Who is Smik?

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Running an Online Commmunity

This posting relates to the second session I am presenting in Singapore on Saturday November 15 at the Hands On Literacy conference.

I've been involved in setting up and managing online communities for quite a long time now and have pretty strong opinions about what makes them work, and what doesn't.
This session won't be so much a hands-on workshop as a show and tell with some opportunity for questions and discussion.

Here is my brief:
Running an Online Community: the how and why of it
Many schools and tertiary institutions are being asked to supplement their face to face teaching with online courses or add online elements to existing courses. How is running an online community or offering an online course different to managing an "ordinary" classroom.
What makes a good online community? How do you strike the balance between instruction and interaction.

I aim to cover these ideas:
  • Blended learning
  • What makes a vibrant online community?
  • What works in establishing an online community?
  • What spaces and tools are available?
  • How do you keep it going?
  • Balancing instruction and interaction
In blended learning
  • Combination of face-to-face lessons with technology-based materials
  • Classroom teacher becomes a learning facilitator
  • This is more than just putting materials online.
    Thought needs to be given to how to create interaction between the participants, how to provide a stimulating environment that provides opportunity for collaboration.
Types of online communities
  • mailing lists – announcements & information
  • ‘groups’ with files & storage space
  • ‘groups’ with storage & variety of activities
  • wikis, wikia, wikispaces
  • blogs – are they a community?
  • new social networking places
Decide which will suit your purpose best.

I'm very taken with the methodology shown in Gilly Salmon's 5-stage model http://www.atimod.com/e-tivities/5stage.shtml and will spend some time discussing it's implications, using the cartoons provided on the site for each step.

What makes for a successful community?
  • Personal profiles
  • Clarity of purpose, focus for activities
  • Activities where members can interact and contribute
  • Ongoing stimulation, social interaction
  • Shared ownership, commitment,
  • existing clientele, common interest
  • mentoring
  • reasonable bandwidth for management activities
The Role of the Owner
- shared ownership is recommended
What does the owner do?
  • Sets the group up
  • Defines purpose, layout, attractiveness
  • Advertises, promotes
  • Assists people in joining
  • Initiates activities
  • Upload files
  • Moderates discussions
  • Arbitrates if necessary
  • Participates *****
Not an armchair ride
Running an online community whether for students or teachers requires active oversight, participation and sometimes intervention by the owner(s)

Fostering that sense of Community
  • Sometimes the hardest thing is just getting started
  • Some tools are more useful than others for breaking the ice. They may even be useful in well established Groups
  • Use ‘getting to know you” tools
    Members introduce themselves in a forum
    Group Profiles
    Photo Albums
    Add a colleague
    Frappr Map
Define the purpose of your community
  • Whatever the nature of your group make sure that everyone is aware of its purpose
  • Clarify expectations, conditions of use etc
  • Will you allow OT discussions?
  • Provide activities and resources that reinforce the purpose
Assessing vibrancy
  • Active discussions
  • Things that connect members
  • Relevancy
  • Sharing
  • Growth
Active groups Don't Just Happen
  • They need ongoing stimulation & nurturing
  • When you start a new group don’t show your hand all at once
  • Think about ’the journey’ your group will take, plan stimulating activities
  • Take a pro-active role: it isn’t an armchair ride – go that 1 step further
  • You don’t just knit together, you also start new rows
  • Be alert to members having problems
Tools from the web for your group, website or blog
  • ClustrMaps gives a visual idea of who comes to your Group. Gives Group Members a sense of belonging to a “living” community.
  • Frappr Map: Add the code from the Frappr website into any space where you can embed HTML code within your Group. Encourage your Group Members to put in their location, image and a message about themselves.
  • Feedjit lets you monitor traffic to your group/blog.
  • VoiceThread: Allows the adding of images, audio and text messages
  • Flickr Badge: a good way of displaying shared events and photographs with your Group Members
  • Screencast-o-matic: A free tool that allows you to generate a tour of your site with or without audio. Once you have created a screencast you can leave it on the web and use it from there or download it as a .mov file to store for offline use.
  • Odiogo Allows you to attach podiocasts to a blog. FREE to bloggers – a link comes onto your blog. People can hear a “near human” computer generated voice. Also can be saved as an mp3 file
Examples of online communities=where you might set one up
  • Web 2.0 Social networking places
    • focus on “friends” and commonality of interest
    • create your Profile – define who you are
    • set up links with others of like mind
    • links with other online tools
    • forums, chats
    • RSS feeds, file upload, ratings
    • use tags

  • Blogs are usually chronological documents often compared to a diary or journal, written daily, or at least regularly. Once you have posted to the blog you make only minor amendments.
  • Discussion Board (or a tool that allows discussion to happen) could be something like a Yahoo or Google group, or an edna Group (which uses Moodle and has a forum tool)
  • Wikis are often favoured by teachers because they can be much more collaborative. They basically build up an online booklet. It is not so much about individual entries, but documents that everybody can add to and edit. They can lend themselves to branching documents (like Wikipedia). e.g. Wikispaces, PB Wiki
  • Sites to look at

Social networking with educators

This posting relates to a session I am presenting in Singapore on Saturday November 15 at the Hands On Literacy conference.

My "brief" for my workshop in Session 1.
Social networking with educators: why is this important? How do I do it?
The emphasis in web 2.0 tools is using communication and collaboration tools to connect with others. This session will focus on where some of these social networking sites can be found and what participants get out of joining one or more of them. What is the potential of social networking for my professional development? This session will look at some social networking sites such as Ning and the edna example of me.edu.au

A word from Common Craft

More Common Craft videos in Plain English on social media, podcasting, RSS, blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, twitter, and online photosharing.

What do educators get out of being part of a social network?
  • support from fellow educators, like-minded teachers
  • new ideas
  • information about trends, events, new publications
  • professional development, both incidental and intentional
  • just in time assistance - you can ask questions
  • the opportunity to "define" yourself
  • a place to create an online e-portfolio
  • development of your understanding of, and confidence in using, web 2.0 tools
  • a wider network of "friends"
  • growth of your own reputation
Links to follow up:
  • me.edu.au: an Australian social network for educators.
  • Classroom2.0: a Ning social network for those interested in Web 2.0 and collaborative or transformative technologies in education. This a large network of over 12,000 members with a large number coming from the US. Search for me there. There are 39 people who list Singapore as home.
  • Ning in Education: similar site to Classroom2.0: a community for those using the Ning social networking platform in education. Look for a block in the right hand column that contains a list of Ning education networks.
  • Library 2.0: a Ning network for librarians.
  • TeacherLibrarianNetwork: This is another Ning, but this one has a number of defined sub-groups: High School Teacher Librarians, Elementary School Librarians, YA Lit in School Libraries, More Things: Applying 2.0 tools, Information fluency, and more.
  • Social Networks in Education: a wiki that gives an extensive list of social networks you can join.
  • Socialnetworking4teachers: a wiki with useful links and ideas.
  • CyberSmart! for teachers: a site devoted to interenet safety with advice for teachers.
  • Literacy & technology: another Ning, for those interested in the application of technology to literacy learning in the K-3 area of the school.
  • Literacy Lighthouse: another Ning community, a place for high school English teachers to become beacons of 21st Century literacy. Join now and share best practices, forge collaborations, and discuss what literacy in the 21st Century entails.This is a small recently created network.
What to do
  • visit a number of networks and then decide which one (or two at the most to start with) best suits you.
  • sign up - usually you have to create a user name, decide on your own password, give an email address, and sometimes you go straight in. In others you won't be able to login until you've confirmed your registration by email.
  • usually in the network you will get your own set of pages, with a blog page, and the opportunity to "collect" friends.
  • work on creating your profile - you can usually add some details about yourself, your interests etc., and add a photo. Defining who you are is really important.
  • explore what the site offers, look at the forums, explore other people's pages, collect colleagues, leave comments.
  • work out whether you can monitor what goes on in the network by email, RSS feeds, or whether you have to remember to visit frequently.
  • Always remember that the benefits of social networking for you will depend on your participation. If you "lurk" it is very easy to become a voyeur rather than a participant, and then eventually it will seem less important for you to visit.