Last week FOECast ran an ideation exercise. That was five days of online brainstorming and discussion, culminating in making stuff towards a new research project.
Shortly I’ll share my sense of the findings. Here I wanted to reflect on the process in terms of communicating, learning, and working together online.
(If you participated in the ideation week in any way, please complete our evaluation. It’s short, I promise!)
We organized things online using the distributed class principles of cMOOCs, DS106, and my book club (most notably this reading). There was a hub – well, two: blog posts here and the new FOECast site – which people could read for information and content, as well as responding both socially and individually. People participated through various other venues: Twitter (using hashtag #FOECast), a Google Doc, three videoconferences, their own blogs, and a Slack group (really one channel therein). There was the option of discussion through Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn, but little resulted (except for Taylor Kendal’s comments).
Two of these, very different technologies, became the primary channels for communication. The Google Doc became the biggest activity site, now reaching 19 pages and 9768 words. We framed discussion there with five key prompts, and people self-organized nicely within, breaking out their own subheads, coming up with protocols for self-identification, and so on.
At the same time the three videoconferences were very, very energetic. We saw between ten and twenty for the first two, then 60 for the third. Participants needed no prompting or cat-herding, but jumped right in. Ideas flowed quickly.
So a synchronous tool and an asynchronous platform were the primary sites for the week. Secondary sites saw some activity as well. My blog posts here elicited between zero and six comments apiece. Other bloggers posted their thoughts, like Maha Bali, Audrey Watters, Kay Oddone, and Pat Tully (multiple posts from her: brava!).
It’s interesting that most if not all blogging participants were from women.
Slack saw intense discussion from several people. Twitter was surprisingly quiet, both on the #FOECast tag and in responses to my themed comments. I’m not sure why that was.
There was also some coverage from journalists, like this THE article.
There wasn’t much interaction across sites. That is, few tweeted about FOECast-related blog posts, there wasn’t much discussion about videoconferences on LinkedIn or Slack, etc. Overall – and my impression could well be wrong – people seemed to pick a channel and stay there, like tines.
The rhythm of participation fascinated me. Most of the asynchronous energy appeared on the first two days, then declined thereafter. I’m not sure why, although it might be that the Google Doc had the whole week’s events present, so people could (and did) roam ahead. Perhaps the final day’s charge to make stuff was too daunting, too much a change of tone. I kept pushing prompts and ideas through all venues; maybe that backfired.
Later in the week we tried to inject a quick shot of energy with a spot poll. Not many people responded.
The ideation week wasn’t a class per se. We didn’t identify or share learning content (with one exception of a few readings). There was an agenda, but not a syllabus. Now, people did identify articles, books, videos, etc. and shared them. And we all learned, I think, in various levels and to different degrees. The goal, though, was to make, brainstorm, and put our heads together productively (which feels like learning to me).
One brilliant aspect: so many people pitched in to help. Some of the folks who helped see FOECast into the world gave generously of their time and energy. Maya Georgieva, Phil Long, Tom Haymes, Jonathan Nalder, and Lisa Nigara set up web pages and sites, made images, gave advice, wrote up thoughts, bought domains, cheered others on, taught others how to use new tools, and more. Taylor Kendal and Keesa Johnson volunteered and built stuff (documents, sites) and tossed ideas back and forth. Without any formal structure or organization (remember, this was – is – a DIY, bootstrapped thing) they organized to make things happen.
On a personal note, the experience was intense and rewarding for both intrinsic and unrelated reasons. Intrinsically it was exhilarating to see everything come together, and to see so much interest and energy. It was also risky as heck, since we did this without any external support (no sponsors, no funding), didn’t have a recognized brand, weren’t affiliated with any institution, and were addressing a pretty arcane topic.
When I say “unrelated”, it’s because I spent the week seeing my father through heart surgery. So all of this activity occurred in hospital rooms, cars, planes, an apartment, etc, The ideation was a fine counterpoint. (And my father did well.)
Coming up next: findings, and what’s next for FOECast!