The CCK08 round up was an interesting meeting. It seems like it was held at a difficult time for some and clashed with their teaching commitments, so a few familiar faces were not present.
There was quite a lot of talk about assessment. I think it will be worth listening to the recording again to capture this conversation.
Most intriguing was George’s apparent frustrations with lurkers. He thought that in the next run of the course they would have to do more to encourage participation – in his view people need to participate more to make the course work. ‘Lurking is not appropriate.’ George expects everyone to be transparent in their learning and by default become a teacher in the course.
There seemed to me to be loads of participation – both in the blogs and in the discussion forums. I personally would not have coped with any more. I’m not sure what percentage of people were participating in blogs and forums – probably not the 10% that Nancy White recommends should be active in an online course – but then this wasn’t a course in the true sense of the word – or was it? This question of whether the word course should be used to decribe the CCK08 experience was also discussed.
Perhaps Stephen and George need to be really clear about whether they are running a course or not ; they do appear to have different views on it. If they are just establishing and managing a learning community or network, then I think participants would view their responsibilities differently. In a community or network, peripheral participation is legitimate (Wenger) as George acknowledged. Lurking (I prefer to think of it as reading or observing) is legitimate. People get drawn into conversations as and when they need them. Stephen seems happier with this than George.
However, in both a community and on a course, (but maybe not a network), there are leaders who try to draw in participants and increase levels of interactivity. This requires skills and ‘teacher-type’ interventions, whereas I think Stephen and George’s model was more – let them (the participants) get themselves organised into groups, decide for themselves where they want to communicate and get on with it.
So it seems to me that you can’t really have it both ways. Either you let participants just get on with it, in which case you leave them to lurk if they want to, don’t worry about it and are happy with whoever, however small the number, actively participates. Or you go for skilled teacher intervention. George stated that he wanted a less didactic style for the CCK08 ‘course’ where he and Stephen would become less prominent as the course progressed – but this ‘hands off’ approach isn’t something that just happens. It has to be cultivated by skilled facilitators/online teachers. In my experience as an online tutor, I have to work very hard at the beginning of a course, helping participants to make appropriate relationships, establishing an ethos of security, trust and mutual respect, and that once this is set up I can withdraw. But it doesn’t just happen. It depends on my initial interventions (and I don’t necessarily equate interventions with ‘talking’).
I agree that very few participants took the mic. in the synchronous Elluminate sessions, but I don’t think that is necessarily down to a lack of willingness to speak; maybe more to the teaching style adopted for these sessions. It occurred to me yesterday that maybe it was a case of ‘the teacher talks too much’. It was very noticeable in yesterday’s session that at the beginning of the session when there was only one tutor (George) participants took the mic. a lot more than they did at the end of the session when there were both George and Stephen, who then tend to talk to each other.
There’s plenty of research around about teachers talking too much and there has been for many years. The original research showed that teachers are really surprised when they are observed and are given the evidence of exactly how much they do talk. Student teachers also always struggle to see that their job is not so much about their teaching, but about their learners’ learning and that if the focus is on learners’ learning, then the learners need more time to talk, even if this means tolerating silence while learners gather their thoughts.
So what I am saying is that if George and Stephen want more people to speak in Elluminate sessions, then perhaps the way in which the sessions are organised needs a rethink. Again, if they want more participation in the various communication groups, Ning, Facebook, Second Life, blogs, wikis, Moodle, then there might need to be more teacher intervention at the beginning of the course to establish this – but it seems to me that more teacher intervention is the antithesis to what the CCK08 experience (or whatever you want to call it) is all about.
So we are back to the tension between CCK08 being a course and the type of open learning experience it is trying to achieve. Not an easy one, for which there are no easy answers. Would a discussion about these very issues right at the beginning of the CCK08 course help?
I’ll be very interested to see how the course is run next time round at the end of this year.