Learning the Art of Online Facilitation: March 1-21, 2007

Learning the art . . .

Learning the art . . .

by Derek Chirnside -
Number of replies: 18
I had something to say, but did not know exactly where it should go.

Today I sat in in a session on Reflective practice for teachers.  This could help online facilitation learning.  Some sort of cycle.  Maybe reflection > action > observe/reflect on outcome > adjust/learn > . . . .

Easy to say.  :-)
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: Learning the art . . .

by Nick Noakes -
Lovely thread Derek thx :-)

The art for me comes in the listening/reading/observing/reflecting and then deciding when, how and what of intervention ... and when not to intervene. All judgment calls! And this is all draws upon our past experiences - whether these be reading about it, or discussing it, or practicing doing it (in courses), or doing it.
In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: Learning the art . . .

by Maggie Verster -

Hi Derek.

Not so easy to do. I have been trying to get my teachers to blog a part of their reflection on their maths literacy teaching, so that they can read all the "hassles" experienced by the other teachers and not feel so lonely....and learn from good practice...and bad.....but, alas, have not got them there yet.

So what do I do? Maybe they find it intimidating - internet is very new to them....Help

Maggie thoughtful

 

In reply to Maggie Verster

Re: Learning the art . . .

by Nick Noakes -
Maggie

I'm wondering about your context a bit more here. Do they know each other personally (have met up at some point)? How long has the group been going and what do you think is the general comfort level with opening up to each other in this way? Could they look at the strengths of what they are doing first and how these might be aligned to increase the strength? Doing this before they go into a deficit 'problem identification/posing - problem solving' approach.

if the internet is a problem, could you do something low commitment / writing like a poll of selected answers to a question or yes/no, agree/disagree, your top 3 concerns from a list etc first to get them going, and leave the posting of longer text (e.g. war stories) till a bit later on?

As I say, I don't know your context so I may be way off base here. Just a thought.
In reply to Nick Noakes

Re: Learning the art . . .

by Maggie Verster -

Hi Nick,

Some of my teachers have met at f2f workshops and departmental interventions, but most of them are scattered accross the country and are bound by the desperate situation of having to teach a brand new subject with limited resources and experience to teach it. I started the group in June last year, ran (with) it with about 20 teachers till this year, when it took off - partly because things are very desperate and partly because I have had f2f training workshops to get them over their online fear. So now we are on 85 members and growing, but only about 15 of them are actively participating as in contributing resources. I want reflection. Some of these resources are scary from a pedagogical point of view - so we need to TALK about them. Then I am scared if we talk about them the teachers may stop contributing - am I paranoid or what?

Thanx for your feedback- polls might defintely be less threatening. I am also having a virtual tea party on saterday to discuss an exam paper. (a good one)

maggie

 

 

In reply to Maggie Verster

Re: Learning the art . . .

by Robin Yap -

Another thought that comes to mind is the idea of private blogging so the writer can control the number of viewers. Maybe one of the hesitation is privacy or just the worldwide access (whatever that 'world' perception to be).

I've suggested to my instructors (corporate trainers) that they can blog and only show their immediate teams and then to the whole teaching department when they are more comfortable.

We take this reflection one step further with what I've dubbed as "360 journaling" wherein the comments the other instructors provide on the blog posts become part of their regular departmental synchronous online meetings. Seems to work but I agree with you, that first step is to go past the fear of technology, privacy of thoughts, or even judgments from peers.

In reply to Maggie Verster

Re: Learning the art . . .

by carla arena -
Dear Maggie,

A friend of mine and I are responsible for teacher training in technology at our language school in Brasilia, Brazil. We are 180 teachers, and getting some motivated to try out what's in this online world is not a smooth walk. We've been doing all kinds of training in different formats for 4 years. It's a slow process, but we can see that we're getting some of them to go beyond, experience new approaches outside the classroom. It takes time, and generally is the first barrier. They are overloaded with schedules, classes, bureaucratic work...Then, they think it's "cool" what we are doing, they are interested to hear, but they say "it's not for me...". A little bit of fear, maybe. They still find technology overwhelming. Not wanting to expose themselves at an institutional level may be another. So, there are a number of reasons for not starting any online endeavor, but we never give up! We keep showing what we do and we keep giving workshops, presentations...Some are responding, so we are glad!

Well, just some ramblings...

Carla
In reply to carla arena

Re: Learning the art . . .

by Barbara Dieu -

Hi Carla and Maggie,

As you mentioned, it is a slow process. People must be aware there is change and you cannot impose or force it on others. So the first step is awareness, then acceptance and willingness to get involved in it, step by step.

I love this quote by Howard Zinn because it illustrates well how all these social tools, conversations and connections can help teachers, long restricted to their own classrooms and problems, find support from the communities they belong to and make their voices heard .

"People are practical. They want change but feel powerless, alone, do not want to be the blade of grass that sticks up above the others and is cut down. They wait for a sign from someone else who will make the first move, or the second. And at certain times in history, there are intrepid people who take the risk that if they make that first move others will follow quickly enough to prevent their being cut down. And if we understand this, we might make that first move. "
Howard Zinn

In reply to Barbara Dieu

Re: Learning the art . . .

by carla arena -
Dear Bee,

I just loved the quote and will certainly use in our workshops. Very powerful words! Thanks for always sharing.

Beijos,
Carla
In reply to carla arena

Re: Learning the art . . .

by Maggie Verster -

Hi Carla & Bee,

It is so good to hear that I am not alone!!!! smile

I think you two captured exactly the essense of my struggle. It would be great if I cold "join up" with you and your friend, Carla, and share experiences. I would imagine that teaching in Brazil has a lot in common with South Africa. Since I have joined a few online communities at the beginnning of last year I have always felt that it is "another world" and that we in SA are sooo far behind. We need to LEARN, here, how to share our experiences and knowledge, freely, like everybody is doing in this group.

Beware the lawnmover!!!

Maggie

In reply to Maggie Verster

Re: Learning the art . . .

by carla arena -
Hi, Maggie,

We are certainly in a totally different cyber-world here, close to the ideal compared to what we'd like to have as professional development for the teachers in our schools, but I'm an optimist at heart! So, what I just try to do now is to show them what I'm doing in a very simple and practical way. Then, when I spot someone who is eager to go a little beyond I give support in terms of planning and carrying out the online project with their students. In this sense, the online communities, mainly the Webheads and the Learningwithcomputers groups, give me all the online support and collaboration one could ever need, and much more!!! I'm taking an online course on Design and Delivery of online content, and I'm even considering as a final project having a small module for online teacher training. Let's see if I stick to this plan! I guess that enthusiasm can be contagious to some people. Then, I always share my excitement on what I'm doing. This year we even had some of our teachers from our school taking the 6-week EVO sessions! I thought it was a huge step ahead. I'm sure these teachers will start doing something and the others will be observing. We can't just imagine that there will be a time that everyone will join us. No! This won't happen and we have to live with that. Where I work, there are no laptops for teachers or students. The computer lab has only 10 nice computers. We don't have a budget for EdTech (not at all!), so we look for free materials, open sources, Web 2.0 tools that allow us to be creative and enhance language learning. In the end, that's what matters, learning outcomes!

More ramblings...

Carla
In reply to Maggie Verster

Sharing the art . . .

by Derek Chirnside -
Maggie - I've now trawled down this thread a little and see you have posted some more details.  This is a little side comment . . .

In about three weeks we are starting an online workshop/event to look at leadership in a distributed community with this literacy group.
One of the things I am interested in is some field trips.  I have this naive view that some modeling and visits can help move along the idea that 'reflective' habits have value, stories are fun and nurturing etc.
In about 5-8 weeks I'd be interested in visiting somewhere in the world of teacher professional communities with a few of these teachers.

Maybe this could work for your group?  Online cross discipline pollination??
In reply to Maggie Verster

Re: Learning the art . . .

by Stephen Thorpe -

Dear Maggie,

A sub-project of my PhD involved a facilitated chat session by Chris Harkess with 3rd year trainee teachers at the Christchurch College of Education (in New Zealand). Chris wanted to see if using storytelling in a chat session would inspire participation in her student group. She used a chat tool available through the Christchurch College of Education's intranet and decided to use an Appreciative Inquiry (strengths-based) approach.

The average trainee's age is 36 years, so they are adult learners. The session was offered as an optional choice and 8 participants decided to join. Geographically they were spread throughout New Zealand.

The participants did talk about their successes stories but often wanted to focus more on working through the problems that they were encountering in their story. Some of the stories were about behavioural issues (with students), or things that they’d done really well. Some of them talked about things that they had been encouraged to take a step further in their training.

The trainees rated the overall chat experience with a 7.5 out of 10. They said that hearing how it was for other people was the bit that inspired them the most. The session was considered an excellent source of communication for both students and tutors and a great way to share in the learning experiences they all had while out on teaching placements.

Chris (the facilitator) said that the key thing was everybody realizing they had similar experiences yet they’re still unique stories as well. It has encouraged her to do similar sessions again. She said next time the trainees would need more practice beforehand as they had to deal with a number of things all at once 1) the technology 2) other people making comments while they’re talking about their story and then 3) people coming in or going out because of their late arrivals.

---

Personally I've found that blogging isn't for everyone and have found it challenging doing reflective storytelling via a blog. Perhaps an alternative tool, or several sessions that are clearly facilitated would encourage more and different types of participation. You could focus on their needs for dealing with a new subject with limited resources and building relationships between members (buddy them up maybe). I like your idea of a virtual tea party and look forward to hearing how it goes on Saturday.

Stephen

In reply to Stephen Thorpe

Re: Learning the art . . .

by Robin Yap -

I can relate to what you stated that blogging is not for everyone. Just like online teaching is not for everyone. Or on the flipside, some of my instructors are performing more effectively online than in f2f classes. What I tell my instructors in our train-the-trainer classes is that we add as many tools to their instructor toolbox as is possible so that they have the ability to switch tools in case one does not work for them.

In the end, my instructors (and I imagine most faculty) all want the same thing for their students - to train them to "learn how to continually learn" (and engage them along the way in a fun, safe, creative, innovative and exciting manner).  

In reply to Maggie Verster

Re: Learning the art . . .

by Emma Duke-Williams -
From Re: Learning the art . . . by maggiev on 08 March 2007 03:51:00:
Not so easy to do. I have been trying to get my teachers to blog a part of their reflection on their maths literacy teaching, so that they can read all the "hassles" experienced by the other teachers and not feel so lonely....and learn from good practice...and bad.....but, alas, have not got them there yet.

I know what you mean. I have a group of MSc (distance learning) students who start to blog at the start of their second year. They use Learning Journals in the first year, which are WebCT discussion boards, with only themselves & the tutor having access to them. In the second year, we get them to use a blog. Some students found this very challenging. Some enjoyed it. For the first two years, we used blogspot, but following discussions with students one thing that they found difficult was the idea that though most of them had set their blogs not to be searchable etc., it was still possible that other could read them. For some, it was even the thought that others in the class could read them, for others it was the unknown audience that was scary.

As a result of their comments, we changed for the current cohort to Elgg, as that allowed them to dictate, to a high degree of granularity who could see particular posts. Again, when asked, some found that they preferred the privacy of the first year's method; others preferred the blogs. What is interesting, to me, is that we only ask them to blog in the first semester of the second year - which has now ended. For the final semester of the second year, they have the option. Last year, on blogger, only 1 student carried on, and that wasn't very often. This year 3 (almost half the group) are carrying on using a blog for reflection, rather than reverting to the WebCT discussion board.
In reply to Maggie Verster

Re: Learning the art . . .

by Derek Chirnside -
Hmm, Maggie, interesting question.
Sorry to be so long in replying, I've been away, and internet challenged.

I've had a quick look at your other posts, and have some idea where you are at - but I could not decide if this was a formal professional development project - or an informal volentary one; or if it was paid release time or not - or if it was linked to appraisal - or if it was a volentary opt-in deal.  All these factors are relevant.  I now have some serious involvement with a literacy teachers community-wanna-be.  We have the question "Do we have the glue and the oomph to actually form a community?"  I've spent part of a day each with three groups totalling 80 or so leaders of the project where the community may form from.  I learned a lot, some of which I already knew . . .

Several indicated they felt insecure online.  In 2 workshops I had a request for an anonymous option, to be able to ask questions with no names attached.  Others indicated as lack of time.  Several indicated technology insecurities.  But by far the biggest factor were
  • Why should I go online when I can pick up the phone.
  • "What I have to say is of no value".
This is a long way of saying there are lots of things to work with in the situation you - and then you put in the public nature of blogs and it may get worse.  :-) mixed
Robin has suggested 'private blogging'.  And I will put aside the question of whether private blogging is blogging etc etc, this is a question for another forums) . . .

From Re: Learning the art . . . by robinyap on Friday, 9 March 2007 9:44:00 a.m.:
Seems to work but I agree with you, that first step is to go past the fear of technology, privacy of thoughts, or even judgments from peers.


Here are three factors Robin lists . . .
  1. past the fear of technology
  2. privacy of thoughts
  3. or even judgments from peers
These are right on.  IMO.  I'd add (in your case) a

    4. any sense of value of reflection
    5. a process to engage in it. 

We used an article

Teacher talk to improve teaching practices
Brian Annan, Mei Kuin Lai, and Viviane Robinson

Teachers engaging in "learning talk" analyse, critique, and challenge their current teaching practices to find and/or create more effective ways of teaching. Using three New Zealand studies, this article examines the effectiveness of "learning talk" in facilitating changes in teacher practices and beliefs, and in student achievement. It addresses the challenges to this kind of talk, and explains the role of expert support in facilitating it.
http://www.nzce
r.org.nz/default.php?cPath=139_134_38&products_id=423
(I apologise that it is only available on payment . . .  I will see if I can have permission to post a copy)

I was quite interested in this.  Brian Annan had been there the week before, and in our little travelling roadshow, Mei was on of the participants. Talking to some teachers, this process was helpful.  But the huge barriers remain.

Principally it is the second bullet point above.  The perception of value.  [I will not dwell on the other thing that is killing off reflective practice: linking it in a draconian way to appraisal.]  But that is another story.  And I could also muse a little here on why some people take to this like a duck to water, and just do NOT look back.  There is a research question there . . .  or something for the story thread.

This post doesn't really 'answer' your question Maggie, it just talks around it. It is also tangential to the question of learning facilitation.  But the role of the facilitator (mentor, guide, coach) seems to be vital.  (Let me know if you'd like some links to other research in this field).  How to help nurture more people into this role? - Derek
Heading into three days of e-mails to deal with.




In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: Learning the art . . .

by Maggie Verster -

Hi David,

Firstly, my group is completely voluntary although the thought has crossed my mind to appraoch the Department of education to attach some "credit" to belonging to the group....that way we can get some teachers that really need to be there into the group and maybe they will then find some value..

I agree with you wholeheartedly that the perception of "value" is very important. When I meet up with some of the serious lurking teachers at f2f meetings they always tell me how much they appreciate all the resources and discussions (done by mostly the faithful few at the moment). So that gives me hope that we are on the right track.

As I am at the beginning of this journey, i realise that I must not throw all the new tools that I am so excited about at them all at once and concentrate on community building using that what they feel are of value. So, is there any quick way (I love instant gratification ;)) that I can determine what they find most valuable and focus on that for a while...?

Oh yes and David, I would love my teachers to team up with your group... I am sure there will be some that would find it veeery exciting.

Maggie