Silent Writing Collective

Start 10:35pm
Target end 11:00pm
Today I participated in another one of Doug Belshaw’s “community events”.
The first time I participated in any of Doug’s “community events” was earlier this year. For several months, Doug opened the lines of communication every week, inviting anyone around the world, to contribute ideas and feedback, on the Web Literacies Standards Initiative by Mozilla. Before that. I had heard of “crowdsourcing” and “Community as Curriculum” efforts through my research work on Connectivism (Cormier, 2005), but it wasn’t till I became acquainted with Doug Belshaw that I actually had the chance to experience a live, global, “crowdsourcing” event myself.
Note: It was a roundabout fluke that I got introduced to Doug Belshaw, of the Mozilla Foundation. Since that story is long and deserving of a separate blog by itself, I will save that story for another day.
Back to the story at hand.
I enjoyed the interaction during the Web Literacies Standards community calls, and I was/am quite honored to have been able to contribute to that cause. So, two days ago, when I read Doug’s open invitation to participate in the “Inaugural meeting of The Silent Writing Collective“, I simply could not resist.
I just had to try it.
I am a horrible procrastinator at writing. I admit. I have a great fear for white, open, empty, pages. During my college years, I found all sorts of crazy ways to force myself to write. I recall starting note books on page 8 or 10 or 20, rather than on the front page, simply because I would freeze if I saw the first empty page. I even resorted to pasting photocopies of older written pieces into my note book, so that when I started to write, it would not be on a white page.
But in the later part of the 80’s, when computers became a mainstay, I was back to square one. Facing the blank page. Horrors! My mind would always be a blank — as blank as the screen staring at me. I sometimes wonder how I ever got through college, or how I ever managed to write 3 thesis books. Shudder!
Back to the story at hand.
(one can begin to see why writing is a problem for me… I digress… a lot!)
Anyway, back to the story at hand.
So, today, at 2pm CDT (8pm London time), I logged in to the URL that Doug had posted online. …I was 5 minutes early. At first it looked like nobody was there. Then, I realized I needed to register for my own ether-pad.
Darn! Do I know how to do that? Why ether-pad? Why couldn’t Doug just use Google Docs? Ok. Whatever. I can figure this out, right?
Then, I see Doug post a question: “Roz?” he asked.
OOops! He must have noticed me logging in. I had better reply. Now where is that darned chat box? Why is the ether-pad interface so unintuitive? Boy! I thought to myself, I’ve become so “Googlized” that I’m at a lost when I am on any other type of interface that does not follow G+ standards!
“Hi DOug… I’m scrambling a bit here… not so sure I’m doing this right…”, I replied.
“Awesome, looking good so far!” he quipped back.
For a split second, I paused. I felt a strange déjà vu. The perfunctory but friendly remark made me reminisce a scene from my first grade school. I remember my classmate patiently encouraging me, “Looking good, come on! Let’s go!” Interesting, I told myself. The Silent Writing Collective is a virtual meeting. An “old fashioned” ether-pad  live chat meeting. No VOIP even. Yet, it reminded me of a bygone era, where kids would cheer on other kids who were slow and struggling.
Later, as the The Silent Writing Collective hour progressed, I had an even more vivid déjà vu feeling. Five minutes before times up, Doug had posted in the chat box, “When we reach the top of the hour, don’t forget to click on ‘Saved revisions’ at the top right and save a revision”.
My heart skipped a beat and I immediately had scary flashbacks to my high school days, where I had to do exam after exam after exam. All timed. All proctored. All horrible experiences.
Having to write essays within a short finite duration of time is not easy. I remember hating it with a vengeance, but having to force myself into compliance. Back in high school, I actually mastered the skill of blocking out everything around me. I was capable of instantly shutting myself down to the outside world, zooming in onto an exam paper, and producing a quality output within the 1-hour exam duration.
But today, as I blinked once, twice, and again, at Doug’s 5-minute warning reminder, I suddenly froze. Then, I scrolled back up to the top of my screen, clicked SAVE, and simply gave up. My piece was far from finished. I had totally lost the skill of timed writing! What a shame!
Tonight, as I recap the day’s events, and as I type this blog, I targeted to finish typing this blog within 30 minutes. It is now already over an hour from my start time. I definitely need to take a refresher course! So, I guess I’ll be signing in to Doug’s 2nd Silent Writing Collective next Sunday…. and hopefully, next week, I’ll be a bit more together!
NOTE: below is the copy-pasted text from my Inaugural Silent Writing Collective
End 11:47pm
25 August 2013
Go to to get your (randomised) pad – paste it below!
Sign in:

August 25, 2013

13:55 Doug: Right, we’re off! I’m writing about the NSA revelations tonight as I’ve been meaning to for *ages*
13:57 unnamed: I’m taking a stab at writing about whether completing a degree is worth it, could be a bit of a ramble though.
13:57 Doug: Cool, welcome Dan!
13:57 Doug: Roz?
13:58 Roz: Hi DOug… I’m scrambling a bit here… not so sure I’m doing this right… but here goes…
13:58 Doug: Awesome, looking good so far!
14:00 Doug: Welcome Mat and ‘unnamed’ x2!
14:54 Doug: I really enjoyed that – saw some interesting stuff coming through on Roz and Dan’s pads too!
14:55 Dan: Really good idea Doug, really enjoyed it.
14:56 Doug: Oh, cool. I’ll do another one next week then 🙂
14:56 Dan: Yep, look forward to it and probably be a little more prepared : )
14:56 Roz: Doug, this brought me back 30 years in time… it reminded me of A Levels… and the timed essays that we have to do…
14:57 Roz: I forgot what it felt like to be timed… LOL!!!
14:58 Doug: 😀
14:58 Doug: Right, signing off. I thought that was great and enjoyed reading your stuff. 🙂
16:41 scottlo: Popped in after everyone finished. It was a real treat to read each entry and follow the various links. I hope I can join in next time around.

August 25, 2013

14:38 Doug: Cool stuff, Roz 🙂
14:41 Roz: Thanks… my mind is a jumble, though… LOL!
14:54 Doug: 😉
14:55 Doug: When we reach the top of the hour, don’t forget to click on ‘Saved revisions’ at the top right and save a revision.
14:55 Roz: ok
14:59 Roz: Doug, what are we supposed to do after that?
15:00 Doug: Whatever you like! Blog it, tweet it, keep it to yourself. It’s all about the process of writing. 🙂
Coaching Metacognition
Metacognition (Flavell, 1976)
I have been “Coaching Metacognition” since the 1990’s. It started out as a self-initiated coping mechanism. In today’s world, we hear so much about ADD, ADHD, and all sorts of LD’s. I swear, if I were born 20 years later, I would probably have a string of acronyms behind my name in my school records. But since I was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to be born in the 60’s, the entire concept of giving a “label” to a person’s individual “learning styles”, was unthikable.
Back to the story of “Coaching Metacognition”.
Note: you can already see the tell tale signs of ADD above, yes?
“Coaching” is a form of “teaching”. The most common application for this method is in sports or other high intensity Psychomotor Domain endeavors. Unlike classroom teaching, coaching requires major buy-in from both sides – the learner and the coach, as the relationship between the two sides is often intense, high-risk, and totally engaged. The yield from this type of instructional model, is also intense, high-risk and totally engaging. To put it in a nutshell, “No pain, No Gain”.
“Metacognition” is a relatively esoteric term. Those in the field of education and psychology are probably familiar with its syntax, but to the average Joe on the street, it might as well be a foreign term. It was to me, when I first heard it. Ironically, I first heard the word in the early 2000’s, about 10 years after I had begun indulging in “coaching it”.
“Meta” literally means “above” or “beyond”. “Cognition”, in layman terms, means “thinking”, and “metacognition” means “thinking about thinking”. Flavell coined the word “metacognition”, back in the 70’s, during a time when Learning Psychology was moving away from Behaviorism and early Cognitivism, to Constructivism. Again, all these terms could be gobbledy-gook to the man on the street. I am not interested in writing an academic discourse today (although I would, perhaps, on another day). What I plan to do today, is to tell the story of how I introduced “Coaching Metacognition” to the-man-on-the-street….
About a month ago, I first wrote about this in a blog . I wrote briefly about some of the childhood conditioning experiences that led to my “Coaching Metacognition” hobby/habit.
[note: sorry, I was distracted there for a bit… my son walked in and I left for a few minutes to settle something, now I’m back but I totally lost my train of thought… darn… going to try to recap and start again]
[trying to start from a different angle instead]
I began coaching Mr.X about two weeks ago. Met him online. Totally serendipitous. Can’t remember if he met me, or vice versa. Either way, he is stuck on this “Coaching Metacognition” bit like a leech onto my ankle, after wading in a stream. He’s there as I turn on my computer, he’s there as I check my mail before I put the lights out to sleep. He’s addicted. He keeps waiting for more input. From me. His coach.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not some weirdo stalker online. Mr.X is one of many “students” whom I “coach” online. No, this is not a paid job. No, this isn’t even an official class. The closest label I can think of is perhaps a PLN (Personal Learning Network), but even then, it is hardly a “network”. It is more of a as-and-when-spontaneous-relationship.
Back to Mr.X.
He asks questions online, and he waits for responses. When I respond, he goes into rapid-fire research mode, looking for evidence, looking for background info, looking for examples of whatever he can find that is related to whatever input I give him. Then, I respond back again, sometimes, with feedback directly related to the evidence he posts, sometimes a mere personal opinion. Regardless of what I type back, he then (again) goes off into a frenzy of follow up research, and once again, spits back walls of text, filled with rich data and tons of information that I never knew. Sometimes, I wonder, who is coaching who.
The point of my writing about this is to showcase a “culture” that is new to me. Mr.X is an anomaly to what I had been familiar with in the past.
As I started out writing above, I had been “coaching metacognition” for over 20 years now. I started doing it as a form of mentoring to the undergrads I used to teach, then, later, I adapted my style to suit adult learners, when I began doing professional development training in the corporate world. All the while, in the beginning, the “coaching” medium was face-to-face. Then, as times changed, I experimented using distance-learning methods, with technology tools. Eventually, I developed fully distance-methods, such as SMS-based coaching and online groups. My graduate research was focused on this.
My current dilemma (if I want to consider it a dilemma), is the fact that I have recently begun experimenting with new techniques. These indugences were not conscious. They just happened. First, the medium I am currently using is new to me. I now coach using G+.
[note: I pause here, because I can’t even discern whether to use G+ as a noun, proper-noun, verb, or adjective… the act of G+-ing is all of the above… like the word “Google”… it ihas now evolved to be a verb… similarly, the term G+ is now evolving, thanks to the strange new cultures that are emerging from the daily activities that occur on the said platform].
[I’m seriously losing my train of thought here… going to pause and get some coffee]
[adding a bit more while waiting for my coffee to percolate]
I realize one BIG difference between the previous technology modes I used for coaching metacognition and the one I have just begun to use (ie. G+). The G+ platform is organic and ever changing. It is never static, although one could argue that if you know how to change your settings, you can control what you see and what you don’t. However, right now, as G+ is still relative new to the masses, it would be safe to say that most people haven’t the slightest clue how to filter or search from thread to thread, or worse, across threads. I wrote about this problem in two blogs: and a follow up blog
[ok. I’m about to give up LOL! my brain just went dead when Doug typed that reminder… LOL! …. this is awesome… reminds me of high school and those darned timed essay exams… A levels… remember those? … I hated them!… ]

Harvesting data from personal experiences

I suddenly realized this morning that many of my early “blog posts”, from way back when I first started engaging in online Connectivist Learning, are potentially “wasted resources” if I do not now go back, revisit them, harvest them, and curate them into some semblance of documentation. The concept of Metacognitive Learning (Flavell, 1976) is well established, but the Learning Protocols, -ie- the how-to-do-it-STePs for Metacognitive Learning, are NOT commonly known. In other words, there aren’t many DIY textbooks out there entitled – “How to embark in self Metacognitive Learning”.

So, I have decided to start a personal effort to revisit the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that I took last year, where I first embarked in Connectivist Learning. I want to “harvest” the MOOC platform by copy-pasting some of the key aha-moment blogs that I had posted in that platform, and re-post them here, in my public blog. I will then document my Metacognitive reflections of what I now (today) have learned since those original blogs. These documentations will form a data repository for qualitative research analysis, and will (hopefully) spark potential article publications by myself and/or other collaborators/readers. I welcome anyone who reads this blog to utilize the data that I am posting here, for the purposes of learning and publishing about learning.

FYI, my virgin MOOC was a course by Stanford University titled “Designing a New Learning Environment” (DNLE). The platform on which that MOOC was hosted, is NovoED, previously known as VentureLab.

The following is the first blog that I am “harvesting” from DNLE.

Copy-pasted from my DNLE Personal Journal from 8 months ago

Potential research stemming from this MOOC (DNLE)

This post was originally posted as a response to a discussion in another thread. I am copy-pasting it here, as it highlights the potential for (additional) research to be carried out, based on this DNLE MOOC “experiment”.

The topic of online terminology, connotations, culture, context, and syntax…. this is an area of study of personal interest to me. I had been researching the impact of these variables on human task performance for awhile now. In my studies, I also looked at the differences between what impacts a native monolingual English speaker, versus what impacts a native bilingual speaker (someone who truly was raised with two languages from birth), versus what impacts a person who speaks English as a second language.

Context has a different impact when it is listed as part of a task instruction, or issued by the instructor, or by persons of official authority in a context, or when posted by a peer.

The use of vocabulary, its impact on readers, and its application in purposeful subliminal messaging, has been studied and published extensively in the field of advertising. But it has not yet been researched or published much in the field of instructional design. Also, what little that has been studied, has always been in the context of the western world. Now, with global online MOOCS, I personally think this area of study needs to be addressed in the context of various international cultures.

Why, just look at THIS MOOC alone… if you sift through the many journals, forums and projects (and I don’t mean just the popular active threads… take a look at the many projects by bilingual and non-English speaking students), you can see an array of language sentence structures, and the evident impact (positive or negative) that certain posts convey.

Just through accidental discovery, I have encountered at least a dozen or so posts that had been “misread” or “differently-interpreted” due to differences in language syntax. Imagine if someone actually purposefully looked at that phenomenon as a bonafide research question…

I think someone should use this MOOC to do a study on that.

More on Ripples

BACKGROUND NOTE: This blog is (1) a continuation of an earlier blog I wrote on Ripples, (2) a follow up from being triggered by an article I read on a G+ post by Mike Allton, and (3) an aha-moment I had as I revisited two G+ posts — (3a) the first post that I had originally posted a few weeks ago, and (3b) a second post that David Amerland had posted as a follow up.

The article by Mike Allton talked about the benefits we gain from the Google’s Ripples tool from the perspective of social networking in the business world. I can see the benefit for business, but I am in the business of education, so while I’m thrilled at the existence of the Ripples tool, I am frustrated that it’s design is not (yet) developed to benefit the objective of learning

Ripples measures re-shares. From the lens of learning this type of quantitative data is not very useful, even though it does qualitatively present a “sociogram“, -ie. a visual representation of the people-networking, emanating from a particular G+ post. The problem is that the existing Ripples-sociogram (merely) represents a very shallow level of “thinking”. Ripples (in its present form),  is a value system based on statistical dichotomyre-share or not re-share.

In order to be useful for learning, what Ripples should do instead, is to measure comments. By tracking and quantifying the reactions and follow-up contributions from people in relation to an original post, then, the sociogram that is generated would represent a deeper level of cognitive response to the original post.

Let’s look at a few hypothetical examples…

Example 1:

Let’s say original post #X has 3 comments, original post #Y has 30 comments, and original post #Z has 300 comments. This would imply that original post #Y triggered a discussion that is more successful in engaging dialog than original post #X, and that original post #Z is a catalyst for hyper-engagement.

Example 2:

If both original posts #C and #D have 20 comments each, but if the comments from original post #C are contributed by 20 people, while comments from original post #D are contributed by only 2 people, this would suggest that the comments to original post #C are reaction-comments (as the discussion has only reached a single-layer of responses), while the comments to original post #D are probably  reflection-comments (as the discussion contains multi-iterations of dialog). In other words, the depth of dialog and/or level of engagement in the latter is deeper than the former.

Example 3:

If both original posts #E and #F have 50 comments each, but if the comments from original post #E occur within a span of 1 hour, while comments from original post #F are spread out over a period of 5 months, this would suggest that  original post #F triggered a longer duration discussion, -ie. a more sustainable life-span. This would suggest that the author of original post #F and/or the responders to original post #F, were successful dialog facilitators who managed to sustain ongoing engagement.

Now, let’s look at two real examples:

ripples1Ripples diagram for Post #A

Post #A:

by Roz Hussin (me) originally shared publicly – Jul 14, 2013

1 re-share, 12 +’s, 84 comments, 33 pages, 9614 words

ripples2Ripples diagram for Post #B

Post #B:

by David Amerland originally shared publicly – Jul 14, 2013

10 re-share, 49 +’s, 72 comments, 22 pages, 5056 words

RankRoz RankDavid

Analysis and research questions:

Measurement / Engagement Criteria

Post #A:

by Roz Hussin

Post #B:

by David Amerland

Observation / Analysis

Hypothesis / Research Questions

G+ posts



Author of Post #B is ≈ 20 times more influential online than Author of Post #A

Does the quantum of re-shares (valuing a post to be important / useful for others) and endorsements (valuing a post to be interesting / containing useful content) depend on the author’s online influence status?




Post #B had 10 times more re-shares than Post #A




Post #B had 4 times more re-shares than Post #A




Number of comments in both posts are comparable

What criteria influence the quantum of discussion engagement? Duration? Intensity? Sustainability? Depth? Detail of discussion? Number of reference URL links quoted in the discussion? Number of people “pulled” into the discussion?




Total length / duration of discussion engagement of Post #A is 30% longer than Post #B




Total depth / volume of content of Post #A is double that of Post #B

Questions raised:

If the author’s “influence” is a factor in determining discussion engagement, then WHY does Post#B only have HALF of the depth/volume of discussion than Post#A? (despite the fact that Author of Post#B is 20 times more influential that Author of Post#A)

If the number of re-shares and number of +’s are statistical numbers that are indicative of the post’s “value”, then WHY does Post#B have a THIRD less content than Post#A? (despite the fact that Author of Post#B is 10 times more re-shares and 4 times more endorsements than that Author of Post#A)

Judging from the simple analysis above, it looks like there are many more unanswered questions than clarifications regarding the issue of discussion engagement and the criteria that determines the levels of such engagement.

This reminds me of my elementary and middle school days… where the “popular kids” are popular because of publicity reasons, and not because of their actual contributions in school… Isn’t this sad? That the adult online world is no different than our childhood popularity nightmares? (David Amerland… No offense OK? I love your blog posts, and I sincerely appreciate the accolades you gave me in your post… but in the name of research, I hope you forgive me for using your post as an example).

IF online discussion is to be seen as the key vehicle for engaging online learners in online courses, wouldn’t the protocols of engagement in online discussions be an important literacy? How would online learners gain these competencies? Where do instructors and learners learn about these issues? Who is researching and discovering these findings? Who is teaching people how to maximize this knowledge? Anyone?


As technology continues to develop, I hope that the keepers de jure of the online domain -ie. coders, programmers, policy makers, business investors – pay a little more attention to the needs of online learners, and not just of online consumers and suppliers. After all, isn’t online learning a business too?