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attending to the shadow of living and learning on the web

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Life as Inquiry

Defined by Judy Marshal as: “seeking to pay attention to the ‘stories’ I tell about myself and the world and recognising that these are all constructions, influenced by my purposes and perspectives and by social discourses which shape meanings and values”

Working virtually: Treat each thing as if it were alive

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When I started thinking about this post I wanted to write about ‘team’ work and how to do it virtually. Team seems such an overused word it means little anymore when used to refer to groups of people working together physically or virtually.

In my work I am often asked often how to manage groups of people who are not co-located but have to collaborate. There is literature on it but it mostly says just ‘use what we know about teamwork in the physical and find ways to apply it to the virtual’.  Trouble is, this advise does not work very well. Or, more accurately, if you have the right people for the job they will make the advise work. But then, they would make any advise work. It matters to me to find out what is the difference that makes the difference practically not theoretically.

I set out at the beginning of this year to learn about virtual collaboration by becoming a student again. It is easy to think about the theory of effective team work and say to my own students, this is how I would apply it to working virtually. It is quite another to say, this is how I made it work. This post is about how I made it work. All I offer here is a personal view, informed by many years of teaching and facilitating groups for the purposes of learning and getting business done.

I want to compare a negative experience with a positive one. I studied with the Open University (#H817) earlier in the year and we had to to get a project done in project teams. This ‘teams’  were little more than a collection of individuals mandated to work on a disposable assignment, in the sense the sense David Wiley uses the term:

These are assignments that students complain about doing and faculty complain about grading. They’re assignments that add no value to the world – after a student spends three hours creating it, a teacher spends 30 minutes grading it, and then the student throws it away.

Much of that course was designed through disposable assignments, this was managable when working in isolation, but took a new level of complexity and learnt helplessness when having to engage others in order to succeed at something nobody (including the educators) cared about.

Continue reading “Working virtually: Treat each thing as if it were alive”

No! You should not do DS106

“I found a village of humans from many parts of our planet. How strange is that? I found a small village that seemed caring. Not all of them to be sure. Some were more distant than others, some more polite, some more fearful. But I found them to be, in the rectangle before me on my desk in Swaffham, humans who shared some similar purpose. And I was part of it. The villagers would help me if I needed assistance. Not just the “professor” Jim Groom, but the students themselves offered assistance. Just like my town of Swaffham. There was caring and there was camaraderie. And chaos, but that is another story for someone else to tell.” Dr Oblivion who retired, played Suduku and lived peacefully in Swaffham before his mysterious death.

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or is it?

I have been trying to find a cogent critique of the University of Mary Washington’s digital storytelling course – DS106 and I have not managed to find anything that addresses my need to evaluate this course for the Masters in Online and Distance Education I am doing at the Open University (OU) in the United Kingdom.

I have to admit a bias upfront – I love DS106 and I am putting my Masters on hold in order to join the next run DS106 charmingly (?) called ‘Headless 13’  I also believe in the ethos demonstrated by the yearly questions set by The Edge – particularly the 2008 one ‘ What have you changed you mind about recently and why?’ I set up this blog to challenge my own thinking beyond those things that seem to me to be self evident and obvious.

So, I set myself the task to look beyond the self evident truth that DS106 is the best thing to have happened to higher education generally and to open education specifically since 1373 when ‘the people of Florence petitioned the Signoria of Florence to provide public lectures of Dante’s work, resulting in a year’s course where a lecturer, paid 100 gold florins, spoke every day except holy days’ (Peter and Deimann, 2013).

One thing we can say about DS106 uncontroversially is that is nodal online learning, a hashtag classroom and that a syndication engine plus the web are the bare bones of any DS106 like course. Once we start to talk about the kind of nodes and links or the directionality of the links we get into a more difficult terrain. It is not my intention here to repeat analysis already available elsewhere. Instead, I want to offer an outsider’s view of DS106, I am utterly uninterested in wether DS106 is a cMOOC but not an xMOOC – although it may be. I daydream when reading arguments about whether it can be put in a box and whether this is desirable – although it may be. As an outsider coming in, I see that it succeeds at getting a level of participation and commitment many can only dream about. It is easy to join in without questioning its limits and boundaries. But then, I was not put on this earth to join anything unquestioningly and I have an assignment to complete damn it!

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