SCoPE Seminar: Informal Learning: May 15 - June 4, 2006

Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE

Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE

by Sylvia Currie -
Number of replies: 26
Christie launched a thread on debriefing the "just 3 words" game and it generated such interesting interpretations of how that game fit into our experiences in this seminar on informal learning. These metaconversations are so useful for understanding what works in a community discussion and why.

Here at SCoPE we've started a bit of a tradition of debriefing each seminar and so far this has taken on different formats, but all have been private. These debriefing sessions have turned into very rich dialogue that will help to inform future SCoPE activities, and in many ways it's a disadvantage that they aren't shared openly. In fact, our last debrief developed into a discussion about how to go about conducting debriefs and naturally this would have been a good topic for all members to engage in.

So how about if we give it a try here to have an open debrief during these remaining 5 days? What have you noticed about this seminar discussion? What would you change about the format and facilitation, if anything? What questions do you have for others about this seminar?


In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE

by Nancy Riffer -

Observations about this seminar:

I felt safer sharing something I am knowledgeable about than thinking outloud. 

I'd be very interested to have you point out times when you were "thinking outloud" i.e., describing an idea that was coming alive for you in the present.

I found it hard to find the focus in a number of posts.  Often there was so much information I could find useful resources  but I couldn't find an idea to build on.

One interesting conversation that started with several excited participants was on (in my word's) individualized/informal education for elementary school children.  Despite the enthusiasm, this did not lead to a sustained discussion.  Looking back, I would like to have pulled those ideas into a new thread so that that conversation would have stood alone as a focus.  It's a topic I was interested in enough to put some energy and leadership into.

Do you see other conversations that started that you would like to have helped develop more fully? 

In reply to Nancy Riffer

Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE

by Derek Chirnside -
Nancy, I did not read this properly when it arrived.  (Lots of posts as you say)

I actually find it hard NOT to think aloud sometimes.  I've found things very stimulating, and push me around the edge of things, and hence some waffles from me.

I confess I have coped with the too many posts by just not reading some whole threads. 
  • I have long ago been delivered from the need to know everything, tidy up everything, etc
  • I seem more energised by what clicks in to things I'm in now
  • this is NOT a course and I like being able to freewheel.  (I have enough prescriptions in my day job)
    (In other words, I just do what I feel like)
BUT: I don't worry if others see things differently: in particular, if someone asks me on the forum "Please say more, or what do you mean" etc and I still try to keep a minimum level of obligation to others in the forum in the faint community stirrings I see here.

This brings me to your next point:

From Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE by nanri on Wednesday, 31 May 2006 4:09:00 p.m.:
One interesting conversation that started with several excited participants was on (in my word's) individualized/informal education for elementary school children.  Despite the enthusiasm, this did not lead to a sustained discussion.  Looking back, I would like to have pulled those ideas into a new thread so that that conversation would have stood alone as a focus.  It's a topic I was interested in enough to put some energy and leadership into.

I have worried about this also, and flicked off a note to Paul (or was it Sylvia??).  The question for me is this:

  • Little unfinished fragments, what do we do with them?
  • Lets say I encounter an interest in this in three weeks, what do I do?

    I'd like to see some sort of mechanism to revitalise a question in an appropriate way in the future.

One suggestion: have a "Threads that may have life left in them" Seminar.  Get some proposals for the four-fifteen possiblities, have a quick vote, ressurect some of them with a pair of hosts for each (just let Sylvia do all the mega-host stuff) and see what happens.  And by the way, if your idea doesn't get selected, just ask anyway??  :-)

And your final question Nancy:

From Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE by nanri on Wednesday, 31 May 2006 4:09:00 p.m.:
Do you see other conversations that started that you would like to have helped develop more fully?

Yes.  Lots. But see above.  :-)  If it's right, they will re-surface.  [So, Nancy, don't give up on your question]


In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE

by Sarah Haavind -
I want to second Sylvia's motion that we generate a public debriefing of the full experience of this informal seminar on Informal Learning.

One thought that kept returning to me as I watched threads and insights unfold and ignite over the past few weeks was how much evidence there was of what we as online community participants have learned over the past 10+ years as we've all been (lived?) online. This kind of dialogue is truly a new genre: collaborative dialogue in an asynchronous text environment. How did we do it?

Were you struck at the myriad ways the group capably propelled itself down highways and pathways on a collective explore of a mutually intriguing topic? I hope you'll share what you noticed.

Also, if you were sitting out on the darker edges of the campfire, even if you haven't so much as said "hello" yet, I hope you'll share your thoughts and feelings with us now about what has (or hasn't) been happening here. There are so many layers to informal learning...
Sarah
In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE

by Cathy Bray -

Hi all,

I just got an email from Sylvia Currie this morning, welcoming those who were at dialogue conference at SFU to SCoPE. What a great resource and a lively community smile.

My "debrief" from surfing around the campfire discussions on informal learning for a few minutes is that a wide variety of issues were dealt with in a productive and informal way. Seems to me that the friendly connections among people are as important as the content in these discussion groups, in informal learning more generally, and in all transformative education.

One thread talked about moving examples of informal learning. One of my favorite informal learning communities is a group of whale watchers at www.orca-live.net. I've written about that community at http://journals.ucfv.ca/ojs/rr/article-PDFs/bray.pdf

Thanks to Wendy Burton of the University College of the Fraser Valley (Canada) for her efforts to create the special issue of Research Review on "teaching and learning online" http://journals.ucfv.ca/ojs/rr/ in which the above article appears.

So - I'm glad to have joined. Better late than never

Cathy Bray,

Vancouver and cyberspace

In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE

by Christie Mason -
Does anyone else feel like this forum just went dead? It may be that it's because of the recent U.S. holiday, but all the other forums that I belong to are roaring with activity. Feels like it went dead right after this was posted, maybe because announcing a debriefing in a training session signals the end of the training session and that it's time to gather your papers and go home. This forum had just started to build some momentum and trust and unique rhythms and I was looking forward to another week of seeing where it would go next.

My first suggestion would be for a longer timeline and avoidance of the word "debrief" in any subject line (I didn't change the "3 Words" subject line to include "debrief") unless you want to stop the discussions. Might be better to do something similar to the "3 Words" thread and ask an open question like "What were the 3 most interesting concepts you've encountered during this discussion?" and then repeat that same open question several times during the timeline. That''s a technique that works well to gather user input during developing web projects and it's interesting watching the replies evolve.

I've been thinking a lot about the issue of how much structure is the right amount of structure, which is my paraphrasing of Nancy's question under the 3 words debriefing thread, and I think it was also asked early in the discussion. But now I feel that any discussion that might arise wouldn't fit into the timeline, so I'll confine myself to noting that I found the structure underlying this forum constraining. Didn't like having to go online for posting (no spell checker!), found the flow of the threads to be confusing - new subjects for existing threads, new threads with same subject, replies to replies that were actually replies to the original posting. It felt like a great opportunity for some type of graphical mind map of the concepts and discussion flow.

I also didn't like the HTML formatted emails and allowing attachments. Plain text format allows me to have a choice of what font style and size I prefer for my email display so I can set it and forget it. I still remember one of my first, and still one of the top 3, eLearning experiences from around 5 years ago. It was a weekly distribution of plain text emails presenting a small bite concept with a supporting discussion forum. It was just enough structure, but not too much.

Christie Mason 
In reply to Christie Mason

Debriefing Potpouri . . .

by Derek Chirnside -
Bitz and Piecez:

From Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE by cmason on Thursday, 1 June 2006 1:09:00 p.m.:
Does anyone else feel like this forum just went dead?
No, not that I noticed.  But I had questions still in my mind from a week ago.  :-)
From Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE by cmason on Thursday, 1 June 2006 1:09:00 p.m.:
maybe because announcing a debriefing in a training session signals the end of the training session and that it's time to gather your papers and go home
The training/other dichotomy again.  I think: "Debrief, great, a chance to think about things".  yes you are right, not everyone cares.  ASnd that's fine.
I think my opinion is this: May 15 - June 4 was the time, and finished or not we move on, with some overlap/overshoot probably (almost defintely).

But Christie's post talks about Momentum and Trust, Cathy and Sarah about community.  It it's real community, it will be there next month for another episode.

From Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE by cathybray on Thursday, 1 June 2006 8:54:00 a.m.:
surfing around the campfire discussions on informal learning
Cathy, what a neat description.  I like being able to do this.

From Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE by cmason on Thursday, 1 June 2006 1:09:00 p.m.:
I've been thinking a lot about the issue of how much structure is the right amount of structure, which is my paraphrasing of Nancy's question under the 3 words debriefing thread, and I think it was also asked early in the discussion. But now I feel that any discussion that might arise wouldn't fit into the timeline, so I'll confine myself to noting that I found the structure underlying this forum constraining.
Constraining?  Hmm.
  • From Reflecting Outward - half baked observations by choconancy on Friday, 2 June 2006 1:48:00 p.m.:
    There were no set structures to how this set of conversations unfolded, so we all added discussions as we felt moved. This offered openess, but possibly some fractured attention and caused some conversations to die off before they ripened. More structure might have allowed those conversations to unfold, but it might have strangled the new ones before birth. So for the future, how do you decide how much structure to balance with emergence?
I'm going to plump for 'what happened should have happened'.  I take Christie's point about structure.  But how is it constraining?  I cannot actually see any different structure within the constraints of Moodle.  This is not more than just a typical threaded discussion - with Marginalia (which I have come to love.  We have freedom to start new threads.  This leads to wild west at times.  But it is MUCH better than being locked down as in another Moodle interaction area I am a member of.

I cannot find it now (!@#$%^#$$% Moodle), but in another discussion here, in week 2 they suddenly said: "We have permission to pass on this other stuff from another workshop on the same theme" - and it was neat.
Here is the conundrum: they put in the work to create several artifacts/summaries.  Who could/would do it here in our little informal world to make the learning on informal learning formal?

The answer of course is David.  :-) cool
From Overview of second round, with readings suggested by participants by dmillar on Thursday, 1 June 2006 9:07:00 p.m.:
I was away at the 2006 Humanities and Social Science conference. When I came back, I tried to catch up with the game and debrief postings, in which there were a number of fresh viewpoints. Attached is my overview of the last couple of week's discussions

To pass on some distilled stuff could benefit, seed and launch "Informal Learning Seminar with Ted and Erma 2007" and pick up with the benefit of where we left off in 2006.  I have printed out (!!) a 234 page document complied from posts, documents and links from the cpSquare workshop on Web 2.0 because I was laid up at the time and couldn't participate.  What a resource, and easy to quickly edit down to 40pp to hand out to a Web 2.0 (2) gathering.

I like structure with freedom.  Is there something in your mind Christie, a structure you think could benefit?  If so, I'd be interested to consider it.  Nancy said: "More structure might have allowed these conversations to unfold" - More facilitation?  More leading/open questions?  More spawning of new threads?  More summarising?  More of something else??
Fractured Attention thoughtful Nancy?  Maybe it was just as well you were in this state, else our brains may have exploded like in the movie Mars Attack.

Meta thoughts over
-Derek










In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: Questioning Structure (was Debriefing Potpouri . . .)

by Christie Mason -
Oh gak, I just wiped out another reply by clicking away from this page. Add that to the list of things that I really dislike that this site based structure along with the session time out problem. I tend to "think through my fingers" when I'm creating a posting and time slicing those thoughts while doing my "real" job and that can take a long time.

What is the right amount of structure? 
There should be enough structure to support the participants doing what they know they need to do. No more and no less.

How much of that structure should be formal and how much should be informal?
Formal structure tends to be absolute black or white/on or off - changing the subject is allowed or changing the subject is NOT allowed. Informal structure is defined in shades of gray by the participants as they connect and evolve. I suspect that over time the participants would have defined a norm for this group that "Subject lines should not be changed unless you are introducing a new topic. Subjects should not be changed when using "Reply" . New subjects should always be at the top level."

Or maybe it wouldn't have evolved that way because the formal structure of this application doesn't make it easy to initiate a top level topic (this is where I lost my other reply because I was clicking around to refind the page that does that.) Nor were there any formal "rules" about when a subject should/should not be changed. Actually, this posting should be a new subject but it's too much of a pain to start over so I'm just going to leave it here, buried 4 levels deep within this forum. (7 levels deep according to the breadcrumb links.)

Who is in charge of the informal structure?
No One and Every One. The participants create the informal structure, within the constraints of the formal structure. If the formal structure allows it, informal/situational leaders will come forward as needed. If no informal leaders step forward, then it's time to reevaluate the formal structure.

I think it was Sylvia who was surprised that no one else has ever mentioned that they didn't like whatever formal application is supporting this forum. I may have been the first to raise the issue because
A. I've experienced, and even developed, a wide variety of other environments.
B. Other participants, in this and other forums, may have assumed an informal structure that would not accept a negative point about the formal structure. Perhaps they didn't feel they had permission from the group to evaluate and comment on that issue.
C. I've often found that if I highlight an area that concerns me it's excellent feedback on if that is a valid identification of a problem, others add their voices, or if I'm alone in my view, silence occurs, and I need to reconsider or dig into why my perception is different.

Most discussions about structure and what is informal and what is formal tend to devolve into big fluffy words that have no shared meaning. I'm not trying to tear apart this formal/informal structure, I've only used as an example because I know it's an environment that we can use as a shared reference point and answer an implied question or two "Is this the best informal/formal structure for the needs of its participants? or "What functions of this structure served the needs of the participants and what functions hindered the participants fulfilling their needs here?"

Christie Mason

The first and most difficult task of dialogue involves parking the ego and listening with an open spirit. From this receptivity can come questions which lead to understanding. To ask these questions requires that one no longer need to have the best or last answer. Expanding one's understanding becomes more important than being right or getting one's point across. Ann McGee-Cooper
The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions. Anthony Jay
We make the world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers. Carl Sagan
The proper question is not, 'How can people motivate others?' but rather, 'How can people create the conditions within which others will motivate themselves?' Edward Deci
A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions--as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all. Friedrich Nietzsche
New and stirring things are belittled because if they are not belittled, the humiliating question arises, 'Why then are you not taking part in them? H.G. Wells
You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions. Naguib Mahfouz
For every complex question, there's a simple answer, and it's wrong. Oscar Wilde
Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers. Rainer Maria Rilke



In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Questioning Structure (was Debriefing Potpouri . . .)

by Derek Chirnside -
Read your comments, thanks Christie.
Will think. - Derek.
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: Debriefing Potpouri . . .

by Nancy White -
>From Debriefing Potpouri . . . by derekc on Saturday, June 03, 2006 1:24:00 AM:
Fractured Attention thoughtful
Nancy?

haha. Yes, my head explodes regularly. You should see my desk, what a mess.

Actually, one of the challenges and joys of online life is we can read quickly. We have a lot of discretion on how we choose to "listen." We can try to be in all the conversations. But how often are we truly listening to all of them?

I find I often "listen" with half an "ear." My attention is partially here, partially on the stack of work that sits in front of me. If I gave it more attention, my informal learning might be deeper, and more fruitful. As a bumblebee style person, that is a challenge!

It is possible that when we identify a thread that resonates for some of us, we invite ourselves to slow down and go deeper. pay more attention. Maybe miss something in another thread. With informal learning, we have the power to do that, but I'm not sure we've developed the practice.

How do we say "slow down" and what does it mean? Does it put out the campfire, or let the wood burn to coals so we can really roast those marshmallows?
In reply to Nancy White

slowing down and campfires (was Re: Debriefing Potpouri . . .

by Corrie Bergeron -

How do we say "slow down" and what does it mean? Does it put out the campfire, or let the wood burn to coals so we can really roast those marshmallows?

The purpose of letting the coals die down IS to slow down. 

Earlier in the evening, there were five or a dozen conversations going on all at once.  Hots dogs and buns being passed around, the kids chasing and shrieking in the background - far too much activity to keep track of.  Severely divided attention, and even then a lot is missed.

But later, when the frenetic activity quiets down, we finally have time to reflect.  To let the distractions of the day fade away into the darkness.  The circle of light contracts, and we can stare into the embers and think.

It doesn't mean the party's over, not by a long shot. 

In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE

by Jay Cross -
This was my first time here. Maybe my settings are off, but I couldn't easily tell the new stuff from the old. Navigation was frustrating.

I didn't feel I connected with people enough to engage in deep dialog. Nancy and I have bumped into one another numerous times in cyberspace, so I felt a connection with her and appreciated the way she can steer things in productive directions. Christie put so much of her self out there that I feel quite close to the way she thinks and presents herself. A few others are familiar from the CP Square thingie in the beginning of the year. The rest of you? A bunch of strangers. So on the social level, this didn't work for me.

Christie mentioned how a debrief closes discussion. Why do you folks ever close a seminar? Why not let it run forever? Or kill it after

I want graphics as well as text. I want multiple channels, not linear text. (Has anyone else here read The Alphabet vs. the Goddess?) I want to break free of hierachical discussion. Our campfire died out.

I am gearing up to lead another series of what I refer to as "unworkshops" about supporting learning with web 2.0 technologies in June. It's a beta test. (Isn't everything?) You guys have given me a number of things to think about, and I thank you. And I think I've been nervous during our time together because I'm trying so hard to make the unworkshop be great. You can track my investigations of informal learning at informl.com.
In reply to Jay Cross

Three most interesting concepts?

by Sarah Haavind -
First I want to acknowledge David for sharing his cogent notes on our seminar so far. They provide a useful and succinct picture of where we?ve been and where else we might go ? thanks so much David! Perhaps David?s big picture of the learning landscape to date will help some of you out there re-connect with thoughts and insights you?d like to bring to the forum.

I?ve been intrigued with the ideas that have surfaced in this meta-thread so far. Nancy noted, I felt safer sharing something I am knowledgeable about rather than thinking out loud. Tying in with Jay and Christie?s comments about the short time-frame for these seminars, would extending our time with this topic have helped foster more safety for people to push into newer arenas where we might be less sure of what we know? What else might instill a greater sense of safety?

Nancy asked a wonderful question of us: Do you see other conversations that started that you would like to have helped develop more fully?

Cathy (welcome, Cathy! Even as the embers are dying down to hot coals we are happy to have new voices join in anywhere in our discussions) observed friendly connections among people and that those are as important as the content in these discussion groups. They are, and Jay, I for one feel sad that you never came to feeling like we were more than a bunch of strangers?and would love to know more (from anyone!) what we might have done to spread the warmth all the way back to the edges of circle?

Christie was excited about the momentum, trust and unique rhythms she sensed growing here (until we highlighted that we?re nearing the end of our brief time). Unfortunately, other topics are scheduled for Scope following this one (sounds so linear), but we?re already working on how we might continue this dialogue after we take some time to absorb resources, re-think assumptions and plan an Informal Learning Redux. We welcome the idea that our seminar is appreciated enough that folks would prefer it didn?t end ? we?ll see what we can do.

Meanwhile, I love Christies? idea of asking, what were the 3 most interesting concepts you?ve encountered during this discussion?
Sarah
In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: Three most interesting concepts?

by Nancy Riffer -
1. Christie's discussion of chaos and the idea that Amazon, Google and Dell are primary examples of e-learning. Chaos led to talk about finding the cutting edge of our or our students learning and maintaining in that narrow space. I've picked up books on Emergence and Connectivity that I've owned but not been drawn to enough to read them.

2. The ideas that were set off in me when I read about Chris wanting to help his nine year old daughter find mentors and the center of a network. Before I read how Chris spelled this out on his website, I was excited at the thought of using the web (and/or Amazon or Google) as a banquet table and finding one's life work (at nine or at any age) by taking from the table those things that most excite one. Add to this the experience of having online mentors and friends in diverse places who share your values and interests.

3. Susanne Nyrop's story about skype and a special visitor in the classroom she visited. I liked how Susanne used storytelling to communicate with us and her flexibility in taking advantage of the learning opportunity for all involved. I am becoming involved in new intercultural projects similar to the one that follows:
www.brookenya.org
All kinds of intercultural communication are going on.

I'm losing my voice. Is it possible to get hoarse from writing too much? smile

In reply to Sarah Haavind

Community-building norms

by Nancy Riffer -
http://www.enlightenedpartners.com/articles/sharingpower.html
I found this paper had a list of thirteen guidelines for community-- near the end.  I think some subset of these might help me orient to the spirit of this group more quickly.  I think these particular agreements deepen trust and community.  (David Millar, do these have any relevance for your community building project?)
In reply to Jay Cross

Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE

by Hanan Gazit (VRider) -

  Jay wrote: "This was my first time here. Maybe my settings are off, but I couldn't easily tell the new stuff from the old. Navigation was frustrating."

This is my first time here too. Despite the representation of the "unread threads", I've found it hard to navigate between the different topics discussions. Adding the?Tagging" function might be useful as well as using visual collaborative conceptual mapping tools such as the FreeMind OPS.

Tagging

Source: Rashmi Sinha / thoughts on technology, design & cognition: January 18, 2006
[Available On-line] http://www.rashmisinha.com/archives/06_01/ social - tagging .html [accessed 3 June 2006]

  Jay wrote: "...Christie mentioned how a debrief closes discussion. Why do you folks ever close a seminar? Why not let it run forever? Or kill it after..."

Indeed, I wonder why? Meaningful learning takes time (see my opening Statement on the videogames revolution discussion).

  Jay wrote: "I am gearing up to lead another series of what I refer to as "unworkshops" about supporting learning with web 2.0 technologies in June...You can track my investigations of informal learning at informl.com."

It?s a small world and I'm sure we can all keep learning from each other around the virtual camp fire, wherever we find an interesting one. I wish to thank Sarah & Nancy @ SCoPe for hosting this interesting forum, and especially JayDavid for sharing their knowledge and resources with us.


Last note:

My current research on videogames intercations take plac within informal settings, and I find myself thinking about the new methodological challenges and considerations one has to take when striving to create an emperical-based knowledge. 

 

In reply to Hanan Gazit (VRider)

Passing the facilitation baton

by Sylvia Currie -
The question of what to do at the "end" of a seminar, or indeed WHY end a seminar, has come up several times in SCoPE. Some seminars feel ready to wind down, others don't. At times the mention of a seminar coming to a close kills the discussion (I had that gasp! what have I done feeling with my "debrief" post!) Some facilitators (all volunteers) don't want to commit to longer than 2 weeks, others are more willing to go with the flow. A part 2 is always an option. But why not just keep it rolling if we can? We should try it out!

Here's a proposal: How about if we see who among us is interested in taking a turn at facilitating? Ideally there will be many, and you could each take a time period (3 weeks?), or double up and co-facilitate. Pull out a topic that has emerged you'd like to focus on as Derek suggested, or leave it more open as Sarah and Nancy have done these past 3 weeks. Interested? Hit reply, say yes of course I'd like to facilitate the discussion smile, list some scheduling preferences, and we'll see what we come up with!
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Passing the facilitation baton

by Christie Mason -
I think it would be great to delve deeper into structure so I'd like to see this continue.

Something I've learned from my experiences with non-profits is that people don't volunteer unless there is a clear description of what they being asked to do, who they are helping, who benefits, and  how those others benefit from their involvement.

What does a facilitator do?  What is SCoPE and why does it host/facilitate these forums (what benefit does SCoPE receive)?

Why not just move this over to Yahoo, or some other free forum host, that doesn't require going to a site to post topics and replies?

Christie Mason
In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Passing the facilitation baton

by Sylvia Currie -
Christie asks for some background info on SCoPE. We launched SCoPE last year with support from the Learning and Instructional Development Centre at Simon Fraser University as a way to bring together individuals at SFU who share an interest in education research and practice, but also to promote participation outside of SFU. The benefits for SCoPE? There are so many, but the mainly SFU members can share and showcase their work, get feedback on research and development activities, and engage in dialogue in an international community. We also see SCoPE as a research project in online facilitation and online communities, and a great opportunity for anyone to practice moderating skills.

The history goes back a little further though. In 1999 the Global Educators' Network (GEN) was conceived by Linda Harasim, leader of the TeleLearning Network of Centres of Excellence. The core activity for GEN was scheduled and moderated seminar discussions. When funding for GEN ended, I continued to correspond with many members who wanted to see the format continue. They liked the focused discussions and variety of topics.

What does a facilitator do? It depends on individual style, topic, purpose, etc, but mostly a facilitator initiates a topic and builds on participants' contributions to prompt further discussion, and focus and advance the dialogue. Sarah's recent post gives some good insight about what she does. Nancy's approach that you've seen in this seminar is to combine the participant/facilitator roles.

Why not just move this over to Yahoo...? A possibility! I'm not sure though -- one annoyance that you're experiencing (having to go to the site to post) may just be replaced by a new one for someone else (advertising? multiple accounts?) Ahh, the quest for the perfect forum tool. We're not there yet, are we! I think Nancy is onto something with the idea of connecting conversations in different venues. Can we just jump to the future and do that please? :-)









In reply to Sylvia Currie

Reflecting Inward - my starting place

by Nancy White -
  1. Technology mirrors: I'm still getting used to moodle, and it reminds me that once we get very comfortable with one tool, hopping to another generates a LOT of informal learning. And it helps me realize my patterns -- some of which could stand updating! :-) So one thing I got out of this conversation as a nice little hit of tool preference self awareness.

  2. Wondering about the invisible: I have not looked at the moodle logs, but it would be interesting to look at reading patterns as compared to posting. I'm a strong believer that we do learn through reading so what we, the vocal post, may reflect only a portion of the overall experiences of the rest of the group. And that always makes me curious.

  3. Guilt and Letting Go: I feel a bit guilty because the past weeks have been too full of work, so my attention here has been fragmentary and my facilitation almost non existent! That said, I'm happy to say I don't think that made any difference, which is again, a testement to informal interaction as a mode of informal learning. So I guess I'll let go of that.

  4. Greatful: For the people I met, the friends I bumped into, the styles I encountered and the (informal) learning that these all catalyzed for me. I come with few expectations except of my own choices and behaviors. I have tons of online experience so I think I have the luxury of sliding comfortably into many situations. As I read others comments, I need to remember that this is not everyone's experience>

    I learn to let go of that which either I'm not ready for or unwilling to connect with, and pursue that which I need and connections to nurture. Does that show a lack of critical thinking? Perhaps. I'm ok with that, because this is the one of the joys of informal learning. I can do it informally. There are so many places in my life that are structured, I have no desire to create more.


In reply to Sylvia Currie

Reflecting Outward - half baked observations

by Nancy White -
I decided to capture my outward facing reflections in audio, attached. Just in case it a) doesn't work or b) some folks can' listen to audio, I've tried to recap the points below in text. If you can hear audios, you might want to listen before you read further...

  • There were no set structures to how this set of conversations unfolded, so we all added discussions as we felt moved. This offered openess, but possibly some fractured attention and caused some conversations to die off before they ripened. More structure might have allowed those conversations to unfold, but it might have strangled the new ones before birth. So for the future, how do you decide how much structure to balance with emergence?

  • We were in the land of heavy text. I was amazed at people's reaction to the camp fire image. In 20/20 hindsight, as a facilitator, I could have paid more attention to that because the clues were there that we had visual thinkers in the group. This also causes me to reflect on tools in general. I've yet to have a nice fluid experience of having a variety of tools that we can flit across, cross link with, that pull sound, images and texts into our field of vision.
  • I was struck by our enthusiasm for the topic. We must be scouts, stewards and clarion-callers for informal learning. I'm surprised we barely touched on the dark sides of the issue (and to me, everything has a dark side.)

In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE

by Greg Verhappen -
WOW!  I have certainly appreciated this opportunity immensely!  Unfortunately, from my end, things have gotten so busy at work that I've hardly had time to keep up with the readings.

The best analogy I can give to my experience here is that I felt like a puppy who has been brought to the forest for the first time.

Some observations I have made:
1. For someone new to this area, there were so many directions I could have gone and all of them seemed so interesting.  I could have spent so much more time pursuing them all but had to pick and choose.

2.  I made some great connections and have learned about the breadth of expertise there is in this group that has been so helpful into providing insight. Everyone was so helpful in providing direction towards my novice insight.  There are still many things I don't understand from the technology end of things such as tagging, etc.  I will have to go back to these threads over the summer and explore these some more because I have discovered how powerful they can be in so many learning environments.

3. Maybe my brainspace is just such that it has grown up with structure or because I am so new to this area, but it seemed to me that each person has their own conceptions and assumptions about what counts as informal learning and operated from within these.  Although I sometimes couldn't find that 'informal' essence I enjoyed seeing how the threads developed to expand the breadth of discussion and development of (informal?) knowledge. 

For example, I still struggle with questions such as: 
    a) How does structure relate to formal learning? 
    b) Does having an structured mental model for informal learning limit informal learning and its possibilities or enhance them? 
    c) Why do I need to have such a formal structure to operate from before I feel at ease, mentally, in the discussion?

(Not that I expected answers.) The help answering these kinds of questions or providing links directly or indirectly were much appreciated.  Despite this, or perhaps because of this, the result was some quite interesting constructive dialogue reflecting people's epistemologies. 

4. No complaints, only kudos to the contributions that were all so helpful.

Suggestions:
1. As others have said, perhaps looking at the way the threads were tracked, responded to, grouped, etc. would have made it easier to follow the discussion.  Sometimes people changed the topic headings in a thread (including me) without starting a new thread. Would it help that if an extension heading was added to the parent thread, the thread would continue but if the parent heading changed a new thread would automatically begin? (or something?) 

Perhaps just adding a question/box/choice at the end of this reply screen that I am using might help:  "Would you like to add this to the existing thread or start a new thread?"--give a button choice with the default on "add".  That would remind all of us to consider where we wanted to post our message before we clicked "Post to forum". 

Are nested threads possible so that I could look at a subtopic or topic to review the context of various postings?

2. If the 'debriefing' is done publicly, perhaps calling it a 'check up' might prevent a sudden change in the direction of focus of the discussion. 

On the other hand, if a separate thread were started at the onset with a heading: "General Feedback" then people could just post feedback suggestions for next time, etc. as the forum develops.  That might provide interesting data so that it could be linked back to what was happening at the time of the posting.  The starting thread could read similarly to the debriefing one given.

Finally:

What about you?  Isn't it so great to be able to read so much in such a short time that generates a kazillion questions in your brain?  The timeframe was good for me because, after this, I will need some time to just go back and distill/digest everything before I miss too much.  Thank you to everyone who helped by providing various summaries, reading lists, etc.  It is much appreciated.  The facilitators did a great job of adding a log or two to the fire when needed or spreading the embers if that was needed, too!

Thanks, all!  Still here...Greg

 
In reply to Greg Verhappen

Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE

by Ann Busby -

Greg has once again given suggestions that I would have. I too have not had enough time to read and digest, but would have liked more time more than anythinng else.

Nancy says the "campfire" was a good illusion for many of us, and I agree that keeping it in mind is good. In some forrays I've attended, we've had informal "lounges" but this group didn't need that since the whole thing was "informal."

I would like to add my suggestion of searching threads by key words (or maybe we can & I just didn't know?) I've been going back to the home page and clicking from there. David's notes have helped (really appreciated that, David!!!).

I echo Greg's & everyone else's sentiments that Nancy and Saraah were great-speaking up when they wanted to, but not trying to lead anyone in a particular direction. That's the beauty of this type of discussion, it goes where people take it. Lots of good side trips gives more food for thought.

Wonder if we would have picked up more on some of Nancy's probing questions if we'd had time? Wonder if each question could have been started as another thread topic to see who would respond?

For me, I enjoyed the "campfire" vision (I really can only enjoy smores virtually since I'm off wheat and dairy-no fun!)

I really enjoyed the discussions around what makes learning formal and/or informal, and the different types of informal learning (and the gaming discussion).

I enjoyed the diversity of opinions without discord-much discussion, some passion, but no ruffled feathers (unless I missed something)

Loved the reading lists-haven't even heard of some of them, but like Nancy have been busy with other reading lately-but want to read some of these. Nancy, maybe we could add a book share to the onlinefacil group?

Thank you everyone for your sharing, passion, knowledge, and wisdom. I'd be interested in continuing this, but have no time to volunteer, sorry-would love to do it, just covered up with work trying to get end of year money spent, you know the drill.

Thanks again, Ann

In reply to Ann Busby

Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE

by Nancy White -
Ann wrote:

>Loved the reading lists-haven't even heard of some of them, but like Nancy have been busy with other reading lately-but want to read some of these. Nancy, maybe we could add a book share to the onlinefacil group?

Sure! We just need someone to ...um... ahem... facilitate it! :-) This comes back to a technical affordance. If we had some shared tagging pratices, we could use tags to connect all these conversations. Tags and RSS -- still early adopter stuff, but the ideas are powerful!
In reply to Nancy White

Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE

by Ann Busby -
Ok, you take care of the technical part (I don''t have a clue about tagging or RSS having never used either or had the time to explore) and I'll get the discussion rolling! Ann
In reply to Greg Verhappen

Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE

by Nancy White -
Greg, you've given me some ideas for my debriefing practices. I'm going to play with some of your ideas going forward. Thanks.
In reply to Nancy White

Re: Debriefing our Informal Learning discussion here in SCoPE

by Greg Verhappen -
I'd love to hear how they go.

I am just considering how some we might make use of some of these informal learning environments in a school (and interschool) for student learning and using some student directed debriefing strategies might help. 

Any pointers (or things that you know work) are always much appreciated.