Thursday, December 11, 2008

Follow those CoPs........

Our collaboration project team is in hot pursuit of two sites that appear to be CoPs. Through a literature review of research on online communities as well as online communities of practice, the team has developed a likert-type evaluation tool for determining whether or not a community is a community of practice, and investigates whether the online community of practice meets the features of a CoP as outlined by Barab and Duffy (2000, p. 54) in Designing for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning (Barab, Kling, & Gary, 2004).

The first site our team decided to pursue is Classroom 2.0. The site provides a wealth of information, experience, and interaction opportunities for teachers who have skills or want skills in teaching with technology. Our team task, to see if Classroom 2.0 meets criteria as a CoP. The second site, PBS Teacher Connect, is a community that had high interest for our team members. According to PBS Teachers Connect, it is an online community of teachers exchanging ideas, resources and instructional strategies on the integration of digital media and technology. We need to chase down some missing criteria with which to evaluate the sites, construct an online rubric for easy data collection, and aggregate the responses to show an averaged score for each sites feature effectiveness.
Our team decided to use a wiki to collaborate in completing the final task for the CI 5323 course. Since the course emphasized interaction and collaboration, the team determined that a wiki would be a nice tool to assist with collaboration by providing a common space for sharing and holding of information. Due to familiarity with, a decision was made to build a site that would offer opportunities for individual and collaborative taskwork. The site, CI 5323 Collaborative Project, includes pages for each area of the assignment to hold the three products that are required for completion, namely, a literature review, a criteria based CoP evaluation rubric, and the rating and justification for each CoP evaluated.
Early on, there was some confusion about mechanics, so a link to the PBWiki Manual was added. Each request was met with a response within 24 hours, as any comments, changes to the wiki, or private messages were tied to email. The email tie-in provided a quick way to track changes and be aware of any site related request or task related question or comment. For a workgroup that was intent on completing the task with limited face-to-face meetings for planning and executing the task, the wiki has provided a space to collaborate.
There are many tools out there in the universe of cyberspace that might have been utilized for our purposes, however, having at least one person who was intimately familiar with the online tool was of great benefit to the group effort as peer assistance for site technical difficulties was immediately available. To begin the collaboration, roles were assigned to each team member. The roles included one administrator; five writer/editors. It soon became evident that each person on the team required full-access in the administrator role and so all members status was changed. The administrative role provided more functionality and opportunity to tweak the task components, the wiki, and to improve a sense of individual accomplishment and identity in the assignment we were pursuing.
Wiki pages were created to separate assignment components that were in-progress, individual pages for storing information, resources, and references as well as a space to create drafts of self-assigned work. The nice thing about the wiki pages is that all pages were available to all members, which helped to direct and guide the coherence of our collaborative project. Members of the team could review other's work and organization to clarify their own products. While the discreet pages worked well to hold the various components of the task and provided workspace for individual members, the organization of PBwiki was confusing to several members who were unfamiliar with the mechanics of the site.
The assignment components and resulting pages were based upon the assignment requirements. Some research was required to determine the best tool to use to build and execute the evaluation of sites by rubric. After a comparison of and features, SurveyGizmo took center-stage. SurveyGizmo's features fell in line with collaborative products that needed to be created to meet the assignment goals. SurveyGizmo has more discrete survey design tools in its free version as well as providing a way to easily generate reports that summarize data, create bar and pie charts, and data tables.

In laying out the wiki, it was my intention as initial administrator to offer space to effectively discern and accomplish the specific goals of the assignment. I have realized that in self-defense, I like to control the environment for group task work in order to maximize my abilty to successfully participate as a fully engaged team member. My own disabilities provide a significant challenge to organization and work completion and over years of pursuing education, a fill-in the blanks approach to assignments has worked for me. I usually devise my own tools to manage assignment components, goals, and tasks, so that completion is a matter of filling in the required work. A drawback, however, for the team was that not all members require such structure and requests were made for private, individual workspaces--rather than just spaces for in-progress and finished collaborative work. There is a lesson in our team work together; individual space provides a sense of ownership, belonging, individual identity, recognition, and less structured environments for engaging in collaborative work. I will never make the mistake again to organize community workspace without also providing individual and private quarters for each team member. One person's access and organization may be another's nemesis.

The collaborative effort is almost completed, and the products for our assignment a coming along well. It is nice to peruse the member pages of the wiki as well as the product pages of the wiki to see what others are doing; how others pursue team task work. The collaboration for this project might be improved if the time were extended for establishing workspace, forming collaborative teams, and lengthening the time for working with each other from the last few weeks of class to introducing the class to online collaboration tools early, choosing collaborative groups early, and setting up the collaborative space early. Collaborative team members need time to familiarize themselves with any tool employed in order to feel comfortable using the tool. The lack of comfort with PBwiki for some team members slowed their participation or increased their stress and discomfort with the collaborative effort. Not having enough time to build a collaboration community that is comfortable with each other, the task, and the online work environment is counterproductive to meeting the goals of collaboratively working towards specified products.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Vizu Poll Tool...

Hey, I just found another cool tool, Vizu, a visual poll creator available online. The online web tool allows the registered user to create a self-scoring, animated poll that can be embedded on a site. Here is my first poll created with Vizu.

The poll is customizable for color, graphics, pie chart or bar graph, and scheduling the start/end dates for the published poll can be programmed at the time of creation. The creator can make the poll private or public and the embedded code for the poll can be copied and pasted into any website. In addition, there are tools available that can automatically upload the poll to a variety of online blogging tools, such as, or

Delving into Disaboom....

This is my presentation on the Disaboom Community for CI5323, ttps:// I actually determined from an evaluative process that Disaboom is more of a social community rather than a community of practice (CoP), which is just fine, because that is the purported purpose of Disaboom. Actually, when I started this course, I didn't really know the difference--mostly due to my inexperience in working with online groups and communities. The project of searching and finding an exemplar online community was really a good experience for me and I am glad that I found Barab, MaKinster, and Scheckler's (2004) criteria for understanding what is and is not a community as well as what constitutes a community of practice. A community of practice must have the following features:

(1) shared knowledge, values, and beliefs;
(2) overlapping histories among members;
(3) mutual interdependence;
(4) mechanisms for reproduction,
(5) a common practice and/or mutual enterprise;
(6) opportunities for interactions and participation;
(7) meaningful relationships; and
(8) respect for diverse perspectives and minority views.

Check out my presentation and see if you agree with my appraisal.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Washington WiFi Works Great....

Day seven, and my week of Washington WiFi worked great! In fact, I have been connected via WiFi and DSL throughout my week here and was absolutely impressed at taking a class from so far away via UMConnect. It was an absolutely great experience! There are always a few glitches with technology just when you don't expect them, but it seems that the presenters prepared for this possibility through a pre-planned schedule of technology testing. Really, all the audio and video issues were worked out in advance and for that, my experience with the presentations was quite a good one.

There were some audio issues as well as video camera issues that could not be resolved, however. The audio issues revolved around feedback problems with computer speakers in the background as well as a headset that had a loose wire. Video connection issues prevented some presenters from providing a view of themselves to the class members--but other presenters decided to forego video and use only the audio, so there was consistency among all presentations.

For my part, the presentations, all using the same UMConnect online media delivery, went fairly well, although three presentations got a little long without varied activities offered between each presentation. Obviously, I have somewhat of an attention deficit, as I found myself--although extremely interested in the content and committed to supporting my classmates--daydreaming with my mind wandering from Washington to Minnesota and back.

So what did I learn? Plan, prepare, practice, and then present. Pay attention to the timing and pacing of online events--too many similar events can produce fatigue and inattentiveness (It is possible that children are not the only ones that have short attention spans!). Another thing that would have been ever-s0-helpful might have been to provide notes with each PowerPoint slide. I might be expressing a personal preference here, but it is so great to be able to read along with the speaker--especially since it is one of my strategies for for improving my attentiveness and comprehension. I am the type of person that would love to be able to turn-on closed captioning for any audio presentation that does not show the speaker, speaking. With my own personal style of learning and listening, closed captioning as an option for "listening" to the speaker would have been spectacular. Also, I would have appreciated a recording of the presentations--as being able to review them a second time seems to be a strategy that can help my comprehension and recall. Review is good for my soul!

In the future, when I present, I will try to address as many learning styles as might be present in my audience to cover the bases and accommodate the learning of a diverse audience. There are so many new tools that can be implemented through online resources that can make learning content and audio/visual presentation so much more accessible for all. I will surely need to investigate the features of UMConnect to see what accessibility enhancements can be utilized for a varied population of listeners/viewers.