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Using activity theory to make sense of online moderating

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  1. Using activity theory to make sense of online moderating Rob Parsons

  2. TT280 6 mods. 800+ students. 12 weeks. 10000 messages. How do we teach in that environment?

  3. Overview Original aim – behaviours, examples, toolkit Got more complicated Activity theory, runaway objects, wildfire communities Implications for activity theory Implications for this work Metaphors

  4. Students and mods • Student behaviours – broad categories • Testing boundaries • Seeking solutions • Social contact • Seeking reassurance • Interacting • Process

  5. Students and mods • Moderator behaviours – broad categories • Maintaining boundaries • Show how to find answer • Maintain environment • Encourage interaction • Encourage learning • Engage in problem solving • Process

  6. Effectiveness • Analysing the data took me in a variety of directions • Three main aspects: • Efficiency • Moderators hunt in packs • Shepherding and learning – choices mods make

  7. Efficiency

  8. Example 1 Will I be penalised for going too high on the present status of my report? No.

  9. Example 2 do we describe how they navigate around the navigational structure of the template and explain why my choice of structure in a non-technical way? Yes. If the latter is correct, then part II is the same but technical? Yes.

  10. Example 3 Well actually as I keep counting all the words, I've been keeping details to the minimum so that's why I would like to know whether the references and two or three word titles are included in the word count. I still need to reach the 2000 mark! So are references (i.e. author name, year, page) included? FAQ 12

  11. Example 4 Please can someone tell me where FAQ 13 is? In the conference entitled "TT280 FAQs".

  12. Mods hunt in packs The first example here also illustrates the practice of point, show, give whereby as a general habit moderators don't answer questions directly: - we point to the area where the answer can be found - if that does not suffice, we show more clearly where the answer can be found - if that is not appropriate either, we give them answer

  13. Example 5 , is this ok? Look again at referencing in the Course materials. In the case you cite, include a url. Sorry, I still haven't understood the format required. If you take as the example the one used in the course guide and OU help sheet, i.e. As X has said it is the url and the date accessed which should be listed as a reference. I understand the url/visited reference, but it's the previous line I was querying, with regard to the author reference (Smith, J.) in the example. Should this just be W3C if it's referencing one of their documents? Or should I just leave it blank? You could say w3c, or you could say [no author] if there is no obvious author, as is frequently the case with websites.

  14. Example 6 So what you are trying to say is that, hand coding our pages, gets straight to the point, whereas, authoring tools have unrelavant heml code thats just a waste? Whilst a little 'black and white' as a comment - yes, in my view good handcoding will usually produce shorter, 'cleaner' and more efficient code for a page that will meet the criteria that the course is promoting. And I'm sure you will have noted X's view. <snip approx 350 words> Which is exactly what I saw the other day when my wife had used Dreamweaver, Y. It all started out OK, then, after making numerous alterations, degenerated to the scenario you describe.

  15. Example 7 thanks for the quick reply. u took me wrong , actually it was regarding the case project at the back of each chapter in PWD and not the ECA. The answer to that really is that it's a question of your judgement. As you say you're new to coding, I'd suggest that you do all that the study guides say you should do. If you feel it would benefit you to do others that are not mentioned in the study guides, then that will benefit you - but clearly you need to find the time. As for css, it makes sense to start using it, not necessarily for everything that it can do, but enough to get practised in using it and combining it with html. Your use can increase as you get more practice. That is for your own practice only. The only submissions required are the three CMAs and the ECA.

  16. Shepherding

  17. Example 8 Is that particular study available on the website or are you just explaining the details as 'your' (The OU's) source of reference? It's a refernce to a book by Neilsen and Tahir. Nielsen, J. and Tahir, M. (2001) Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed, New Riders, ISBN 0-7357-1102-X. What the link is encouraging you to do is look at what Neilsen is doing. If the links in the Study material don't work for you try Googling Jakob Neilsen and read the interviews.

  18. Example 9 3. According to the ECA booklet, some titles are not part of the word count unless lots of words are used, so which ones are part of the word count? For instance, I think you need to have a look at the parts of your report ( big text chunks) which are pushing your wordcount to the extent that you have to worry about the above. For example to have to worry about the length of a title or reference would make me concerned that you have been overly verbose in some of your explanations etc.

  19. Example 10 i know i have just finished a 12hr night shift and could be tired but I am feling abit lost on how to read the course, are you expecting us to read through study guides, work through activites????? I just cant quite see the structure of it? maybe i am tired!!!!! Plan....Study...Reflect ( How did plan work out ). Courses have essential elements and interesting (but not necessarily essential) activities. Identify the essential and make these priority in your plan ..then if you feel you have some more time you can afford have a look at the interesting. Often at the stasrt of a course it is difficult to get your plan exactly to meet expectations which is why reflection is a key part of the cycle.

  20. Initial Results Pattern of moderating work is quite clear; much short, answering, interspersed with more discursive answers, which generally contain more subterranean teaching. Many of the answers work in terms of point, show, give. What the research does not yet indicate is how mods decide which to employ in any given response. Mods also clearly make decisions about giving shorter or longer answers; the longer answers generally, but not exclusively, containing shepherding or subterranean teaching. Again the research does not show how mods make those choices and what influences them.

  21. Problematising Primarily what the students are doing, hence how the mods' responses can be best value And the issue of individual / collective

  22. Activity theory Yrjo Engestrom, based on Vygotsky and Leont'ev Proposes a framework of subject, instrument and object.

  23. Activity theory Issues for activity theory to do with - different environment - the idea of the object - motivation and feeling Note that activity theory as currently stated has no place for “objective” as I have outlined it in the following diagrams; that's there as a heuristic tool for me

  24. Activity theory

  25. Activity theory

  26. Student's viewpoint

  27. Runaway objectsWildfire communities

  28. Objects • the object gives durable direction and purpose to activity: it is the true motive of activity (not reducible to conscious goals)‏ • object is a moving target, never fully accomplished: a horizon of possible actions • object is multi-faceted, a mosaic of multiple interpretations, voices and positionings • object resists and bites back

  29. Runaway objects They grow rapidly beyond all anticipated boundaries They are poorly controlled They enable continuous, engaged, self-renewal They show remarkable sustainability and expansion in spite of severe adversities and constraints They require excessive expenditures of time and energy There’s a high risk of failure There are minimal monetary rewards They’re not supported by institutional structures They begin as small problems or ideas and then expand rapidly There is constant feedback and commentary, and peer review

  30. Runaway objects Perfect description of an OU student Puts tutor/moderator – student relationship into an interesting perspective

  31. Runaway objects

  32. Communities Issues about meaning Communities of practice – properly used (though other issues)‏ In teaching we talk about communities a lot, without paying attention to the meaning of the word (they do this in activity theory too)‏

  33. Communities Issues about meaning Community or environment - implications?

  34. Communities Issues of focus - different emphases Community of practice Information ecology

  35. Wildfire communities • humans and their organizations are seeking models that enable continuous engaged self-renewal, innovation and expansion, yet are sustainable and don’t burn out their own energy • there are activities that have such qualities - for example, skateboarding, birding, and disaster relief of the red cross

  36. Wildfire communities May have application to the moderating context and to OU student careers If students approach forums as wildfire communities, what would they bring to it, and hence how should the moderators respond?

  37. Metaphors Look back to activity theory – motivation, purpose, feelings etc Also the idea of community requires use of the imagination

  38. Metaphors So I've been considering metaphors as a way of encapsulating what happens in forums to see if any of them can help to give shape to the form: - the uncertainty principle - a bus station - the London Marathon

  39. Metaphors So I've been considering metaphors as a way of encapsulating what happens in forums to see if any of them can help to give shape to the form: - the uncertainty principle - you can know either the position or the velocity of a student but not both - a bus station – lots of chaotic movement, with groups randomly dispersing in one direction or another; moderators are drivers, conductors, maybe ticket sellers - the London Marathon – everybody going in the same direction but for their own individual purposes. People do it in their own, often inimitable way. Participants say how much encouragement they get from the crowd – the moderators

  40. Summary We started with the data, and student and moderator behaviours We then looked at activity theory as a way of deepening understanding of the data... ... and particularly at the ideas of runaway objects, and wildfire communities We took note of some issues about objects and about communities And we ended up with metaphors Now for me it's back to the data