Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Facilitation of Learning-- Interpersonal Communication

I would now like to turn my attention to interpersonal communication process in collaboration with others and the how to support the interpersonal communication processes of the learner.

Messages which facilitate interpersonal communication.
The work of Dr. Mildred Shaw is useful in helping to understand the types of task-oriented messages that facilitate learning. As part of her work in personal construct psychology, Shaw has identified different behaviors to help individuals attempt to extend and understand their own thinking in networked groups. The messages which facilitate the learning processes, helps individuals to:
• see the relationship of their points of view to those of others;
• explore differing terminology for the same mental constructs;
• become aware of differing constructs having the same terminology;
• extend their own construct systems through interaction with others;
• share with others constructs that they have found valuable;
• and finally facilitate areas of disagreement or agreement among members of a group.

Additionally, two specific types of task oriented messages can be discussed--(1)messages that facilitate individual meaning and sharing of meaning,(2) messages that lead to a shared meaning among all members, e.g. consensus or knowledge pooling.
Facilitating individual meaning or construct formation.

The availability and accessibility of relevant examples is critical to the on-going learning process. However, the example must be of personal relevance. Relevance would result from one of three conditions: the facilitator understands the learner and the state of processing at the time well enough to provide relevant examples, the individual is aware of his current state and is able to request the required knowledge independently, or the individual and the facilitator negotiate a strategy for discovery or uncovering the required information. One key advantage of message sharing in a networked environment is that collaborators theoretically have the possibility to draw on relevant information and knowledge from a wide range of sources, either from other participants directly in a synchronous channel such as through audio or video networks or through asynchronous channels such as CMC or by accessing information stored in any database.
Creating shared meaning, knowledge in a team.
Another important category of facilitation involves messages that create shared meaning among the group or work team. Rather than using the group as a "sounding board" or context for testing out their own meaning, members may attempt to create shared knowledge and understanding in a particular area. For example, a work group engaging in the process of design would ideally need to pool their individual knowledge in order to create a new product. They will eventually want to create a shared meaning, which would allow them to take action together to carry out the design. For example, the activities of groups who are using a combination of media to share individual drawings, an audio conference to discuss their meaning, and electronic mail or conference to exchange on-going messages are engaging in group learning and knowledge creation. The final integrated design is new knowledge which the group created through their collaborative efforts. Reaching a shared meaning such as occurred in this example involves a process of differentiation and integration, according to Johnson and Johnson (p.244). Differentiating messages proceed the integrating messages. ‘’’Differentiation’’’ involves seeking out and clarifying differences among members' ideas, information, conclusions, theories, and opinions. It involves highlighting the differences among members' reasoning and seeking to understand fully what the different positions and perspectives are. All different points of view must be presented and explored thoroughly before new, creative solutions are sought. ‘’’Integration’’’ involves combining the information, reasoning, theories, and conclusions of the various group members so that all members are satisfied. After differentiation the groups seeks a new, creative position that synthesizes the thinking of all the members.

Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (1998) Learning Together and Alone: Cooperative, Competitive, and Individualistic Learning (5th Edition) (Paperback), New York: Allyn & Bacon.

Facilitation of Learning--Intra-personal Communication

At this time I feel it is important to start focusing on the communication processes that can facilitate learning. The facilitator could be another learner or a designated group leader(teacher). First, the intra-personal processes are those that occur within the mind of the learner as s/he formulates and explores the meaning of new concepts. Here are some directly applicable strategies to facilitate intra-personal communication. Besides individual willingness and an overall supportive context, the facilitator can support the learning process directly with a number of specific strategies.

Messages which facilitate intra-personal communication

Encouraging representation and articulation of tentative constructs.

Facilitation messages encourage formulation and representation of tentative constructs, based upon the current state of understanding. The facilitator would also encourage learners to look for patterns as well as support the individual as s/he attempts to formulate new patterns to encompass ‘’new’’ information which no longer fits previous understanding. The facilitator supports and encourages the learner to continue the intra-personal process. The individual learner may only feel comfortable representing these tentative understandings for himself. The facilitator can encourage the process without requesting that the learner engage in premature interpersonal communication.

Probing for additional examples or observations.

A facilitator can support learners by helping them discover or experience additional information or instances of events within knowledge areas in which they are working. For example, if my only exposure to software tools utilized a directory and file structure, I might induce that this structure was the only way computers organized information. However, through exposure to other systems I might formulate a different tentative hypothesis and then continue to refine that hypothesis as part of my on-going learning process.
Encouraging use of representational tools.

Often times the individual can learn through the aid of a representational tool which allows them to map out their thoughts. Depending upon preference, the learner may use written words, pictures or spoken words, to formulate and communicate ideas for his/her own consumption before the ideas are ready for public consumption. Ideally in a collaborative network learning environment, the tools for self representation should feed directly into the shared network. Individuals would then have an opportunity to test out ideas with others.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Planning--learning with and from "weak ties"

Weak ties and collaborative learning--who are your most useful collaborators for any given learning task?

I was reading an article this past weekend “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy” by Clive Thompson in the New York Times, September 5, 2008. Thompson made a very interesting and useful point to think about when engaging in collaborative networked leaning. If one only selects, “friends” or e-vites others who are part of your intimate circle of friends and colleagues to participate, one may not get the richness of insight and ideas that we are likely to get by e-viting or soliciting information from our “weak ties.” Here is how Thompson (2008,p.4) explained the idea:

“This rapid growth of weak ties can be a very good thing. Sociologists have long found that “weak ties” greatly expand your ability to solve problems. For example, if you’re looking for a job and ask your friends, they won’t be much help; they’re too similar to you, and thus probably won’t have any leads that you don’t already have yourself. Remote acquaintances will be much more useful, because they’re farther a field, yet still socially intimate enough to want to help you out. Many avid Twitter users — the ones who fire off witty posts hourly and wind up with thousands of intrigued followers — explicitly milk this dynamic for all it’s worth, using their large online followings as a way to quickly answer almost any question.”

Of course, all of your “connections” are available from our contact or friends list by any mobile device anywhere, anytime.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Planning--findability implicaitons for design and development

I was recently looking over the seven characteristics of findability formulated by Judith Breck. The seven principles have implications for how one plans and implements CNL today and in the Web 3.0 learning future. I do believe that “findability” is a critical global challenge for the on-going activity of collaborative networked learners. I want us to take a learner or user centered focus and on the ways to support the learner and learning-worker. Freeing or unbundling the info-chunks for learners' access is the first challenge for the planner/information architect; it presents opportunities to create paths for learners who need more guidance as well as freeing experienced learners to direct their own paths.

Findability--Implications for the planning, design and development processes

Learner driven design and information chunking.

1. Consider the implications of learner or user driven design in the learning and work environment.
In order to design information to meet the needs of different users directly it is important to understand the nature of the work of the users and the tasks they perform. When one focuses only on content, the "logical" order of the content guides the development. When one designs for the user, the users needs and tasks form the basis for ordering, labeling and presenting information.
2. Consider the new skills required to chunk content.
Designing architectures for multiple paths of access, which are controlled by the user rather than primarily the designer, require knowledge design skills and domain knowledge. Designers need to develop not only a knowledge of the particular tasks and content of the discipline from the user perspective, but they also need experience with object-oriented, modular design. A designer needs to understand the underlying structure of the field and the corresponding logical relationships between the content chunks, and how to design for flexible, "random" access by multiple users from different entry points.
Static and dynamic modeling of information and users
1. Consider both static organization and display of information units and dynamic modeling and display.
• Static organization requires less time and effort for design and development than dynamic modeling; however, dynamic modeling is more likely meet the precise needs of the user, reducing search time and increasing productivity. One notices static organization where there is one pattern and set of relationships defined by the designer(or packager) of information. The order of presentation of the information will always be the same. For example, in paper based Text Based Instruction the relationship between units such as paragraphs on a page is static; the implicit order on the page is "before" or "after" with minimal opportunity to explore other relationships easily such as "related to" links as in cross referencing. Static organization is also evident in hypertext systems in which the 'links' are created at the time of packaging and displayed as defined when selected by the user. Although the chunks may be randomly followed if the user chooses, they go to the same content chuck.
• Dynamic modeling as planned for Web 3.0 collaboration and other model based systems involves specifying the nature of each chunk of information as an object in a knowledge base. The types of relationship of one object-chunk to any other chunks are defined as "variables." Depending upon the model of the user/learner and its current state at the time of search, the "value" of the variables will changes, and the information displayed to the user could change. The tools and skills required to model are different from those for creating static organization and again are different from those required for cross referencing within a static organizational structure.
2. Consider the learner and the learner model as an important aspect of the environment.
Initially the user/learner model might handle only three identifiable groups: the experi¬enced expert, the new-to-the-domain leaner, and the experienced self-directed learner in a related domain. The designer would need to understand these users and their needs in order to develop the user models. The knowledge made available to each user could be different depending upon the model for the user at the time of access.
Ultimately, if the system is to be designed to support the user based upon "learner profile" and the "learning environment", then dynamic modeling is the design strategy of choice. It affords the opportunity to model the user(s) and continually update the model of the user in order to provide access to the information needed at the moment.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Planning--Select Channels/Media

As part of the planning process I feel it is important to look at the tools for collaboration. In my mind there are at least two key factors--immediacy of feedback/response and media richness.

Synchronous in Time
Audio Conferencing
Video Conferencing

Synchronous in Time and Space
Group co-located in person
Group co-located in simulated conferencing rooms
Groups in 3-D meeting rooms with avatars

Asynchronous in neither time nor space
Text based conferencing/discussion forums
E-mail group distribution
Wiki for collaborative authoring

Text-based computer conferencing offers the lowest cost,
globally accessible strategy minimal set-up time, using already existing computer conferencing software

Audio conferencing offers the next lowest cost which is most accessible globally via cell phone for small group global collaboration

Video conferencing offers more social presence with higher cost
Small group video chat available economically
Video conferencing offers a slightly higher cost for larger group

All different combinations available on desktop, wireless laptop, cell phone or specific purpose video collaboration suites to match the demands of the task at the moment.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Planning--created or self-organizing systems.

Planning for CNL—created or self-organizing systems.

In the "walled garden" of structured learning and working, one may be assigned to a pre-existing or pre-determine group. However, in the new social operating system (S.0.S.) we can use our resources to decide who we want to work together and either invite or allow for self-organizing systems to emerge.
One of the most important aspects of planning is the issue of trust and credibility in the S.O.S.

Trust and credibility—in the social operating system
One important aspect of the planning process is who to include in the collaboration. If the collaboration is planned with invited participants, then the organizer can invite the participants based on there interest , knowledge or wiliness. If an existing group, takes on a new goal, then the members would be in place and the focus shifts to planning the process of collaboration. If the group is open to others who might want to participate, then an open public announcement might solicit members.

Trust and credibility—in the newly formed group.
One of the most challenging issues for groups, who are newly formed, is to tackle how the members view one another. Can I trust the other individual? Is what they have to say credible? How do we form these judgments if we do not have previous knowledge or association with the members. In the past, we might have asked friends if they knew anything about the person(s) and what they thought of them. We mind also have consulted co-workers, or co-learners who see if they had collaborated with a person before the current grouping. We might also search for background information such as blog posts, co-published project reports or profiles in a social network.
Trust and credibility--among our connections. When using our social operating system we move one step beyond our own simple search of our social network, we might begin to take advantage of “social operating systems” which will show us the connections and linkages operating among any given group of co-learners, with an active past of learning and working.

Planning—Determining goal structure

Planning—Determining goal structure

I wanted to address a rather critical difference between CNL groups and the traditional educational and work worlds. In a CNL group the members share a cooperative goal structure. The cooperative structures contrast with two other structures--competitive and individualistic. Here are the differences to consider.
• A cooperative goal structure is the desired norm for CNL. The Johnson bothers have been writing about and researching these differences as a major focus of their academic and publishing careers. In a cooperative group members see a positive cor¬relation among group members' goal attainments- that is, they perceive that they can achieve their goal if and only if the other members with whom they are linked obtain their goal. I think it is important to add the concept of interdependence here as well. For example, when a group lifts a heavy object or members of a software development team integrate and debug a new application, all members experience the success.
• Competitive goal are not as effective for CNL. In a competitive situation, there is a negative correlation; members perceive that they can obtain their goals only if other members fail to obtain their goal. We create winners and we create losers but don’t really create a cohesive group working toward a common, shared goal.
• The individualistic goal structure is inappropriate for CNL. In contrast to these two group goal structures is the individu¬alistic goal structure common in many learning environments. The individual is rewarded for his/her own achievement and the achievement is generally unrelated to that of others. I do believe it is possible for individuals to self-direct their own experiences but it is not the goal for CNL.
CNL groups are based on a shared cooperative goal structure. As work occurs more and more in teams requiring the combined expertise of different members, the cooperative goal structure of CNL is more likely to support the overall goals of work group process than highly competitive or individualistic approaches.

Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (1998) Learning Together and Alone: Cooperative, Competitive, and Individualistic Learning (5th Edition) (Paperback), New York: Allyn & Bacon.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Planning--Determing Purpose

Planning CNL--Determining Purpose
To make Collaborative Networked Learning (CNL) experiences focused and efficient, I have summarized several basic structures to help with planning.

Purpose defined by organizer
The organizer/ facilitator of CNL might defined the purpose in advance of securing participation. In this type of CNL, participants would join the group based upon a desire to share in accomplishing the pre-defined purpose. The purpose could be very specific such as: " The members of this group will prepare a marketing strategy for value added services for a CNL Platform;" or more general, such as: The members of this group will learn about and share information regarding common creative licensing issues for organizational learning.”
Purpose defined by the group
The purpose might initially be more loosely defined, based upon the prior knowledge of the selected group of participants such as, "the members of this group will pool their knowledge to develop a long-range adoption plan for CNL." Or, "the purpose of this CNL forum is for experts and novices to share their experiences moderating a
learning forum." As the group learns more they will continue to refine
their purpose. Learning in the context of problem-solving is a example of a more general group purpose, where the specific learning and outcomes
are refined based upon the goal and prior knowledge of the invited
participants. For example, the experts from different fields might be involved in developing a crisis management plan as their outcome.
Purpose defined by on-going needs
The learning purpose in these situations is open-ended and on-going. The group with a broadly defined learning goal will determine specific operational purposes based upon current needs. Frequently, existing learning groups define their purpose based upon a long-term mission. On-going learning within a particular domain and group is motivated by the rapid rates of change being experienced in our society and the work group or knowledge domain.
The group which starts with an open purpose may from time to time want to refine their purpose, based upon new information and current mission, for two reasons:
  • to know what they have accomplished and that the experience was worth the effort
  • to establish criteria for completeness, or "doneness."

  • When one speaks of purpose-driven CNL, it does not necessarily imply either a closely defined initial purpose or an open purpose. It implies that as part of the experience the group develops a shared purpose and that their interaction is focused on accomplishing that purpose. The purpose-driven interaction criteria distinguishes CNL group activities from general personal blogs or chat rooms in which individuals post and share the latest available information in an area.
    While the group has a stated work-learning related purpose such as those mentioned earlier, it is also likely to fulfill a social functional for the members. It is important that both the stated purpose and the personal purposes of the members be considered as the group interaction continues

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Three Basic CNL formats

    Selecting a CNL format
    I have implemented Three basic CNL formats successfully. Each of the formats has its own unigue challenges and appropriateness.

    • All Electronic in which participants accomplish
      their learning and co-creation of knowledge all on-line in any
      virtual meeting "space." The electronic digial, mediated form could be text-based, audio or video collaboration or any mix of media. Regular audio and video conferences for sharing ideas,debriefing and developing strategies are also common examples of
      this form of collaboration.

    • Before or After an in-person group meeting, such as the
      electronic pre- meeting or organization. Before a face-to-face
      meeting, electronic interactions provide an opportunity
      for all participants to review and share basic background
      content prior to real-time interaction. After an in-
      person meeting, the group can continue the interaction
      and address new issues as they occur.

    • Mixed mode in which participants meet together in person
      or listen to broadcast video in conjunction with
      interacting on-line. A "blended" or "hybrid" group
      provides collaborators an opportunity to interact
      with each other between face-to-face meetings. Mixed-mode formats
      often integrate, video broadcasts,text based materials, networked collaboration with co-located meetings.

    Monday, May 12, 2008

    Communication and Learning System Continuums

    Continuum of Communication Goals

    Learning...Personal Exploration...Knowledge
    Known and Discovery of Creation/Personal
    Answers of Established Transformation

    Corollary Continuum for message and lesson design structure

    Fixed Path...Guided Exploration...Open Ended
    Access &

    Corollary Continuum of User/designer Control

    Designer User Driven
    Control----Bounded Exploration-----Self-directed

    Closed and Open Models of Learning and Knowing

    Closed Systems..................Open System
    Models of Learning Models of Knowing

    Traditional Education, Training and CNL Models

    Traditional Education and Training Models CNL Models
    Topics are stable Topics are unstable or being created
    Problems or questions has a known answer A problem or question has no clearn answer yet
    Someone (teacher, expert, course developer) has the answerNo one person has the answer--it emerges from within a group or organization
    The answer is "transmitted" through a familiar learning technology
    The "answers" are obtained by groups in cooperation,who may not be co-located
    Learner receives and knower gives Knowledge needs to be captured, synthesized, generated, filtered and summarized
    A structured (linear)approach is usually taken An associative structured or networked approach is taken
    Interaction with other learners or knowers is minimal (e.g. classroom lecture,DVD, or Courseware)Interaction may be asynchronous or synchronous between co-learners
    Packaging Information Networking co-learning

    Open and Closed Systems of Learning and Knowing

    Closed Systems ModelsOpen Systems Models
    Topics are stable Topics are unstable or being created
    Problems or questions has a known answer A problem or question has no clearn answer yet
    Someone (teacher, expert, course developer) has the answerNo one person has the answer--it emerges from within a group or organization
    The answer is "transmitted" through a familiar learning technology
    The "answers" are obtained by groups in cooperation,who may not be co-located
    Learner receives and knower gives Knowledge needs to be captured, synthesized, generated, filtered and summarized
    A structured (linear)approach is usually taken An associative structured or networked approach is taken
    Interaction with other learners or knowers is minimal (e.g. classroom lecture,DVD, or Courseware)Interaction may be asynchronous or synchronous between co-learners
    Packaging Human Networking

    Thursday, May 8, 2008

    Open Communication and self-organizing, inductive learning

    Open communication systems and the life of self organizing, inductive learner
    The life of the learner is a self organizing, inductive process. Skill decay occurs in a relative closed system where the learner does not engage in on going learning. The integrated, col­laborative system I wish to address are ones which are open learning environments. One key aspect of these environments is the use of technology to support open communication among learners. Open communication systems provide access to information from any vari­ety of sources on an on-going basis on demand. But the learning environment does stop with access it also includes support for learning. I wish to address both of these issues (1) open communication systems that provide for collaborative networked learning and (2) highlight features of software that will facilitate the learner in the learning process. Thinking about open systems gives on an entirely different way of how to define learning. Rather than being due to the presence or storage of some substance in the mind, one thinks of learning in terms of pattern or connections. In essence, learning through intake of stimulus results in mental ordering and re-ordering within the living organism.
    Open communication systems, which allow any learner to engage in live, private multiple-media communication with anyone else on the global or the access the stored mes­sage in any media format from any location on the network. Ultimately, the learner would not have to know the physical location of another communicator or the database of stored messages, instead s/he would search or receive customized feeds to any located or mobile device. Currently virtualization is providing the technology and standards which will make open communication systems a practical, pervasive reality. Learning in the open system environ­ment of unlimited, open access to expert ubiquitous messages has potential for amazing changes in the way one learns and the control of the distribution and creation and re-presentation of knowledge.

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008

    Collaborative Networked Learning (CNL) Overview

    Collaborative Networked Learning Overview
    Much work in the information age enterprise involves collaborative, team oriented tasks. Learning workers share information with one another in order to accomplish common tasks in a small group. Professionals share information with each other, and learn some­thing about each others specialization in order to reach consensus on a common problem. Assembly line workers have increased pro­ductivity when workers learned from each other how their different individual parts of the task fit together to produce the whole. All of these different learning workers are engaging in activities which involve collaboration.
    Life-long learning in the workplace is becoming a necessity rather than an ideal. The need for collaboration is great and will continue. By facilitating collaborative methods of learning, we could help workers acquire individually and collectively the rapidly, changing knowledge required in the high-tech workplace.
    3. Collaboration is a condition of learning in the information work­place.
    While the worker in the industrial era factory learned how to ma­nipulate objects and memorized actions, the worker in the modern organization learns how to think, learn and apply information to a task.
    • Workers need to engage in activities that allow them to ap­proach problems from different vantage points, testing out assumptions,and redefining meanings,i.e.creative thinking in order to develop new viewpoints.
    • Workers need to engage in the social,collaborative exchange of ideas in order to pose hypothetical problems, general hypothe­ses, conduct experiments and reflect on outcomes. Basically, workers are learning in groups to make meaning out of infor­mation. Not only do workers need to make meaning out of the information but in order to actually perform their jobs they need to be able to share that meaning with others.
    This blog is to serve as a basic resource for individuals planning, implementing, and participating in Collaborative Networked Learning (CNL) communities as co-learners. The general guidelines and discussion here draw upon published research and from experience with successful applications of different CNL models.