Elluminate v. Networked Learning Conference

Heli has made yet another interesting post in her blog reflecting on the CCK08 experience following our Elluminate session yesterday in which George Siemens kindly invited us to share our research paper – The ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC.

The link to the recording of this session is here – http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2010/07/05/elluminate-vs-networked-learning-conference/

After my Networked Learning Conference hiatus (as a friend has called it) I really had no expectations that anyone would attend the Elluminate session, especially since it was only advertised a day or so before (although George and Stephen do have huge networks and just a word from them can make all the difference) – I emailed Roy and John saying that I thought we would be speaking to ourselves!

It’s ironic that I spent over £1000 of my own money getting myself to the Networked Learning Conference where we had  just 20 minutes to present our paper, were allowed time for only one question, where the session was attended by less than half the people in yesterday’s Elluminate session and where there was no follow up discussion ….. and yet yesterday for the Elluminate session, I could sit in the comfort of my own home, with a cup of coffee, seated in a comfortable chair, incurring  no additional expense and discuss our research with 40 people! I know which I prefer and I want to thank everyone who attended. There were lots of names that I recognised in the participant list.

I do rather wish I had been a participant in the Elluminate session though. I have never been able to follow the chat and the whiteboard (contrary to popular belief not all women are good at multi-tasking!), so having to focus on speaking and answering George’s questions, meant that I didn’t follow the chat, so I sincerely hope that it didn’t appear that I was ignoring people. Fortunately, Roy and John agreed beforehand that they would keep an eye on the chat. It was unfortunate that Roy’s audio was not working as he would have offered an alternative perspective, as did John through the questions he asked. Just because we worked together for all those months doesn’t mean that we agreed on everything 🙂

Despite the limitations imposed on what I could follow by having to take the microphone, I know there was a lot of chat in the chat room. No-one wanted to take the microphone, apart from John and George, but that didn’t mean that people were ‘silent’. How different from the Networked Learning Conference, where we sat in silence and listened to presentations – although I suppose the equivalent there was that a few people were on Twitter. I don’t know a lot about Twitter, but I doubt it’s the same experience as being involved in a fast moving energetic chat room.

In Elluminate I was aware that whilst I was presenting/speaking, many people, perhaps even the majority were holding conversations of their own, possibly on unrelated subjects. I should imagine that I was only listened to by some of the people for some of the time, but this somehow felt much more satisfactory than my experience at the Networked Learning Conference. In the Elluminate session, people were engaged, active, energetic – there was a palpable ‘buzz’ in the room – or perhaps it was just the buzz of my nervous system jangling 🙂

This experience of presenting in Elluminate has caused me to reflect again on the role of the ‘teacher’ and the extent to which a teacher should intervene or take control in a classroom situation. This appears to be an unresolved dilemma in open courses, particularly massive, open, online courses. As someone said in our research, in these courses, where teachers/instructors necessarily have to take a ‘hands off’ approach because it is simply impossible to interact with each participant in a large open network, there is a tendency for the ‘kids to take control of the classroom’. I think the ‘kids were in control of the classroom’  in the Elluminate session – not complete control because ultimately any one of the moderators could have pulled the plug, but certainly in control of the conversation. This seems to be the accepted norm in online conferencing, so why does it seem more difficult to accept in different educational settings?

Some questions that arise for me in considering the teacher’s changing role are:

  • Does the teacher need to control or direct the conversation/learning? – always, sometimes, never?
  • Is the teacher necessarily the expert in a given learning situation? Who is the expert? How is expertise defined?It’s interesting that the discussion that attracted most interest in the Critical Literacies course was the one on “the evolving definition of ‘expert’ ”.
  • Does the teacher need to intervene in the learning process? When? Why? How much?
  • Is the teacher accountable  for the learner s learning? Always? Sometimes? Never?
  • Does the teacher need to build a relationship with a learner? What might be the ethical consequences of this relationship?

Judging from some of the discussion in the Elluminate session, these questions remain unresolved for teachers moving into massive, open, online learning environments.

16 thoughts on “Elluminate v. Networked Learning Conference

  1. Heli Nurmi July 4, 2010 / 9:29 am

    You had good questions about teacher’s role – many of those remain unanswerable (is that English?). They decribe the paradoxes in which we live as educators.
    You have to support but minimally. It is always better that the student finds the way. You must develop your “instinct” how to action, intuitive expertise to do right things and not-to-do wrong ones. (But you can’t be perfect).
    You have to know the expertise of your own, its limits and try to broaden them all the time.

    Ownership of learning is a nice concept. Adult students are responsible of themselves.

    Relationship between teacher and student? It depends … at the beginning a students probably needs it, but when his/her intrinsic motivation is strong it is not necessary. There are ethical rules (teacher is not allowed to insult etc) – respect could be a suitable concept in adult education (and kids too).

    Here are my further considerations to you!

  2. jennymackness July 4, 2010 / 1:32 pm

    Hi Heli – thanks for your comment.

    I just want to come back to the question of the relationship between teacher and student. From my own perspective, it’s not that I can’t learn on my own, but more that I learn more from people I have developed a relationship with.

    Two things influence this. 1) That my perspective is that everyone can be a teacher given the appropriate context, so when I talk about ‘teachers’, I mean people we learn from. 2) For me learning is usually an emotional experience, or one which is never devoid of an emotional element, so a relationship where this is taken into account (i.e. one where I feel safe) is more likely to foster my learning than when the ‘teacher’ is more distant.

    In this sense I have always felt that relationships strongly influence learning and when I was teaching young children I always felt that it was essential to establish good relationships first and then the children were more likely to learn effectively.

    Hope this makes sense and helps to explain where I am coming from, with regard to relationship and learning.

  3. Steve Mackenzie July 4, 2010 / 1:44 pm

    Hi Jenny, hats off to your yourself, John and Roy in completing and presenting on your CCK08 Research. I am delighted that you felt so good about the elluminate session – it is a great medium to engage participants. Text chatting was where it was at for me – You could not have possibly kept up with the text chat. Having a sidekick or two has got to be standard practice in these events – it’s a team game 🙂

    With regard your questions on teacher, I do believe that for online learning perhaps the facilitator can scaffold learning more depending on the level the experience level of the learners (critical literacies and subject knowledge). Previously i have only thought of this on a small scale though – i’d like to explore this in a MOOC. Previously my focus has been on laying foundations for connectivist learning combined with formal learning but on a small scale.

    look forward to exploring these issue in more detail in the future. Also I can’t remember if you are based in Leicester – i know you are not far away – so if you are about it would be great to meet up with you at DMU where i work or other venue.


  4. RuthHoward July 5, 2010 / 3:23 am

    Thank you Jenny I’m wondering about the teacher as metalearner and transmitting, demonstrating, feedback re skills for metalearning. How to question, when to question what type of questions? How to apply these questions, how to take them further, other purposes-repurpose them, to whom, who else is asking, answering,opposing, agreeing,differing, what research is there to back it up, what research has yet to be done, why are these questions/answers/solutions important, what questions have yet to be asked, why ask these and not others…

    I’m really not self motivated unless I have a question, or problem to be solved or communication to express, product to design/make, person to share with, feeling to resolve. It might not be limited to that list of course but I felt to catch you here in my lunch break.

  5. Ruth Howard July 5, 2010 / 10:39 am

    Tonight I’m thinking that a teacher has sensors all out to catch natural curiosity and ride the wave with the other, directing into a project or product that can be replicated and repurposed later without the teachers help.

  6. Keith Lyons July 6, 2010 / 1:53 am

    Great post, Jenny. Interesting if we think about how much you saved us in sharing this.

    As ever I hope this comment finds you well. Congratulations on the paper and the Elluminate session.

    Best wishes


  7. Steve Mackenzie July 6, 2010 / 7:05 am

    Hi Jenny,

    Glad my blog posts have been useful. I found that your initial blog posts on the critlit2010 courses and those of John, Heli and Maria were most valuable in setting me out on a path of learning. I think Heli has mentioned something recently about Stephen asking why we took the course (i need to work through my alerts – as i have not see this yet). I had no fixed agenda – its just been fascinating to see where i am ending up with the interactions.

    not at the event on the 29th – but i am sure we will meet up sooner or later. let me know if you do ever come ocer to leicester.

  8. jennymackness July 8, 2010 / 6:24 am

    Hi Ruth – many thanks for your comments. I agree that a key teaching skill is in questioning – being able to ask timely, relevant and challenging questions. But the trend seems to be for less teacher intervention in online networks/courses and more reliance on participants teaching each other. This is fine if ‘experts’ can be clearly identified, but if not, then how are participants to know whether the questions being asked by fellow participants are relevant?

    I probably haven’t explained this very well – but the role of the teacher in online networks remains something that I need to think more carefully about.


  9. jennymackness July 8, 2010 / 6:26 am

    Not sure if you will return here Keith, but it’s great to hear from you again and many thanks for your comment.


  10. Steve Mackenzie July 8, 2010 / 6:52 am

    Jenny and Ruth,

    Teacher is very important in online networks. A skilled online teacher will set the environment for learners to learn. support learners that are new to technology and/or the subject area and can lead learners to being more self directed if that is perceived to be the epitomy of adult learning. They can lay the foundations for the social and emotional connections that learners need.

    From an organisation perspective the key is trying to find how most effectively (cost wise) this can be supported. It may be that although desirable to have a teacher heavily involved god results can still be ontained with a less hands on approach. I think a teacher will help retain distance learners.

    This ties in with a few conversations going on at the moment. I’ll be posting soon on my research, where i put the teacher at the heart of online adult distance learning but attempt to integrate the benefits of connectivist learning

  11. flsantos July 8, 2010 / 11:05 pm

    Hy Jenny
    Nice paper, elluminate session and great blog post.
    I as a teacher, even in regular classes like “get out of the way” of students and attend more to stimulate discussion or points of view (so the class will not “die”) or launch new challenges.
    I assume the risk of some classes seem uncontrolled, but the wealth that you take the productive classes is beneficial.
    My students see me in two different roles, as professor of mathematics (practice) my role is to remove questions and exercises to bring significant contributions to theoretical matters that are having (often resort to learning by problem solving or through learning by discovery), but in didactics course they say I let them suspended, for they are waiting for traditional field and I give them to discuss real situations, simulate and deliver solutions based on theories of learning and teaching strategies.
    I am taking the first steps in distance learning, and despite the short time that unfortunately I can devote, I’m loving the experience.

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