Getting The Ning Thing? Got It? Or Over It?

displayYesterday’s post Ninging? Blogging? How Do We Best Support Needs Of Educators When Doing Professional Development? added more thoughts and voices to blogging vs ning. Thanks everyone for your comments — I suggest you check out their feedback. And once again I would like to thank both Graham and Clay for inspiring this conversation! And I have decided to follow up this post with reflecting on reasons why we are getting, got it or are over Ning as a result of comments by my readers yesterday!

Never Got The Ning Thing?

Well I don’t know about everyone else but I am one of those people that can take a long time “to get” the benefit of a Web 2.0 tool — I really have to see the “what’s in it for me” to be engaged enough to want to use.

Here are examples of tools and how long it has taken me from being introduced to a tool and then actually start using them effectively:

  • Twitter- 2 months
  • Podcasting – 3 months
  • Wiki – 5 months
  • Ning – 5 months
  • Delicious – 7 months
  • FlickR – 8 months
  • Blogging – 12 months

Now considering most see me as innovative and a prolific user of Web 2.0 technologies — I think how long it taken someone like me to adopt new tools should be considered when introducing these tools to educators who have never been exposed to any of them!

If we look at the whole Ning thing — why did it take me so long “to get it?” Well considering I understood RSS I was not seeing the forest for the trees — I was not subscribing to the feeds from the Ning Forum, Blogs or Latest Activity. This meant there was no way I could effectively manage the information that was being generated by these sites nor was I able to effectively respond to discussions because I was totally unaware that these discussions were taking place.

Whatever online resources and tools we develop our first rule should always be to make it very clear how to:

  • participate
  • use
  • navigate

This is equally important to the experienced and inexperienced — we should not assume what is required is obvious!

What is required should be in your face! So there is no missing the obvious!

So I only “Got It” with Ning when Michele Martin set up Better Blog Community because she modeled how to participate in very simple and obvious terms which I adapted when I set up etools and tips for educators community. She continues to mentor me on how to facilitate these communities which I am grateful for and Simon Brown models for me how to use with students. I also spent considerable time checking out what was working/not working with other Ning communities — check out Steve Hargadon’s communities for good ideas on setting up Ning.

Got the Ning Thing?

My thoughts are those that have got the “Ning Thing” are probably managing the feeds from the sites using Feed Readers like Google Reader, Bloglines or dare I say it NetVibes (ROFL).

Or alternatively realise the benefit of this community such as:

  • Ease of use for the less tech savy
  • Ability to easy manage discussions, embed videos and create blog posts

Over It

What can I say–well there would be a number of reasons. And would love to hear those from my readers. One reason why I was Over Ning initially was I never got it to begin with. However I can understand the feeling of too much Ning because I belong to 7 Ning communities but am only managing 3 of them effectively (on my to-do-list to rectify this with the other communities. And I can totally relate to the whole time issue!

And as Web 2.0 savy people like Patrick point out “being connected to a network that you create based on your needs and passions is far greater than one that is created for you”

Final Thoughts

Well ultimately, at the end of the day, it is not about us techy savy ones but the individuals that we are trying to get started on their journey. So I would really love Graham to convert the comment on my post to be created into your own post, with pictures, because you have, as always, explained it so well especially your closing sentence “We just don’t want educators sitting on their hands in their classrooms saying, “Everything I and my students need for learning is in this room. No need to go anywhere.”

Doh moment! Really think that I have done a disservice to lecturers in my own organisation. I have been using wikis but now realise that a Ning community, based on what I have gained from etools and tips for educators community, would better service their needs in terms of empowering their learning outside of professional development sessions!

Make It Interactive, Engaging and Model Use of Tools! Will I Crash and Burn?

eTools-n-Tips-logo I have agreed to do an online session (using Elluminate) on “Video in E-learning” for e-Tips n Tools for the 2007 Australian E-learning Networks.

Mine is a “how to” session on video, for one hour, and I have to keep in mind these sessions are aimed towards beginners. Oh did I mention they have also requested we make them interactive.

Most of the advice people have been giving me on How Do We Get Others To BUY IN? To Make Them Go The Extra Miles With E-learning? has recommended focusing on people skills that help them in their own learning. So I want to focus on this aspect during my session, so it is more than just a 1 hr presentation.

Training Wheels Let me clarify first that I have been using a virtual classroom (Elluminate) now for almost 2 years with my online aquaculture students. And time spent using it makes me feel that my training wheels, are getting bigger not smaller! Why? The more you learn, the more you realise you need to know!

One of the main tips I give beginners on videos is to check first with video sharing sites – there may already be videos created that are suitable. This is much more effective use of time than creating videos. And I show easy it is to embed videos in web sites by getting them to do it!

So since Michele Martin has modeled the effective use of Ning to me, I am pondering do I make my session REALLY interactive, engaging and MODEL the use of tools by setting up a Ning community specifically for the online session?

The idea is during part of the session I can send them to some video sharing sites, get them to find a video they like and get them to embed their videos into a web site (using Ning) with their comments on why they liked the video. Obviously I will encourage them to join the Ning community well in advance of the online session, and will also invite them to post their questions they most want answered about video to the Ning Forum.

So my concerns are:

  • Will this be too overwhelming for the type of people who will attend my session (participants will range from beginners to highly skilled practitioners)?
  • Is it worth taking the risk?
  • Is there a better option?
  • Do you think I am biting off more that I can chew?
  • Will I offend the 2007 E-learning Networks by hosting the forum outside of EDNA (uses Moodle)


Thank you to everyone that has taken the time to provide their thoughts on How Do We Get Others To BUY IN? To Make Them Go The Extra Miles With E-learning?

The reason why I have not responded to your comments YET is because the discussion is still ongoing at:

How Do We Get Others To BUY IN? To Make Them Go The Extra Miles With E-learning?

The other week I received an email to a presentation for school teachers on e-learning, which I agreed without hesitation, at no cost, because:

  1. Funnily enough it is the high school my oldest son attends (emotional attachment)
  2. I am responsible for auspicing their aquaculture program at the school i.e the teacher delivers VET qualifications at the school and I keep an eye on how it is delivered and assessed (work attachment)
  3. Assumed that the presentation was on topic that I have presented on a million times (no preparation required)

Admittedly I keep making the same mistake, saying YES, before realising the true extent of what is involved. Well, guess what they are not interested in my standard presentations, they are interested in the elearning leadership project I am currently doing. The school is trying to get elearning happening more, and they want me to give advice to the teachers responsible for inspiring (leading) other teachers to uptake elearning.

At this point the word BUGGER, springs to mind for two reasons:

  1. My training wheels are definitely displayed prominently when it comes to leadership and faciliating professional development. Yes – I know a bit about the use of technology and mobile devices with students, teaching aquaculture to students, and faciliating online courses but I am NEW to faciliating professional development.
  2. Last time I checked I was a TAFE lecturer (i.e. vocational education and training). My continued work with students is invaluable when delivering professional development to other TAFE lecturers because it gives me credibility (relate to their situation and students). But from my work with school teachers in our aquaculture program this credibility is not transferable to school teachers. I know LIKE relates better to LIKE.

So I decided the best solution was to ask for tips from people involved with inspiring school teachers to uptake elearning at their schools.

Here is where I am at so far:

  1. Brian C. Smith (Mobile Minded) nicely agreed to do Skype interview, at 11.30 pm, his time on how they get teachers involved. I am currently in the process of creating a video from this interview – watch this space!
  1. Sent email to Darren Draper (Drapes Take) and he created a fanastic video for me. Honestly it was SO FUNNY I had tears running down my face. Darren, forget the blogging, you should be a podcaster. TAKE the time to WATCH THIS VIDEO and encourage others to watch as well! This video desires a SNOW DAY!

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Can You Help Me?

Now I don’t want to cause an International incident and I know that other Aussies will realise that I only have interviews by Americans. WHY? Well, I know that Graham is probably really tired from Melbourne (so worried about asking), Jason is snowed under, have not had time to contact anyone else because they only gave me the final details on Friday and the presentation is this Monday afternoon.

But my work on elearning leadership is ongoing!

I would love to hear from ANYONE (e.g. school teachers, instructional technology specialist, TAFE lecturers, librarians etc) who is INVOLVED with inspiring others to uptake elearning!

If you want to do an interview, or create a video – fantastic – but I understand time issues – and comments below would be EXCELLENT! Before Monday = even better!

You can check out my personal progress on elearning leadership HERE – remember this is a work in PROGRESS (and I will be adding everyones tips and advice to my leadership site).

Here is my questions:

  1. What are your TIPS?
  2. How do you get OTHERS TO BUY IN? To go the extra steps and actually use what they have learnt outside of professional development workshops.
  3. What professional development workshops do you find works the best when your participants have limited technology skills?

The importance of getting out

My friend Phillip worries that I do not get out enough, so I convinced him to let me visit and watch him facilitate professional development for his Learnscope project (titled iTubes YouTubes) at AMES at West Coast TAFE (they offer English for Migrant courses). He was a bit concerned as to whether I would actually gain from being at his session, I wasn’t because my aim was to pick up tips for improving how I facilitate professional development. I believe that it is important to actually get out and see how other individuals, Colleges and organisations facilitate their professional development so that you get ideas for how you can improve what you do.

The first thing I learnt was someone has stolen half of St Mary’s Cathedral! When did this happen? Obviously no-one blog about this, or I am subscribing to the wrong blogs, as I missed this important news (perhaps that is what TV is for?).


The focus of their project is to explore the use Elluminate for facilitating PD, encourage communication between participants using tools like Google Talk, explore and create online videos. This is what I gained from Phillip:

  • He will be running his sessions both face-to-face (for those able to attend) and using a virtual classroom i.e. Elluminate (mainly for those located in regional areas). I am really keen to see how he goes with using Elluminate for teaching people how to create online videos because it opens up lots of potential
  • Showing participants how to use Google Talk is really a good idea
  • All links and information for his project are located on one place, their AMES project blog
  • He guides his participants through a task, lets them do the task, then takes them completely out of the task and makes them go back in by themselves (without telling them how – to force them to remember the steps or refer to their notes). E.g. Walked them through how to sign in to their blog and then got them to write a blog. He followed with a few other activities such as download and use Google Talk. Then told them shut down all windows and asked them to locate their blog and write a post on how the potential of Google Talk. By doing this he was trying to move them towards being able to do it on their own without him as support
  • Last year he ran 10 weekly workshops. Feedback from his participants was weekly sessions were too much because each week they had homework and it did not give adequate time to get the work done. At Challenger TAFE, our Web 2.0 project was once fortnightly and participants commented they lost the skills and momentum so would prefer it to be weekly
  • Reward system – last year he used Mars bars etc as rewards for work well done. Participants told me this encourage them to work towards getting the Mars bar
  • Any participant who did not have a headset already was given one to take home – this is one less barrier to get a lecturer to use great tools like Elluminate and Google Talk
  • I also learnt technology things but I will not blog about them here, as the post is already long enough

Most importantly I liked the idea of the food platter that encouraged everyone to stand around and talk. We normally do sandwiches but this platter was really good.


Thanks Philip and the participants for letting me attend I had a really great time and learnt lots. Sorry I forgot to ask permission from the participants to use the group photo so Phillip can you let me know if it is ok?

Tips of the Trade

tips2.jpgMy Tools of the Trade post has been fairly popular (Web 2.0 tools that I recommend for lecturers and why) so I thought I would follow it up with Tips of the Trade (i.e. basic strategies I use to empower lecturers with some Tools of the Trade). Also worth checking out My EveryDay tools (software and online tools I use everyday). (Photo by K.Lewis)

Let me first start with a disclaimer – contrary to popular belief by some I am “Newbie” at facilitating e-learning professional development (although working part time as a PD facilitator (0.5) and lecturer (0.5) helps me relate better to the lecturers involved in my programs).

My Tips

1. DON”T start with showing me HOW – show me WHY first!!

I can not tell you the number of PD workshops where the facilitator has spent the whole time showing me “how to” and totally forgotten that I am not even going to bother learning “how to” until you give me the reason WHY I would even bother. For this rule and guess what “I NOT LISTENING”.

“Why should I use the technology, how could I use the technology with students, what are the benefits for me and my students”

This to me should always be the starting point for all workshops with lecturers.

2.Structure the workshops so that it increases their ICT skills plus empowers them with skills that will enhance their work life

One of the biggest challenges I come across with most of my participants is they are normally at the beginning of their online journey (i.e. most are consumers of information from the Internet) and in many cases have limited ICT skills. Target the workshops at their skills level, don’t overwhelm them with skills way above their capability and if necessary reduce the number of skills they need to learn to suit their needs (my post on We all need a helping hand, sometimes explains how I structure the PD sessions).

I also like to focus on giving them highly transferable skills that they can use in various aspects of their work. For example, teaching them how to create Instructional Videos and PowerPoints for PDAs also gives them increased ability to use PowerPoint and create movies with MovieMaker that they can use in their classes, on PDA, online or podcast.

3. Assist in their journey from online consumers to participants

“How can we hope for them to use the Tools of the Trade effectively with their students if they are not at the point of feeling comfortable participating online”

Read my post on Expectations of Collaboration and Participation in online environments to learn more about how people progress in their online participation journey.

Incorporate some form of online activity that makes them have to participate online. Does not matter what I am facilitating (e.g. how to use PDAs) I get them to record their thoughts online at the end of the session. I currently use a wiki for this purpose only because I like to use Stealth Mode (introduce tools into the workshop that are not a required part of the professional development but will trigger them to think about how they could use it with their students) – here is an example of one of my wikis I use .

I use wikis because I know from experience staff quickly get excited by the potential of wikis (for example several staff from the Visage Training Centre who are learning how to use PDAs now want to set up wikis for their students). However I really love the way Ames West Coast Learnscope blog and Darren Draper with Teaching With Tech – EDT 612 blog are using their blogs to get their participants to reflect on their learning.

Another tool that I have used by Stealth is Survey Monkey (for Skills Audit) – which once again someone has gone away and is now using (even though the workshop was on PDAs).

The key when you are in Stealth Mode is not to overwhelm them with too much.

4. Structure the program so the participants move from dependence to independence

Words of wisdom supplied by Becky Saunders (Instructional Intelligence)

“Do you give a person one lesson drivng a car then expect them to be able to drive a car? We all know this is totally unrealistic, when people learn to drive a car they move from totally dependence on the instructor to independence and this takes time – how long depends on the individual. Yet we expect participants to learn and use technology (which requires in many ways requires more skills than learning to drive a car) after just a couple of lessons”.

Read about how Philip facilitates professional development to learn more about moving participants from dependence to independence.

Welcome to blogging

On a final note my mate – James (Sir Jimbo) has entered into the blogging world with his Probable Distractions blog. I am already seriously concerned by the purposed content of his blog as a result of his first post Growing a Bountiful wiki – his recommendation on which site to go to learn about wikis was chosen on the basis of if they referenced to the Muppets (very concerning to me that he is considerably younger than myself and into the Muppets – honestly I lived through the Muppets – please James you need intervention) . Note he finishes his post with “Rampant online technologist Sue Waters has also thrown her hat into the ring with her own Wiki tute site. No Muppets references, but you can’t have everything…” Although I do like the name “Rampant online technologist”

Can you please visit James’s blog to educate him on what’s cool and what’s not?

Reflective learnings and why it is important when doing professional development on e-learning for staff

At the project planning days last week for the Learnscope e-learning and WADET mobile technology Becky Sauders highlighted the importance of delivering effective PD to increase sustainable m-learning & e-learning uptake by uptaking. She especially touched on the importance of reflective learning; so this week I decided to try it with my workshop. There is so much for me to learn about reflective learning and how to use it effectively so it was a case of Becky giving me some guidance on how to do it and me giving it a go (and accepting it is part of my learning journey).visage.jpg

So we started the workshop with a Snowball Activity. Each participant was asked to write a question(s) on a piece of paper relating to the first workshop on:

  1. Anything you felt confused about
  2. Needed clarifyied
  3. Wanted more information on
  4. Can not see the relevance of how it connects to what you want to achieve

All questions were gathered together and participants were encouraged to answer the questions.

I was really impressed by the questions they asked and the solutions that were offered as a result of doing this activity.

This reflective learning activity highlighted to participants and me that they wanted more:

  1. “hands on” time to explore and use the PDAs
  2. Information on databases and why a database is needed for a PDA
  3. Ability to put files onto PDAs and to make the most of the visual aspects of the PDAs
  4. On “How to” transfer files from computer to PDA and from PDA to computer
  5. Information “How come what you want to have on the PDA, as a database, involves so much time and thought?”
  6. Time to clarify/decide on the design aspects of the database
  7. Paper based documents on how to sync PDA with computer – so I can remember how to do this
  8. Information about how to use wikis (I want to learn how to set up a website similar to what we are using so I can use for my students)

Their solutions to their questions were:

  1. Insufficient time allocated to fully gain skills required so group decided that they need to organise additional PD funded by their section – decided they want to meet once a week on a Thursday afternoon to gain more skills in PDAs, wikis etc (booked a PD session for Thursday 10 May, 3-5 pm)
  2. Also some participants highlighted the fact that they benefit more by one-on-one tuitions so need to investigate the possibility of a “help desk” type scenario
  3. “How to” documentation has already been organised – Frances in the process of creating – will be online and PDF format to download
  4. May need to make next workshop full day rather than half day to address issues with learning how to use the database and realise why it is needed. Also will apply for further funding.

For both myself and the participants this was extremely beneficial and their needs would not have been identified without it.

I have also organised for them to keep a reflective journal for the project.

An interesting comment that one of the participants made was that as lecturers most of us use reflective practise in our work. I have to say I agree with her but the whole process of formalising reflective learning makes you think more deeply about your thoughts and then makes you take action on those thoughts.

However on reflection, important to tell other facilitators who are involved in the project, and who did not attend what you are doing. Since I use a wiki for the project, and I put all the information about the workshop and its outcomes as soon as I have completed the workshop, and they have the wiki set up to notify them when changes are made they did not necessarily understand what I was doing, and the points raised by the participants. Oh well, all good, just part of my own personal learning journey.

Use of peer coaching in e-learning professional development

Yesterday was m-learning, today was Learnscope e-learning Project Planning day.

Thank goodness for the Internet access on my PDA that meant I could multi-task i.e. listen to the presentations and participate in the activities while I researched more about the use of peer coaching (all Becky Saunders fault however that was the desired outcome). I suppose at this point in time it is interesting to reflect that my technology life style has made me very proficient at multitasking.

Carole McCulloch (who is an e-learning coach and mentor) from the other side of Australia, was nice enough to provide her feedback on the use of peer coaching in e-learning professional development. Here is what Coach Carole told me about how they do professional Development in Victoria:

“Victorian teams use a peer coaching/mentoring model. Eleaders are provided with a time allowance to provide support for teachers in their departments in understanding, mastering and implementing elearning strategies. They usually have at least one LearnScope or Elearning project to lead during the year and they provide coaching for their teams as well as project management. The success of this coaching/mentoring framework lies in the close collaboration between coaches and peers and their on-the-ground support on an ongoing basis.

In our VIC model the coaches are knowledgeable in elearning and coach their peers in their own goals – usually prescribed by their project outcomes – ones they’ve written themselves. Coaching may be side-by-side or virtual and would consist of pre-arranged events to enhance the learning of the peer. e.g. a coach may provide guidance and feedback on the learning taking place for a set number of peers and may provide more personal mentoring for a smaller number”.

Carole was also nice enough to give me the link to her Victorian E-Learning leaders wiki which she is currently setting up and her new blog. Thanks Carole I look forward to watching and learning from the techniques you use in your State; and plan to have a closer look at both sites tomorrow.Becky Saunders also repeated her great presentation from yesterday so I grabbed the opportunity to record and podcast it from my podcast site (Sorry have not included the full presentation because it was too long but did include the most important aspects of it). She was also nice enough to add the Rogers’ Innovation Adoption Curve into her presentation. I had read about Rogers Innovativeness Theory in Networks, Connections and Community: Learning with Social Software prepared by Val Evans in collaboration with Larraine J Larri with input from Susan Stolz for the Australian Flexible Learning Framework. Thanks Val, Larraine and Susan for writing such a fantastic document; it contains lots of great information.

The reason why I wanted Becky to add Rogers Innovativeness Theory was because I felt it helped people understand that ” trying to quickly convince the mass of a new controversial idea is useless. It makes more sense to start with convincing innovators and early adopters”.


Delivering effective PD to increase SUSTAINABLE m-learning & e-learning uptake by staff

My brain definitely feels overloaded today – give me technology any day!

Today was the Project Planning Day for all teams that were approved funding from WADET for Embedding m-learning projects. The funds are to be used for professional development to enable teams to gain the skills to embed the technology with their students. Ann Odgers (WA Learnscope Manager) organized an excellent day of activities, to give us food for thought as we commence the planning stage of our projects.

All the presenters were excellent but Becky Saunders (Teaching and Learningbecky.jpg Directorate, WADET) presentation on Embedding PD gave me the most to think about because this year I will be working part time facilitating staff PD on e-learning and m-learning. Effective PD to ensure sustainable uptake of these technology by staff is an issue faced everywhere. Her presentation highlighted the fact that there are so many aspects involved in providing effective PD to staff; and while I have reasonable technology and facilitation skills I have a lot more to learn about making the PD effective to ensure sustainable uptake by staff.

Interesting facts that Becky covered included:

  1. Professional development is about change management. A small change to be implemented in an organisation can take 3 – 5 years; a big change 5-10 years (e.g. reflect on the fact that there are still pockets within our organizations resistant to AQTF)
  2. Impact of peer coaching on uptake of skill in the classroom (Joyce and Showers, 2002)

Joyce and Showers (2002) studied four types of professional development to determine the effectiveness of each on concept understanding, skill attainment, and then the teacher actually applying what was learnt in the PD in applications in the classroom. The results of their study are summarised in this table:

In simple terms traditional PD that involves a presentation of theory will only increase in the classroom by 5-10%. PD that involves practising (titled in the table Practise and Low Risk Feedback) what they have learnt will increase uptake by 10-15%. If peer coaching is added to the practising uptake in the classrooms will be 80-90%.

Research has shown that workshops don’t provide sufficient time, activities, or content necessary to promote meaningful change. Joyce and Showers found that when teachers combined participating in typical workshops with peer coaching for sharing and observation, 88 % of teachers were using new strategies in their classrooms effectively. Studies have shown that that peer coaching and study groups which provide opportunities for on doing discussion and reflection “may have more influence on changing teaching practices” than other professional development strategies.

Great information Becky, however I now need to do a bit of research, because their use of the term peer coaching is confusing me. I have done a few workshops on coaching and mentoring; at this point in time I am a bit confused by “peer coaching” to me it implies more “peer mentoring” rather than the traditional model of coaching. At least I know that I am not alone in the confusion of mentoring and coaching. I will definitely need to learn a lot more about both mentoring and coaching if I hope to increase the sustainable uptake of m-learning and e-learning.

I strongly recommend you also listen to Becky’s “Technology and use with students