Learning, thinking, making stuff together: on FOECast’s ideation week

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!)

CodeName FOECast_Jon NalderWe 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 WattersKay 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.


A helpful visualization.

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!

(tine photo by Ulka)

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6 Responses to Learning, thinking, making stuff together: on FOECast’s ideation week

  1. I thought I did the evaluation but maybe it was the spot check poll, so I’ll evaluate again for the first time/both. Yes, the initiative (or whatever we are calling it) does have a cMOOCish quality to it, much closer imo to earlier iterations than more recent ones.

    Imo having both sync and async channels is a must, maybe not even the same ones every time.

    It might be helpful (or at least informative) to ask for self evals — how do we each perceive, describe our own participation, perhaps including why we used certain tools more than others. What is the flow?

    No doubt everybody is bookmarking. I may be doing it in a different scale, not necessarily tagging to cross-link in the same directions. A question of flow again.

    A work in progress — bundle #3 is in the works, https://www.diigo.com/user/vcvaile/FOECast

  2. Elizabeth Heck says:

    I have been tuning in and out. I think my concern is I’m in the southern hemisphere, so it’s harder to get online when you’re in another timezone & in an open plan office that day. So I feel I’ve lost some momentum in participation. I’d like to see some more recaps, debriefs or the like, so that I can still be involved in the conversation.

    I even wonder about using existing platforms like a Facebook group (not a public one, but one that requires invitation and like the Slack Group). I found this was very popular for establishing an online community of practice when I did research in this area, as it reduces log-in fatigue to other platforms. Many people are already on Facebook, so they can check in and out when they please. So, I second Taylor’s suggestion.

    Online CoPs seem quite well sustained in Facebook Groups, and timezone wise, I don’t seem to be as affected. Maybe also as Facebook is a more informal platform, so people tend to be on it more frequently for personal reasons too. Perhaps it’s not as fashionable, but I find Groups much more sustainable. But just a suggestion.

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      Elizabeth, thank you very much for these thoughts.

      Video: we tried to schedule across the clock, but maybe we didn’t offer enough meetings.

      Facebook: good idea.

  3. I found this activity late last week and posted some comments as I read through the blogs and Slack channel. I notices the lack of activity on Twitter, too and don’t know why. I’ve been part of some pretty engaged groups there, via #clmooc, #etmooc and most recently #engageMooc.

    I congratulate you and others for what you’ve started, but so much more needs to be done in future weeks, months and years.

    I hope your father is recovering well from his heart surgery. Tough to focus on saving the world when saving the life of a loved one is a priority.

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