A face-to-face, 75 minute introduction to online collaborative explorations

The following script was used at a 16 May 13 session with technology leaders from K-12 schools to provide a face-to-face, 75 minute introduction to online collaborative explorations.  [Times in brackets indicate the time spent in the session, not the time in an actual collaborative exploration.  When times are not given, the activity was not undertaken at the session.]


This face2face session introduces the sequence and rationale for Collaborative Explorations (CEs), which are designed for in depth online interaction and inquiry over a delimited period of time.
Peter Taylor, Director, Graduate Program in Critical and Creative Thinking, and Science in a Changing World track, University of Massachusetts, Boston, peter.taylor@umb.edu
This page, with live links, can be viewed at http://bit.ly/CE16May

a. overview

  • * CEs = an extension of Problem- or Project-Based Learning (PBL) and related approaches to education in which participants address a scenario or case in which the problems are not well defined, shaping their own directions of inquiry and developing their skills as investigators and prospective teachers (in the broadest sense of the word).
  • * Typically: consists of 4 sessions, one week apart; same small group interacts in real time live via the internet for 60-90 minutes. Participants spend similar time between sessions on self-directed inquiry on the case, posting of inquiries-in-progress with their small group, and reflecting on the process (which typically involves shifts in participants’ definition of what they want to find out and how).

b. case or scenario

  • Today: “What valuable aspects of face2face interactions should be brought better into online courses, MOOCs, synchronous online meetings, and how?”

c. sign up

  • agree to time commitment

d. get set up

  • on google+ with hangout plugins, headset etc. Join community for the CE.

Session 1: Autobiographical intros

  • Freewriting to clarify our thoughts and hopes about [4 minutes]
  • * each person takes 5-7 minutes [3 minutes] to tell the story of how they came to be a person who would be interested to participate in a CE on the scenario.
  • * gather and share our thoughts at the end (using a format like http://bit.ly/CIQ1e then posted to the google+ community).

Between-session work: Initial investigations & posts [3 minutes to make notes on topics to investigate]

Session 2: Five-phase format discussion, to clarify what we are thinking about the case

  • Freewriting -> check-in -> turn-taking “dialogue process” -> gather and share our thoughts [25? minutes for check-in and turn-taking phases only]

Between-session work: More inquiry and posting related to the case. Prepare a work-in-progress (W-I-P) presentation

Session 3: Work-in-progress presentations

  • * 7-10 minutes total for each participant [3 minutes for session leader to present The use of the internet should be guided by two principles of online education; see below]
  • * Plus-delta feedback is made by everyone on each presentation
    • + (=something you appreciated)
    • delta (= to be developed further)

Between-session work: more inquiry, revise W-I-P presentation into product (shareable to wider world?), post reflections [3 minutes to make notes on topics to inquire into]

Session 4: Five-phase format discussion, to reflect on experience, outcomes, process, next steps [10 minutes for + delta feedback on session as a whole.  Theme emerged of continuing to build trust in workplaces as this session was able to.]

    • + (=something you appreciated)
    • delta (= to be developed further)

After session 4 (optional): Participants share products to the wider community [email addresses collected and shared so session participants can keep in touch]

The use of the internet should be guided by two principles of online education
1. Use computers first and foremost to teach or learn things that are difficult to teach or learn with pedagogical approaches that are not based on computers
[e.g., bring in participants from a distance; make rapid connections with informants or discussants outside the course; contribute to evolving guides to materials and resources]
2. Model computer use on best practices for teaching-learning without computers
[e.g., In CEs students (or participants) become self-directed and collaborative learners—gaining tools, ideas, and support from instructors and peers (or other participants) who they can trust; integrating what they learn with their own personal, pedagogical, and professional development]

(High-profile MOOCs do not appear to be governed by these principles and are not conducive of deep or “thick” inquiry.


About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see bit.ly/pjtaylor). He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (bit.ly/tbhblog)

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