Friday, August 15, 2008

Second blogging workshop

Thursday night was the second of the three blogging workshops I am running with Lyn Blair.


What we achieved

My personal reflections
I was really pleased that people had their blogs up and running with at least one post by the end of the evening. It is a delight to work with people who are so enthusiastic about setting up a blog. But I am left with the question: how do I support people to keep going with their blogs once the workshops have ended? Is it my job to do that? What if they think blogging is a waste of time - does that mean I am a terrible teacher? Do I take all this far too seriously!!!??? :)

How do you teach a class of people at different levels of technical ability?
This evening felt really chaotic and I feel a lot less satisfied with how thing went than I did the previous week. People were at different stages of development, and I tried to keep the evening 'loose' so that Lyn and I could support everyone with their own different needs. I especially didn't want to bore people who were more 'advanced' than the others.

But the problem with this approach was that I felt I had lost 'control' of what was going on, which in turn meant I felt as if I lost the flow of how the evening was supposed to run. The upshot of this for me, the 'teacher', was that I missed information or felt I gave it out in an unstructured manner.

Difference between teaching midwifery and computer skills
I do teach technical skills to student midwives and wonder why that does not feel so difficult as teaching computer skills. But I think it is easier because the student midwives are all at one level ie they come to my class with no knowledge of the skill, and I focus on only one skill at a time. Whereas this blogging class has students with a number of different skill levels, needs and aims which is more difficult to juggle.

Taking a structured approach
Leigh Blackall has advised me to:
  • break the evening into small bursts of activities
  • walk everyone through a particular activity such as how to upload an image for 5-10 minutes even if they know how to do it already
  • then let them go off and 'play' for another short while
  • repeat with the next activity.
If you teach computer subjects to classes, is there any other advice you would give me? If you are a student, how do you like a class like this to be facilitated?

Length of course

The other thing I have been thinking about is the length of the course. I originally thought that I would run 5 classes of 2 hours, but I think that 3 classes is probably as much as I would get people to attend. So I have to come to terms that there is no way I can tell people all there is to know about blogging in that short time.

So may be we should offer a basic class which covers how to set up a blog, and then a more advanced class when we look at adding widgets and so on. Having said that, people can continue their learning by working their way through activities such as the 31 Day Blog Challenge and 31 Day Comment Challenge, as well as access resources provided by people such as Sue Waters.

I would love to hear what people think about this, especially as I have been asked for feedback by several people in other areas/countries who are going to be running the same sort of workshops.

Highlight of the evening
On a lighter note, the highlight of the evening came when I was talking to a participant about linking her blog to other websites.

When I asked her what she was linking to her blog, she replied "My book." She had a web site URL in her notebook which she was using in her blog. That really tickled my funny bone.


Sarah Stewart said...

I might add that we do have a paper workbook and email group supporting these workshops, as well as our own blog posts, so there is heaps of information to support the face-to-face workshops.

willie campbell said...

I am thinking this way-
3 classess is enough and should give people sufficient to begin- suggest a buddy system for the next priod of time.
Ask at the beginning of Class 3 who want what tonight? what is it you can't bear to leave without? list those. THEN ask for those "capable" and as you point out there are some there, to lead a particular skill. put the time beside it and leave them to it.
Call us together 30 minutes before the end (let us know this at the beginning) for last minute what if? stuff. again ask for answers from the group.
This way YOU are in control of the process (should keep you happy) but using the talents and skills in the group.
I am enjoying the class and the interaction between each one is invaluable.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you for that feedback, Willie - it's very valuable. It was interesting to see that a sort of buddying up was starting to develop this week, which was wonderful.

The only trouble I have found, having been in this sort of situation as a perceived 'expert' in this sort of workshop, is that I spent all my time helping people, which is fine - I love to do that - but then I got fed up because I didn't have time to deal with my learning needs.

Maybe all this is my issue with what I want to get across. Maybe, I need to let go of my agenda and, as you say, go back to what you want. I'll have a look at the aims you all identified at the beginning. It's not that I want to control what you learn - I just want you to know EVERYTHING! Too unrealistic expectations on my part, me thinks.

Sue Waters said...

I feel for you. This is the same issues I've been dealing with doing staff professional development. The varying skills levels and the need for some to have greater assistance. I've now changed staff PD and doing it two-on-on to provide the greater assistance they require.

I just did a blogging workshop for University students this week. I had 2 hours to cover it. I had also recommended that they set up and subscribe to blogs prior to my session. Unfortunately that didn't happen so in my two hours I had to go through and show them how to set up an iGoogle page, Google Reader and then teach them how to blog.

Still feeling stressed in the knowledge that we covered too much information without enough time to cover it all well. However I did get them to do some work prior to the session that helped. They all had to decided on username, URL and blog name prior to session. Plus they all had to write a post (in Word) and bring a photo for the session. That aspect did work and definitely speed up the process.

You may find that some people do want to keep going for the 5 weeks.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks Sue.

If you are a participant: What do you think of the time frame?

Sarah Stewart said...

Lyn has put all the resources and a 'how to' in a document which is fabulous to take away. When I have polished off my wiki skills I am going to do the same but in wikieducator.

sharonm said...

Hi Sarah,
Being a student in that course that night, I can identify with your dilemma!! I can understand the dissatisfaction with the "looseness" of the evening but please rest assured as a participating student I didn't feel lost in the looseness, and loved just being able to get on with it!! I do have computer experience and would have got frustrated if we had only moved at the pace of the slowest in the group so was happy to be left to my own devices and move on at pace.
I think you and Lyn both did well with facilitating the workshop, we have excellent study notes and are surrounded by such enthusiasm and humour - some at my expense thanks to Craig!!! It makes for a great learning environment.

To also answer your question, No it is no reflection on your ability as a teacher, if a student doesn't like blogging. You have real enthusiasm and passion, have excellent study notes and the course is great. I will be signing up for the advanced course - I am hooked!!

I used to also have a similar dilemma in my Nursing Clinical teaching, often students would present at first year level with such variances in exposure to a task, it would have some charging straight into it and others totally flummoxed not knowing where to start and it always felt that I was losing control of the teaching plan and outcomes. I like the suggestion of just coming together for 5 minutes to explain a task whether some students are past that stage or not.

You and Lyn are doing a great job. Well done!!

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you very much for that, Sharon. Its great to hear that Lyn and I are on the right track.

As a matter of interest, what would you like to see in an advanced course and how long would you be prepared to spend?

SharonM said...

Another 3 weeks would be good, it would give us time to refine our skills and pick up on some of the things we covered which seemed clear at the time and then when left to our own devices have just gone straight out of our heads!!
I haven't had a chance to add any extras to my page yet, ie stats counter, Flickr badge, and a delicious link. I also plan on embedding multi-media, you-tube etc but due to missing this last hour (I am meeting with my fiance to pick up our new engagement ring, so sorry even though I would love to be here to the end, that has won my attention for the remeiander of theis evening!!!)

David McQuillan said...

Hi Sarah, some thoughts in response to your musings...

How do you support people in their blogging once the workshops have ended?

You could spend a huge amount of time doing this yourself, but it's probably not sustainable ;-). It's a tricky one, because from my experience in the facilitating online course, it seemed to take about 6-8 weeks before people really started participating in the blogging community. I think your course is 3 weeks in length, so this community will presumably not have formed at the end. Perhaps you could spread the modules out - 2 weeks in between module 1 & 2, 4 weeks in between module 2 & 3. I think your strategy of encouraging the existing community of bloggers to engage with the newbies will probably be a useful one (although I know that I haven't done this myself due to time constraints).

Re: length of course
I think 3x2 is a good number of f2f classes. People can pick up the rest of what they need to know by blogging. And you say that there's a online component to the course, which should provide the support needed for people to grow into their blogging.

Sounds like your students are really loving it. :-)

Sarah Stewart said...

@Sharon, congratulations on your engagement. Don't forget to post a photo of your new ring on your blog!

I think you're right about needing another couple of sessions to tackle more advanced activities like setting up a statistics counter and how to use one effectively. The other thing I would have liked to have looked at is Feedburner. But I think at this stage, it will be good for people to take a breather and have a play so that they consolidate their blogs. I will be interesting to talk to everyone in a couple of months and see if they have sustained their blogs.

Having said that, if you work your way through the 31 Day Blog Challenge and 31 Day Comment Challenge, you will pretty much work out all of these things.

Sarah Stewart said...

@David, yes, you're right about sustainability. Lyn and I have left the email group open so we'll be able to flick people hints and tips every now and again. And I have people in my google reader so will be able to monitor how they're going. I shall never forget how supportive people like Leigh Blackall and Sue Waters were to me in my early blogging days (and continue to be) so I want to do the same. But I think it is vital that they continue to support each other.