The Academic BEtreat is on a roll.
The technology issues have been largely sorted – yesterday my sound scarcely dropped at all, and if it did it was only for a minute or two – so I now feel like I have more of a chance of learning. (I say ‘my’ sound, but the problems have been at the California end, not at mine here in North West England).
I enjoyed yesterday very much, and I realize, not for the first time that I much prefer learning online than face-to-face, i.e. if there is something deep and substantial to discuss and learn. Face-to-face can be great for networking and socializing, and both these enrich the relationships and the learning, but for me online allows for more ‘filtering’ of ideas, more reflective space and more control over the learning process. I can more easily distance myself and switch off what I don’t want to listen to, I can be more selective about who to interact with, and I have more time (although still nowhere near enough) to process the ideas and new learning. I already feel that my time spent working on this year’s BEtreat online has been far more productive than when I was in California last year.
It has taken me a while to work out how best to organize myself for working online on this BEtreat. Before the start, I set myself up with a large second computer monitor, so that I would have more space to keep open different sites and documents. But despite this I have still reverted to taking hand-written notes. There was just too much switching between Skype, Adobe Connect, video on/off, microphone on/off, open word documents, open PowerPoint presentations, open BEtreat wiki site, open blog posts, and email – to be able to write into a Word document at the same time. But my hand written notes are a terrible scrawl. I am out of the habit of handwriting fast – so will I ever be able to decipher my notes?
What I have found extremely interesting so far is that, despite the distance between me and my Californian and online BEtreat colleagues, I feel that I have much more ‘voice’ this year, than I did last year when I attended the BEtreat face-to-face. We have discussed identity in the BEtreat (I hope to come back to issues of identity in another post), and I realise that I have had much more opportunity to project my identity into the learning community this year. I think I have used my physical voice more in the synchronous sessions than I did last year, but I have also been able to type into the chat, which means I can ‘talk’ without interrupting the speaker. I don’t have to ‘wait my turn’. I also have my own personal wiki page where I can express myself to my heart’s content – and ‘talk’/write about what interests me (a bit like my blog). I’m not sure that anyone is ‘listening’/reading these thoughts, but to me that doesn’t matter. It is another opportunity to project my ‘voice’ and not be interrupted And what is more, on reflection, I realise that these depictions of my ‘voice’ are less fleeting than in a face-to-face setting. This can be both positive and negative, but for me the positive usually outweighs the negative.
At least twice in the BEtreat I have felt my identity to be on shaky ground – it has been challenged. I am still reflecting on this, but need time to process my thinking about identity, from what we have heard and learned on this BEtreat.
Finally, there is one other BEtreater who is blogging – my online colleague Jutta Pauschenwein. Jutta has written a great series of blog posts about the BEtreat. This is her latest post – http://zmldidaktik.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/did-i-reach-my-objectives-in-the-betreat/
Much of what Jutta writes reflects my own thinking, but what I realize is that my extensive participation in MOOCs over the past five years has helped me to cope with the uncertainty and information overload in this BEtreat.