most successful". For sure my approach to this Math unit would have been less than successful!)

To add to the list of elements of collaboration: avoid "knowledge telling"

For more about "knowledge telling" see the work of Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia. For example, this is an excellent book:

Bereiter C, Scardamalia M (1993). Surpassing ourselves: An inquiry into the nature and implications of expertise, Peru, Illinois: Open Court.
In reply to Sylvia Currie

unlinear musings on interdependence and what it might look like...

by Sarah Haavind -
I too have been mulling over Derek's statement that without interdependence there cannot be genuine collaboration...somehow I sensed his statement indicated a precise exchange between particular parties: Derek and Sylvia collaborating here to collectively build a new understanding (or better articulation) of collaboration.

Other possibilities want to crowd in: "Online discussion does not evolve linearly through time, as classroom discussion does, but rather seems to grow like crystals from multiple conceptual seeds in many dimensions at once." (Swan & Shea, 2005)

...I know I've run across other inklings that attempt to capture that same multi-dimensional aspect of experience...constructed knowledge itself is distributed across a community of experts (Cole & Engestrom, 1999), and other similarly intriguing insights ...

Here's an example of the multi-layers of collaboration, not specifically involving certain individuals: Sylvia recently posted to the Online Facilitation list, in response to a "Teleseminar Question," a series of linkages between Scope members and the authors and contributors who were involved in the conversation to date (March 23rd). Isn't that collaboration? Call it informal, but all of us who are engaged in Scope or onlinefacilitation or wherever, are collaborating -- even when we aren't directly exchanging "a" to "b" back to "a."  We are collectively moving the conversation (about collaboration) forward in a collaborative way with our exchanges. And they are sometimes continuous and other times, long gaps of time unfold without much apparently happening, but even without our individual awareness of it, the collaboration continues, independent of the individual players. Chapters are written, talks are delivered and pondered and acted upon, conversations transpire on and offline, new knowledge is recorded, new technologies invite new possibilities...and the collective (not the individual), collaborative engagement is an intrinsic and essential aspect of forward movement for the (any) field.

So, back to Derek, I picture a much wider interdependence within which courses and formal collaborative projects are a part. Given a wider definition of interdependence, it doesn't seem so essential that the interdependence of person "a" and "b" are required for "collaboration" to be occurring. Both person "a" and person "b" may have gained essential new understandings as a result of their mutual engagement without them ever being mutually interdependent. They might both become part of one another's wider collaborative efforts to learn, grow, or develop new understanding...I think I'll stop before I fall off some cliff or other...? Other thoughts?
Sarah

In reply to Sarah Haavind

From seed, to crystal, to...?

by Paul Beaufait -
sarahh 1143510498"Given a wider definition of interdependence," Sarah muses, "it doesn't seem so essential that the interdependence of person 'a' and 'b' are required for 'collaboration' to be occurring."

She suggests that two individuals "mutual engagement without them ever being mutually interdependent" could enable each "to learn, grow, or develop new understanding..." (unlinear musings on interdependence and what it might look like..., by Sarah Haavind - Monday, 27 March 2006, 05:48 PM).

In principle, I'd say that works for me; but how about in practice, for run of the mill online learners?

No cliffs in sight!

Cheers, Paul
In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: unlinear musings on interdependence and what it might look like...

by Bonnie Johnston -
I was struck by Sarah Haavind
unlinear musings on interdependence and what it might look like...
sarahh1143510498
and her expansion of collaboration to include any form of communication...

"We are collectively moving the conversation (about collaboration) forward in a collaborative way with our exchanges. And they are sometimes continuous and other times, long gaps of time unfold without much apparently happening, but even without our individual awareness of it, the collaboration continues, independent of the individual players."

... because it takes us out of the specific and finite sum of individual interlocuters and transports us to the distributed, the-truth-is-out-thereness of busy bees working on our own parts of a greater whole.

Some riffs:

- I suppose it reflects my materialism, but I tend to anchor collaboration on artifacts: what is the result of the collaboration, what products have been made, what evidence of collaboration has been produced? There are no prescribed ways of getting to the artifact so that the collaborators themselves decide how to get there themselves. But without the goal of producing something, anything, would they proceed?

- Must communication occur between collaborators for collaboration to occur?

- Because communication online is material and can become an artifact, are we qualifying it as a product of collaboration in a way that we do not with real time, face to face communication? What I mean here is do you think there might be a tendancy to elevate online communication because it is documented when on closer analysis the content might just be idle chit-chat, small talk - the kind that we would not if it were to take place in the non-virtual? For example, small talk does not make it into the minutes of a meeting.

- Bonnie


In reply to Bonnie Johnston

small talk or collaborative dialogue?

by Sarah Haavind -
Bonnie asks such an important question...and if I were the facilitator (which I often am) I'd be sitting on my hands for about 48 hours after her contribution was posted to see if others might jump in, but since I'm a participant this time, I'll partake in the luxury of responding with one comment -- Bonnie asks:
do you think there might be a tendancy to elevate online communication because it is documented when on closer analysis the content might just be idle chit-chat, small talk - the kind that we would not if it were to take place in the non-virtual? For example, small talk does not make it into the minutes of a meeting.

Here's a little piece out of my recent study:
According to Benuunan-Fich, Hiltz and Harasim (2005), ?conversation, argument, and multiple perspectives that arise in groups contribute to such cognitive processes  as verbalization, cognitive restructuring, and conflict resolution.? (p. 28.) In a study of several hundred undergraduates taking online courses, Navarro and Shoemaker (2000) verified that student-to-student interactions had a higher correlation (p=.24) to performance than student-to-instructor interactions (p = .10). This finding confirms and extends the enhanced learning gains established by Johnson and Johnson that resulted from peer support rather than from instructor support in face-to-face classrooms (1999).

Learning through peer collaboration is traditionally understood to involve activities where peers work together to create a product (Slavin 1986; Johnson, Johnson et al. 1994; Bruffee 1999). Such group work poses particular challenges in a distributed, asynchronous environment (Dirkx and Smith 2004; Graham and Misanchuk 2004). A primary difficulty with conducting team work or collaborative projects online is how poorly online courseware supports such group work, especially when communication is asynchronous, as it is in the VHS (Kitchen and McDougall 1999).

Collaborative dialogue is a potent, alternative form of collaborative work. Bransford and the National Research Council, in How People Learn (2000), point to the value of such student social interaction for cognitive engagement:

Teachers must attend to designing classroom activities and helping students organize their work in ways that promote the kind of intellectual camaraderie and the attitudes toward learning that build a sense of community. In such a community, students might help one another solve problems by building on each other's knowledge, asking questions to clarify explanations, and suggesting avenues that would move the group toward its goal (Brown and Campione, 1994). (p. 25)

The use of dialogue as a learning activity is not new (Burbules 1993). Harasim (2002) describes the emerging role for computer-mediated conversation described by Brown  (1990) as ?the shift from seeing technology as a cognitive delivery system to using it as a means to support collaborative conversations about a topic and the ensuing construction of understanding? (p. 183). Brufee (1999) highlights the potential of conversation for deepened thinking. Aviv describes asynchronous learning networks as ?cooperative learning enhanced by extended think time? (Aviv 2002), since the asynchronicity provides learners the opportunity to reflect and think through a response before responding. Bender suggests, ?we can think of teaching and learning as being comprised and communicated by the words that flow between teacher and student, as well as student and student.? (Bender 2003 p.56). For this reason, Hiltz and Goldman in their recent book, Learning Together Online (2005) claim that, "asynchronicity, which may at first seem to be a disadvantage, is the single most important factor in creating a collaborative teaching and learning environment." (p. 6)

Specifically, invitations to learners to post comments to discussions of class readings, science labs, or math problems, to peer-review one another?s assignments, or to share questions and insights about a learning experience can prompt participants to collaborate, or ?co-labor?. This is what I mean by collaborative dialogue. According to Harasim (2002),

Articulation is a cognitive act in which the student presents, defends, develops, and refines ideas. To articulate their ideas, students must organize their thoughts and information into knowledge structures. Active learner participation leads to multiple perspectives on issues, a divergence of ideas, and positions that students must sort through to find meaning and convergence. (p. 53)

Online and asynchronously, ideas are shared using a format in which learners can take the time to reflect on the comments of others and consider their own ideas more carefully before contributing. They don?t have to jump into the often rapid and fleeting repartee of aural dialogue exchanged in ?real? time classrooms. Activities that have been shown to work particularly well are case study discussions (Benbunan-Fich 2002) and peer evaluation and feedback (Hiltz 1994; Riel, Rhodes et al. 2005).

Sorry for all the citations -- most of the references here are detailed at the end of the AERA paper I just shared in a previous post if you want them. Otherwise, please inquire. And if you haven't yet seen Hiltz & Goldman's "Learning Together Online" and you are interested in research on online learning, this is a must-have for your bookshelf.

Okay, that said, I would love to know what others think: when is it "small talk" and what makes it "collaborative dialogue"? ...if you agree at all that there can be a difference.
Sarah
In reply to Sarah Haavind

ALN research

by Sylvia Currie -
Sarah's reference to Roxanne Hiltz's work reminded me of the Asynchronous Learning Network Research WebCentre  http://www.alnresearch.org/, sponsored by the Sloan Foundation and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

It's a good place to look if you're interested in aln research. Paradoxically, the asynchronous discussions don't appear to be very active there! Although it could be that funding from the Sloan Foundation ran out so there's nobody monitoring the discussions. Does anyone have information about the site? It seems like a well designed set up for sharing research.


In reply to Bonnie Johnston

Riffs and minutes

by Derek Chirnside -
Well Hi Bonnie, a little late but some comments.

I suppose it reflects my materialism, but I tend to anchor collaboration on artifacts: what is the result of the collaboration, what products have been made, what evidence of collaboration has been produced? There are no prescribed ways of getting to the artifact so that the collaborators themselves decide how to get there themselves. But without the goal of producing something, anything, would they proceed?

Pragmatism also maybe: no goal, wil they learn anything?
There is also the context to consider here.  Victor Chen made a comment last week "The old saying: not everything that counts you can count, and not everything that you can count, counts"  I'd never heard the old saying.
Discussing doctors bedside manners with doctors in training.  Aim: for them to improve their bedside manner.  Now, you can make them sit a m/c test, but is this really measuring it?  Video one another, and feedback? An artifact, but well, are we really measuring things?  Can you really artifact everything?  I actually don't know.

- Must communication occur between collaborators for collaboration to occur?

Hmm.  Dialogue or communcation?  I'd say some communication needed, but dialogue absence can be made up for other facets.

- What I mean here is do you think there might be a tendancy to elevate online communication because it is documented when on closer analysis the content might just be idle chit-chat, small talk - the kind that we would not if it were to take place in the non-virtual? For example, small talk does not make it into the minutes of a meeting.

We are trying to build in 'Postlets' into our forums.  Mini social/feedback affirmations (From : Hey, well done | I agree | read this, back later | Sally, hope this didn't strain you too much after a netball game  to This has altered my thinking | Hmm, should I revisit my weekly reflection) Which would NOT appear in the main flow of the thread.  Sarah's superb post that follows does a little more justice to this topic.  It's also the social presence idea from Terry Anderson.
Small talk does not make it nto the meeting minutes - but does it help lubricate the wheels to nurture the real business?

In reply to Sarah Haavind

catching up post one: seeds and crystals.

by Derek Chirnside -
[Just working my way down this thread.  Hope I don't mess up the flow to much]
Crystals: What a wonderful metaphor!!  I don't quite have as linear view of what happens in a classroom (with good faclitation) but point taken.

"a precise exchange between particular parties": taking this slightly out of context, I worked alongside of many "collaborating" academics working on a range of activities in 1998 working on presentations for conferences where they were in three or four locations.  I thought this:

LOW LEVEL:you cite someone's work (not collaboration)
MIDDLE LEVEL: your read and like/dislike smeone's work and contact and talk (becomes collaboration)
TOP LEVEL: you click and say 'lets work together' and maybe co-publish.

As an aside, there was a real ZING in some little crystalline entitities in this group of academics, even with dry academics (Who else gets excited about Joe visiting XYZ INC in Michegan and discovering a new level three point two(i) radiating axis in YYtrium??).  On a purely existential level, this is why I like collaboration, once we figure out what it is.  It (generally) energises the participants.  it creates a buzz in the classroom.  [I sometimes don't need evidence to do it, thinking of Sarah's recent post, but I always am on the look out for it - and I'm appreciating this discussion to get me beyond the "I know it when I see it" syndrome]

Sarah's comment above:  "Isn't that collaboration? Call it informal, but all of us who are engaged in Scope or onlinefacilitation or wherever, are collaborating -- even when we aren't directly exchanging "a" to "b" back to "a." "

Yes.  I think what I look for in collaboration in learning is a - b - a actually moving a and b forward in their understanding.  Maybe I recant a little here on my original hard cliff edges . . .
Collaboration can produce products, genuinely collaborative.
or Collaboration can seem lower down the scale outwardly) but still work inwardly. - D  (Off to reply to Sylvia's search for 10)


In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: 10 (or more) Elements of Collaboration

by Derek Chirnside -
[I would have posted this elsewhere, but inside a post I couldn't figure out how to link to this post]
Hey I like this Sylvia.

Not sure what I think about competion.  Two weeks back a student said to me after an introduction to threaded forums "But if you post something and someone else uses it, won't they get a jump on you?"

What about a "cylinder view".  We need 45 mL's to be genuinely collaborative.  You have listed a few ingredients.  But a lot of some (Like purposeful - they NEED to know it soon) can make up for not much other (like co-operation) and everything else is made up by tons of commnication/dialogue.

I see a huge difference dependent on the the required outcome - Product (up for assessment, or presentation at a conference maybe) or formless personal learning benefit (Increased understanding) or required personal learning benefit (I need to as an individual sit a test on the results of our collaboration)

Aside: my interdependence useage: this comes from Johnson & Johnson who are known for collaborative small group work work.  For them it is the sine qua non of collaboration.  But they began in an era when a definite huge hit was needed in this direction.  25 years later, we may have moved on from such a strong need, and actually have a better appreciation. - D
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: When does it become collaborative?

by Sarah Haavind -
Still fussing over Derek's rich comments...one question that perhaps only Derek can clarify for me --

From When does it become collaborative? by derekc on Thu Mar 23 13:36:00 2006: About the workshop task you describe: The workshop was called "Collaborative Assessment" (what is that? The reverse of group grading?  A group of people coming to consensus on an individual's grade? or assessing work done by a collaborative group?)...and the task was to read three articles on your own, create links between them (also on your own first?) and then...what happened, you combined your lists of links and submitted for a group grade? And something else was supposed to happen where you came to consensus on a "best" list in which some items on individual's lists were improved by others in the group, some rejected with some kind of collective rationale due to further discussion?

I think I'm missing the "learning benefits" you assume in your comments.

Derek observed: Collaboration is not the same as working along side of.

--definitely I agree.

Derek added: Not even using the results of other's work.It must be more than this.

--I'm not sure this is always true. Research is built upon the knitting together of previous accepted research. I feel that is interdependent, albeit experienced perhaps, as somewhat individualized work. Though it might not be direct collaboration, I think it is a valuable form of the wider collaboration I spoke of in my previous "non-linear" comments.

Derek posits: There needs to be **inter**dependence.
But I guess I am still old fashioned enough to not like results handed in for assessment with group grades.  B ut the process of getting there I want to see collaboration built in...I'm a fan of the idea in Vygotsky's "Zone of Proximal development"

--I think I keep coming back to this because Derek is highlighting an issue for constructivist educators that I have just spent the last four (maybe 10) years exploring in depth: especially online, group work is difficult to orchestrate in a way that is reasonable for all learners/collaborators, is fair, and most important, is a rich learning experience.

However, collaborative dialogue about content in an asynchronous, threaded forum such as this one fits the criteria Derek suggests above: the "results" (posts by each individual) can be graded individually. We even have a nice set of rubrics/standards for contributing here in Scope (see the "Read Carefully/Write Carefully/Ask good questions" pop-ups to the right of the authoring screen).

It is also "interdependent" in that the richer each contribution, and the more attentively collaborators engage with one another, the more compelling the dialogue turns out for all.

So, back to the activity Derek described -- maybe the design needs to be re-visited. Using the same raw materials (three articles and 24 hours), what might be a useful, collaborative design that works for all participants, even the Dereks in the group?
Sarah




In reply to Sarah Haavind

Collaborative Dialogue

by Sarah Haavind -
I mentioned some recent research I've been doing in my previous post. I just completed my thesis (yea!) for which I examined Virtual High School classes where an unusually high amount of collaborative dialogue took place to see what instructor moves and design features prompted higher collaboration among learners in content-based discussions.

Though I do not have a narrative story to share here, I do have some evidence of course design features and instructor moves that may make a difference if fostering extended collaborative dialogue among learners online in asynchronous, threaded dialogue.

If you are interested, I've attached a paper I will be presenting at AERA in San Francisco next week that summarizes the study. Here is a brief abstract:

One of the most challenging aspects of online teaching is promoting content-focused dialogue among students that supports a course?s instructional goals. This study identified online instructor facilitation, activity designs and evaluation rubrics that promoted substantive, collaborative dialogue in Virtual High School classes (www.govhs.org). Collaborative dialogue was recognized in collaborative events that contained a minimum thread depth of four linked comments discussing course content. Course archive data and discourse analysis suggested an interplay among four key elements: a socially-bonded community of learners, collaborative activity designs, explicit scaffolding or teaching of how to collaborate, and evaluation of collaborative participation. When used together these were most likely to promote collaborative dialogue online.

If you read it, I'd love to know what you underlined and why.
Sarah
In reply to Sarah Haavind

Question for Sarah re: Thread depth in Haavind_AERA2006.pdf

by Paul Beaufait -
Sarah, you've given us an opportunity to preview the paper you'll be presenting early next month. Thank you.

Between this, that, and the other thing; I've just finished reading and started re-reading it, but I cannot seem to shake a question that has been recurring to me since first reading about "minimum thread depth of four linked comments discussing course content" in your overview on Tuesday (28 March 2006, 02:10 PM).

I've underlined many parts of the paper (all page numbers below refer to Haavind_AERA2006.pdf), yet it isn't clear to me how you decided to recognize four threads deep as a minimum.

In the Introduction, you say that you "set a standard... requiring a minimum thread depth of four postings, indicating that students were replying to one another" (p. 3). Then, in Research Methods and Data Analysis, you mention adapting "recently developed online course dialogue frameworks" from Collison et al. and Harasim (p. 9), and reiterate, "minimum depth of four linked comments" (p. 10).

Although you mention color-coding "all collaborative events with thread depths of four or more according to Harasim?s framework for analyzing collaborative dialogue," I take it that you mean the "categories," but not necessarily the "thread depths" come from Harasim's work (p. 13).

Your subsequent reference to "Harasim's categories" (p. 29), in context of "additional modes of analysis" that you apparently "developed in the course of this study" (p. 30), leads me to believe that the number four is significant, and was so before you decided which collaborative events to analyze in detail.

While we await publication of the whole report (p. 1), would you mind elaborating on minimum thread depth?

Cheers, Paul

In reply to Paul Beaufait

Great question, Paul

by Sarah Haavind -
Paul asks me to elaborate on my decision to seek out a minimum thread depth of four before I called an exchange a "collaborative event" in m study. I'm not surprised Paul got stuck on this point -- I admit I made it up, it doesn't come from the literature. I've attached an excerpt from my methodology (6 pages) that explains in detail. The short answer though, is that there is a predominance in VHS of responses to discussion questions that are not conversational but all directly replying to the discussion seed post (thread depth of 1). Even if students read what others post, that isn't collaborative learning. It's looking at one anothers' answers (which can be okay, but it doesn't fit for "collaborative learning.")

In the past few years, following the evaluation study conducted by SRI (see: Kozma and Zucker's "The Virtual High School: Teaching Generation V" at amazon.com) of VHS when it was a grant-funded project of the US Dept of Education, VHS moved away from discussions that amounted to everyone's homework paper being passed up to the front in a f2f classroom by adding to discussion directions something like: "Post an initial response to the question and then reply to the initial postings of one or two of your peers." This resulted in a great increase (about 50% of the courses) in thread depths of just two. In other words, those pragmatic teenagers followed the directions literally. They posted their initial comment and then chose two others to read and reply to, directly. Again, no converstaion. If you look at the threaded discussion, you would see initial posts with six or seven postings directly beneath, all the way down the class. I decided that wasn't collaboration either.

Once in a while, there would be a thread depth of three. In my overall survey of the 112 courses offered in spring 2003, I looked at as many of those as I noticed. In most cases, the third post was the original author returning and thanking the other student for the comment or nodding outloud in agreement. No building.

However, once a thread depth reached four, building was happening. Let me know if that doesn't quite answer your questions. Paul is right that Harasim's categories had nothing to do with thread depth. I applied her categories to all the collaborative events identified in each course studied to assess the level of actual collaboration around content vs. social excahnges or evaluations/simple agreement. Again those pragmatic teenagers -- they were extremely focused on content in almost all cases. There are student lounges in all VHS courses, as well as getting-to-know-you ice breakers. All the small talk found its way there pretty quickly. The content dialogues were across the board, pretty much highly content-focused and content-rich (if not often collaborative).
Sarah
In reply to Sarah Haavind

"Wait three before me"

by Derek Chirnside -
Nola Campbell was a leading educator and an online pioneer in our country before she sadly died last year.  She is well known for a rule for her students in online forums.

"Wait three before me" - in other words, three other students need to have responded to you before you go back in again.  I THINK it was just for a first post in a thread. 
I asked her about this in a cafe at some stage, and she said 1) it avoided the ABAB syndrome: discussion eddies involving the loquatious 2 students.  2) It meant students were aware of tring to kep posting rates up to support others, and seemed to apreciate creatng a god foundation for a thread/discussion.

I'll read your work Sarah. Looks like you are onto something - with the observations to support it.

-Derek
Off to work now.  (50 minutes late).  Bagel and coffee on the way.  I have re-writen my wild west collaboration based course case study.  I'l chec the other thread later and see if it's still a valid contribution. 
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Human considerations: Accomodating concerns about valid contributions

by Paul Beaufait -
Concerns about audience and validity of personal contributions may not be collaborative design elements, but they certainly reflect human considerations that may frequently get lost in technological tableaux building. How is it possible to address and overcome such concerns, at least occasionally?

In case you haven't monitored it lately, the Stories and Reflections thread now carries Derek's story, rewritten after its (partial) loss in a desktop disaster. Reflections are welcome on that story, and all along that thread.

Likewise, in Secondary students reflect on collaborative work (on the Understanding Collaboration thread), Marsha shares from her collection of student reflections, and asks whether students may recognize (and cherish) the same collaborative elements we strive to understand (and amplify) in our work.

Strategies and tools for framing, fostering, facilitating, and assessing online collaboration..., you can sum up on a newer thread: Elements..., ...tools, & ...strategies, if you wish.

Please write on, in any direction you choose, as this seminar winds to an end!

Cheers, Paul

In reply to Sarah Haavind

Secondary students reflect on collaborative work

by Marsha West -
Paul had invited me last week to join in this discussion, but I was not sure whether folks in this discussion, who are mostly academics, would be interested in a K12 based contribution. So I've just been reading along the past few days; I am especially interested in what Sarah has to say about discussion as collaborative work.

That's what made me decide to jump in and share something from my archives.

Let me explain where I'm coming from. I was one of the "charter members" of the Virtual High School faculty. I wrote and taught a year long course that was actually an adaptation of the AP English Literature and Composition course I'd taught for many years in the regular f2f classroom. We called it WebQuest: a Literary Odyssey. (This was before we were hearing about a structured activity called a Webquest.) It's really about going with Odysseus on a literary quest through time to see how literature shows human beings trying to make sense out of the world.)

I taught the course for six years. It was an amazing journey for me -- I learned a lot from my students as they learned from each other without any face-to-face contact. And what I learned is that I was a better teacher, delivered a better course, and got better results from my students than in all of the 20+ years preceding that experience.

Now about collaboration: Grasping concepts and deepening understanding -- of, say, literature -- isn't a product in the same way that making a video together or creating a group power-point is. But it is, it seems to me, a very valuable work product - and a more important goal to me than the more tangible artifacts that happened along the way -- the small group projects like web pages or power points or "hyperstudio" presentations. What happened in the discussions was, to me, the most important work of all.

I have some "artifacts" of my own in my files from one particular year of VHS.

The attached word document is a collection of unedited, verbatim excerpts of student writing from my course database.

I chose the bits I did because I see connections between what they are saying and what I am reading in this conversation about collaboration.

I'd be interested to see whether any of the rest of you see.

Do you see authentic collaboration as it's being defined here? a work-product? Do you see illustrations of what Sarah had to say in her recent posts?

In reply to Sarah Haavind

One key: dialogue + collaborative

by Derek Chirnside -
Sarah, I'm back and this deserves some response.

From When does it become collaborative? by derekc on Thu Mar 23 13:36:00 2006: About the workshop task you describe: The workshop was called "Collaborative Assessment" (what is that? The reverse of group grading?  A group of people coming to consensus on an individual's grade? or assessing work done by a collaborative group?)

This was a workshop for staff where a method of 'Collaborative Assessment' was presented.  30 points for three pieces of writing.  3 points for the creation of the links.
I was doubting whether it was real collaboration.

...and the task was to read three articles on your own, create links between them (also on your own first?) and then...what happened, you combined your lists of links and submitted for a group grade? And something else was supposed to happen where you came to consensus on a "best" list in which some items on individual's lists were improved by others in the group, some rejected with some kind of collective rationale due to further discussion?

No. You osted your three orignal articles.  You then created links between any of the other articles.  Each link had a small reflection on the link (al that I saw were either comparing lke with like (reflecting maybe on a smal difference) or contrasting like with unlike.  All grading by lecturer.

I think I'm missing the "learning benefits" you assume in your comments.

AHH, now this is interesting.  This is a faith statement.  "Carefully reading the work of others in your class, and reflecting on how they responded to the required reflections, then fndng and reporting on links between them - then reading other lnks by other students - It's got to be good for you"  How often do we put in our assignments, get a grade and NEVER see another piece of work by any student ever?

--I'm not sure this is always true. Research is built upon the knitting together of previous accepted research.<snip>

Point taken.  Agreed.

<snip>

However, collaborative dialogue about content in an asynchronous, threaded forum such as this one fits the criteria Derek suggests above: the "results" (posts by each individual) can be graded individually. We even have a nice set of rubrics/standards for contributing here in Scope (see the "Read Carefully/Write Carefully/Ask good questions" pop-ups to the right of the authoring screen).

This is the crux.  This is why I am here in this discussion, even though I shouldn't be.  :-)  The notion of collaborative dialogue.
{Don't even try to respond to this next paragraph}
a) How I hate to be grading this!!  b) How do you respond to the question "have I done enough Yet?" (Where is the joy in learning?)  c) Wow, that student knows more than me and it's only week three.  d) Oh dear, xxx still has not got it, there goes an hour of backchanelling.  e) What a wonderful weekend of posts, there they go, I am their leader, I must follow.  f) Where is everyone? This was supposed to be a week's activity . . .  g) No we don't need 5 screenfuls, Jimmy, read the instructions.  h) Hmm. This has NOTHING to go with the learning ourcomes, but it sure is fun - OK, lets redefine the goal. i) What just happened?  This was a (great/lousy/boring/magnificent) week online.  What did we do (wrong/right)?  j) This is fun.  Getting to know more about what is going on.

I think for me this is the basis: f2f or online.  Issues of power, identity, sharing, common goals, mutuality, knowledge, humour, puns, levity, course objectives, participants, facilitators etc all assisting occassional periods of deep collaborative dialogue.



In reply to Sylvia Currie

Memories of online experiences

by Paul Beaufait -
Wow! Better than a cup of coffee in the morning, I might say, as I reach for a second cup. big grin Sylvia's preface, "This is taking me back 10 years, so it's a real test of my memory!" resonates in my toes (if you can call spider extremities that).

As best I recall, without dredging it up, part of the collaborative book project call for participation indicated that contributors remember what it's like to study online. So I thought, "No problem! It was only about a year ago."

But then I started to wonder, "Was that episode before or after the Mines of Bboria..." (to be continued on the OLC Stories and Reflections thread).
In reply to Paul Beaufait

Re: Memories of online experiences

by chris macrae -

Referring back to Paul's post that I received 24 March 1.55

 

I believe very much that we need libraries of stories. I tend to think of these as involving maximum 2-3 page scripts that anyone can re-edit and throw into a dialogue of open space as part of the minimum needed to make sure that everyone has a common script, and that we are transferring collaborative understanding from what has gone before (sometimes my favourite scriptwriters call this future histories)

 

I believe very much that we should get stories usable for say 10-13 year olds and build up from there. A style I think is excellent is E H Gombich?s little history of the world ?this provides 100 cultural snapshots of mankind?s civilisation through time in a way that a 12 year old can enjoy as much as a 50 year old; it makes more sense of history and how we are all culturally interdependent ? for example anyone using numbers owes that debt to Arabs or Muslims

 

What are the other sets of scripts I would like to see a Gombrich of

 

1 learning Networks ?click this link as it?s the nearest one-pager to my 30 years of exploring this http://ninenow.blogspot.com/1999/12/having-co-authored-one-of-books-that.html

other core ideas are train children how to use the net to find their own best mentors through life and help others do likewise; what Drucker always meant by knowledge work; what eg Weinberger means by the web as small pieces loosely interconnecting; making a parallel between man?s collaboration learning webs and natures (network models have no final wate outpouts always some other systems? inputs); take back media to be for and by people not socilaly controlling them http://valuemedia.blogspot.com

 

1a ultimately we have far too poor a view of how system intercoonect , interface; even those who claim to facilitate systemic methods seldom collaborate in interfacing with other system favciliators; somehow the whole educational curriculum needs to pass up through the grades with a systemic and meta-discimplinary approach; perhaps a global case such as clean water or clean energy will make this clearer

 

2 I would love to see a Gombrich done on 100 science snapshots; looking at science in an exploring way asking question on opportunities and risks; providing a simple tapstery so that scientific transparency/tradeoffs are democratised; the danger is that the 100 open science scripts I?d like to see may be exactly the opsite of what Bush means when his 2006 state of Union speech calls for investing in schooling of science

 

3 basically my family has 2 lifetimes of experiences of collecting scripts of the peoples economics on entrepreneurial revolution defined around what society next need to take back from big power ? there are about 10 sub-species of entrpereneur of which today?s most urgent seem to prefer calling themselves social-entrepreneurs. My view is that the top 30 arenas that social entrepreneurs play in need to be popularised as much as the top 30 sports ? see our invite to join the mother of all  social entrepreneur Olympics storytelling at http://social-entrepreneur.blogspot.com

 

amyway these are some of the contexts of open storytelling that excite me most ? how about you?