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Topic: running record of discussion about online community
Replies: 2   Last Post: Jul 9, 1998 10:57 AM

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r!chard tchen

Posts: 6,107
Registered: 12/3/04
running record of discussion about online community
Posted: Jul 9, 1998 1:13 AM
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This running record does not aim to reproduce our conversation verbatim,
but rather attempts to sketch who said what (although double-quotes denote
a few verbatim moments). I apologize for my inaccuracies, which are
unintended, and which i urge you to correct or clarify before the group.

We hope to use this as a departure point for further discussion.

* * * *

In attendance: all sum98 onsite participants
(, Judy Ann Brown, Annie
Fetter, Dave Kershaw, Sarah Seastone, Wes Shumar, Richard Tchen, Betsy
Teeple, Steve Weimar, Ken Williams.

STEVE: building online communication ... using Forum as a resource ... what
makes for effective online communication? what is the role of web pages in
online communication? how do we interact with them?

JOHN: always unsubscribed from mailing lists

ANNIE: because of ... bad content?

JOHN: good content on occasion, but too much volume ... like the archiving
and categorizing that Forum offers

BOB: finds closed (invitation-only) groups most valuable ... some groups
cycle through the same conversations again and again

MARGARET: learning and mathematics discussion group gave good articles and
conversation ... still refer to it

STEVE: what communities you'd join, what you want, and what you don't want

MARGARET: ideas out of the learning and mathematics discussion group
persist ... sense that <nctm-standards-2000> would be a black hole ... no
point if not focusing on input for product, such as NCTM standards

SARAH: massaging conversation is labor-intensive ... and what does that do
to/for conversation? "hate to see a community lost because you've made it a

BOB: what level of moderation? certainly should keep out persistent spammers

ANNIE: clarify moderator v. facilitator roles ... moderator as spam filter,
not as facilitator of conversation

MARGARET: John Conway will correct ignorances of <geometry-pre-college> --
a helpful role

BOBBIE: <calc-reform> discussion moves in waves ... how do you take out
totally unfounded opinion?

STEVE: dilemma of structuring discussions for those just arriving as
compared with those already midstream ... hear desire for group 1) memory
(e.g., recognition of cycles of conversations), 2) structure or clustering,
and 3) facilitator of some kind ... what is the community you're after?
perhaps currently they are too flat

KEN: community v. discussion (e.g., math doctors v. <math-teach>)

MARJORIE: closed, threaded group on pre-service teachers and technology was
both discussion and community -- but have faces to names because core
discussants had workshopped for two weeks

ANNIE: faces enhance community feeling

STEVE: sometimes this happens at conferences, i.e., online discussants plan
to or spontaneously get together with one another

RON: "community is face-to-face" ... best groups have digests

STEVE: have considered <sci.math> volunteer moderation

MEL: prefer digests

ANNIE: digests have disadvantages because they are chronologically
organized, not threaded by subject

BOB: cancer support group strikes a balance between the personal and the
professional ... rally around one another (even when reprimanding) in a
fraternal way ... this group has a 9:1 (lurker:participant) ratio ... on
math groups, posts were short and disconnected ... if <math-teach> were
influencing something, then maybe it would feel more like a community

SARAH: perhaps support groups are the only kind of discussion group that
effect a sense of community?

MEL: as a lurker, recognizes discussants enjoy a community ... how do we
get lurkers to feel like part of the community?

JOHN: seems there are two reasons to discuss: you're wanting to help or you
need to share

KEN: a third reason: you want to keep up

JOHN: do whatever enhances those experiences

BOB: workshop participants tend not to discuss with participants of other
years' workshops, even when they're all on the same list

JOHN: there exists a comfort level with those with whom you've workshopped

BOB: "never underestimate the bandwidth of a fully-loaded station wagon"

STEVE: Forum's use of nested workshop mailing lists facilitate sense of
"Oh, we've been through that experience; you'll like it" ... sum98
participants don't need that kind of support from other workshop veterans

ANNIE: newcomers enjoy support

RON: seems communities tend toward smaller numbers

STEVE: want responsiveness, commitments, intimacy in a discussion group?
what about discussions as resources?

MARGARET: critical mass necessary ... recall mailing sum95 folks, but no
longer feel the need (as though having outgrown)

SARAH: WELL members did get together, and that ultimately counted towards
their sense of community ... also, the crisis when one stranger recognized
another's problem through their writing bonded those online at the time ...
define community as necessarily grounded in personal encounter? similarly,
are virtual groups that do not meet in person not communities?

BOB: Camille group offered helpful prompters (e.g., comment, question,
rebuttal, alternative, utterance) for posts ... on web page archives of
group, these prompters allowed perceiving the parent-child relationship
among posts ... still, it wouldn't have been what it was without prior
knowledge and personal encounter

MARAGARET: Camille's prompters remind of CSTILE software, which also
offered a lounge for privacy ("where you developed a community feeling")
and practice ... otherwise, discussion in the actual group remained
academic ... "it worked pretty well"

SUZANNE: "I don't know if I have [a community]"

MELANIE: perhaps through others' responses to your online projects?

SUZANNE: do it all via e-mail ... usually unsubscribe from lists after one
day ... will go out and seek people individually ... "never last in my
action," although don't know about ripple effects

MELANIE: have done that -- introduced myself to you [Suzanne] as someone
who used your material

SUZANNE: Forum is my community, because they support me

RON: see three kinds of interactions with his web pages: informal thanks,
formal invitations, and "phi is the answer to the universe" cranks

STEVE: by definition, once you work on the Internet, you are part of a
community ... in some sense, Forum success has relied on the community

SUZANNE: balance of give and take

STEVE: when, how do you ask outsiders to turn around and give?

SUZANNE: perhaps it's like teaching ... "I never not respond" to requests

SARAH: "I don't even know how to feel about" [accidental fame because of
web pages or newsletter authorship] ... "it doesn't feel like a community
to me" ... first thing I do when I get a joke on e-mail is think, "Who can
I e-mail this to who would enjoy it?"

KEN: Perl programmer group only recognizes a few authorities, but anyone
can contribute to the repository ... we have a common goal, not just
interest, of developing the programming language

BOB: cite book that reads "There are no questions that are too dumb to ask
... just some that are too dumb to answer"

MARGARET: maybe that's what I meant: communities need a goal

ROB: need to go (strive) somewhere together

MARGARET: after achieving goal, just friendship can keep the discussion going

STEVE: how to create new groups that are inviting? <math-teach> has no
place for the newcomer

BOBBIE: [two math education lists] have become too political

STEVE: groups rarely offer a way to join other than jumping onto the scene

SARAH: what of role of virtual communities in the classroom community?

JOHN: they can give voice, excitement, to those usually reserved

KEN: community as a tool, e.g., Dr. Math ... in order to support growth,
must effect a sense of community ... goal of Dr. Math participants is to
build a service ... being able to say, "if you'd like to help ..." to
someone you've helped is a great role for the group to be in

MELANIE: will meet online participant in her chat room later tonight

SARAH: heard that Ken derived rejuvenation, pleasure from answering math

MELANIE: students, especially, derive great satisfaction from finding out
that someone's on the other end of the line

ROB: web can make even students experts, e.g., one student's sketches of
Morley's Theorem elicited formal e-mail from Egypt ... but most e-mail asks
for more help, not offers thanks
Richard Tchen
The Math Forum
Swarthmore College tel1: 610 328 8225
500 College Avenue tel2: 800 756 7823
Swarthmore, PA 19081-1397 facs: 610 328 7824

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