Friday was our first meeting for this upcoming academic with the faculty co-chairs of our Ocotillo Action Groups. Part of this was planning, part of it catch up in the research they did over the summer, but the first bit was me trying to get them up to speed on the blog/wiki/discussion board tools we are using (blogged previously here as the “small pieces”).

We have pairs of faculty leading activities, projects, research, in Learning Objects, Hybrid Course Structures, ePortfolios, end Emerging Learning Technologies.

I’ve had to remind myself numerous times that I am a full time technology person who has been immersed in blogs and such for 2 years, and these are new fish in the pond, and as busy faculty are going to not jump in head first like I do. I’d been sharing information, instructions, etc over the summer, but the traffic had been, ahem, light.

In fact, it was just last week that I was able to sit down with John, the faculty member who is the over all leader for the group, to give him a quick start. John was quickly sold, and he has his own area for blogging his “chair’s eye view”— but he saw the power rather quickly and several time in last week’s meeting he let it be known he had high expectations for much activity on the group blogs.

We are working toward a late September event for our system- a virtual “kickoff”. Rather than setting up a physical meeting where people could learn about the new groups, each group will be posting on their blog their goals and plans for the year. We will be doing some brief video interviews/greetings, which will be made available the week before the “kickoff”- the activities during the kickoff will be mostly in the discussion boards, where people can ask questions and more or less “shop” for the groups they might be interested in participating in this year.

We are trying to not just “talk” hybrid courses, but be more hybrid like in our activities.

The group were all positive abut the potential, especially for the “dashboard” view we have for being able to scan the activity from 4 blogs, 4 wikis, and 4 discussion boards on one screen. From the questions over the summer, they were all struggling with figuring out what should go in a blog versus a wiki versus a discussion board. I tried to explain that there are no rigid rules, and they are going to have to figure out what works by trial and some error.

What follows is from a document I whipped up the morning of the meeting…

A Time to Blog, A Time to Wiki, A Time to….

Our use this year of new technology tools puts everyone on the learning curve. There are no hard and fast rules as the “best” way to use the ones we have put out there or when to use them—you will definitely develop a strategy as you use them and become more familiar.

Here are a few guidelines and suggestions, but again, you will find your own way:

  • The Weblog is the primary focal point for your group, the hub, the home. We have set them up so each one informs the main Ocotillo blog what is new, and that the two other tools (wiki and discussion board) feed your blog too with the latest news from each area.

    Use the blog to announce events, the describe relevant interesting resources, to link to activities taking place in the other two tool areas, to put out ideas.

  • Blog often. Our suggestion is that everytime you do something related to Ocotillo activity, whether a meeting, reading a paper, just day dreaming an idea, that you blog it down at the time. Your blog then becomes a record you can use to track progress, to search for tidbits, and the voice of your group.

    It need not be a long essay paper, just a paragraph or two is plenty. It should take no more time or technical expertise than writing an email.

  • Think Links. Create weblinks to items within your blogs, the other Ocotillo blogs, and external to the net. Links are valuable connections.
  • Structure the boards. The discussion board may be better use for specific defined topics where a dialogue is needed. Or it can be used to have a featured topic “This month we want to talk about how learning objects are used in science and math”. Or you can invite an external expert to be a guest for a set period of time. Boards need structure, they need strong facilitation. You can use the blog to periodically remind us that the discussions are taking place, e..g. “We were amazed at the ideas in the ePortfolio discussion last week when guest Xxxxxx Yyyyy gave some ideas on portfolio assessment. For instance, when…”

    It is hard to get people to return often to a discussion unless it is (a) a hot / controversial topic or (b) there is a compelling or drawing reason to show up.

  • Wild Wild Wikis. Wikis are strange, and likely uncomfortable to many of us. It is hard to understand what a wiki can do until you have a productive experience using one—just claiming that the WikiPedia is wonderful does not help much. They are a place where you might ask people to enter desired features of a hybrid course, to help draft a survey on use of learning objects, to ask people to contribute examples of emerging technologies and how they address learning needs…. Again, use the blog (or a discussion) to set up a wiki-based activity, provide the context.
  • Nag often. You will need to do a lot of PR and asking folks to join your effort.

The post "A Time to Blog, A Time to Wiki, A Time to…" was originally squeezed out of the bottom of an old rusted tube of toothpaste at CogDogBlog (http://cogdogblog.com/2004/08/a-time/) on August 21, 2004.

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