I just helped facilitate the first synchronous meeting for the Blogging and Writing For The Web (B&W4TW) study group, and I think it went really well, great in fact. I previously organised a basic web development course at P2PU, but until recently had no opportunity to organise a non-Webcraft project. This is a great opportunity to learn something new, improve my existing skills and to put some ideas about collaborative online learning into practice.
I started the group at P2PU following a twitter conversation with Laura and Alina. I wanted to improve my blogging in general and also want to feel more confident about my professional online writing skills within the School of Webcraft project.
Are we forming a study group or a support group?
One of the interesting things that came out of the meeting today was the feeling that B&W4TW acts not only as a study group where we improve our skills, but it also acts as a support group for people who, as Lynn described it, are “sole practitioners“.
We identified that we wanted to create an ongoing group that will continue to give value to participants even if the founding members feel confident enough to “graduate” and leave the group. Blackstar mentioned that as blogging is an online process where you can always improve, it’s difficult to identify what the conditions of study group completion would be.
Hacking Open Space Techniques and Bringing Them to the “Web”
This meeting allowed me to run an online hack of a facilitation technique that I’ve experienced in several open-space style events and which Etherpad seemed suited for.
Participants are invited to brainstorm the topics they wish to talk about (within the framing of the meeting), write it on post-it notes (1 idea per post-it!) and then their notes are shared on a large wall. The second stage of the process invites participants to sort through the ideas, find common themes and create category titles for the groupings, thereby identifying common interests across the group.
Is there a name for this technique? Leave a comment and any relevant links please!
This blogging study group meeting seemed the perfect place to test these ideas out. We met using the live chat tool Voxli and kept notes in Etherpad. We could identify common goals and issues we wanted to work through with the group and then use these shared issues as a way of identifying tasks that we can respond to within the P2PU Study Group. We spent about 5 minutes identifying our personal goals, another 5 minutes sorting them out and then spent 10 minutes or so working on tasks for the major categories we identified.
I made a screencast of the process in Etherpad – please excuse the demo watermark!
5 people participated in this process and it worked quite well. Working with a larger group would be difficult and one way I’d consider hacking the process would be to invite only 2 or 3 people to sort the ideas into groups. In a physical space it’s possible to talk with each other in the sorting process and to collaborate on group names – this is much harder to do online.
In general though, I think that this is a very valuable exercise for P2PU learning groups to work through at the beginning of their life-cycle. It identifies shared learning goals and gives everyone a part to play in the development of the group.
What we ended up with
We’re planning to meet again next Friday at the same time and next week someone else will take the role of primary facilitator. We also recognised that the meeting time was difficult for those outside of Europe and East-Coast USA and encouraged members out of these time-zones to setup their own meetings if possible. We identified a list of key areas to work on in the group and have started creating tasks based on work we did in the meeting.