Having read how your experiment first started (the background, your own journal reading club experiences), I understand better why you made the choices you did.
I have had pretty positive experiences of journal article reading with my peers in grad school. In a few classes and during dissertation writing sessions, there were some fine debates with “a disputatious community of truth seekers” (Donald Campbell cited in Shadish, Cook & Leviton 1991 — THE Evaluation book every evaluation student must read?). In real life, I’ve been blessed with some wonderful in-person mentoring experiences through grad school. Leaving those times behind, I often look to replicate these moments — online and off. Alas, those were different times and a different dissertation topic from yours.
Coming in with those positive experiences, I’m thus of the opinion that reading in advance helped me to learn and participate better (call it learning preference, whatever). I got out of your earlier posts that you are looking for a fresher approach — the unstructured, unconference, unjournal, un-[insert new approach here] — which doesn’t suggest that older practices may not be good — which you didn’t claim they weren’t, at all. I understand now that you are just trying out a new combination of learning conditions to see how learning might work better but differently. Learning science theories — I think — show that designing lessons where the student can be positioned to make as many connections as possible to a new idea helps extend learning. Twitter probably facilitates this, if one can juggle the multiple threads to the same topic. Twitter forgets though that cognitive overload is a challenge for some people. And so, guided instruction may work better for some than minimal guidance.
In the last event, although the frustration of not knowing the content ahead of time and being befuddled — in my case — motivated me to go read the interesting article, I wonder how long this ambiguity might sustain interest once the novelty of live-skimming-tweeting wears off or the article is comparably “less” interesting. ;-)) (An assumption probably, since all articles might have to be carefully weighed against some criteria your group has). This is related to Angela Duckworth’s research on grit. Do I have the characteristics of grit to overcome the negotiation of ambiguities? Courage, deep commitment, follow-through… to engender intellectual and emotional engagement? So here, the PROCESS of this live-skimming-tweeting experience has an impact on my further engagement. It is also possibly linked to my motivation for participation. For me, it’s a fun novel engagement, I’ve no checkboxes to mark off, no agenda for participating. So, a highly curious question I have for myself: How long would my intrinsic motivation sustain me if the process of constantly negotiating in the zone of change/discomfort/liminality wears me out? My thinking dispositions have held me through many ZPDs, so let’s see how this unfolds. 🙂
As in every event of complexity, there are no easy answers, what works for one person, may not work for another. I won’t have any prepared agenda but I feel my expectation for the next event is somewhat “defiled” with knowing much more about the origin of this event than I knew about the last event. (LOL)