Monday, December 10, 2012

Non-verbal communication for online facilitators

At the University I did communication studies as one of my subjects and I always liked non-verbal communication. As someone who is really enormously mirroring others non-verbal behaviours - it made me notice how often I do this. For instance when someone folds her arms and we have an intense conversation, I am also folding my arms. I can also listen with lots of attention - I'm the kind of person who at the end of the party didn't notice all the things going on because I was only paying attention to the people I was talking to.

Non-verbal communication can by via posture, eyecontact, gestures, but also movement or appearance - for instance having long hair as a man - what message does that convey?  In my communications book it is stated that 70% of all communication is non-verbal and that non-verbal signals are 5 times stronger than verbal.

So how does this work for online facilitators and trainers.. What should you do as a facilitator or trainer without this body language? You have no signals whether participants are falling asleep ... Does this mean that you can more easily focus on the content without being distracted or does it rather mean that you miss 70% of the communication and have to deal with 30%? I think this is one of the reason that there are not many trainers yet who have stepped up to facilitate online - they feel lost online - as facilitating in a room where the light is turned off.

Hanna Bervoets, a Dutch columnist had an interesting column last Saturday in the newspaper about nonverbal digital communication. She states that there is something like Dinoco - Digital Non-written communication which she explains as the behavior around sending digital messages that conveys an extra meaning. As an example- someone sends you accidentally a message that was intended for another person which means he (unknowingly) is thinking about you. Or another example - someone sends a tweet and removes it immediately. Meaning: he is nervous or unsure. I found this to be great examples and full of recognition as an online facilitator. If you have made many online hours, you can read a lot between the lines. So there is certainly a kind of meta-communication online, similar to non-verbal communication that you can learn to read as facilitator. I can see from the way of writing of emails from people I work with when they are very rushed / stressed or not. I also know often on a  Skype call when someone is multitasking. What I don't know is whether this requires a new kind of intuition?

Apart from reading between the lines, there are more ways to capture what is going on in a group and what participants are going through which is not communicated in the text. The 5 most important non-verbal channels of an online facilitator are:

  1. Use statistics. Most online environments offer some statistics, eg. the number of times a video is viewed, or that a particular discussion is viewed. Also, often you are able to see how many people have logged in or have responded. For example, you may use Google Analytics for this. You can use this to test the waters and monitor. For instance in a trajectory with 50 participants we had a webinar with 15 participants. The recording however, was viewed 60 times. This means the interest is high but people might not have found the time to participate at that particular hour.
  2. Learn to read digital meta - communication.  If you start to know online habits, you can read between the lines (as I explained above). For instance, I knew in a particular course that a participant contributed every Monday. If this participant logs on but posts nothing, it may be a sign that something is wrong. For others, it may be perfectly normal to log on and yet not post on Monday because they may post later in the week.
  3. Use emoticons and emotions. If you role model online showing your emotions others will also be likely to follow. For example: show that you yourself are enthusiastic about certain developments or have questions. You may also capture some developments that you sense, like everyone being busy with end-of-year stuff.
  4. Ask questions on meta level. You can particularly use tools to ask for quick feedback, for instance,  you can do a quick poll or survey or even call someone to see how he or she is doing. In one project, we had a weekly barometer for the group to measure group emotions and then made adjustments if necessary. Or you may send an occasional email to a participant to get some feedback.
  5. Use synchronous moments.  Synchronous moments such as chats or webinars are very convenient to hear what's going on and receive feedback. But it could also be that you can see who is online (for instance in Ning or Facebook you can see who is connected, or also on Skype). When you see someone is connected you can use this to collect some quick feedback. Similar to meeting someone in the corridor! In webinars or teleconferences there are more signals than in text environments, for instance you can also interpret voices and how actively people participate. But you may also take 10 minutes in your webinar just to discuss progress.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Technostress for a webinar

technostressFlickr Photo via Cambodia4kidsorg

This week I engage in daily blogging on my Dutch blog. It was an idea which occurred during a blogchat twitterchat. I liked the idea because I think daily blogging may stimulate me to try out new styles. Unfortunately (or fortunately for you?) I can't cope with translating all my daily posts to English too. It would take me too much time. But let met translate today's one about technostress.

A webinar is an online meeting... I always tell trainers and facilitators that technology is peanuts.... Every trainer who can work with a beamer can facilitate a webinar too. However, yesterday I experienced technostress (and I must admit not for the first time.... )

The planning: in the morning we would prepare with the 3 facilitators and in the afternoon (from 2-3 hours) we would have our webinar about the 'new Africa'. The week before it all went completely according to our plan, so this the second time it was going to be more relaxed, right? Unfortunately, it was not right .. First our guest speaker was no longer available but fortunately another guest speaker was found. This speaker would only be available until 2:30, so we faced the choice of planning the webinar half an hour earlier (with the risk that some participants would be late to join) or use the second half hour for different activities. We chose the second option. (decision 1)

Then 2 of our 3-some couldn't enter the webconference room (Bigmarker) because there had been an upgrade. I could work from another laptop at home, but we were scared that more participants would experience the same problem. So we decided to abandon our webinar software and choose new tools (decision 2). Very unfortunate because this was the second in our series of 4 and we had hoped to get the participants used to a fixed toolset.. Fortunately we already used a phoneline for audio, so our basics still worked. Listening half to the discussions about the content - working with statements - I started looking for alternative tools. We decided to divide tasks. Two would look for an alternative tool, one would talk to the guest speaker and the statements.  (decision 3)

With Sibrenne I went out to look for a tool to show the presentation and to chat, our basic communication line for audio was already a teleconference from My first thought went to ZIPcast van slideshare, because I have used it several times with success. The presentation is key and people can watch and chat via a link. So  I went quickly to slideshare and logged in ... mmm where is now the ZIPCAST ​​button?? Quick googling showed me that, yes, I should be able to start a zipcast but it seems like it is suddenly called online meeting instead of zipcast?! Clicking faster and faster... and getting back to the same page with payment plans. It seems it is currently only for Pro accounts available? So quickly I pulled my credit card and paid $ 19, a bargain to solve our technostress ... Unfortunately, I did not see a chat capability when I opened my zipcast. Shit! Then we increased our tempo and while on skype tested the following tools sharing links in the Skype chat and shouting things like 'try this out even if you managed to':
Clicking revealed our criteria: it has to be simple enough for our participants, without log in, with a professional image. Our shortlist was Edistorm and Todaysmeet. (decision 4). Finally we opted for  Todaysmeet to have a clear interface and good chat function. We send the presentation before the webinar so that people can print it or watch in on their computers. .. (decision 5).

Pfff. What a relieve we have finally made our choices. We are anxious to see how participants will receive this shift in tools. We have 18 participants in total. The chat tool works well and helps us to see who is already present in the teleconference line. People give answers to our questions and share their own questions via the chat. The speaker has an interesting story fortunately he does not forget to mention the numbers of the slides so I can click on the slides for our recording, and participants can follow the flow. Everyone notes the sound seems better! We get compliments about the sound. What a gift because the last time we had indeed suffered from some echos because some participants appeared to be logged in twice.... I wonder how the experience was for the participants... Would they think we have chosen this solution to get better sound? :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to mix work and private life on social media: tips for finding the right balance

The picture says: Don't forget to unfriend your boss when the weekend begins... Loesje

If you are a professional engaging in social media you need to find a balance between the sharing of private and professional information and bringing together or separating different networks; networks of friends and colleagues. Inherent in social media is that there is no clear separation between work and private life, because usually you have only one account on eg Facebook or Twitter. On that account you may be followed by friends and family on the one hand, but also by people from various professional networks. When you have a mix of people, what will you post? Pictures of the children? Professional articles? Or a mix? Personally, I don't have a dilemma on Twitter which I mainly use as a professional network about social and informal learning. On Facebook it is more tricky for me. I started on Facebook with mostly people from my international professional communities (eg Km4dev), but now there are more and more friends on Facebook. Do I hence share my vacation or share more about the content of my work? and I do post in Dutch, English or Spanish?. I end up sharing very little. I suspect that for many young people the dilemma will be reverse: they have a private network of friends on social media and beyond may later become active as a professional.

Different identities
As a basis, it is good to also look to see how you're separating - private- worklife in general in life. What are your different identities / caps you are wearing?. Everyone has their own different identities as family member, professional, friend, expert in ICT or enthusiastic music connoisseur, which identity in which you engage online? Do you know who you are and what you stand for? From my past experience working in international cooperation, I am quite used to a blurred boundary between private life and work. You know a lot of about your colleagues private lives in international developmen, from, for instance, driving 5 hours in the car together .... and in your free time you talk again about the work. Josien Kapma told me once that for farmers it is actually quite normal to integration private life and work, and that it is actually a separation which only began with the industrial revolution. If you are used not so strict separation will also be easier online more mixing. On a similar note a new job may bring about a new identity or new focus. That does require you to build a new network online. 

Separating different identities online 
If you clearly have different identities which are hard to mix and would like to separate them online, there are different options:
  1. You can choose to have 2 different accounts. For instance, in primary schools is it often recommended to have a private account and a teacher's account. Eventually you may not want all your students to know about your parties. On the other hand, there is a Dutch professor Mooi who deliberately invites students to his facebook profile and also talks about concerts he has been too and other personal interests. Mooi: "I chose to present myself as a person and to see how students would react. I started posting inspiring images with captions, but soon I noticed that students were open to conversation." Another reason for separate accounts may be language, eg a Dutch and english twitter account. I mix Dutch and English tweets but are still struggling. 
  2. Beside having different accounts you can use some features like lists on Twitter or Google + circles to distinguish networks via one account.  
  3. You could also make a distinction in social networks used for private or professional engagement, such as Facebook for personal and Twitter for professional contacts. 
Here you will find 5 more tips to separate private and professional lives online. And here's also a blogpost with some figures on how people separate their professional and private lives.

Showing your unique professional perspective
Balancing between work and private life in social media is not just about your personal life and sharing your hamster or not but it is also about showing your personal color and unique views as a professional, your unique perspective. Do you share what you feel strongly about as a professional or do you neutrally retweet others without stating your opinion or view? I always try to give my opinion about things I share. I think it is also better for people to make a decision whether to click on something you share. See this tweet about a certain presentation of where I indicate slide 5 is funny.

Being honest and open versus thinking about your personal branding / clients/ people's feelings  What makes social media so compelling are the real stories, and those stories may be both personal and professional. Through social media people share their own stories, which give a different insight into somebody's life compared to eg. scientific articles. The question here is what you like to show. Recently I participated in the blogpraat chat where this was also a question: How can you blog about a sensitive situation at work without it being recognizable to colleagues? This is something I myself am also struggling with. On the one hand, because you do not want people to recognize themselves when the situation is sensitive. On the other hand, because you also want to create a certain professional image. While those 'war stories' about difficulties are often the most powerful stories. How open do you want to be? And it's even harder if you active on behalf of an organization

Balance between online and offline  
Furthermore, of course you also have to find a balance investing in online social media versus face-to-face contacts. When I am too much online I find it boring, when I am too busy I can't find the time to blog.. When you have to meet many deadlines it might be wise to put all social media off ... and yet keep some light engagement. You might need to meet and talk with new contacts on Twitter. Also here you need to find the right balance. 

NB. Input and inspiration for this blogpost gained during our 8 month course de leergang leren en veranderen met sociale media

Friday, October 19, 2012

5 Essential online survival skills by Howard Rheingold

I bought the book by Howard Rheingold called Net Smart: how to thrive online. It is a guide to digital literacy. I haven't had time to read it yet though but next week is autumn holidays here in the Netherlands so I hope to have some time to read it then. Howard Rheingold is said to be one of the first community managers on the web and seems to be walking his talk, which is why I bought his book.

In the meantime I found a video with Howard Rheingold about the 21st century skills. It doesn't seem to embed so you have to link on the link if you want to see it. It is more than an hour long but very interesting with lots of examples.

Howard states that the online skills, the 21st century skills are no longer nice to have, but are essential survival skills. The 5 skills he mentions are:
  • Attention. With all available media and 'pling!' sounds everywhere it is much harder to focus your attention. I experienced it two days ago when I had to focus on finalizing a report, but kept on responding to mails, got a google chat and a skype call coming in. Later I closed everything. 1 in 6 Americans reports to have bumped into something because they were texting! The 'second screen' in the form of an ipad in front of you while watching television or being in a conference or training is already accepted. However, only 5% of people are really capable of multitasking - performing 2 tasks which require your attention. So the skill is how to divide your attention? How to focus?  We call this infotention, and you can learn how to do this.
  • Participation. If you know how to participate online, by smart blogging, tweeting, reacting, networking you can have more influence and even start movements. If you want to be a recognised expert is a certain field of expertise, you will have to learn how to curate content online. In the Netherlands we have seen the power of mobilising people online (in a negative sense) through the Project X in Haren. Wael Ghonim, is one of the activist of the revolution in Egypt who used social media very smartly. 
  • Collaboration. Gamers and patients with a specific disease already found out that you can easily collaborate online with people you have never met. For people in the Netherlands this is sometimes still a doubt, but in the US it seems much more accepted to collaborate with people who have never met in real life. For instance I am coaching a community manager in Washington whom I have never met. Wikipedia is ofcourse a nice example of online collaboration too.
  • Crap detection. Many websites are a hoax or nonsense. Rheingold provides the example of an online pregnancy test. With common sense you know it is impossible but there are still people who believe it. Teachers have been telling me that pupils may happily cite information from the website of McDonalds when asked about healthy food.The skill involved is how to know what is real and what is fake? What are trusted sources online?. 
  • Smart networking. It is important to build your personal learning network online with people who think differently. People who have a wider network make better decisions apparently. If you feel at some point that nobody is contradicting you, you may have a uniform network diminishing your own capacity to innovate.  
I have been wondering whether digital natives do already posses these skills? Come to think of it, I really doubt it. 

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Making social learning practical: the LOSmakers event

IMG_3467.JPG Past Friday we organised the presentation of a book called 'Because it works'. It is a collaborative effort by the LOSmakers, a group of 15 professionals passionate about the new potential offered by social media to stimulate social learning. The book is full of practice cases and can be downloaded here. It is in Dutch but we are thinking about the English translation and already working on translating two cases. We offered it online as a free download and it has already been downloaded more than 15.000 times!

It was not a traditional bookpresentation, but rather a workshop in which people worked on their own cases of situation in which they want to stimuate social learning through social media. In small groups they chose a case, formulated important questions and with those questions went shopping on the market with experiences. They could also call in the help of Twittercoaches. One group chose as a topic: what can you do as a learning professional with few means to support learning in small groups? In the video she talks about their insights (in Dutch). 

Let me help the non-Dutchies: She talks about 4 important insights they gained from the market and the twittercoaches:
  1. Make use of known tooling, for instance Twitter or Yammer in organization where there are experiences with Yammer. You avoid heavy investments in tools and for the participants there is also no learning curve for the use of the tool. 
  2. In case you have a group with little experience with social media: use social media in simple and accessible ways to share teasers. For instance by sending them an interesting video upfront. 
  3. Make clear agreements about the facilitation and your availability. Avoid that people expect an immediate response in the evening or weekends. .
  4. Make sure you know your participants. Find the right mix between participants, tooling and the dynamics you want to stimulate. Make sure this is the basis for your plan.
You can find the storify of the event here. With regards to our twitter backchannel we had a nice mix of planned and spontaneous interaction. We had asked 3 people who could not participate whether they would like to be twitter coaches so they were available (in the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal respectively!) and reacted to questions from the groups. One of the participants working in higher education tweeted about the idea of starting a facebook group for the first year student and one of the students following her tweeted back and it was a cool idea but would be best to have students as administrators.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Engaging course alumni using Facebook: the case of Ruforum

It's been a bit quiet on this blog because I had a nice long summer holiday - with a trip to Cambodja with my family which was wonderful. We visited friends, rode tuktuks, bicycles and elephants and visited the famous temples around Siem Reap. Here you see us on the boat in Bangkok.

From now on - I'll try to blog weekly again. To start with an interview with Carolyn Nandozi from Uganda about her experiences facilitating a facebook group for alumni. I met her during an online facilitation course which I facilited (online of course :) and found out she has some interesting experiences with an alumni group. This is a question I often get: "When organise courses -how do we keep in touch with our course alumni online?" RUFORUM has done this using Facebook. RUFORUM is the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture, a consortium of 29 universities in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa established in 2004. RUFORUM has a mandate to oversee graduate training and networks of specialization. Below my question and Nandozi's answers
Nandozi, can you describe how the Facebook group started? "The group began in 2009 through a need to track and engage alumni. The group was started by the RUFORUM Secretariat by inviting a few alumni and asking them to invite others. One of the strategic objectives of RUFORUM is to increase the use of technology to support effective, decentralized learning and the sharing of knowledge. Therefore, the increasing use of social media as a network connection was one technology aspect for use that was explored to bring alumni in a network connection to support this objective and also keep track of their work. Thus, the introduction of the online group. There were no guidelines or rules created. Just an objective for the group and goals- connect alumni all over the world.We have several platforms such as Youtube, Flickr, Twitter, Linkedin but I will focus on the Facebook Alumni Platform-/ (see the picture to have an idea how the facebook platform looks like)."

How does the group function? "The group has several administrators and an appointed Virtual Intern to moderate discussions (me). We make monthly work plans (with targeted milestones) to plan the discussions and find the best ways of engaging the alumni. For example we plan how many posts to share for the particular month usually five (5) or more but usually also members share and we triple the target. We also target the particular number of persons to join per month for instance we began with 10 and became optimistic to 20 and are blessed to double the numbers some months while others are a bit quite. However, one thing for sure is every other month our numbers are increasing and this makes us happy. Thus, currently we have 269 members and counting.

The facebook group mainly focuses on posts aimed at sharing of opportunities such as scholarships, fellowships, skills writing, newsletters, jobs, consultancies and project fundings among others and we encourage them to circulate and feedback any successful applications (we want to track the success of the platform in offering successful opportunities). Such postings usually lead to increased invitation of members to the platform. We really want alumni to share their experiences and knowledge but are yet to achieve that.

We have also began discussions of the international events and days to invite Alumni contributions to such events. These discussions have been really lively such as the recently concluded one on World Hunger Day event we celebrated  on 28th May this year. RUFORUM will find ways of implementation of such contributions as some have led to prompts of proposal writing and face to face meetings. These discussions have led to bringing out the challenges and needs Alumni face in the field and pathways for responding to such challenges. We wanted alumnis to share with us any challenges and any needs thus, such discussions have been helpful.

I do a monthly report of all the activities that have transpired on the platforms (as I mentioned we manage a number of platforms such as Linkedin for professionals to target all people as some people may have phobia for Facebook which is more active)."

How do you facilitate? "I usually post any opportunity and wait for member response. If I don’t get any I will still prompt; prompting/pestering is a must. For example I can put a like or comment myself. Some posts will be interesting to members and will invite a like or contribution immediately. I also thank and encourage members who post or like their posts or sometimes I post comments.  Saying Thank you may be too much in case one person is constantly posting (which happens). I have noticed two persons who constantly share opportunities and usually like and comment. We would like other members to share but some don't share. However, they may be more active in commenting. I have noticed some members imitate what I post for example picture postings this means I have to be more creative to prompt more.

Since people are still in the initial stages of being active, I am the conductor and have to intervene here and there and also kind of motivate members know there is someone keeping the platform active. This is when the platform has been quiet for a while. Though sometimes I would like to be the invisible chameleon and let the discussions flow, but it’s a bit hard. Since I need their contributions I will have also to contribute!"

How do you invite and grow your membership? "RUFORUM has a database of members whom I send emails inviting them to the platform. Having exhausted the database, I had to come up with other means such as writing the steps for members on how to invite other members on the platform. I write a thank you message to every member who has invited someone to the platform and encourage them to invite more persons. I also write a thank you message to every invited member and also encourage them to invite other members. I thought about this when I could not meet the target of a particular month yet I had exhausted the database. It was amazing looking at the turn up!  Thus, these plans and innovations that have been put in place have almost tripled the member numbers in four months compared to the one year trend."

What are your challenges? "I will talk about the challenges I encounter in the Facebook group and the other platforms like LinkedIn.
  1. How focused on topics do you want to be? Members usually comment questions or wider discussions which usually get wider views and contributions. Thus, we have to think of such posts to get such member contributions apart from the more focused opportunities and contributions. RUFORUM is aimed at agricultural sustainability thus focused on posting agricultural opportunities - however usually some Alumni have ventured in other fields and need opportunities in such areas.
  2. How to engage the members? Another challenge is that we do not get as much response as needed, ie from a platform of 269 persons less than 15 persons contribute to the group and less than 20 persons are really active.
  3. How do I engage persons of different areas of interests? I face the challenge of being at the same thinking of all persons of different ages, work, experiences, diverse disciplines, etc to fit into what their ideal discussion would be.
  4. What style and tone? How do I respond/comment in an easy down to earth manner with some joking for all parties?
  5. How to engage people who are not on Facebook? Some members tell me they want to invite other persons who are not on Facebook and I am not sure how to help them. Yet, they find it difficult to go into other engagements for next steps such as writing them an email or giving me member email for contact. There are some Alumni on Facebook invited by email but do not respond thus it would necessitate me to become their Facebook friend and add them to the group easily- but I don’t have to be a friend of everyone, I prefer not to friend them first.
  6. Who to engage? Do I also engage with organisations or unknown people? How do I responding to organization invitations and them joining the platform- thus how do I keep this online partnership active? This also includes responding to invitations from unknown members especially on the LinkedIn group.
  7. How to manage multiple platforms? RUFORUM has a number of online platforms like I said, thus challenge of managing all platforms at the same time- not to mention the weekend interruption when Alumni usually have some free time. How do I differentiate posts in one group from the other because same posting may not motivate members to join the other groups. RUFORUM has its own inbuilt platform but its very difficult to engage persons in this platform as they are more focused on the other worldly known social platforms such as Facebook. How do we get Alums to join our own inbuilt platform?
  8. Do we organise Face-to-Face meetings? The platforms are majorly focused on online discussions but recent discussions have prompted Alumni to request face to face meetings-yet to be revised.
Last question: why did you choose Facebook groups as one of your main platforms?  We knew the majority of our alumni had Facebook accounts thus it was very easy for invitation and thread creation. However, like I said we use other platforms like LinkedIn too and we hope to engage persons there as well…

Curious whether you have any questions for Nandozi or any tips because you also have an alumni group? I can forward them to her. Just let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Creative screencasting

A screencast is a recording of your computer screen to which you add an explanation by voice- combining it into a video. A screencast is a classical way of explaining computer programs and software. You might for instance explain via a screencast how to start a twitter account. But there are a lot more creative ways you can use screencasts. For instance you might show a presentation on your screen, a prezi or powerpoint. A nice way as a trainer or teacher to put up an explanation or presentation online. Ideal if you want to flip your classroom or training room. Here's an example of a presentation by myself. It's in Dutch, and the content doesn't matter, but then you get an idea of how it might look like.

Can I make a screencast?!
A screencast may sound rather technical and not so easy to do. Recently though, I gave a half day workshop whereby the participants went home with their first screencast. Proud of themselves and I was also rather proud of them- after half a day! It is good to distinguish between very professional screencasts and quick screencasts on the fly (and everything in between). A professional screencast may be outsourced and may include editing etc. with paid software programs. However, it is also possible to make a screencast with free or lowcost software and without editing. If you make sure you don't need to edit, it costs a lot less time to produce a screencast. Ofcourse the choice for professional or on-the-fly will depend on the context. Is it for an elearning module which will be widely used over the years or an input for a training for a group of 15 professionals? I will explain the latter in this blogpost.

Some creative ways of using screencasts. 
Besides the classical use of screencasts to explain the use of a computer program you can think of other ways to use screencasts: 
  • Show people how to use an online platform or wiki for instance (a so-called 'walk through').
  • Share a presentation on your screen (prezi or powerpoint) and provide an explanation. This is a way to get people into the topic and make them think before a meeting (think flipped classroom like the khan academy).
  • Make a visual storyline. Use slides or photo's to build a story. In most screencasting software this is a technical option too (not sure if you would still call it officially a screencast but never mind the name...
  • Record a webinar from you screen so that people don't only listen to an audio recording but can watch the whole webinar.
  • Make a slidecast on by adding an audio file to your powerpoint presentation.
  • Organise an interview with an expert via Skype and record this including the webcam images.
Make your own screencast on the fly
What is a good screencast? Here's the worst screencast ever..(self-announced by the way) :
Some of the mistakes are:
  • Background noise
  • Uninterested, level voic
  • No clear storyline
  • You have no clue what the screencast is about
To avoid all this you should give a clear introduction, make sure you have a storyline and talk clearly but also engagingly. So use your voice! It helps if you make a storyboard using separate small cards. On every card you write down in keywords what you would like to narrate and what you would like to show as images. My experience is that you can never record it well in one session, you need at least 3-4 takes. With every take you know your storyline better. Don't forget that if you have a screencast of 5 minutes, this is still only roughly 20 minutes work.

Screencasting software
There are many different screencast recording programs. Here's a good comparison on wikipedia. However, if you are new to screencasting this would probably not make any sense to you....Hence I give you some starters. You should realize that there is a difference between screencasts with Picture in Picture (PIP) whereby you see the person talking in the screen (like the one above), and others whereby you don't see the presentor. Another difference is between software you'd have to download and install and software you can use 'in the cloud', through your browser. Apart from recording software, you might also use editing software and ofcourse you need a place to upload and show your screencast. Lastly there is special software for recording skype calls.

Below you will find a table to give you some suggestions.

Function Software
Recording screencasts  Screenr (free and paid versions) Jing (free and paid versions), Screencast-o-matic (free and paid versions), Screenflow (for mac, 99 dollar), Camtasia (available for mac and windows roughly 100 euros), Windows media encoder.
Editing screencasts Windows Moviemaker, imovie (voor mac). Adobe captivate. AVID studio Some screencasting recording software (like screenflow) also offers opportunities to edit. 
Publicizing screencasts Video websites like Youtube, Vimeo and Some screencasting sites like screencast-o-matic offer the option to publicize your screencasts too.
Recording skype calls Callrecorder (paid version 20 dollar, for mac), Evoca (mac, paid versions), Pamela for Skype (free version till 15 minutes), MP3 skype recorder (free), IMcapture, the levelator (paid version, roughly 50 dollar) More about skype recording on this wiki.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Why we enjoy sharing thoughts and emotions online

In this cartoon you see how people in the '50 would have reacted to the idea of sharing on Facebook en Twitter.. "so you are saying people will tweet what they are having for breakfast?!" I meet many people who are as surprised today (including myself at times! I'm not sharing so much personal information for instance.. ). 80% of the messages on social networks like Twitter are about our experiences, of course a twitter statement is still a reaction to the question: What are you doing?  (source article Tamir en Mitchell).

Last week I did a workshop at the Dutch conference about education and social media where Michel Penterman emphasized that social media are a logical consequence in the evolution of the need to share information. This all started with the first drawings in the caves. Maslow's pyramid about our needs is famous. On the  buying happiness weblog (via Alex den Haan) I found this picture matching social media to our basic needs according to Maslow. I wonder if there is not a new top on the pyramid necessary where we fullfil the need to express our experiences and emotion online..       
This article: 'disclosing information about the self is intrinsically rewarding' by Tamir and Mitchell is providing a great insight in why we are sharing so much via social media. The authors investigated what sharing of experiences and emotions does within our brain.  People ('our species' as the article calls us) appear to have an intrinsic motivation to share their thoughts and emotions with others. This triggers a positive reward in our brains  (dopamine).

They discoverd the following (read it if you want to understand the details of the study):
  • If we disclose information about ourselves this triggers a greater reward than considering information about other people.
  • People were prepared to forego a monetary reward for sharing information about themselves. More than information about general questions - this means that sharing information about yourself has a value.
  • Talking about thoughts and emotions stimulates the reward system in your brains, even when it is done privately. However, when there is the opportunity to share it with others the reward is even higher. so sharing with people has a higher reward than sharing privately (eg. in a diary). This would explain neatly why I blog and don't do this in a private word document for instance..
Sharing what your thoughts are or sharing your emotions hence gives us a good feeling, similarly to what sex and food do for us. This is evolutionary smart because it can stimulate social bonds, enhance self-knowledge by means of feedback and to know what others think and feel, so that the knowledge of one person is greater than his/her own experiences. Smarter survival.

Leaves me with the question whether the value of a learning trajectory is higher for the people who share more? Or they will simply feel better? And lurker may learn but may not feel as engaged (hence not rewarded by their brains??

Friday, May 11, 2012

Interview with a teacher making smart use of social media

What always strikes me in contact with teachers is that there is so much difference in their attitude towards social media. One teacher loves social media and widely experiments with various media, another says "it's not for me" and doesn't want to try anything. Younger teachers sometimes have an attitude that they know it because they are on Facebook, but I don't believe they really know how to use it at all levels. Perhaps they do not see the link with learning. I believe that social media is of interest to all professionals and teachers are an important group of professionals, since dealing with education. In the newspaper special last Saturday I read the following quote: "a good teacher must continuously innovate and surprise." Here come's social media full of surprises!. Antoine is such an enthusiastic teacher convinced of the value of social media to a teacher-professional. I interviewed him, below the interview.

Tell us something about yourself as teacher at Varendonck secondary school? 
I work since 2003 as a French teacher at the College Varendonck in Asten. Furthermore, I support colleagues in using our Virtual Learning Environment. This school year we switched from N @ tschool to the ELO of Magister.

You blog about French and ICT (hier), tell us something about your blog, how you started it, who your readers are and what the value is of blogging for you? Do you read many blogs yourself?   
I began my blog in december 2007. My big inspirations are two Dutch professionals: William Karssenberg (@ trendmatcher) and Pierre Gorissen (@ PeterMcAllister). I followed their blogs for a while and it seemed useful and fun to keep a blog. My weblog is read by French teachers and by teachers who are interested in using ICT in the classroom. What has been the benefit for me so far? First, it is an archive upon which I can draw. Often I know that I've blogged about a particular topic and this way I can quickly and easily find the materials. I refer colleagues to some posts on my blog. Furthermore, the interaction with readers helped me with solving some problems. There are always colleagues who want to help you further. Also nice to mention is that I have been approached by Teleac to make a guide (GoAnimate) following screencasts that they have found on my weblog. I follow many blogs themselves and try to make use of Google Reader.

Which social media do you often use yourself?    
I will mention four important social media. To stay up-to-date with information I use Google Reader. With Google Reader you can subscribe to interesting blog without having to visit that blog. Furthermore, I often use Diigo, a social bookmarking site. Previously, I used Delicious, but at one point there were rumors that this service would quit and when I switched. The beauty of social bookmarking is that you have quick access to a website, because you can add tags and notes. You can also see what other teachers bookmark these links and you copy interesting links from other teachers. A third tool that I would mention is Twitter. I use Twitter to share things I find interesting with others. I also use Twitter to ask questions using the hashtag #daretoask. What always strikes me is that so many people are willing to help others. Sometimes there a whole conversation develops which is also very beautiful to observe. Finally I would like to mention Wunder List, an app allowing you to make to-do lists which you can use on multiple devices

How do you stay up-to-date?
I use Google Reader and Twitter, the two most important tools. Dat zijn voor mij de twee meest belangrijke tools.  

How much time does it cost you to read your Google Reader, blog and twitter? Do you have time to do it during school hours?   
At school I do not twitter nor blog. I do that outside of school. It depends also on how busy it is. Sometimes I don't post for a long time on my blog, because I'm just too busy. I had good intention to blog more this year, but I haven't been living up to these intentions yet. During the holidays, I try also to occupy myself with other things, like reading.

What is for you the added value of social media as teacher-professional? 
A blog allows you to think about some things and share your knowledge with others. Why should anyone have to reinvent the wheel? Social bookmarking allows you to quickly locate information and to find new interesting sites to explore. Twitter offers notably the ability to share knowledge and to ask questions.

And during class? 
In class some tools can be useful tools, such as Socrative. With this site, students can vote. I recently used this tool for practicing reading skills. In this way, students (also quieter students) become actively involved in the lesson. Make the use of social media and use equipment the students have. Some have a mobile with internet, others an iPod Touch. Not all students have access to this equipment, but if students work in pairs together, you do not need much equipment. Be creative! Further, Twitter may be used by pupils making a thesis or presentation. They can use the #daretoask (#durftevragen in Dutch) to ask questions and input. I don't use social media in each lesson. Do it only if it is useful and if it adds something.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Social media and reflection: marriage or divorce?

Social media in organisations has been a difficult topic and sometimes bothers me. When I am invited to do introductory sessions in organisations, I feel like I'm converting people to use MORE social media, whereas I don't believe it is a matter of using as many social media as possible. I do believe however in finding an optimal use of social media to support individual and collective learning and innovation. Reflection is needed in order to learn from the past. Most of the time a smarter use of media may help. A lot of times, social media don't solve the underlying learning disabilities. Hence work on social media AND the practices is needed.

Social media stimulate us to live and work in an ever increasing pace. Quick messages. Scanning. Multitasking. I had a skype this morning and we were both reading and answering our mails simultaneously. Hence it seems like social media is having opposite effect in organisation - that social media hinder reflection and deeper conversation. On the other hand, I am convinced social media can aid reflection for individiuals, teams and eventually organisations. However, what is needed are some conscious practices. Without those practices the effect of social media may indeed be the opposite: people get overwhelmed with messages and experience loss of control.

Here's a Tedtalk by Sherry Turkle called connected but alone. She basically points to the same danger of social media, though she does not talk about reflective practice in organisations, but in society at large.  She talks about "The goldilocks effect" - you get contact with others but in small bits through sms, tweets and other short messages. She claims human relationships are cleaned up by technology because connecting in sips doesn't lead to real conversations. And a flight from conversation can limit our capacity to reflect. "We can learn from solitude and listening to each other. It is in the stumbling in words that we reveal ourselves to each other." I partly agree with her that there is this danger of communicating faster, with less attention, communicating with more people but not getting to a certain depth of understanding. I also disagree because most people use social media to stay in touch with the same people over a long period of time and hence get flow of bits which also make up for revealing ourselves. For instance, there are people I get to know better through reading their blogs systematically over time. I agree for people who can't make sense of it all and do see people struggling with this. 

Let first go to the basics: what is reflection and why is it important? 
Reflection on one's own practice is an important aspect of learning. Reflection in a way to look back at what we know and what we experienced. Someone once explained it to a group by turning around and really looking backwards (with his hand above his eyes to look afar). In the process of reflection we analyse what happened to generate new knowledge and insights (this might be done individually or in group, a method for systematic reflection in group is After Action Review). A definition from a paper "Reflection is a form of mental processing that we use to fulfill a purpose or to achieve some anticipated outcome. It is applied to gain a better understanding of relatively complicated or unstructured ideas and is largely based on the reprocessing of knowledge, understanding and possibly emotions that we already possess." Reflection is important for learning because it provides us with insights in what works and what doesn't, it gives us new ideas and new ways to act. The focus of reflection may vary: from your way of working, your convinctions, processes used and other angles.

Angle 1: The reflective practitioner; reflection on action needs slowing down
Schon wrote a book on the reflective practitioner, pointing out the need to constantly reflect on the way we intervene as professionals. He distinguishes reflection in action and reflection on action. Interesting is also Argyris who talks about defensive routines in organisations that limit learning. Reflection on action demands slowing down because you need time to look back at experiences (alone or together, in structured session or unstructured when thinking under the shower). There is a difference in the way different media support this slowing down. Some media seem to get in the way of this slowing down, like email and twitter when it feels like you are getting behind and you scan and follow more and more people. On the other hand Twitter may be used in a more reflective was when you try to send a tweet about a presentation. What is the core of the presentation for you? Blogging is inherently more reflective because it forces you to formulate your ideas. Lilia Efimova wrote her Phd on 'blogging for knowledge workers'. You can read about her work here.

Angle 2: Reflection through social engagement
Another angle to reflection is reflection though social engagements. Contacts with others can stimulate self-reflection because socially agreed frameworks are called into question in interactions with others. In this article called Stimulating reflection through engagement in social relationships this is elaborated upon. However, "not all social interactions necessarily result in a reflective learning situation". There are some conditions like the dialogue partners need to be in each others 'zone of proximal development'. Where partners are too much alike there is less misunderstanding but also less opportunities to learn. When differences are too large, there is too little common ground. If you consider social media as new ways to engage, it creates a positive environment to learn. There is the question however of what conditions are necessary to learn from interactions through social media. A feedback on Yammer made stimulate thinking, but if it is too different you may simply think it is not valuable. I follow many marketing specialists which have given me new perspectives on marketing, but now I stop following them back. One of the requirements mentioned in the article above is that you need reflective skills" "I can see that the other is talking from a different point of view". Social media offer new opportunities to engage in this type of learning. From an optimistic point of view, you'd say that people who follow many others through social media will become more tolerant and capable of seeing various viewpoints. Any research to support this though?

Angle 3: The quantified self
Another angle to learning about yourself is the thought stream about 'the quantified self- developing self knowledge though numbers'. Social media (and digital media in general) provide many opportunities to collect data about yourself. What is it that you learn about yourself by analysing those data.  For instance, Chloe Fan kept all her movie tickets since 2001. In this blogpost you can read how she analyzed it and learned from this like her change in taste and movie visiting patterns like time of day, who she is visiting with etc. For Dutch people here's a blogpost by Hans de Zwart.

So is there a marriage between social media and reflection? 
From angle 1 to 3 there is an increasing positivism about the opportunities to reflect and learn through social media.  What seems clear is that with a changing practice of communication through social media there is a changing practice in the way we reflect, use and analyse information. But it is probably not automatic. The quantified self demands quite something to analyse data... There may be examples of reflective practices using social media. Like the practice of seek - sense- share described by Harold Jarche for professionals. Or the practice someone once shared that before writing a blogpost you read the previous blogposts you have written about a topic.

Any examples you would like to share? They will be welcomed by me!