Discussion via Ustream (120908)

This was more enjoyable and productive than the Elluminate meeting earlier in the week.  I attended both simply out of curiosity about how the technology works, particularly the Ustream session – since I haven’t attended one of these before.

I nearly abandoned the Elluminate meeting in the middle. I’m afraid I got bored. There was a lot of background ‘chatter’ and we never seemed to get to anything substantial to talk about. I haven’t yet worked out how to get hold of the microphone and am not even sure that I would want to.

The difficulty I have with Elluminate and Ustream and similar audio/video sessions is that I can’t cope with the chatting/drawing etc. that goes on at the same time as the speaker. In the Elluminate session the chat was simply that – chat – so it was fairly easy to ignore, but in the Ustream discussion there were parallel conversations going on. I know the youth of today are supposed to be able to do about 10 things at once, but I can’t. I need to be able to focus, concentrate, listen and channel my thinking, to learn. So I focussed on the speakers, but there was also interesting stuff going on in the chat and I felt I was probably missing something. I do take my own notes at the same time though, so I am doing 3 things at once – reading, writing and listening – I just can’t read, listen and write in two places at the same time!

Three key points for me in the Ustream session.

1. The skeptic thread. I was interested that this was raised at the beginning of the session and I think the view was suggested that vigorous debate could be offputting, i.e. might be preventing some people from engaging in discussion forums. This possibility is worthy of further discussion (although I didn’t think the Ustream session was the place for it) and I might come back to this in another post.

2. There was brief mention of the relationship between connectivism and communities of practice. Either SD or GS said that a community is really a certain type of network with a particular shape that restricts certain types of activities and enables others. (Presumably we’ll be talking about types of networks later on in the course). I’ll probably come back to the relationship with communities of practice. I think I have read somewhere that Etienne Wenger thinks there is a distinction between networks and communities, but I’ll have to find my reference and check it. I know that EW thinks that it doesn’t matter what you call a CoP and SD also said this. In his words – a CoP is a place where learners can see practice modelled and demonstrated. According to SD words don’t have fixed meanings.

3. I did ask a question in this session  – ‘Could they comment on how the theory of connectivism could be applied to children’s learning?’ My question got lost in the chat, but someone else must have asked something similar as GS started talking about K12 children. I didn’t find the answers here very satisfactory. It was suggested that some contexts such as young children’s classroom need more structured learning and SD suggested that the connectivism theory needs to explain how cats learn. I’m not sure how serious this was, but I would say ‘yes it probably does’, just as it probably needs to be able to be able to say something about how young children learn. Piaget, Dewey and Vygotsky all had something to say about children’s learning and Skinner and Pavolv worked with animals. If I’m going to make sense of connectivism as a learning theory, I need to be able to be clear in my own mind about how I would practically apply it in a classroom with any age of learner.

So some questions arising for me out of this session are:

  • Do learners who can multi-task have the edge when thinking about connectivism, or will this multi-tasking lead to learning being spread more thinly and possibly being more superficial?
  • Does online discussion lead to lack of rigorous debate, criticism and challenge?
  • What is the difference between a community of practice and a network?
  • How can the theory of connectivism be applied to children’s learning?

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