Thursday, January 06, 2011

Revisiting online communities.. my Yahoo Groups

Image by: Prof. Miguel Mendoza
On this New Year, I decided to try to go back to my online communities. I started by visiting a discussion list I belong to and haven't visited in a long time.

This discussion list is: VENELT · VEN-ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING, the home for English Teachers in Venezuela. There we discuss various themes related to the EFL profession. The moderators are: Juan Pino-Silva (Ph.D.), from Universidad Simón Bolívar (R)and Evelyn Izquierdo (M.A.in EFL) from Universidad Central de Venezuela. They cordially invite EFL educators to join in and share their thoughts in this community. 

To become a new member please send a message to Venelt-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. and another one to educaonline2@yahoo.com. The message MUST include: 
(a) your reasons as to why you want to join this group, 
(b) your interest in Venezuelan ELT issues and 
(c) a brief note about your background.


Their latest discussion is about the profile of the Good Collaborator in online communities. I must say that I haven't been a good collaborator lately, but on line discussion lists were the place where I first could read,and learn that there were others educators I could talk to or learn from to finally dare to share and even participate in projects. 


Well, reading the list I found the question Juan Pino asked: 
During the early seventies and eighties research development on the "good language learner" was followed with interest by both researchers and classroom teachers. The expression "successful L1 and L2 learner" was everywhere in those days. Borrowing the word "success" from those days and that literature (or whatever you understand by success in the context this question is made), what attributes would you say should be part of a "Good collaborator/participant" in online groups such as Venelt? 

He then asks participants in the list to comment if they deem necessary. Ouch! that hurt ... I felt so bad.. a good collaborator.. *shaked my head and felt guilty* but anyway I started reading what others said about it. The first one was from my dear friend Evelyn Izquierdo:

'good' collaborator in an online community might be that one who always contributes with interesting points to be discussed; someone who actively participates in the disussions and/or add new issues; someone who is always willing to share useful information and resources with his/her peers; someone who encourages others to participate or is a sample model to follow with his/her work.
I absolutely agree with Eve. *sighs*. Another response I related to was Juan's. He didn't answer what he thought but asked two participants their opinions: a colaborator and a lurker. (lurker is someone who reads and follow what's happening in a list but doesn't feel ready yet to participate fully... I am a lurker in this list now.. *smiles*). He came up with a list of 23 items:

1.  Motivation,
2.  Commitment to the group,
3.  Manager of a number of strategies to participate,
4.  Good reader and writer in both L1 and L2,
5.  Leadership,
6.  Desire to play the game and compete to be on top,
7.  Fully aware of what is to be gained as a result of collaborating,
8.  Use of online writing tools such as spell checkers, dictionaries (is there a better word for this?), Google, Wikipedia,etc. With the purpose of gaining confidence in one's writing,
9.  desire to get noticed,
10.  Show respect for and value all opinions,
11. Display leadership ability,
12. Mobilize and get others to mobilize,
13. Self rate own and rate other collaborators' production,
14. Separate daily, weekly hours to respond or jump in conversations,
15. Do whatever you do online for an additional purpose such as doing own research, keep abreast of ELT issues, get ideas for the classroom,
16. Know all or most of the tools of trade well,
17. keep own yahoo group (or any other tool ) with students as participants,
18. Ability to take the (virtual) floor,
19. Accept that we're learners of both matter and English,
20. Manage anxiety, stress, family problems to be a player, a winner if possible,
21. Metacognition: awareness,
22. Never say :I don't have an opinion, I don't like this topic, I'm not interested.
23. Manage frustration levels ( take some time out but come back to the list)

Carlos Mayora's contribution was also interesting he related the good on line collaborator with the idea of the English Teachers as professionals.  He supported his position on the following quote:

In 1997, Ur said that English Teachers as professionals

    * "are an identifiable group, whose members are interested in interaction with one another for the sake of learning {...}
    * "communicate innovatory ideas, whether theoretical or practical, to one another and to the public at large {...}
    * "also learn continually -about our subject matter, about teaching methods, about many other things that make us better educated and therefore better educators {...}
    * "are responsible for training new teachers"


(Ur, 1997 reprinted with permission in Richards and Renandya, 2002: 391)

Also, he commented on Juan's list what overlaps and added two element missing in the quote: (a) mastering a technological component, and (b) "products" of such tasks need to be visible in the screens of other teachers.

Now, after reading this great collaborations.. I realized how much I was missing.  I think I fill the profile of the English teacher as a professional and most of the items Juan's mention. A little bit to excuse myself for being a lurker..is that ...writing this post and commenting about it.. as well as promoting the discussion list ..it's my own way to participate, collaborate and share... I believe in open spaces.. but lists are more intimate. Well, also this is the way I won't forget what I learned from the participants in the list. Thanks so much for contributing and sharing..here, there or wherever you share.

To finish the post .. my dear reader... what's your thought about it...?

Doris3m
Keep on shining Love and Peace!

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