Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Opening up this blog to other contributors

As mentioned in my last post, one of the reasons the network may not be as vibrant as it could be is the number of posts to this blog.

It's time to to try opening up this blog to other contributors.

However, many believe that group blogs don't work, and I must admit I have my misgivings.

I'm concerned that this blog could lose its focus as a primary source of information about the CLC project, and that people will start using it as a substitute for their own personal blog, which would defeat the purpose of this project, in my opinion.

And this project is also about modelling a class blog, where the teacher posts 'official' information, allowing students to leave comments on the class blog, but encouraging them to post their own thoughts and content to their own online spaces.

One strategy for dealing with these concerns would be to come up with a set of contributor's guidelines to unsure that the blog stays on focus.

So what do you think? Should we open the blog up to other contributors? Do we need a set of guidelines?

On the assumption that people will be okay with multiple contributors and a set of guidleines I've made a start on a list on the wiki - CLC Blog Contributor Guidelines.

Please add your thoughts about what should be included in the guidelines on the wiki page's discussion page.

(Photo of fridge door by Marya)

Reflecting on the progress of the CLC so far

Yesterday I had a meeting with Diana Khabbaz, Barbara Campbell and Stephan Ridgway to discuss the progress of this network, partly because a progress report is due on Friday, and partly because I've been feeling that the network is a bit 'stuck'.

The network isn't as vibrant as we would have hoped.

I think this is for a range of reasons. Exploring these reasons provides an opportunity to discover some of the possible barriers to implementing a networked learning model in educational environments.

Some of the possible reasons we discussed in the meeting were:
  1. It may be that more conversation would be stimulated if this blog was more active and posted to more often. I think the more blogging the better, but at least one or two posts a week may be the minimum required to keep the energy up.

    This is my responsibility as I have had difficulty finding the time and the motivation to blog. I will endeavour to up my posting rate, but the other solution is to open this blog up to other contributors. I will take steps shortly to begin this process.

  2. With a few notable exceptions, not many other members are participating. This is not a judgement - just an observation.

    As Dawn Foster says in her excellent Web 2.0 Starter Kit:
    You will not truly understand web 2.0 unless you participate in it.
    And for this distributed learning network model to work, members have to contribute by posting to their own blogs, comment on each other's blogs, subscribe to each other's blogs, RSS feeds and feeds, add resources to the wiki, develop and link to tutorials, podcasts, screencasts etc, and maybe even give some online presentations.

    In yesterday's meeting we discussed at length why people may not be contributing. One of the main reasons we came up with was that simply many of us - project facilitators and teachers alike - are time-poor and suffering overload, exhaustion and burnout. Many people are engaged in multiple projects, each of which can have many expectations in terms of writing learning plans, attending meetings, providing evaluations, documenting through blogs, podcasts, wikis etc. And this isn't including engaging in what the project is actually about!

  3. Leading on from point 2) is the issue of numbers in the network required to 'make it happen'. In any online environment only a tiny percentage of members contribute - some say as little as 1% according to the 1% rule - with another group - perhaps 10% to 20% - contributing occassionally, and the bulk of the members consuming/reading/listening/lurking.

    This is fine, and to be understood and expected in online environments, but we must account for this. This may mean that in order for a network such as this to reach a 'critical mass' where a lot of posting, conversation and interaction is occuring we need many more numbers than we have now.

    I've already done a lot of promoting of the network, and I was pleased and relieved when we had a respectable number add their names and photos to our Frappr map, and their names and online spaces to the member's page on the wiki, but I have to admit I would rather spend the limited time I have to work on this project facilitating rather than promoting.

    The E-learning Networks online event next week will provide further exposure to the network, and Wendy Zammit will be feeding students into the network from her very popular Communicating with Online Technologies course for teachers she is running at Sydney Institute of TAFENSW.

    Perhaps it's just a matter of time too.

  4. I didn't realise how much work would be involved in getting such a network up and running. This type of network is not automatic. It's not just a case of setting up a group-centric tool such as a a mailing list, forum or EdNA group. It really requires constant nurturing by the facilitator through posting, visiting other's blogs and commenting, bookmarking resources etc. The hours that I can personally put in to this are limited. In an educational situation the teacher can simply say that students must produce content (such as blog) in order to pass assessment. Hopefully by opening up this blog to other contributors this workload will be distributed a bit.
So, we'll keep plugging away, try a few new things and see what happens!

(Photo of barnacles by Naotake Murayama)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Do we need an aggregated RSS feed?

One of our newest members - Mark van Harmelen (who seems to be something of an expert on PLEs) - has created a combined RSS feed of all the member's feeds at FeedBlendr.

I'm wondering if we need to create a combined feed though.

We had originally planned to do that, but decided that since people weren't exclusively going to blog about CLC-related topics it may contain a lot of irrelevant posts.

Instead we were taking the approach of encouraging people tobookmark and tag their relevant posts in with our tag - 'clcommunity'- as Jo Kay has done with her latest excellent post - Wikispaces: My Personal Portfolio.

Having said that, looking at the current combined feed it looks fairly focused, so maybe it's a good idea after all.

The other issue is who is responsible for it?

Only Mark can update the FeedBlendr feed.

I was originally thinking of setting up the combined feed at my FeedDigest account which I have used to display our RSS feed of resources saved at and tagged with 'clcommunity' in the sidebar of this blog.

But do I want to take individually responsibility for these resources? What happens when I am no longer a facilitator on this project?

This is a perennial problem with online services, especially when being used by a group. At least with some services like Blogger and Wikispaces you can have multiple admins (using their own individual accounts) and administration can be handed over at anytime.

Neither using Mark's FeedBlendr feed or my FeedDigest feed is sustainable, so I'm wondering what we should do about that.

Do we need to consider setting up a new FeedDigest account just for the CLC and make the username and password available for everyone so anyone can update it?

Then we can use that for the feed and the combined member's RSS feeds.

(Image of combined CLC RSS feeds from Mark van Harmelen)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Creating your Personal Learning Environment resources

On Thursday the 3rd of August I presented a workshop on Creating your Personal Learning Environment as part of a NSW LearnScope Workshop.

The resources on the presentation wiki may be of use to anyone interested in building their PLE.

Jo Kay has also made a great post on her blog about what elements she includes in her PLE and why - Cleaning up my PLE for CLC.

You might notice that Jo has been tagging her own posts - those relevant to the CLC - with 'clcommunity' in her account. This is a great way to ensure that relevant blog posts are fed to the group (since you should have subscribed to the tag's RSS feed in your favourite news reader by now!).

I've added links to both Jo's post and my PLE presentation wiki to the Creating a Personal Learning Environment resources page of the CLC wiki.

Stephan Ridgway has setup up a room for the OMN in NSW TAFE's new Macromedia Breeze Webconferencing setup.

Last Tuesday night the OMN tested it out. We had a lot of fun, and I was pretty impressed with some of its features which make it suitable to do more 'hands-on' type sessions, something I haven't been willing to attempt with Elluminate.

I'm thinking over the next few weeks I might do an online version of the Creating your PLE workshop, so stay tuned.

(Photo of LearnScope workshop by Robyn Jay)