Blog #5: Putting to Practice!

Well…after some deliberation, review of all my classmates blogs and in consideration of the past two weeks reading…I thought this was the perfect time to explore my own experiences with online facilitation over the past week!  I have the privilege of designing and facilitating 10 mandatory sixty minute webinars for over 700 staff and what was the content you might ask?  Something we have all experienced – the annual Occupational Health & Safety review!  Human resources was of course the subject matter expert and delivered most of the content themselves with my support however the experience was timely in light of everything we’ve been discussing and reading as of late.

Let’s start with the planning required for these webinars.  Not only did extensive scoping of the content and building of the presentation take place but the administration setup was equally extensive.  To build the webinars, polling questions, survey and market the education occurred over 4 weeks with goals of ensuring the session would be learner centred, relevant and meaningful.  Also included was practice time with HR to not only review the content but practice navigating the technology as ‘presenting’ not only includes the virtual presence but also knowledge about how to switch screens and control muting.  Added onto this was a request for me to mentor a staff on my role as organizer, which of course I was happy to do.

But the best part for me came in trialling a webcam for first time!  Only a few staff in the organization currently have this capability and although I had to ask IT to purchase me a portable set, it works perfect.  A little daunting to project yourself into the screen however I was really pushing to try and create some sense of social presence in a short session and already evaluation is revealing that staff wish they could see all the presenters, which is a great first step… identification and validation that it is helpful to receive those visual cues which display emotion and tone of voice.  Each session provides immediate assessment in the form of a survey and it is used to guide/revise ongoing sessions.  Upon completion of all the webinars later this week, I will provide a full analysis of the data to HR who will use it to document baseline knowledge and align against organizational goals.

One interesting note to share is that a staff contacted me this week and indicated she had watched the webinar from her ipad; this was extremely exciting as staff do not have ipads however this individual herself decided to engage with her own technological devices; to expand her own knowledge of learning with innovation.  Although we were able to identify webinarsome challenges with the ‘app’ she used, I am planning now to further test this myself as I believe this presents opportunities in the future to expand the delivery of our organizational learning.

What a timely experience for me to ‘put to practice’ our recent learning’s and I am looking forward to the next opportunities for online learning in my organization where hopefully I can promote more effectiveness and engagement of learners through innovative and interactive strategies.

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Blog #3: Defining the Landscape

On a personal note, I love to run.   I love the running community.  Individuals who come together to share, nurture and support each other on those days when it’s hard to get started or simply keep up.  My community is informal but we share a similar passion, identity and focus.  We learn from each other, with each other and value our relationships.

It was exciting when I read that online communities of practice were part of our focus this week!  How are they built and how are they sustained?  I often think of a community of practice as something that is living and organic in nature; constantly evolving and changing in response to the practice.  Not only is a group of people coming together with shared interests (like us in this course!) but it also needs active participation; sharing, asking/answering questions, listening and connecting on a social level with each other.  For me this translates to an old saying “just because you have built it doesn’t mean they will come”; it takes time.

With today’s web 2.0 technology, information can be accessed quickly and efficiently.  I can honestly say that I historically considered communities of practice as something very formal and very scholarly.  However now consider social websites such as Pinterest or other forums where learners are coming together and sharing similar knowledge; my beliefs have shifted immensely.  As a member of Pinterest I am amazed by the scope and depth of information, ranging from recipes to classroom learning activities.  Check out these stats from 2010:

  • 70 million users
  • 80% are women
  • 35% mobile visitors only
  • 500,000 business users

I am struck that 80% of users have been identified as women; one thought I have is the visual layout with less text than some other sites; I am certainly drawn to pictures before vast amounts of text.  Of interest, Hanson-Smith (2013) cautioned that although the ‘casual socialization’ found in the web 2.0 social applications doesn’t always relate to a community of practice, the capacity of the same applications is important in contributing towards and developing online communities of practice

A final thought centres on Etienne Wenger, a social learning theorist, who was instrumental in carving out the domains of community of practice. He describes how we need to ‘walk the landscape of practice’ when engaging in communities of practice; to know and to identify.  As humans, we have the ‘choice of how much we want to engage in communities”.

Whether that community of practice is being engaged personally or professionally, I believe with the right nourishment, the collaboration possibilities are endless.  Once we ‘know’ as Wenger suggests the ability to impact learners in the workplace or the classroom is limitless.

References:

Digital Marketing Ramblings. Retrieved electronically 21 September 2013 from http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/pinterest-stats/

Hanson-Smith, E. (2013).  Online communities of practice.  In Chapelle, E (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics.  Blackwell Publishing Ltd.