The Words We Use
When you’re working with a diverse and distributed team–as Peer 2 Peer University is :)–it’s useful to have a common language, terms that you all understand to mean the same thing. Vague language can be a drag (ie “you know, that squiggly thing on the upper rightish nav”–sound familiar?). Pre-established terms facilitate understanding. Which frees up your time to make decisions. And decisions make mouths happy.
Mr. Product Manager extraordinaire, John Britton, recognized the need for us to get our terms straight.
What we call ourselves matters. And the collection of terms we use has sparked a lively discussion about who we are. Are our learning experiences Challenges? Are they all Courses? Are we always learners? When are we mentors?
A Safe Space for Ideas
I’d been seeing a lot of “Think, Pair, Share” activities–a series of steps that include private think time, small group discussion, and then larger group sharing–at the Lifelong Kindergarten Lab, during the ScratchEd Meetups and in my experience with my Research Intern cohort. Whereas in open web cultures, idea generation usually means brainstorming–a whole boatload of ideas, at once, from everywhere. But brainstorming can leave less social folks out of the conversation, and there’s always evidence that it doesn’t work.
John had noticed that folks on our listserv tend to be influenced by the initial idea–which may not leave room to explore all potential options. So he suggested another method to generate ideas: Think, Pair, Share + User Stories. Here’s how it shakes out:
Storytime at P2PU
Generate Ideas for terms on on a joint etherpad.
John gave us all a bit of homework. He prompted us to see the terms we use *as a system* instead of in isolation.
“Please write a short essay that tells the story of a new P2PU user. You can be as creative or as boring as you like but make sure to use terms consistently in your story.
You can only use one noun for each “thing” and one verb for each “action” associated with a thing. For example you might decide to use “peer” for users and “join” for the action. In that case you wouldn’t ever use “sign up” or “member.”
Share it with a P2PU member. After you write your story, present it to someone else from the community.
Fellow P2PU Community Member Jessy Kate Schingler and I paired up and made a Skype date to talk about our stories shortly thereafter.
Findings and Reflections
1.) Jessy Kate and I both started with shorter stories, but after talking to each other we fleshed them out into longer pieces. I think we fed off each other’s excitement and ideas, and wanted to go further with the project. Which would stand to reason–we ❤ peer learning.
2.) Our stories illustrated what we saw as important about P2PU. In Jessy’s case she told a futuristic tale about a community of peer learners who revolutionized education. My story was a romantic matchmaking affair.
3.) Seeing terms in context exposed which labels “made sense”–and which ones didn’t! We both settled on some a few similar terms in our stories. And noticed how some made sense on a list, but not at all in use!
4.) We need a way for P2PU to create activities like this one, and facilitate connective experiences on the fly.