Ad-hoc, Open, & Alternative Education Chat - 6.12.20

Ad-hoc, Open, & Alternative Education Chat

Meetup Chat - June 12th, 2020

Hey everyone, thanks for a great conversation, and thanks Maggie for setting this up! Excited to continue chatting on all this stuff. Here are the summary links from this conversation:

I made this topic to compile the various stuff we talked about; below = links to topics for each of the four main things we covered:

And if we want to continue any meta-discussion about these education chats below:

  • Other ways we could expand this sort of discussion, keep it going?
  • Miro board, Google Docs, forum discussions, etc.
  • More live calls could be nice! Maybe once a month or something?
  • Dance between synchronous / asynchronous…
  • Maybe next time go deep on one topic?
  • One idea: silent meeting manifesto, spend half the time reading / commenting…
  • Could try Zoom breakout rooms too!

Also, brief note about this community / platform itself! Hyperlink more generally is the platform we’re working on for facilitating great courses for small group learning. This forum is the space we use both for cohort-specific discussion (in private categories), and for general community discussion around learning.

Please feel free to make an account and post in any of the topics linked here…or start any new ones you like! A couple other things we have specific structure for:

  • Introductions w/ space for sharing more about what you’re working on, learning, etc.: #profiles
  • Open call for course ideas here: #course-garden
  • Similarly, share an independent learning project here: #adventures

We also started a meta discussion here for brainstorming ways to more effectively use this sort of forum space for learning — Things to improve on Discourse - making forums more useful for learning!


Thanks so much @bts for transferring the notes and setting up space to continue the discussion in a slower, async, and accumulative medium :+1:

I’m keen on doing another one next month.
If the same time and place works, it would be 11am PST / 2pm EST / 7pm BST on Friday, July 3rd
(Not sure if that causes collisions for US folks celebrating July 4th the next day?)

Love the idea of picking one specific topic to go deep on, and using a shared google document to try out the silent meeting manifesto format.

Would be especially keen for us to collect and select a few essential pieces reference/reading material ahead of the meetup so we have some shared context.

We don’t need to pick the topic too far ahead of time. Ideally we’ll all be cultivating common ideas over the next month, and wait to see which ones emerge as most pressing and interesting to explore. Can do a topic vote 1-2 weeks out.


Should work for me! Certainly don’t have any travel plans at the moment :laughing:

I like that idea, will keep in mind and see if some ideas bubble up, circling back to decide in a couple weeks sounds good.

@Maggie thanks a lot for taking the initiative and hosting. I think you recorded the session - could we get it transcribed, at least for internal use (I have a Otter pro account that I can import it to)? Would love to go through again to see things that I missed “in the heat of the moment”.

Also love the idea of circling back in a month, maybe being able to dig a bit deeper on some of these asynchronously here, on Twitter, and perhaps some 1:1 calls between different members, and then doing a second session where we really focus in on something.


Ah yes forgot to process it right after the call, but have the recording and transcript available for anyone who wants to revisit the conversation here:

Might take a minute to download - sizeable video file.
The transcript is the auto-generated zoom one so not sure of the quality.


I keep thinking about this concept.
Found a good overview of it:

I’m in so many communities where people are reading the same texts, but separately, and vocally seeking that key social element.

We’ve all focused on async tools (, etc) a lot for their wonderful benefits of convenience and crossing time zones. It’s the element of presence, synchronicity, and dedicated time set aside to just focus with other people is missing.
Similar to the silent co-working rooms people are doing a lot over Zoom these days. Just needing that sense others are around and keeping focused.

Or we all default to active, discussion-based Zoom calls where we feel that pressure to fully read the texts ahead of time and come prepared with points.

Creating a low-stakes opportunity to collaboratively learn without required reading up front is intriguing. Especially in a community where everyone is already juggling demanding jobs and children and life responsibilities.

Thinking through a low-key experiment of picking a longform article / academic paper, a specific time, and posting it in a CozyWeb group (twitter doesn’t have enough filter).
Then using or Miro or Gdocs for collaborative notes.

  • Has anyone else others done something similar? Have a blog post you could link to on it?
  • Experience with min/max numbers of participants? (I usually lean towards the smaller end of 4-6)
  • Any requirement that people create something from such a session such as public notes? (I’d strongly lean towards yes)
    I’ve been immersed in Understanding by Design theory for the last few months and the concept of “performance tasks” keep swimming in my brain.
    If we take sincerely that the whole point of collaborative reading is coming to a meaningful understanding of the ideas, ‘performing’ that understanding with visible output is a key part of it.

I know you’ve all been thinking about these kind of problems for a while, and keen to hear other opinions or relevant links

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Oooh I really like this! The article goes into a lot of detail for the concept in a business context, would be awesome to have something similar for silent meetings in a learning context.

Any requirement that people create something from such a session such as public notes? (I’d strongly lean towards yes)

I’d also strongly lean towards yes. I think the shape of the public output is a really good lens for shaping the meeting as well. I’ve done a couple papers reading groups in the past and while they’re always interesting it often feels a little like flailing about with whatever interesting aspect folks decide to talk about. Combining it with a structure and some kind of explicit goal I think would be really benefical!

Oh also, @azlen has been thinking about stuff similar to this in:

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Yeah I think this could be really nice! I’d be most interested in choosing something that feels a bit challenging, that I probably wouldn’t randomly start reading on my own; a dense-ish paper that might take 30-60 mins to get through seems like it could be good for this.

First reaction: personally I might prefer trying something other than notes as output. I find reading often feels more natural / immersive when I’m not focused on taking notes, and a collaborative doc might feel a bit like work and def makes a lot of sense for a work context where it’s intended to be actionable. I do like the idea of reading / commenting + then re-reading and responding to others’ comments e.g. using Google Docs.

There’s a cool newsletter, annotations, I haven’t dug into a ton but great premise, copying longform pieces into Google Docs and annotating them…Fermat’s Library Journal Club is another good one, more academic focused. Seems like it’d be fun to basically do this but live + with others!

Even just specifically setting aside time to read something I probably wouldn’t otherwise seems valuable in itself. But other ideas for shared “performance” element, a quick chat at the end for each person to share thoughts / takeaways could be nice. Or like a 5-10 minute free-write after reading, then compare notes.

Any particular things in mind for readings to try this with?

Agreed! What’s nice is they set a pretty defined value for “this is roughly how long you can expect to need to absorb this content”. Makes last-minute joinings much more manageable.

Two sort-of related things I’ve done/am doing:

Group readings of research papers

No blog post, but I’ve attended a few sessions for reviewing research papers hosted by Sarah from Radix Motion (reference tweet). Though it was rather heavy on neuroscience and I was out of my depth, it worked like so:

  • we all (6) joined and did a quick round of intros
  • three papers were presented, we all chose which ones we wanted to read and split into groups according to paper (~2/ea iirc)
  • we read them silently while on the call, and then discussed with our own group
  • after joining back with the large group, one person from each group gave a summary and all of us answered any questions the rest of the group had

If I had the chance to read more HCI/cogsci research papers in this manner, I absolutely would. There’s significant friendly pressure to not slack off and actually read the thing, but more importantly hearing other people’s perspectives and getting any questions answered right there was wonderful. I think the key is to choose a paper that’s just outside everyone’s depth as @bts mentioned, otherwise we spend too much time just trying to comprehend it.

We also had a collaborative Roam db (now 404’d) open during this into which some people pasted questions but it’s definitely not there for marking up copy-pasted PDF content (yet).

Blog club

We choose/vote on a blog post Friday-ish, read it on our own, and discuss on Sunday.

We’ve had anywhere from 3-9 people participate; I think the ideal sweet spot is 4-6 but even the ones with 8+ felt like everyone who wanted to speak, got to speak (some members are more happy just listening).

Though we don’t create a formal artifact every time but there’s a Google doc into which we paste any interesting links, thoughts, or questions that came up.

Compared to the research paper discussions, blog club discussions are more open-ended. We talk about the post itself of course, but it also sets a softly-defined “topic” for a larger conversation in a way that class discussions on a given text never achieved (maybe in school we didn’t care enough about the subject often enough?).

Future questions: not sure at what point it should be split into breakout rooms (10+?), and how to structure post-rejoin discussion to be maximally useful + interesting for everyone.


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Sorry I haven’t followed up on the proposed second meeting for today! This week got away from me.

Would still love to do a round two, but perhaps with more of a plan than I have now (or rather, lack of plan :sweat_smile:)
Would people be willing to delay it a week so we can arrange for a more organised and fruitful chat? Would be same time Friday the 10th.

Strongly agree on all your wonderful points above:

I love that other people are already doing this kind of format with the research paper readings and blog clubs you mentioned @jborichevskiy.

I did a few group silent reads of old Ribbonfarm articles with some folks this past month that went well. We used hypothesis which was nice for threading, but also didn’t feel like it added up to a unified whole. Scattered the notes everywhere.

From the sounds of it, Google Docs does the job well!

Started up an editable Google Doc for planning the next session:

Happy to hop on an informal chat at the previously proposed time today (11am PST / 2pm EST / 7pm BST on Friday, July 3rd) if others are around. (perhaps on!)
We could discuss options for how to run a more structured and focused one the following week, and toss around some research ideas/problems we want to tackle.

I’ve been reading a lot more CSCL over the last month thanks to @houshuang planting the seeds! Being a complete n00b wading through the research papers, but love their ideas around learning experience scripts. (Have basic notes here:

I’m loosely thinking of a structure with:

  • A shared research question we want to develop speculative answers to
    • All of our topics from last week are also good research question input fodder, eg:
      • What are three possible models we could design a slow, iterative, accumulative learning experience?
      • What are the biggest friction points for forming ad-hoc study groups? What systems or tools can we adapt to help solve those issues?
  • Two or three relevant research papers for a round of silent reading
  • A google doc as the main medium of notes

But happy to hear other thoughts and ideas.

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No worries at all – a good idea! TBD if time works for me as I’m traveling that day, but if doesn’t would love to join next time.

I’m up for this. Cozyroom would be awesome :slight_smile:

Love your CSCL notes! Going to mull over them for a bit.

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Delaying until next week works for me! This might slightly overlap with one of my classes that are starting next week, but if it does I could likely just hop out of the class Zoom a bit early and it shouldn’t be a problem.

This sounds like a good structure, I like these questions and I’d definitely be interested in doing some silent reading and then discussion of a few relevant research papers. I’ll try to post some if I find something interesting to share

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Hey sorry for forgetting about this and missing the earlier post by @jborichevskiy as well!

Sounds great. I actually joined a call kind of spontaneously yesterday that ended up having a similar format, reading an Audre Lorde essay. I didn’t even know it’d involve live reading together in a google doc but it worked out nicely!

Interesting idea to split in pairs and choose different things to read + convene and summarize as a group. This reminded me one time I hosted a dinner convo thing around the theme of “worldbuilding” and assigned each person a different thing to read beforehand, which also worked pretty well, some common context going into it but each person had something different to share. Bit more open ended discussion similar I guess to the “blog club” conversations.

Fermat’s Library Journal Club (I linked above) seems to do a nice job highlighting papers that are serious research yet not so obscure as to be incomprehensible by an interested reader outside the field.

Yeah anytime the 10th works for me! If shifting the time a bit works better for others that’s cool, as of now I’m free all day.

Seeing this too late for a chat today but I will def throw some ideas in that Google Doc over the coming days, thanks for making that @Maggie - and def interested in some CSCL stuff as potential readings.

And yeah absolutely into the idea of trying CozyRoom for this call (or whenever)!

Hey all! @Maggie @houshuang @azlen @jborichevskiy @jared @Celine

Remembering we’d tentatively talked about doing another chat same time tomorrow (July 24). Bit last minute — are y’all still free or should we push a week or two? I’m okay either way, same time any upcoming Friday should also work.

Also sorry to drop the ball on kicking off sharing “post it note sized” ideas intermittently to continue the conversation from last time…just realized I made a forum topic for this general theme already though, feel free to post here if you think of stuff! —

One idea for next time — could do another group reading, but read the same text together, taking turns reading out loud + commenting on it (copy the text into a Google Doc and comment there) + discuss after.

Here’s one short-ish paper that looks both fun and interesting, might work w/ that format:

Open to other suggestions for both readings & formats! Been fun experimenting so far :smiley:

Pushing back makes sense, I think. Likewise, following two fridays are open.

That paper looks great. Another one I’ve had in my queue a while is Harnessing the wisdom of crowds in wikipedia: quality through coordination.

Nice, do you have a direct PDF link?

Will see how many others we hear from re: scheduling, try to set a time by early next week…no rush, I think these are fun even just doing every month or two!

Agreed on pushing it to next week. The group reading idea around either of those texts / others we find this week sounds great.

How would folks feel about bumping another week? So 11am PST / 2pm EST / 7pm BST Friday, August 7th?

We’ve been gearing up to launch some courses and these week’s been a little hectic over here :sweat_smile:

Does anyone recall what we said we’d post ideas about? Still down to try this, little bitesized chunks sounds fun! Maybe could be done on a twitter thread or some DM instead of the forum?

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Yeahhhh see this topic! —

I think the main question we were looking at is:

What are three possible models we could design for a slow, iterative, accumulative learning experience? What key elements of those experiences do we need to focus on? (+ related: how to maintain continuity / momentum for online learning, so it doesn’t fully recede to the background…peripheral vision for learning?)

Maybe we can try posting short ideas there AND in a Twitter thread…I’ll kick that off; feel free to cross-post and if people w/o forum accounts chime in on the Twitter thread I can summarize in the forum topic too.