Writing-meeting up-collaborating

I’m conscious that I haven’t published on this blog for a while – and that’s partly because I have been writing elsewhere. I’ve also been to some new meetups and collaborating (co-writing, reviewing, commenting, conversing) in various communities and associated offshoots I’m involved with.

I have some half finished (or half-started?) posts in the making. But ahead of our upcoming #OzLearn chat on working out loud (inspired by Simon Terry), I thought I’d short circuit them all and do a little retrospective work out loud post on some of the things I’ve been doing. Kind of like my friend Helen Blunden’s “What have I been up to?” posts (which I always enjoy!).


Much of my writing recently has been associated with EdConteXts.org – a great project which I’m facilitating with a bunch of standout educators across the globe. It’s been enlightening – mostly because it’s led me to read widely, in areas I wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise, and to collaborate closely with educators who introduce me to new perspectives, ideas, contexts in learning and education, and connections in different domains. Plus opportunities to write in new contexts, including:


July ended up being packed with new meetup experiences – I attended 3 new ones (none of which I hosted!):

  1. ResponsiveOrg meet on co-working & new ways to work, organised by Mark Woodrow. It was my intention to attend one of these since I saw Simon Terry tweet that he was speaking at a responsivecoffee event in Sydney. Although I wasn’t able to make that one, it piqued my curiosity of the ‘responsivecoffee’ / ‘ResponsiveOrg’ concept. I signed up to notifications of their meetup events. The stars aligned: the July event was on coworking -something I’d been looking into for the Sydney Third Place group (e.g. similar to these coworking events Helen has been doing in Melbourne). It presented a great opportunity to check out a prominent coworking space in Sydney (The Hub), a responsivecoffee / org event – and to explore potential common interests between ResponsiveOrg and Third Place. So, the Sydney Third Place event for July became an invite to join me at the ResponsiveOrg event. It was a really good experience. I’ve started writing more about it (another post).
  2. Third Place all cities Google + Hangout – Helen had the genius idea of organising a G+ Hangout as an opportunity for Third Place people across cities to meet (virtually) –and also to experiment with Hangout features and functionality. I’d always wanted to do some sort of cross-city event, and hadn’t done a Hangout before so thought it was a great opportunity. Helen has written more about the event here. My impression? Whilst I can see Hangouts being an excellent tool to meet and collaborate virtually on specific projects, they (and any virtual meeting spaces) may still have some way to go to achieve the type of immediacy and intimacy (& serendipitous distraction) of an informal face to face meetup. I think part of the reason is because it’s difficult to hear more than one person talking, you invariably end up having one person speak at any one time. This gives it the ambience of a more formal meeting, particularly for 10 or close to 10 people. Whereas in an informal face to face meeting of this size, people would naturally fall into smaller side conversations – whilst still being in the same physical space as the rest of the group (and having access to surrounding conversations) – these natural divisions are impossible to achieve in a virtual meeting space (breakout areas=separate subgroups). Ryan and I are doing another in a few weeks, so it’ll be interesting to see if my impressions change after that. Maybe once you relax and get used to the medium, the (perhaps, mental?) divide between virtual and physical starts to close.
  3. eLearning collective meetup – I’d been meaning to check out this newish meetup group started by Kerrie Burow, especially since our conversation on video based learning via Ryan’s blog. It’s always nice to meet people you interact with online. As an organiser of Third Place meetup events in Sydney, I’m also interested in checking out alternative meetup groups – for inspiration and potentially collaboration. I finally had the chance to attend an eLearning collective meet a couple of weeks ago. It was a good event – more semi-formal (with organised speaker/s and ‘round table’ discussion) than the completely informal get-together-&- have-a-chat format of Third Place. Excellent turnout (possibly about 30-40) and a whole different set of learning people in the room – perhaps with a higher proportion of education/higher ed and vocational ed & training (VET) than corporate (as tends to be the case with our Sydney Third Place people). Having perused the topics and attendees of their previous meets this didn’t altogether surprise me. But it’s also something that intrigues and interests me: the formation of links and connections across these different contexts, which are often perceived as being distinct from each other – but at the core deal with many of the same issues: learner engagement, relevant & meaningful learning experiences, facilitating collaborative and student centred pedagogies (via technology). There is more that I can and will write of this meetup. But I’ll save that for a separate post.

8 thoughts on “Writing-meeting up-collaborating

  1. francesbell says:

    Just wanted to thank you for the piece you wrote on MOOC design for Special Issue – I really enjoyed reading it and it will be useful in work that Jenny Mackness and I are doing. I have been thinking about what you said about ” the sense of exclusion that can arise when an individual doesn’t share what seems to be the dominant background, interests and outlook of other participants in a MOOC”. Leaving aside whether or not this was an issue for an individual on rhizo14 (I don’t think it was), I would like to pose the question of whether or not a background and outlook should come to dominate in a MOOC – whether this might not be a matter for concern. Diversity in a community of learners is a resource to be cherished. The question of shared interests is a little different since one would would expect learners on a MOOC to at least share a general interest in the MOOC topic. In rhizo14 this was less clear as objectives/goals were off limits.

  2. Maha Bali says:

    Hi Frances, I am not sure what you are trying to say throughout your comment (maybe i am not concentrating) but i definitely don’t understand the last part about goals being off-limits. I think the point in rhizo14 was that we could each have different goals/objectives, not that we couldn’t have them at all… That,s a diff thing from “off limits”. There must be some things shared amongst the participants, or else why are so many of us still “connected” and quite close?

    • tanyalau says:

      Thanks Maha for stopping by and engaging with the conversation! I know you’ve been involved in a lot of interesting ones (& I’ve missed a lot of them where they’ve been on FB…) so always great to get your perspective on it.
      I think I might understand what Frances is getting at – not so much certain things being ‘off limits’; more that some things got promoted, discussed, and dominated more than others. Although I’m still wondering whether or not anything can or should be done about this…

  3. francesbell says:

    @maha – that last sentence was badly-worded. I was trying to convey that since in rhizo14 there were no preset objectives, it was more difficult for potential participants to ascertain the ‘topic’ via declared objectives, and so they might join the MOOC and later find it was not what they might have expected.
    It seems, as Tanya identified, that certain backgrounds, interests and outlook became dominant, resulting in feelings of exclusion for some participants ( as we have found in the data we have collected). That’s not to deny your feelings of closeness or connection.
    I was musing about the benefits of diversity and inclusion – sorry if that’s still unclear.

  4. tanyalau says:

    Hi Frances – thanks for your comments, and I’m really glad you enjoyed reading the MOOC reflection in the special issue – it was an interesting experience writing it. The diversity / inclusion / exclusion issue – is a really interesting one. I think I understand your comment – and it is close to where I ended up heading with the article I wrote. Rather than certain topics being ‘off limits’ per se, it was possibly more a case of certain topics dominating, and others not gaining much ‘air time’. It seemed like certain things got retweeted or commented on, discussed etc more commonly than others (e.g. the art and poetry thing is just one example). And really, it was Heli and Mariana’s posts that highlighted this for me, which is why I included them. The question, I guess, is whether there is anything that can or should be done about this – particularly in an experience like rhizo14, where there is very little predefined structure and goals are set by participants. I concluded by saying that the instructor / facilitator has a responsibility to support and foster diverse views – but I can also see the challenge in this, particularly if it is run / managed just by one person.
    One way might be to have a number of co-facilitators (and I guess the G+ space was managed this way…) but I guess the issue is, even if the facilitators are promoting and trying to encourage alternative viewpoints, it still might not happen if active participants aren’t contributing to the discussions. And, then the question of whether – in a course where the ‘community is the curriculum’ – it is appropriate for the facilitator to direct conversations comes into play (even though we know the power dynamic inherent in these situations means that the facilitator carries significant influence regardless….).
    I think it’s all still a bit fuzzy, but that’s also because this was a very unusual ‘course’…
    I’m not entirely certain if I’ve interpreted your comments appropriately, but it continues to generate interesting questions, and I’ll be keen to see your work with Jenny.

  5. francesbell says:

    @tanya – I agree with what you have said. An additional issue that we are exploring is the additional impact of community working to form whilst the topics/purpose of course are unclear – community has to form as curriculum emerges. I am really curious to see what impact, if any, this has on some participants’ experience of exclusion.

    • tanyalau says:

      Exclusion can be difficult to capture as well – as people who may leave a MOOC (or any self directed learning experience), ‘lurkers’ or those who participate only occasionally may all act out of a feeling of exclusion (or not – e.g. maybe they just don’t have time to actively participate). But it may be difficult to capture their views on this to establish whether exclusion is an issue if they don’t voice this somehow. And maybe this is potentially one benefit of the more ‘closed’ research you and Jenny and Mariana are doing (i.e. compared with the ethnography research that Maha and others are undertaking) – that those who feel uncomfortable voicing their experiences openly might be able to do so in a more anonymous forum. (Not sure if you have found that at all…? But just a thought…)

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