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Building confidence in using online forums
Building confidence in using online forums

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3.1 Why is playful writing a good story for forum writing?

In Activity 2, you identified some characteristics of play, including:

  • a freer structure with no single end-point
  • a choice of material
  • the ability to combine materials in different ways
  • the ability to explore possibilities
  • actively engaging with materials and ideas.

These characteristics of play tell a very different story from the types of formal assessed writing you may be used to. But how does this help with forums?

A character in a wheelchair with a speech bubble. The speech bubble says: ‘So writing on forums is a playful process of interaction and discussion! The PROCESS is way more important than the product.’
Figure 3 The interactive and discursive purpose of forum writing

The reason to rethink the story of writing for forums, and to consider it in ‘playful’ terms, is because the purpose of writing on forums is different from other forms of writing. Forum writing is not solely for showing understanding, or for writing that is complete and polished. It is not purely to create an end-product such as an assessment, or to present yourself and your ideas as ‘perfect’. Instead, the purpose of writing on forums is more varied than this. The focus is on learning, not only through demonstrating or presenting (although they may play a part too) but also through interaction and discussion.

Therefore, writing in this space, with its multiple purposes, is about the process, not the product. This learning is not linear, straight and predictable. If it was, forums wouldn’t add to or develop learning. They would merely act as another place to express one particular view. Instead, forums are a space in which you can play with the messiness of learning, trying out things and making different connections.

The journey of forum writing allows you to be reassured by other people that you are thinking in a similar way. Equally, it allows your ideas to be challenged as a way of broadening your thinking and understanding. Don’t be afraid, or deterred from getting involved, if your thinking is challenged by one of your peers. Challenges can develop your thinking by broadening and expanding your understanding. This course helps you develop your confidence so that you can see challenges as part of your own learning by contributing to the development of your own ideas. Indeed, much like play, the process of forum writing and the responses you get might also add different sources or materials to extend your learning.

The difference between linear and non-linear learning can be thought of as the difference between the images in Figure 4, where the pipe cleaners represent learning.

Figure 4 (a) A single pipe cleaner represents a linear, predictable path (b) Pipe cleaners in a messy, interacting, connected jumble

While the pipe cleaner in Figure 4a travels towards one end-point by working along the line, there is little evidence of new ideas, new materials or exploring going on. In contrast, in Figure 4b there are many connections, links and interactions along the way. When each pipe cleaner comes into contact with another, there is the chance that new understandings will be created. This is all about the process, as there isn’t one neat end-point.

You will now go on to think more practically about what playful, messy learning looks like on forums.