Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

How I feel about different channels of e-communication

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I have to say that my preferences in terms of communication media change very fast. When I first started MOOCing (latecomer in 2013) I was not a tweeter or blogger, and discussion forums worked for me just fine. I had been in love with discussion forums for a
long time since I started my masters back in 2003. I have helped faculty try them in their classes, and used them a lot in my own classes. By the time I reached the MOOC e-learning & digital cultures (#edcmooc) I was tweeting and so I used that along with forums. Then came #rhizo14 and I had recently started blogging so I mainly used blogs and twitter: until I discovered facebook! Well, I was on facebook from before, but I discovered how well it can both build community and enable connection with e.g. New blog posts that people share.

In #blendkit2014 we’ve been encouraged to start our own blogs (I have had mine for 4-5 months, but I think I had read the blendkit encouragement beforehand and it encouraged me back then) – and in #ocTEL we’ve been encouraged to try a new or less regularly used form of communication.

So for both I continue to tweet and blog, but for both I am trying to also get into the discussion forums a bit again. I am a big fan of asynchronous communication, but discussion forums can get unwieldy on a large scale. Even though I had an article recently published (today in fact, on JOLT) about applying traditional pedagogy quality standards to assessing MOOCs, I wrote that article back in July 2013 and I now think differently! I don’t think connectivism is for everyone, but equally, I think good pedagogical practice does not necessarily transfer well across contexts. Not all of it, anyway, not all the time. Even in similar contexts: two different sections of the same class can go wildly differently and have vert different dynamics.

So, I want to say that I love the way #ocTEL questions have been formed. I have a lot to learn from that model of asking questions and will be trying to develop similar questions in my courses. These are great reflective questions (not to be compared to Dave Cormier’s open-ended provocative questions which I also love so much) that can really get one going …

So I’ll be responding to the #ocTEL questions here (wish I knew how to make a table on wordpress; will look it up later). I will be comparing mainly discussions forums with blogging, but also twitter and facebook in the mix. They each have different advantages and limitations for learning

[note: am sure someone else has written this comparison in a much more coherent way than I! But these are my personal reflections]

What forms of reflection, challenge and learning do each of these do best?
Blogging allows one to reflect in one centralized place. But blogging does not necessarily mean talking to oneself only. One can write a blogpost that links to what others (esp in same MOOC) have already blogged about, so it becomes a conversation distributed across blogs and a way to let others know you value what they have written. I did this a lot on #rhizo14 but am doing less of it unfortunately for blendkit and octel because i don’t have the time to engage as deeply as I would have liked. Blogging also allows one to get to know each person, whether through reading their blogs or comments on blogs, since comments also connect you back to their website/blog

On the other hand, discussion forums are all about the interaction and the question or topic you’re talking about (though of course they can go off in a tangent). One can probably meet more people and interact with them more often on a forum but not necessarily know each one as deeply as one can via blogging

Now facebook and twitter provide interesting alternative forms of engagement. Twitter is great for connecting when you have a quick point to make or want to share links, or want to have a quick chat like at the water cooler. Facebook allows for a bit longer informal communication and allows for community building as well because it feels more personal to me than a discussion forum. The threading is more difficult to follow (well it is not threaded!)

Ok… So u can get info overload with all of these, but less so with twitter. After all, how overloaded can u get at 140 chars Per tweet?
I cannot generalize about discussion forums because each platform does it differently and some are better or worse than others in terms of helping you deal with info overload. I used to like WebCT that let me know which i had read and which not, plus allowed me to print a whole thread or at least download it, threaded. Coursera and the ocTEL system aren’t bad and their email notificiations are good. Did not like other systems like EdX or Canvas or FutureLearn

Facebook for me is best in terms of notification systems… And having mobile devices and getting notifications from faceobook, twitter, and also comments on my own blog are all really helpful things, esp when overMOOCed!

How do the channels support relationship forming and community building? Is that important for learning?
Oh, did I sort of answer that above? I think discussion forums allow one to engage with more ppl but give less of a chance for depth of interaction with each person because their “presence” is distributed. As opposed to blogging. Where you can know the entire person in more depth – but interaction and community building requires more work (and smaller numbers I guess, coz how many people’s blogs can you read on a regular basis?)
And for me, facebook for a group like #rhizo14 helped me stay connected to everyone and knowing when they were posting something new so I did not feel the need to search the twitter hashtag (well i have a column for it on tweetdeck) or to look at my reader… Because people shared their blogposts there and had other discussions there as well..
Strangely, one platform I am not comfortable with (google+) supposedly affords some sort of facebook-like-interaction while also connecting one’s comments on other people’s blogs, etc., but it just doesn’t seem to work well – confuses me instead.

Which do you prefer and why
This post is long enough already πŸ™‚ I now prefer blogging to help myself gather my thoughts and reflections and facebook for community building and twitter for quick interaction πŸ™‚ But I am enjoying the #ocTEL forums as well πŸ™‚
But what is important here is to recognize when teaching that learners may have different preferences, and that different contexts may work better with certain forms of communication. Blogs won’t allow community building on their own without some other channel that facilitates learners interacting with each other’s blogs. Forums won’t work well without well designed questions and (sometimes) good facilitation when possible.

But for me…
I actually cannot imagine my life anymore without my blog, facebook or twitter!!! They do different things for me and I need them all πŸ™‚

This post has not even touched on synchronous communication via either twitter, google hangout or other forms… Some other time πŸ™‚

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