Maggy Beukes-Amiss on Facilitating Learning Online

This week kicks off e/merge 12, a mostly-online gathering of people who are interested in elearning in Africa. I’m pleased to be moderating a workshop this week exploring changes in online facilitation with four great facilitators. Here is the description. But read on below the quote  for a sneak listen to one of our guests, Maggy Beukes-Amiss from the University of Namibia.

Facilitation of online learning is now into its fifth decade. The familiar web based online  learning environments have only existed since the mid 1990s. Since then we’ve seen radical changes in the technology, pedagogy and range of practices. The boundaries are shifting from closed classrooms, communities and password protected learning management systems to open and networked configurations. So where are we now? We’ll engage in conversation with four experienced facilitators of online learning to hear what they are thinking, and then engage everyone in reflecting on your practices.

Joining us are Maggy Beukes-Amiss, a veteran Namibian online facilitator and trainer of online and blended educators,  Nellie Deutsch, who is an English teacher and an expert in online facilitation, blended online learning, social networking and open education, Gerrit Wissing, a highly experienced instructional designer and trainer of online facilitators, Tony Carr who is an educational technologist and periodic organiser of online conferences, and moderator Nancy White, one of the early explorers of online facilitation.

Maggy Beukes-Amiss: Maggy has been teaching ICT related subjects at the U. of Namibia for over 17 years, including in leadership positions. She has a passion for open source software packages and elearning activities. As a champion for capacity building, we’ll be asking Maggy what her key insights and learnings have been.

Dr. Nellie Deutsch :  Nellie has been teaching English to speakers of other languages since the mid 70s and integrating technology into her classes since the mid 90s. She uses relationship-based, collaborative action learning in facilitating online learning. We’ll be asking Nellie to tell us more about HOW she does this!

Gerrit Wissing: Gerrit is a Senior Instructional Designer at Tshwane University of Technology but also has lived experience in the corporate world as well. He knows the software, he knows the social process side. More importantly, he’s been co facilitating UCT’s Facilitating Online course and e/merge itself, so Gerrit is in the trenches. We’ll be asking Gerrit to share a bit about what he’s learned across all these contexts.

Tony Carr: Tony is an educational technologist, online facilitator and online conference organiser at the Centre for Educational Technology,University of Cape Town. Most of his day to day work is in staff development for teaching with technology. We’ll be asking Tony to share about the opportunities for online communities of practice.

Nancy White: Nancy was one of those people who fell into online interaction in the early days of the web and sought to understand how it related to her offline experiences. She wrote some of the early guidance so we’ll be interested to find out what she thinks is the same today, and what has changed.

Our ending… or really our beginning question will be “what’s next for us as online facilitators?” Have you thought about that? We hope you have and will join us!

Maggy Beukes-Amiss  is on leave this week so I was able to interview here in advance. It was terrific to hear about her practice at the University of Namibia. Her passion is infectious. Her main thrust was that our attitudes are an incredibly important part of our practice. Take a listen:

Part 1 and Part 2

Podsafe music courtesy of Tchakare Kanyembe  Thanks!

Social Speech Podcast from Rob Cottingham

Rob Cottingham is always coming up with cool new stuff. He is the first person I knew to create cartoons about social media. He was one of the first people I graphically recorded “up front” (instead of from the back) at NorthernVoice a few years back (sadly, the video is now gone but you can see the images here). So when he invited me to be his first guest on the Social Speech Podcast, I had to say yes. Here are the deets:

The social web has gone a long way toward changing what it means to be in the audience at a speech – making an audience member less a passive spectator listening to a monologue, and more an active participant in a conversation among peers.

Nancy WhiteAnd nobody does that quite like Nancy White – except she doesn’t just rely on digital technology. She’s one of the best group facilitators in the business, working all over the world with everyone from small community groups to Fortune 500 companies. You can see her approach at work in the March of Dimes’ Share Your Story site, which several years on is still one of the examples we cite the most often of how online community can make a real different in people’s lives.

So who better to kick off Episode 1 of the Social Speech podcast? (Graphic: A quick sketch I (Rob)  did of Nancy at Northern Voice a few years ago.)


Thanks, Rob!

You can download the podcast on Rob’s site.

Carl Jackson on Supporting Online Communities in International Development

Carl Jackson of Westhill Knowledge Group (formerly at IDS – Institute of Development Studies), colleague at KM4Dev, friend and all around smart and funny guy took 20 minutes to share some of his experiences supporting and participating in online communities in international development. He has worked with a number of IDS’s Eldis communities, including Africa Adapt. While you can peruse the communities’ websites, nothing replaces hearing about the practice of stewarding and participating IN the community.

Click below for a listen — it’s about 18 minutes packed full of practical advice.

Carl Jackson on Online Communities in Development

Here are some of the nuggets I extracted:

  • People are seeing  online communities and networks as core instruments of how we work.We can now cheaply create broad based activist networks. For example, Africa Adapt – with participatory researchers, policy makers, community advocates around climate adaptation. In 1.5 years built a sense of community, and has organized F2F events at a continental level. Used to be much harder to get off the ground. Now people prepared to give it a go or at least a benefit of a doubt.
  • Focus, focus, focus: Carl reinforced the importance of subject specific focus… this then attracts a specific kind of people
  • Some groups are harder to attract than others. On the whole, the one group where it has been harder to get awarness and buy in is with is the scientists in climate science community. In international development there is quite a strong divide between the natural scientists and social scientists. They have different networks and ways of sharing knowledge.
  • Policy makers CAN be attracted with focused offerings. Within Eldis communities had a debate between experts on food security and gender, convened by BRIDGE at IDS. Researchers and policy makers from a range of organizations.
  • Preparation for events matters. With a focused, short time frame event, they did substantial bilateral engagement w/ potential participants 3-4 weeks leading up to the date. A lot of work went into brainstorming themes they could focus on in the discussion, and in gathering and synthesizing brief bios of participants. They noticed in other discussions of this type a lot of initial energy gets soaked up in introductions, getting comfortable.
  • Open conversations with less clear focus are still important. People are looking for more increasing awareness of the landscape, who the actors are, events are, values and languages. For that kind of orientation, open discussions are still really valuable. They allow you to discover things. In time delimited, you drill down, but not much discovery.
  • Why has ELDIS community succeeded? Primary value of ELDIS communities: be in there for the long haul. When the communities  were set up there were other spaces like that, but the level of demand for ELDIS communities and level of initial participation was quite low. When you have short term performance requirements — could have bombed quickly. But the grant makers that work w/ IDS have a longer strategic vision about the value of collaboration, bringing in diverse and little heard voices — commitment was there. Seedbed for initiatives.
  • Reputation still matters: IDS has been able to – because it has established reputation for research and training beyond its online work gives a certail level of brand recognition and associated knowledge resources on the broader Eldis portal. Quality and back up that can be hooked into community spaces. Drawing on the resource guides.
  • Individually driven spaces require less support.  The largest number on ELDIS are set up by members for a blog or event, sharing documentation or share videos.  They are doing stuff in a very unsupported way beyond the provision of technical support and troubleshooting advice for things like setting up profiles and adding functionality to their personal spaces.
  • Events benefit from strong staffing and preparation. The Food security and gender event was part of a wider programmatic effort around that subject, purpose of gathering knowledge for publication. 3 people working on the preparation for 2 day event with a 2 month lead time. Carl estimates that  total time of individuals that went into prep and facilitation, follow up was 30 person days. Consider the value of convening 30 experts internationally to have a very detailed cutting edge discussion. If you’d have looked at how else, the costs of convening that kind of group logistically in a physical space – order of 5-10 x cost.
  • Design as if you are in their shoes. In thinking about design, especially new group coming together, it is important to try and think your way into where they are coming from, scenarios they might consider participating in. That’s a way of designing a process that leads to an online collaboration with as little logistical friction, anticipates some of the interests and needs they may have. Policy makers want a tractable output of feedback to policy. Researchers want highlights of current research or gather ideas for new research topics. Put yourself into the shoes of the participants and construct a process that is useful for both participants and commissioners of the event.
  • Light facilitation rules the day. Now that people are much more comfortable participating in online spaces, the facilitation needs to be when it is live needs to be much more light touch. People don’t need so much hand holding. Facilitation should not be acting as chair of discussion– neither necessary or helpful. More about holding the space, backchannel matchmaking/connecting, draw out the quite – pastoral care behind the scenes. Then the energy the participants bring to the discussion doesn’t get blocked. I don’t think you can lead discussions online, you can only nudge them
  • Any other advice? It’s important – when the community does come together in a good way, has a powerful discussion, important to translate that something as quick as possible into something tangible. There are often good intentions of producing outputs, but the wheels grind slowly, nice polished in 3 months. You have to be prepared to quickly synthesize and publish some kind of project. Rough and quick is better than polished and slow. They can immediately get the extra value.

You can find Carl on his company website, or on Twitter at @Carl_WKG

International Online Conference 2010 Sneak Peek

I’m going to help kick off the 8th annual Online Conference for Teaching and Learning with the topic,  “Should we be using communities for learning?” Now don’t worry. I have not abandoned community. I just feel we need to increase our discernment of when to USE it! Here is a sneak preview short podcast and the intro. (Dates: March 17-19, 2010.)

If you are interested in participating in this fully online event, you can find the details here. If you want a discount of $10 USD off, use this code: nwfc9 . I have one free full registration to give out to the first person who posts their reflections on the use of community in learning either here as a comment or on their blog. If you blog, drop a comment with the link here.

We are navigating a tumultuous and very interesting transition of how we think about learning. We are stepping beyond the boundaries of “course,” questioning the continuum of formal and informal learning — all in a time when technology is fundamentally changing what it means to “be together.” From this context, the idea of using the social structure of “community” for learning has come center stage. Community has shown to be valuable in some contexts. But should it be the structure? Is structuring our educational frameworks around community central, or does it deserve a different place along the continuum of individual–community–networked learning. When is community the sweet spot? When is it the trap? Let’s talk.

Check out a preview podcast with Nancy White, hosted by LearningTimes GreenRoom hosts Susan Manning and Dan Balzer.

via International Online Conference 2010 » Program.

Social Media in Intl. Dev: Sarah Blackmun

Sarah BlackmunNext in the series of podcasts (previous podcasts linked below) is Sarah Blackmun of the Pangaea Network. Sarah is another long time online colleague and friend from the late 90’s who also seems to connect with others in my network (especially around her studies at the Fielding Institute where we both have a lot of mutual friends.

Sarah brings some different aspects to light about social media in international development. Sharing about work she and Dr. Steve Eskow have been doing in Ghana, Sarah brings in the issue of gender, particularly the importance of recognizing that often womens’ experiences are very different from men, so thinking about introduction of new technology needs to be with a full awareness of gender. Take a listen.

podcast-logo SarahBlackmun

Related Links

Sarah’s Bio
Sarah Blackmun-Eskow is President and Chief Operating Officer of The Pangaea Network.

Sarah  has four decades of experience as a president, CEO, and general manager of education-related international businesses. She served as the CEO of Harcourt Brace International and as President of Harcourt Brace Media Systems Corporation. She was a founder, with Dr. Eskow, of the Electronic University Network, where she served as Chief Operating Officer. She also served as COO of Durand Communications, Inc., a technology firm based in Santa Barbara.

Blackmun serves as President and Chief Operating Office of the Pangaea Network, where she coordinates research, planning, budgeting, implementation, and day-to-day operations.

In addition to her business background, Blackmun-Eskow has nonprofit and community service experience, including serving as a Commissioner of Human Services in Santa Barbara County; chair of the Justice and Outreach Council of Trinity Episcopal Church; and board member of AIDS Housing Santa Barbara. As a member of the World Mission Group of the Episcopal Diocese of California, and in her earlier position as  information officer of the Episcopal Diocese of California (San Francisco), Blackmun established connections with Episcopal and Anglican leaders in the U.S., Africa, Latin America, and the Philippines.

Blackmun-Eskow earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Ohio Wesleyan University and a Master of Arts degree from Bowling Green University. She is currently a doctoral student in the School of Human and Organizational Development of the Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, California.