On Being Still in a Motion Medium

So I’ve been teaching facilitating provoking facilitating over in the new School of Ed at P2PU, and I’d say that it’s been going pretty well.

Or, as least, it seems to be.

But it’s a different sort of course than the ones I’ve been teaching in computer labs and hotel ballrooms and virtual meeting rooms and, even on occasion, classrooms these last few years.  Folks come if they want to.  When they want to.  For the reasons they want to.  Or they don’t.  The learning’s mostly in the hands of the learner.  Or it isn’t.

And I like it.  With some minor concerns.

To begin with, the conversations spread around the course are fascinating and insightful. I’m learning a great deal from participants about how they value writing and what they do in their classrooms as writers and teachers of writing.  I’m also learning more about the perceptions versus the realities of the Common Core State Standards.  Lots is already being done “because the standards say so” when, in fact, they do not ((That’s one of many reasons I wanted our first course text to be the standards themselves.)).

But this course carries no credit.  Or sticks.  Or carrots.  The course itself is the thing that either brings folks, or sends them seeking something more in terms of a credential or an attempt at recertification credit.  I’ve joked in the evening live sessions ((You’re welcome to join in on those.  Check for more information and archives of past sessions.)) that I’ll offer “extra credit” for tasks completed.  While I’ve long believed that the exploration of interesting ideas and the creation of an environment designed to help with that exploration and some making of meaning is the job of a teacher, I’m finding that P2PU offers a fascinating space in which to operate.  It’s a space with ethos but little structure.  I’m building as I go.  And wondering, from time to time, if this course meets my general metric for success in all that I do as a teacher – is it useful?  Are people getting what they need from the course?

So how does one evaluate the effectiveness of such a space, a course with objectives but no requirement for participation?  Well, the squeaky wheel principle, in an online space, is often what gets attention.  Which is problematic in an online space when most of the course participants, participants in name only, are not making the textual equivalent of noise in an online space – they’re not writing in spaces where we can see them.

Lurking carries no proof.  To know someone’s on the other end of an Internet connection, they’ve got to do something.  Make some noise.  Publish a post.  Write a comment.  Something. ((Maybe, next to the “like” button, or the “+1” there should be a “lurk” button.  Or something.))

Last night, via Twitter, I said that quiet, in an online space, isn’t proof of anything.  Someone might be listening/reading intently, and taking good notes, or they might have wandered away to something else.  So I’ve sent out some mid-course feedback surveys this week to see what a large percentage of quiet classmates are up to.  Of course, there again, if folks don’t respond, I don’t know that they’re not paying attention.  I just know they’re not writing back.

I’ve more to say about agency, learning, and why I like the P2PU model, but I’ll save it for a future post.

How do you track lurking?  Listening?  Do you need to?


8 thoughts on “On Being Still in a Motion Medium

  1. karen says:

    I have to concur that the silence (in a variety of online participatory spaces I’m involved in) is troubling.

    Being something of a pessimist, I generally interpret the silence as absence. Occasional emails about the myriad of bizarre life circumstances that prevent people from participating in something that they had planned to would seem to reinforce this.

    But then, every once in a while, I get a passion-filled comment from someone who I thought was MIA — expressing deep learning, value, appreciation, etc. This leaves me even more perplexed.

  2. Tracking lurking is an interesting concept. Great learning can happen in classrooms even when students may not speak out. I’ve learned a lot when listening. And yet in a classroom, at the very least that can be sensed by expressions on faces and certainly by the fact they are present.

    A couple of courses where I used NING I added a google analytics tracker and I was clear with my students it wasn’t to be big brother but to indeed see if there was a correlation between time spent and learning. Certainly, it wouldn’t be able to make any hard claims but it did prove somewhat accurate in terms of the products and thinking they produced. I’m not surprised. I guess the little tracker was more for my own sense of what they found valuable and what they didn’t.

    Lurking is a perfectly acceptable way to begin a journey and in some cases may be good enough at times. As a facilitator, you do need some assurance that the spaces you create and opportunities you design has value. In the end, the best measure for that is something that’s shared with you.

  3. russgoerend says:

    Can one lurk in a face-to-face learning environment?

    I’m thinking about a particular student I have this whom I have to prod to speak up about anything (the equivalent of publishing in our CCSS class, right?) but then when I read her writing it’s beautiful and I can point to specific things she had done that I know she has taken away from conversations we’ve had during class.

    So, I guess when I look at her writing, that’s when she’s no longer lurking.

    But I’m still curious about my question: Can one lurk in a face-to-face learning environment?

    1. Hmm, good question. Depending upon how we define “lurk”–sure. I had a similar student, Russ. Quiet, froze when I tried to include her in discussions, yet beautiful writing (and clearly reflecting learning from our class). But it’s frustrating, especially when you have a whole class of lurkers (whether face to face or online.) I agree with Bud–show some evidence of involvement, somehow, somewhere.

  4. Good questions. (I am in Bud’s course right now). One would hope that we would not need the carrot and the stick for a course like this one, Bud, in that folks voluntary signed up. But … human motivational needs are odd things, right?
    I don’t know the answers to your questions (the lurking question is a key one for all online spaces, right?), except to say that it is not the design of the course nor is it anything lacking in your facilitation that has led to your wondering about participation. Both points have been excellent and, notwithstanding some personal conflicts around the live sessions on my end, I am learning a lot by diving in with a group of other deep divers into the Common Core.
    Thanks for the journey, Professor Bud! (You’ve been waiting for someone to call you that, haven’t you?)

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