Facilitating Online Communities – motivation

I had seen the FOC08 course on Wikieducator but did not realize it was happeningt until Alex nudged me. The opportunity for conversation that drew me in –  educators I know f2f , others with whom I have collaborated online, names I have seen in other spaces and places and finally the possibility of meeting people with fresh perspectives.

As I had not first planned to participate and joined late, the beginning was chaotic. Fortunately the course allows for plenty of time for people to digest the concepts and react .  I was enjoying the freedom of my sabbatical year to go to conferences, museums, exhibitions and get together with people from different walks of life and professional areas. More and more, I have been trying to engage with non-homogeneous groups of people. After having spent 35 years enclosed inside a classroom, interacting with the same crowd and doing the same things, I have an imperious urge to know what is happening out there and learning from the world around me.

Acknowledging and interacting with this diversity of cultural, linguistic and professional personal backgrounds, assumptions and motivations is IMHO a key competency not only f2f  but even more so when one is online, where physical cues are almost nonexistent.

Leigh says:

facilitation is a rare and valuable skill to have. It is a service that is often used in conferences, debates, panels and tutorials, or simply where groups of people are meeting and need someone to help negotiate meaning and understanding, and to keep everyone engaged and on task.

* Good facilitation depends on good communication skills.
* Good online facilitation depends on good online communication skills.
* Facilitating online communities… what does that involve?

Courses like this one, however, rely mostly on written text, so the language used / the educational perspective and jargon may be an important barrier for expression of those from a non-Anglo-Saxon culture, non- academic background or different literacy practices.

Non-native speakers have the double trouble of negotiating meaning  and weaving their tacit knowledge of another background with the explicit learning of the technical knowledge and skills about the nature and practice of the particular skill or competency being acquired in a language different from their own – English (Beyond Communities of Practice – Language, Power and Social Context”, Cambridge University Press, 2005, page 151).

I am in ELT (secondary school) but, in spite of all my practice and exposure on the web, I am finding increasing difficulty in communicating my thoughts in different contexts where a particular language/jargon is used (same for the other languages I speak – French , Polish and Portuguese) if I am not constantly exposed to them and do not practice it. I am permanently chasing for the different meanings of words and collocations so as to negotiate their impact and try not sound inarticulate or inappropriate. Also, are the online facilitation skills that come from an Anglo-Saxon culture the same for the French, Brazilian, Polish, Spanish cultures or do we accept them as being so because they have not been developed in our online contexts?

I am a self-directed learner -most of what I know comes from observing, experiencing and putting myself in situations where the skills I wish to acquire are required. I also test my possibilities, watch for reactions and try to learn from my mistakes. So although I have already facilitated/moderated/taught online courses and belong to different online communities this time, I decided I would record the process from an intercultural angle.

Next topic: First Steps

2 thoughts on “Facilitating Online Communities – motivation”

  1. I’m not so sure how important cultural differences are on the Internet. If they are, in fact, important, then I think they will become less important as people have more contact with eachother on the web.

    It is something to consider.

  2. It would be a pity if the use of the Internet led to a single unified culture and made standardized robots out of us. Culture is synonym to creativity, innovation and what adds spice to life. It cannot be monolithic and come from one direction only.

    The notion that there is a single, definable cyberculture might be due to the fact that since its inception cyberspace has been mostly dominated by an ethnocentric monolingual world, most of which gives little importance to or does not even acknowledge other cultures may have other traits.


Leave a Comment