September 2008


I have not participated in online forums much before this course. I have joined the NZ weather forum to get a taste and also found a site that seems to build software for forums that looks great- it is set out as a forum itself http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?t=249460 . They suggests a range of things people would look for in a forum (which of course they provide!!). They suggest among other things the need for Inline Spam Management and Prevention Tools, Thread Tagging, Reciprocal Friendships Between Users, Public Messaging, User-Created Social Groups and Inline Moderation Enhanced Authentication. The abiltiy to enable rss feeds is also important. As another forum moderator suggests: The SolidWorks Discussion Forum has a new look and feel to it.  The interface to me looks much cleaner now.  The biggest change to me is the addition of RSS feeds to the forum.  You can now get feeds from the forum (by Category) piped directly to your favorite news reader (Examples include Netvibes, iGoogle, Yahoo, etc.)

The NZ weather forum http://www.weatherforum.org.nz is a site that seems to be subject/ theme/ date orientated. You can pick a thread and participate in a conversation. I was asked to provide details by the site administrator of my location. I noted too that there were links to other weather sites, so that this forum could be the ‘one-stop-shop’ for weather hounds. It could benefit from a co-ordinated facilitation event that discusses an issue. In searching the site I was not aware that this had been done before. This along with someone summarising the threads would improve the forums grunt.

Facilitaiton techniques that might build the community aspect of forums are evident in the weather forum to some extent- there are clear topics related to time. There is visual stimulation and recent activity. There are icons being used such as smileys. A useful article that helped me understand more about these techniques is http://www.fullcirc.com/community/faciliplay.htm . The play aspect of a forum facilitates involvement and community. I have not found much on our foc08 blogs about this to interact with.

I have found the article on effective online facilitation in the Australian Flexible Learning Framework to give a useful set of guidlines about what they think this is… see http://pre2005.flexiblelearning.net.au/guides/facilitation.html

Facilitation skills include:

  • engaging the learner in the learning process, particularly at the beginning
  • appropriate questioning, listening and feedback skills
  • the ability to provide direction and support to learners
  • skills in managing online discussion
  • ability to build online teams
  • a capacity for relationship building
  • motivational skills.

It is also seen as important for teachers to have a positive attitude to online teaching and an ability to be innovative and experimental (risk taking).

There is a problem with this though… The teacher may be too directive with independant learners. Nellie http://nelliemuller.blogspot.com/2008/09/learners-teach-themselves-foc08.html makes a good point in her blog on this in relfecting on Carl Rogers approach to teaching http://www.panarchy.org/rogers/learning.html.

I like too Daryl Cook’s simple descriptions of the terms facilitating, moderating and teaching, thought ‘teaching’ is probably being defined differently today that it was 30 years ago…http://darylcook.com/category/personal/foc08/

Nancy White uses organic terminolgy to describe facilitation. Terms such as gardener, conductor, fertile ground etc are used. See www.fullcirc.com/community/communityfacilitation.htm

I like the term ‘cultivator’. There is a preparation phase, planting phase, and then a letting things grow phase… This means letting go… yet some responsibility to nurture things along where necessary, depending on circumstances. The role depends on what outcomes are being desired and who controls those…This is a question that hounds me. My own style would be one of cultivating through stimulating a response of some kind.