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A herd of freely associating, autonomous cats: how a Facebook group helped turn a bunch of cMOOC participants into a learning community

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A herd of freely associating, autonomous cats: how a Facebook group helped turn a bunch of cMOOC participants into a learning community

  1. 1. A herd of freely associating, autonomous cats: how a Facebook group helped turn a bunch of cMOOC participants into a learning community flickr photo by rsgranne shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license
  2. 2. Ashley Shaw @ashleygshaw Rebecca J. Hogue @rjhogue Sarah Honeychurch @NomadWarMachine Maha Bali @bali_maha Lenandlar Singh @lenandlar
  3. 3. • P2PU (a community course platform): Rhizomatic Learning: The Community is the Curriculum the-community-is-the-curriculum/ (the “official” course page) • Twitter: #rhizo14 • Facebook Group: • A G+ group: • Personal blogs: rhizo14/ • … and more (Diijo, Mendeley, Pinterest …) "it's a bit hard to sort out #rhizo14 which was the educational version of the neverending story from #rhizo15 which started before the course began :)" quote from Aaron J-R What was #rhizo14? Image by Christina Hendricks shared under a Creative Commons (CC BY) Licence
  4. 4. flickr photo by Johnny Grim shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC- ND) license
  5. 5. “Communities”
  6. 6. Groups & Networks • Downes (2007) draws a distinction between groups and networks. He describes them as follows: • Groups “a collection of entities or members according to their nature or their feature or their properties or whatever, their essential nature, maybe, their accidental nature, maybe, whatever, but according to their nature. What defines a group is the quality the members possess in common and then the number of members in that group. Groups are about nature, they're about quality, they're about mass. They're about number.” • Networks “an association of entities or members where this association is facilitated or created by a set of connections between those entities.” He suggests that groups are defined by their “unity” while networks are defined by their “diversity”
  7. 7. Communities & Collectives Seely Brown & Thomas (2013) describe the “collective” as: “a collection of people, skills, and talent that produces a result greater than the sum of its parts. For our purposes, collectives are not solely defined by shared intention, action, or purpose (though those elements may exist and often do). Rather, they are defined by an active engagement with the process of learning” They contrast a collective with a community and suggest that while communities can be passive, collectives derive their strength from participation. They further noted that “In communities, people learn in order to belong. In a collective, people belong in order to learn”, Seely Brown & Thomas (2013)
  8. 8. Communities & Networks • Wenger, Trayner & De Laat (2011) see communities and networks as “two different types of social structures”. They offer the follow definitions: • Networks (Social) “… a set of relationships, personal interactions, and connections among participants who have personal reasons to connect. It is viewed as a set of nodes and links with affordances for learning, such as information flows, helpful linkages, joint problem solving, and knowledge creation” • Communities (of Practice) “… the development of a shared identity around a topic or set of challenges. It represents a collective intention however tacit and distributed – to steward a domain of knowledge and to sustain learning about it” They suggest that these characteristics can be dominant enough to classify a group as “pure communities” or “pure networks” (p. 11)
  9. 9. Groups, Nets, Sets, Collectives • Dron & Anderson (2014) offer “a typology of social forms” into which a collection of learners can participate to make sense of learning using social media. They offer the following descriptions for each of the 4 elements in this collection: • Groups “intentionally convened collections of people that have leaders, hierarchies of control, and formal or informal processes that define how they operate. Groups typically have an existence that is independent of the people in them” • Nets (Networks) “Networks consist of and may be described by the connections between people. These are often mediated and structured by social objects such as blogs, community centres or social networking systems like Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+. Unlike groups, networks are not designed, have no devised processes, no independent existence, no explicit hierarchies, no explicit leaders, no explicit membership - they simply exist as an emergent entity that is the result of individual connections between people. ” • Sets “are simply collections of people and their creations that share a common attribute. From an individual's perspective, sets demand no social commitment of the sort found in groups and no social connection of the sort found in networks. It is possible to be a part of a set without knowing anyone else in it and, indeed, it is possible to participate in a set without being aware of doing so” • Collectives “a class of entities that emerge from collective intelligence. Collective intelligence can occur when multiple individual entities act together in ways that mean they are most usefully understood as a single super-organism”…” A collective is not a social form in itself but is a consequence of the aggregated behaviours of people in sets, nets or groups”
  10. 10. Others? • Hives? • Borg? • Swarms? Bee image: flickr photo by bathyporeia shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license. Borg Image: flickr photo by caseorganic shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license Hive image: flickr photo by Chiot's Run shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license Rhizomagic badge by @GiuliaForsythe
  11. 11., 2015 Why Facebook? 1. We’re already here 2. Affordances 3. Bridges personal and professional 4. Alternatives
  12. 12. The place where the action was, was Facebook. “It was a platform I was already using consistently for my life, with my family, as a consultant posting updates to projects, and for my agency, and the addition of an adult learning component really enlivened FB for me… it animated it in a new way.” “It's just convenience to use FB because, first thing in the morning or last thing at night I’m using it on my mobile phone, I'm lying in bed, and it's just convenient. I don't have to go searching.” “The FB space is wide and friendly - it opens its arms to all - from the experienced MOOCer or Rhizoer - to the less confident or the transient or the one who lurked and only spoke once.”
  13. 13. …the conversational space - the dialogic space - and the visual space… “What I also like about the FB - is that you can like - you can comment - without having to sign in, log on - remember ALL your passwords. Damn it - it’s words and visuals and friends at play!” “Of the various platforms, the FB group was most like a synchronous conversation, which was important to me as many of us wrestled with new ideas. Post a question or an idea and someone from some other time zone would answer, almost always.” “most people posted their blog links on FB as well as Twitter - so the FB allowed access to many different strands of conversation” “This is a multimodal space - where the visuals are attractive and draw you into a feeling a collegiality and 'being with' with the posters….The FB feels populated with diverse voices - it feels both synchronous and asynchronous - it is less reverential - less deferential - it is rhizomatic..”
  14. 14. The FB interactions led to relationships out of which deeper discussions arose. “In my whole Master’s degree I probably connected with about five people over four years who I could call or email now, a couple of years later, with a question about research or academic roles or whatever - out of the six (or twelve or more) weeks FB #rhizo14 group I developed a good dozen relationships with people I would be able to contact with similar questions.” “… the environment we’d created with “serious” conversations interspersed with images, collages, songs, references to movies etc., moments of doubt and uncertainty, and great trails of humourous bantering - was in itself a model of rhizomatic learning - maps, tracings, ruptures, subversions, lines of flight, and the possibility that any node can connect with any other node.”
  15. 15. the tweets and the blogs felt like monoliths standing alone in a field - that you crept up to and touched – ALONE “Though I like Google Plus more, and though there was a Google community next to the FB-community during Rhizo14, the place where the action was, was Facebook.” “Twitter was an uncomfortable space, one where I felt that no matter how much I tried to participate, I was still shouting into the ether, hoping someone would hear. In contrast, the Facebook group felt less ephermeral.” “ I liked how it was possible to develop and enjoy the “social presence” of others in a way - to see their photos, get a glimpse of their life, or of what they wanted to share - and then from there check out their more expansive blog postings and twitter conversations.” “Facebook because that's all my brain could handle.”
  16. 16. Exclusion: Open but Not “The “Log into Facebook” screen that greeted me when I followed a link was like a locked door, and I did not have the key” -- Kevin (dogtrax) flickr photo by Ravages shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license
  17. 17. Personal/Professional lines blurred • How many of you feel uncomfortable using Facebook for professional purposes? Copyright Mac Toot, used with permission
  18. 18. Facebook’s Questionable Ethics flickr photo Wat is Privacy Graffiti door by gruntzooki shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license
  19. 19. Information Overload flickr photo The book balancing challenge by Armchair Caver shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license
  20. 20. Distributed Conversation flickr photo The Art Gallery of Knoxville by AGoK shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license
  21. 21. Not all found the convo rich "My sense is that it made my behaviour less rhizomatic, more passive. I had to consciously get out there, to explore away from that space. Maybe the herd tramples the rhizome." - Nick Kearney (did not do facebook in rhizo14 but did in rhizo15)
  22. 22. Discussion Image by Clarissa Bezerra @Clarissamfb
  23. 23. References • Downes, S. (2007). Groups versus Networks: The Class struggle continues. Accessed September 3, 2015. Available at • Dron, J., & Anderson, T. (2014). Agoraphobia and the modern learner. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, Open for Learning Special Issue, np. Retrieved from • Seely Brown, J., & Thomas, D. (2013). Learning in the Collective. Hybrid Pedagogy. Available at • Wenger, E., Trayner, B., & De Laat, M. (2011). Promoting and assessing value creation in communities and networks: a conceptual framework. Accessed September 3, 2015. Available at content/uploads/2011/12/11-04-Wenger_Trayner_DeLaat_Value_creation.pdf
  24. 24. Ashley Shaw @ashleygshaw Rebecca J. Hogue @rjhogue Sarah Honeychurch @NomadWarMachine Maha Bali @bali_maha Lenandlar Singh @lenandlar

Editor's Notes

  • Ask the audience

    Hands up if …

    You use Facebook
    Use Facebook professionally
    Understand the difference between a group, a page, and a profile
    Have problems with Facebook privacy
  • Some random thoughts…
    I think we used the term “community” in a more generic sense
    Can we explore the various “collections” outlined in following slides to explore what sort of “community” we are/were?
    And what is it that we really want to share about these “collections” described and our own experience?
  • Unity v diversity
  • Learn to belong v belong to learn
  • Shared identity – diverse identity
  • Hierarchies, emergent entities, collections with no commitment, collective intelligence
  • None of the previous really characterise our rhizo-research thing. Networks are best (heterogenerity), but seem too impersonal. Other suggestions.
  • Word cloud from the responses to our question around why Facebook posted in the rhizo14 group

    Four main reasons why Facebook was the space where the rhizo14 community really developed…
  • People are already on Facebook
    Know how to use it – no need to learn something new
    It’s already part of the daily routine – helps with the time demands
    It’s comfortable – most are familiar not only with how it works but also the social norms, so can help build confidence in people who may be new to this type of learning/topic.
  • Features, affordances of Facebook made it a spot conducive to the growth of a rhizomatic community

    Most people mentioned the ability/ease of carrying on conversations as key:
    The threaded nature makes it easy to follow, easy to come back to
    The ability to have public and private conversations – private to clarify a point, resolve conflicts, deepen connections

    Can include any type of media
    Most people also shared links to work in other spaces (blogs, videos, etc)

    Simple things like FB sending notifications to email or phone – acted as a reminder/prod to interact.

    The idea of a bounded group, where you have to join, gives a sense of boundedness, intimacy. There’s a combination of affinity towards both the overall goals of the group and to other participants that leads to a sense of community
  • Many people see FB as personal but found Rhizo pushed them to cross the professional boundary – note that Maha will also address this. Was a struggle for some people, those that did make the transition speak of it as a positive thing.

    The ability to participate in the group without ‘friending’ people helped maintain this divide if desired. The opposite, of people choosing to friend other rhizoers, often led to seeing a more well rounded version of people. This often led to deeper relationships than would usually be found in this type of group, connecting over things that weren’t just rhizo related.

    The informality of FB as a space used most often to communicate with family/friends perhaps lent an air of informality to what otherwise would be considered a professional learning group/experience – akin to the watercooler conversations one has in an office.

  • Other spaces used included Twitter, Google +, Blogs (Sarah has likely covered this earlier, Maha will also speak to this point)

    Twitter – people spoke of the difficulty of fitting thoughts into 140 characters, esp when also have hashtag, usernames, etc. Also, how quickly conversations moved and how hard it was to try and find/come back to something if you didn’t see it immediately.

    Blogs – good for longer form thoughts, some people mentioned struggling to keep track of what they read where and then couldn’t find it again, also the time it took to read a long blog post and think of/write a response – again ties to the ‘formality’ of the media

    G+ - was used some, but no ‘critical mass’ – what was posted on Google was also usually on FB.

    Idea of place vs space – space suggests vastness, distance, and a need for effortful navigation, place suggests something more tangible, bounded, and identifiable. In FB you have an idea of your audience, which is coalesced around a single topic – unlike Twitter where rhizo tweets are mixed in with tons of other stuff.

    FB as the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in that it’s a jumping off point for conversations/interactions through private messages or in other spaces.

    Last quote from someone who had head injury during rhizo15 and had to stop participating in most spaces but still felt connected thru FB
  • A simple friend request – changed the relationship – jumped the boundary.
    Notice how this wasn’t just a friend request – it came with a note helping to contextualize it – making it safe.
    After discussing – we discovered that Maha had learned this from Sarah!
  • The rhizo community became a community of caring for me … after Rhizo was ‘finished’
    After my cancer diagnosis, members of rhizo send me care packages … again, this was a concrete demonstration of how rhizo was more than just a collection of colleagues getting together to play with academic ideas … we became friends … and it happened in large part because of the melding of professional and personal