Ok, there are four things I want to catch up with from the last couple of weeks. [Before I go on holiday and have to deal with the backlog of emails/posts/wiki edits that will no doubt build up ;)].
- Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach's lecture on the Art of Building Virtual Communities.
- Our failed Elluminate lecture.
- Using Skype.
- Setting up a wiki page.
Listening to Sheryl's talk revealed another person who is very enthusiastic about participating in online learning communities. She talked about teachers as 'models for students' working as partners in equal participation using the 'power of the collective intelligence' available through the Internet. Sheryl's enthusiasm compares to that expressed by James Farmer, Nancy White and Konrad Glogowski but I found an interesting read by Gary Stager who wrote a post called "Why Teachers Don't Use Web 2.0 - an historical perspective" which in the face of all the 'enthusiasm' expressed about Web 2.0 tries to address why teachers are not so enthusiastic about these social online tools. (I subscribed to an email newsletter from George Siemens site and in following links to his blog on connectivism I ended up at Gary's blog). As someone who enjoys exploring the benefits of technology as a teaching/learning tool I've always been a bit disappointed by colleagues who were reluctant to even try them out but Gary's post identifies some of the reasons for this reluctance.
We experienced a partial failure with an Elluminate session. The software initially couldn't connect and the result was that the lecturer went off to do other things. This highlights a few issues for me.
- Firstly, as the software failed I assumed I was doing something wrong and I got quiet irritated that I was missing the lecture and that I would have to find time later to listen to it - it didn't occur to me that it was a technical issue! I imagine a lot of students would feel this way and that could lead to negativity towards this kind of learning.
- Secondly, I decided in future I would try to log in a bit earlier as if there were difficulties at my end, I would then have time to try to do something about it and still be ready for the start of the talk.
- Thirdly, if facilitating the session, have a contingency plan in place in case the technical fault is not mine. We all went to the email group and created a contingency in Skype. With a class of school children it would be possible to take the lesson back to a face-to-face activity. If this was a distance learning activity then we could fall back to discussion tools (skype, google talk, MSN) but I think this would need to be highlighted to students before the timetabled event started.
I've been registered with Skype for some time as we use it to phone family and friends in the UK. We use MSN for chat - just because everyone has this software and generally they aren't keen to download software from the Internet (fear of viruses). It still took me some time to get to grips with getting involved in the discussion that was happening as Elluminate was failing. Working ad-hoc like that might be a stretch for some students and could alienate those that don't get it straight-away. We can't assume that everyone is knowledgeable of all these tools - confidence has to be built.
My wiki page on blended learning is set up. I'm looking forward to adding some content as it will have some relevance to my teaching experience. It was interesting that between setting it up at work and then coming home to work on it some more, someone had edited it. I like the collaborative nature of this and look forward to using this tool with students. I can see that some guidelines would need to be set up for working online this way, but this is no different to group work in the class. I think the ability to track contributions would hopefully deter any silliness or online 'vandalism' that can occur.PS
I couldn't make the barn building discussion on Monday night or the George Siemens lecture and I see in the email forum a discussion has sprung up about our 'community'. The asynchronous nature of this course means that we all access the forum/blog/wiki at times convenient to us and this could make it difficult to build up effective dialogue. Although it seems that posts that offer some kind of contentious statement get more responses than others that offer up links or information. I find that sometimes there is nothing more to add that would be of interest so don't bother! The lurker in me likes to read, digest and think and by the time I've done that the discussions have moved on :) I do think that a community is forming and as in face-to-face classrooms it just takes a bit of time for everyone to become familiar with each other.