As both of our studies have shown, participants will communicate using different types of media. Because of this, it is important for facilitators to be well versed in the composition and sharing of whatever is designed (e.g. text, images, videos, links, sms, data points, etc.)
It is important to decide what variety of media and technological format(s) you will support when designing your facilitation environment. Since people learn in multiple ways, they like to express themselves in those varied ways as well. If you strive to nurture participation by allowing participants the freedom to express themselves via any mode of communication they choose in your program, be prepared to consume and reply to all of those methods as well. Alternatively, if you decide to narrow to only certain media and formats, be explicit about those decisions and prepared for whatever limitations to participation that might create.
When posting media is a part of participation, some participants will simply post an image or video or link without many accompanying words. This is still an opportunity for facilitation. First, consume the media and then ask questions. You can invite them to explain or expand for clarity, connect to the content by commenting with your own reflections (What does it make you think of? What were your reactions?) and hope by modeling this behavior the participant will follow suit. You can also relate the content to prior content or introduce a new idea by posting another image/video in response. You could also try thanking them for their contribution in a way that demonstrates respect for their perspective, or provoke them to say more about it and what they were thinking.
Use of multimedia can also be an effective facilitation technique, allowing the facilitator to communicate with more than words alone. For example:
- We've used video screencasts to instruct participants in how to use technology in the learning environment (e.g. how to adjust lighting to take good pictures of sketches) and also as a way to make more personal connections through showing our personalities through video (e.g. videos of raffle drawings).
- We've used data visualizations to communicate trends in participation, both internally between facilitators and externally with participants.
- We've also used images to provide content and to collect it, to make a joke or a reference, to provide a summary of participation, and to spark discussion.
Behind the scenes, our facilitators used a variety of technologies and multimedia tools to communicate with each other, including shared Google Docs, Google Hangouts, screencast tutorials and data visualization. For example:
We used screencasts of methods for tracking our facilitation across participants and activities.
We discussed drawing techniques virtually using Google Hangout when we needed more clarification. This sort of discussion helped our facilitators figure out how to reply to and facilitate further conversation with participants.
We documented offline conversations to share with participants as a way to give a glimpse behind the scenes.
We used other forms of media/technology when wearing our "participant hat" and modeling participation.