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Marielle Lange's discussion posts

  • Marielle Lange 26 Jul 2011 1:15pm () in How are schools dealing with the issue of access to ICT resources?

    For fun, how a UK school comes to a stop when the principal decides to have a technology free day: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01299ps/Those_That_Cant_Series_3_Technology/

    As school connectivity progressively improves, how important is it to always have a plan B in case technology fails (i.e., broadband down) for one day? 

  • Marielle Lange 19 Apr 2011 11:06am () in VLN Bug tracking - unauthorised login

    When trying to access the VLN Bug Report system using my Google login:

    Unauthorized login to this portal Permission denied to access this portal.
    Check your portal URL again.

  • Marielle Lange 27 Apr 2011 4:19pm () in Remove checkbox not working?

    Under comments that you contributed on a blog post, a remove checkbox appears. However, checking it and clicking save triggers an error message. "Sorry, you need to actually put something in your comment before we can save it." 

  • Marielle Lange 19 Apr 2011 1:29pm () in Process for new embed types to be added to the allowed list?

    If, as users, we want to make a request for new embeds types to be allowed, what is the process to follow? If as vendors, we want to make it possible for users to (freely) embed our resources and interactives, are there any guidelines that we can follow?

  • Marielle Lange 19 Apr 2011 1:25pm () in VLN Bug tracking - unauthorised login

    Thanks for the clarification Glen. That makes sense.


  • Marielle Lange 19 Apr 2011 3:17pm () in Process for new embed types to be added to the allowed list?

    Any embed (flash or javascript) from my website?

  • Marielle Lange 13 Apr 2011 2:39am () in Overview of group activity on group homepage by default?

    Be careful you two, you may have me join the long queue of people who would want to be part of Core. (And I really tend to run away from official education associations). Keep up the great work.

    Getting people there. "contracts in place to help educators learn more about working in a blended way, in online spaces". Hum, all that I have read suggests that teaching people about it has limited impact. Yes, you will get people network. Make friends. Reply to discussions. But you won't have collaboration. That is collaborative problem-solving. Though there are some great examples of collaborative projects in NZ, collaborative practices are far from widespread.

    This issue is discussed in The 90-9-1 Collaboration Paradox: Orgs Should Aim To Reverse It and Participation inequality.

    Collaborative spaces should allow for an organisation to emerge, driven by the community. But this is not to say that everything should be left to the participants to create. In reality, scaffolding is critical to the success of collaborative environments. Constraints, boundaries, in reality help people get in.

    I found out with my students that it was important to provide very simple activities early on that will get them to experience the environment in a task-focused fashion. Sometimes set up events that somehow force them to go over the perceived discomfort. I had the idea to teach my psychology students programming.  did it over a wiki, using it as a form of shared whiteboard in the computer lab. This was nearly 10 years ago. Not the usual way to do things! This was for master students and this was about psycholinguistics... programming is really helpful for designing better experiments.  The day before the tutorial, I had the student representative tell me that this was really too complex that they couldn't be expected to learn something that difficult. That they had no prior expertise. Etc. Etc. After the first tutorial, I couldn't stop them. There was no need for any push. They were driving their own agenda. They had had a chance to experience the benefits for themselves.

    This makes the all difference. Being introduced to an idea/ideal and encouraged to give it a try, whoever you want vs setting up a situation where you get an opportunity to experience the collaborative process first-hand and realize the potential for yourself.

    This point is also made by Guzdial, a leader in the area of collaborative online learning. "The teachers created a path for students to become familiar with the CoWeb and then run with. All the successful uses involved some small, required activity, and then some interesting activities that engendered students” interest. Then the students, too, became agents of adoption and invention." (Guzdial et al., 2001, p. 23, abstract and link to PDF). If you run a google search on guzdial and coweb, you will find a plethora of great ideas of how to get people work collaboratively online.

    Is there a way the creation and management or a group can get to be treated as PD? Not follow the tutorial that says how you can create one. The creation and management itself.

    Is there a way to make it easier for persons to jump in? For now, the way forward is to create a group. But once you create one, you can do pretty much 'anything'. Add photos, create discussions, add bookmarks. This is overwhelming. Would it be possible to design smaller tasks to start with? What they do in similar environments is to provide scaffolding via onscreen encouragements or newsletter. On-screen encouragements would be "have you tried x?". You have been on the VLN for a month, do you know about feature y? Karen, being on wikispaces I think you receive their monthly newsletter. They will introduce a new feature and give a link to an inspirational website. Fiona does a good job with her Software for learning newsletter.

    That drives participation. But not necessarily collaborative problem solving. For that, you need to ponder on the community needs. As an outsider, I can identify an obvious problem. There is very little that surface in terms of the teacher expertise. An unfortunate consequence of this is that persons without a background in education come to think that you can pick any bright student and turn it into a perfectly good teacher in only six weeks.

    However, all past initiatives that have tried to address this have met limited success. Wikieducator, Moodle for lessons across the curriculum, shakeupschools, and others. Sometimes, it is tempting to conclude that it's because educators are too self-centered. It is not true. They have contributed great content in environments like wikispaces, without any person pushing them to do so. The key element here is that there were not forced to comply to extreme views about open resources. They were not told to follow some predefined structure. They could solve their own problems in the way that made sense to them, while receiving rapid feedback (appreciation from their learners).

    Sure, in theory, the VLN is set up in a way that allows for that. Users can do whatever they want with a group. The pages features is very much a wiki that can embed any type of interactive content. Yet, most of the groups that exist for now are not about solving problems. Many are ore in the spirit of, ah, well, here is something we could discuss together. This is not about collaboratively solving problems that are bugging the community, some category of stake-holder, or a specific teacher.

    How can you help people reach their goals? And at the same time make sure they help you reach your goals? Is there a way to identify groups that could be created that would in fact help solve real problems. Things that are a thorn in the flesh for some teachers. What is that online groups could do that would not just mirror the offline practices but in fact, offer a solution for a problem where no satisfactory one can be found in an offline setting? It may be easier to identify such contexts with rural teachers (but they also are the ones who don't always have a good internet connection).

    How can you help people gain respect in the online (and possibly offline) community - reputation often is the primary currency/driver for participation in online communities.

    And in case it is of any help, there is a page describing pitfalls in this type of projects, written in the context of wikis, but relevant to collaborative online learning - Wiki-webs, Possible Blockages and blockages and subpages - . I tend to avoid self-plugs but I am not aware of equivalent resources anywhere on the web. Ah, with this exception. "When collaboration doesn't work" (Guzdial again).

    Another good read is Scharff, "Applying open source principles to online communities"

    Outside of the edu sector: 40 Great Resources for Developing a Community Management Strategy , 18 Ways to Engage Users Online: A Guide for Community Managers - (Karen does it all, already). Change management is also worth looking into. 

    An an academic, I like reading. Creating a successful community is a way more complex. I go back to my very easy role of participant and let you sort this out.

    I am aware this discussion is somewhat more relevant to other groups, like what is this VLN for. However, the discussions I have come across there suggest a lack of familiarity with many of these issues. It is too early to introduce that content. They really don't need somebody tell them what they should think. They should rather be encouraged to get to ask the important questions. Here, no such issue. You are experts and you already know most of it.

  • Marielle Lange 10 Apr 2011 4:04pm () in Why build online communities

    I recently bumped across a report "Professional Learning Communities: Key Themes from the Literature". The discussion is more about offline than online ones, but may points remain relevant:

    "Three “big ideas” to guide the work of professional learning communities: A focus on learning; a culture of collaboration; a focus on results. The last one is what keeps the members engaged in the long term.

    You will also find good blog posts outside of the education community Best practices for online community growth and blogs like community spark will give you some hint about how to measure the success and growth of this VLN environment. 

    Social learning is a notch under communities of practice. The goals that you pursue with social learning are more personal. You use your network to pursue your personal interests. When it is said that online communities have a focus on result, it is results and objectives shared within the community, preferably defined or refined through discussions with community members. With communities, you should encourage the emergence of something that somehow exists beyond the individuals that are part of it. Without the vision that binds the community, discussions with social tools often tend to remain at superficial levels. 


  • Marielle Lange 10 Apr 2011 4:29pm () in Overview of group activity on group homepage by default?

    Overall, the vln is great. Easy and pleasant to use. But it can be time-consuming to try and figure out what information is available in there. More specifically at group level. For each group, there is a long list of menus on the left, with group photos, group discussions, group blogs, etc. For many groups, clicking on any of these links sends you to an empty page. As this is early days, this is only to be expected, some groups are still in the process of defining themselves. But for the user, this can be quite frustrating and can lead to a negative first opinion (and these count). Some groups do the right thing and use widgets to give you a quick overview of the latest activity in the group. But most don't. Would it be possible to have a default view that lists such widgets. If the group administrator adds a photos section, then have the photos widgets be automatically added to the group home page?
  • Marielle Lange 11 Apr 2011 4:25pm () in Conversations about digital citizenship

    "'would I do this in a 'face to face' environment?  Students need to learn to mirror their virtual online world with what they do in the 'real world'."

    I am not sure that thinking in terms of mirroring is the way to go. 

    Any technology. Any shift has the potential to augment or facilitate negative behaviors. It is up to us to find out how to use that technology to augment and facilitate positive ones. Instead of using the solutions that have been proven to work in a face-to-face environment, it may be a better approach to try and understand the technology and what it allows.

    Some teachers in iPad equipped classrooms have a chat line permanently open and encourage students to let them know of any problem ASAP, discreetly. This allows them to react rapidly, before the situation degenerates. Similarly, there was an article in the DomPost recently mentioning that a principal had started to encourage bystanders students to take records of any fight. Not to post onto youtube, but to send to him, ASAP. 

    A guideline like "never do to others what you wouldn't want them do to you"  may work better across real and virtual environments.

Marielle Lange

Cognitive psychologist (PhD) and software developer involved in education projects.