Especially relevant to our team´s subject was the theory we have been studying in this course. The concrete scenario that we need to resolve involves facilitating the learning experience of an hetereogeneous group.
The activity system (the project) was not controlled, directed, coordinated or facilitated by any party. It seemed more an experiment on how the groups would structure themselves spontaneously.
Actors were a mixture of students of different backgrounds, cultures, levels and ages; the main instrument of communication was technology based; a software that shared environments for common creation and editing of texts, comments, messages, and interaction of those who were registered. The object was the creation of a handbook, simplified by the assignation of chapters, that contained each the scenario each team was to assess.
In most organizational theories it is explained how when any group is formed the first step towards effective association is the creative construct of rules and institutions. In the absence of these, formal or informal (can be strict norms or just practices/uses, etc.), no common pursuit can be efficiently achieved. It was manifest and acute the need for structure, guidance and leadership in this project that otherwise was a constructive experience. Two of the participants took a lead and in a disconnected way some others filled out the blank spaces with as much as they could come up with. Meetings were organized in times when most could not attend, lasted short and were filled in the begining with senseless wonderings and socializing alone. Later, when time was pressing people was more commited and contributed more meaningfully to the work. It was very surprising to find out that the theories we are revising, and some others that seemed so standard and obvious to me (activity theory, andragogy, and cognitive distance mainly) were unherad of by the participants that were not from Estonia. None of them had even heard of, or at least in these terms. Our own group was extremely hetereogeneaous, we might not have anything at all in common other than this task.
The technology used was as much as necessary if conflict prevention techniches were applied, if an strategy could have been formulated or people were told in advance these goals. Also, guidance so people would not waste time allowing all these to form by themselves, out of dire need, in time, just few days before submission. I personally felt I wasted a horrible amount of time, only trying to communicate and express the need to make a working plan of reasonable complexity, so the result was not too simple minded. The whole proposal seems to rely too much on the magic of technology. No software or technique can supply for basic human skills on conflict management, group dynamics, communication and facilitation. Technology is supportive to unbelievable extents but it means nothing in the absence of human competence and control.
In this case, no matter how many possibilities existed and we started to use (facebook, google documents, doodle, and the project´s site, in addition to net meetings of Oulu university), people did not show up, or we could not conduct in the begining very fruitful conferencing. Later, the past week in particular it was much better and efficient. The Finish participant edited work that we all contributed with and every one proposed some texts, bibliography and view points. I feel I had to reduce my expectations a lot, not to be too pushy or upset people with excessive criticism.
The checklist of the text by Kapertini and Nardi is so far the most practical and interesting part of the readings in this course. I plan to simplify it and use it to re-evaluate and formulate my lectures next year so the use of technologies by my future students who are not computer literate. The courses and activities must improve with the mediatization, instead of getting too complicated (transparency? ubiquity?).