We had a very interesting class last night, listening to a range of favored songs, thinking hard about authority relations and decision-making, and – believe it or not?!? – clarifying a scope for the coursewiki project. (Yes, I did – just now as I type! – change the operational label from “gist” to “scope” – please engage the diction vigorously if you experence a reaction to it.)

Fishbowl J was the first such group nominated by peers (instead of being composed on a more-or-less volunteer basis; “more-or-less” because participation in one of two/three fishbowls has usually been required).

The assigned task of Fishbowl J was to address “the important decisions to make today, now?” We came up with (in chronological sequence):

  1. What % of a majority vote is sufficient?
  2. Can we decide on the gist?
  3. Can we decide on/about the Peer Evaluations?
  4. Can we decide the idea of the coursewiki without deciding on its actual title?
  5. Who is the intended audience of the coursewiki project?

In addition, a process for achieving consensus on the coursewiki project was proposed as an alternative to majority-minority voting.

Most of our energy was spent on coming up with “a working definition” for two subsequent fishbowl groups to review/revise. Once the next fishbowl group has achieved consensus, the working definition can be passed on to a third (last?) fishbowl group: this way everyone has the chance to participate in a consensus-building effort within a small group of no more than eight people.

I volunteered to write this first attempt at a “working definition” with the understanding that my fellow fish (!) will add/revise/correct/challenge (!) etcetera if the wording does not seem quite right. We generated a bunch of phrases during our talk which I am putting together for the first time here.

First, we did agree that there is no need to decide the title of the site/project now, identifying that the label (language, diction) of “survival guide” has been a barrier in the way of the actual broad, participatory idea which we all support.

That “idea” (scope) involves:

  • “the best of _________________ ” (your/our experiences of UMass and surrounding area)
  • is centered on/grounded in “our experiences”
  • involves some kind of mix between “helping others” and “benefitting ourselves”
  • is intended to demonstrate (diction?) how to “make the most of your college career”
  • could be framed as a “guide”

The audience is described as “the UMass Community” – meaning, roughly, a kind of “inward-looking site” from “our common identity” (based on being students at UMass?) to others of “the same identity.” (I think we need to work on clarifying this some more!)

Some ideas we’re either still exploring or brainstorming for individual components of the project includes offering info on “things to do around” the UMass area, that we might like to provide “something for everyone by everyone,” and ultimately (maybe) create the kind of site “where people want to go…”

Some debate ensued regarding whether the site should be a repository of things we already know and/or have experienced (i.e., past-focused), or be used “to inform ourselves of other [new] things” (i.e., present-focused). We asked if we want to “gain other audiences” besides ourselves?  This question is still open. Quality criteria (for the endproduct) came up once, regarding how “professional” the site would look. In comparison with previous coursewiki projects, for instance, only What’s Goin’ On? had an attractive or compelling enough appearance for one member of the fishbowl to imagine spending time there.

Some bit of discussion occurred over whether or not to include a calendar (which would require updating) or aim to produce a static, permanent product. There was an uncontested suggestion to leave this up to individuals to decide in terms of their own contributions to the site. We also cleared up the homework assignment: come up with an idea (a proposal) for what you want to bring to the coursewiki within the framework of the working definition provided here. The idea of using a range of media (including video) is encouraged.

We did not pursue any Peer Evaluation decisions beyond airing some concerns about who to evaluate (members of the same Schein Team and/or people in the fishbowls?) and a general question about what knowledge is necessary to provide a fair evaluation. For instance, some people may be talkative in class but are not doing the behind-the-scenes work in their teams…

So…. what happens next (in this thread) are two kinds of posts:

  1. the assigned homework in which everyone posts a link to the details of your individual proposal (posted in your own Weblog), and
  2. commentary/dialogue on the working definition itself. (Feel free to weigh in on any of the other topics covered in Fishbowl J, if you wish.)

When we reconvene in class after spring break (be safe and have fun!), we will call for nominations for participants in Fishbowl K (no repeats from “J”) and let them have their go at building consensus.  If time permits (along with whatever activities I come up with for the day’s lesson plan), Fishbowl L (composed of everyone  left) will occur.  (FYI – as I type this I am already thinking to hold Fishbowl L until a week later, but let’s see how things develop, ok?  Partially this will depend on who is present/absent – the point is to make sure everyone in class participates in one of these three crucial fishbowls, right?)

Alright then. 🙂  Here we go . . . !

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