Thursday, November 15, 2007

Facilitating start up kit

One of the things I advise people to do is to use more of the 'laying out the smarties trail' approach.

What I mean is, a general approach to responses which goes like this:

"That's an interesting ideas about xyz. Now what fascinates me is whether the best/ most interesting approach to xyz is abc or cde. Personally my experience is that .... What do you think?"

The idea is that you:

1. Raise more questions than answers

2. Add new information, preferably from your own personal experience, and initially as raw data/ anecdotes. You can always respond later, and ask questions (more questions!) about how we could determine the validity of the data/ anecdotes. But get the data on the discussion forum first!

3. End off with a tempting (micro)problem (the smarties) that they would it difficult not to 'chase up', and that other students might be sorely tempted to respond to, too. For instance, in a recent course on research methods, I asked one of the students, whether he could find 10 different kinds of hospital drug chart layouts, to see which looked more interesting, and more effective from a Health and Safety perspective.

4. And following Gilly Salmon's advice, dont be shy to include emotional reactions too. I responded to one student's story about a visits to Easter Island by saying that I was intially jealous (I would like to go there) but on reading the story maybe I'll give it a miss - it looks like a dramatic metaphor of a community facing ecological collapse, and just keeping on with business as usual - more statues, and (therefore) less trees. Online interaction has to be 'warm'.

I would hope that either he or others might come back with a link or two to examples from the Internet, quite quickly. Now this course is not a graphic design course, but bringing in real, raw data always gets people sitting up in their seats.

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