Monday, 3 September 2007

Learning over the shoulder

I listened to Nancy White's lecture on learning 'over the shoulder' and here are some of my thoughts.

  1. Very impressed with Nancy's ability to multi-task between giving presentation and responding to the 'chat' going on in the text area. I was trying to imagine giving a talk in that way (and no, I'm not volunteering ;) and thought how tricky it would be to keep 'on task', maintain control of the technology, think about the audience and their technological expertise, respond to comments and complete in 10 minutes! I'm sure it comes down to practice (as with all forms of 'presentation'!) but still impressive.
  2. I went for a little surf from blog to blog - can't remember where I started but I ended up here and a discussion about using twitter in the classroom. The use of this tool was raised by Nancy in her talk and I went to the twitter site for a brief look around. My initial thought was 'nah, I won't use that' but the few examples identified in Darren Kuropatwa's blog discussion have made me think again. I find that when I learn about new online tools (such as those described as Web 2.0) I can picture their use with higher education students (or adults in general really) but I instantly put up barriers at the thought of using them with children. (I think like Mark Greenfield (in his recent post) that these tools don't always allow for 'control and direction' which is what I'm used to when teaching). However, the more examples I read the more possibilities become apparent. [Note to self: must stop thinking 'but that won't work with kids'].
  3. Sharing a workroom with colleagues has always led to 'over the shoulder' learning in my experience and I love the idea of being able to remotely gain technological help. This week I asked the ICTS department to give me access to Elluminate from a work computer so that I could catch some of the online lectures 'live' and a lovely tech guy took remote control of my PC, and guided me through the process of setting it up through a little chat tool in the corner of the screen. He logged off once I was happy that it was working - well, we'll see tomorrow if it actually works! But, I thought this was a nice, related example and it worked well - it saved him the 30 minute journey to the classroom for me to look over his shoulder for real!
  4. Also, when I was teaching ICT I found that some learner's would know far more than I would about all the available web sites, tools, software etc. The beauty of having interactive whiteboards linked to the internet meant that the whole class could learn over their shoulders.


bronwyn said...

yes Yvonne I agree with you, learning over the shoulder is natural in an open office. It is so easy to make a comment or say to someone "hey have a look at this" or "can you help me with this?".

I really enjoyed nancy white's easy multi-tasking style. she was so easy to listen to. Interesting though the material from Dr Ruth Clark emphasises the need to watch out for cognitive overload and she bans multitasking from her classrooms.
Great reading your post and you have provided lots of goodies for us to explore further.

Mark Greenfield said...

Do you think that sometimes the learning gets lost in the technology though? Sometimes isn't there just too much stimulation that prevents all the information from being (correctly) processed? "They" say that repetition is the key to transferring information to the long term memory and does some of the flash Web 2.0 tools work counter to this?

Nancy White said...

Great reflections, Yvonne, and good conversation evolving here.

I don't work in a classroom, so it is hard for me to reflect on that experience about how to balance control, the amount of stimulation, etc. What I do know is working with adults learning on/in the job, is that I need to enroll them in determining what works for them, rather than me defining it. It is in that negotation that we both learn a lot, then set the conditions for ongoing learning success. Does that make any sense?

(Oh, and on the multitasking. The illusion that I was in control at any time was just that... an illusion. I was in fact depending heavily on everyone present to help make things make sense. Leigh, Bronwyn and all of you! ;-) )

Yvonne said...

Bronwyn, cognitive overload sounds like a good description for how I feel at times! I would ban multi-tasking if I thought I did any :)

Mark, I think there is sometimes too much stimulation online. I was reading a post by Jackie at and she was talking about levels of reflection when learning and I certainly find that I get caught up with reading/surfing and not enough time 'processing' and relecting.

Nancy, I'm beginning to feel like a control freak when I consider how structured my teaching appears to have been ;) The art of negotiation with learners is something I'd like to explore and Leigh & Bronwyn are developing this course in that vein so I'm hoping to start absorbing......soon.....

Thanks for your comments.

Linda Robertson said...

Yvonne, I would say the opposite to you ie. this does not apply to teaching students at Post Grad or tertiary level! To me, many of the readings seem to be about kids! However, like you I have come to realise that it only takes a bit of imagination to discover that there may well be ideas that would work well with my students. Sometimes its a struggle to see the possibilities because of being entrenched in past experiences. I always need the ideas at the point when I am doing the course planning rather than 6 months in advance!