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.

Follow-up on Networked Learning Conference Presentation

Following the presentation of our paper to the Networked Learning Conference 2010, George Siemens has invited us to discuss this further in an Elluminate session, this Friday – July 2nd 11:00 in Toronto – 16:00 in the UK.

These are the details of the paper and a bit of background:

Title: The Ideals and Reality of Participating in a Massive Open Online Course

The three authors, Jenny Mackness, Sui Fai John Mak and Roy Williams attended and met on the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge open online course in 2008, which came to be known as CCK08. The result of our meeting and learning, was a collaborative research project in which we explored learners’ experiences on the course and the implications of autonomy, diversity, openness and connectedness (the principles of connectivism) for learning and course design. We look forward to sharing this research and discussing emerging issues.

The link for the session is: Link: https://sas.elluminate.com/site/external/launch/meeting.jnlp?sid=2008104&password=M.0A68F27C6846C5A75D6F94199C2118

And  here is the link to the prezi we presented at the networked learning conference.

Finally, here is a Handout –  Ideals and Reality Handout 240410 to go with our presentation – it gives a bit more information to takes away.

The Reality of the Networked Learning Conference

The Ideals and Reality of Participating in a Conference ( a personal perspective)

This week I have presented for the very first time (with Roy Williams) a paper at a conference (the Networked Learning Conference)

This has been a steep learning curve for me which I reflect on here. I had ideals – yes – and the reality is that I feel disillusioned with the conference process.

My ideals were that the research we were working on was worthwhile, was honest and open, and raised questions which would be of interest to the networked learning community. Big mistake – little or no interest from the 160 participants in the conference.

My ideals also included the hope that the networked learning conference as a whole would address some of the issues raised by the connectivism course – such as the implications of autonomy, diversity, openness and connectedness for the design of education courses in the future. These seem to me to be very relevant to the future of networked learning – but ‘No’ – I did not come across any discussion of these. In fact most of the sessions I attended (and there were so many parallel sessions that it was a real lottery as to which session to attend) presented material that was not new to me. Only Etienne Wenger (keynote speaker) succeeded in firing up my imagination and enthusiasm for the future of education and thinking about how people learn.

The reality was that whilst the conference was extremely friendly and socially a great experience (it was great to meet in the flesh people I have only met previously online), a conference is a mechanism for people to present their paper to meet the requirements of their HE institutions. If you get your paper presented all is well, but overall I did not get the sense that people were trying to grasp the real issues. The only other Networked Learning Conference I have attended was in 2004, which left me ‘buzzing’ at the end of every session. To be honest – apart from the social contacts – for the most part this conference left me cold. I overheard someone say that the Networked Learning Conference has ‘lost it’s way’ and this resonated with me. As far as I could see, whilst the host country has changed, the format has not changed at all. A very disturbing thought when attending the conference cost me personally, as an independent consultant, over £1000. I would like to see a more innovative approach.

I have in the past academic year, attended some ‘unconferences’. These seem to me to fit better with recent thinking about how we connect to people and negotiate our learning (and discuss our research aspirations) – but I am realistic enough to know that this probably doesn’t fit with the demands of HE institutions (although as an independent consultant these don’t concern me).

I have followed the Twitter stream and frankly am bemused by the ‘isn’t this wonderful’ posts. There is only one which seems to me to be critically evaluative, where someone has said that the conference participants seem to be split between those interested in theory and those interested in practice. I agree.

I would like to see future networked learning conferences change to include:

  • More consideration of value for money. I know for most people institutions pay – but to approach it as if each individual is paying out of their own pocket would, I think, improve it. This conference was hugely expensive and I can see no justification for this.
  • More support of new researchers, e.g. do not have new researcher sessions in parallel with the high flyers – inevitably new researchers are left out in the cold.
  • Fewer parallel sessions (although I realise that this wouldn’t meet institutions requirements for their employees to present) and more opportunity to focus on the themes of the conference and raise questions about the key issues for the future of networked learning and the implications of this for the future of our education systems.
  • More negotiation about the content of the conference.
  • More evidence that the conference is trying to address the issues of massification, privatisation and globalisation that networked education will have to address. Some of the sessions I attended, including some of the symposia presented by well recognised names – were I felt, seriously out of date in their thinking
  • I think I must be coming from a completely different place with regard to my thinking about networked learning and the issues that HE needs to address for the future – but I was disappointed by the content of the networked learning conference – apart from Etienne’s presentation.

However – looking at it from the glass half full perspective:

–          I learned more about myself and my aspirations, what I can do and what I can’t do, what I aspire to and what I will give a miss, what my values are and what I am prepared to speak out about to defend these values

–          I met some wonderful people, including members of the CPsquare community and others

–          The food in Denmark is wonderful, even if it is hugely expensive

–          Copenhagen is a beautiful and intriguing city – especially the hippy community. Aalborg is also worth a visit and wonderfully hospitable

–          The experience has made me reflect deeply on whether or not I wish to continue doing research. I am an independent consultant, so I am only doing this out of interest. There are not career benefits for me – only the benefits of continuing to pursue an interest in how people learn and the role of the teacher.

Second NLC Presentation 2010

Here is the presentation for our second paper which we will present on Tuesday at the Networked Learning Conference in Aalborg.

Blogs and Forums as Communication and Learning Tools in a MOOC

I think we are all set to go now.

Networked Learning Conference Presentation 2010

Below is the link to our presentation of our paper for the Networked Learning Conference 2010.  This is for the  Ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC  paper.

The Ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC Presentation


We will also be providing a handout to go with the presentation at the conference : Ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC Handout

We’re really hoping that this will go well, that we get some people at our session and that people at the conference will find it interesting – but I expect everyone else is hoping this as well!

And of course we have the other paper to present as well!

Too many balls in the air = ‘freeze’

How do people keep blogging when they have their fingers in so many pies. I just can’t seem to do it.  The more I have on, the more difficult it becomes to blog. Where should I focus?

Recently I have been:

  • keeping an eye on CCK09 and trying to keep up with how CCKo9 participants have been taking learning into their own hands
  • tutoring on two online courses – one an international course and one a course for company graduates
  • working to support eight JISC projects
  • posting to the http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/ Hotseats
  • attending (albeit as a lurker) the JISC online conference – at least two great keynotes in this
  • working with a colleague from Birmingham University to develop an online resource to support working in communities of practice
  • attending CPsquare online research Fests to see how ‘people out there’ are working in CoPs.

And all this doesn’t include listening to, supporting and learning from my three grown up children in all their wonderful projects and interests, visiting my 84 year old mother and hoping that I take every opportunity to keep close to her and learn from her  in her declining years, keeping contact with my wider family and all their interests, keeping connected to my friends and ensuring that I don’t let these connections lapse, keeping connected to my wider interests which are mainly to do with art, choral music, gardening and travel.

Am I alone in wondering how I can keep up with all this? Recently I have felt that there is so much going on out there amonst so many really talented people, that I’m not sure what I could offer?

I thought the most recent CCKO9 participant Elluminate event (I didn’t attend  – but listened to the recording), organised by participants, was a wonderful example of how a diverse group of people from across the globe can come together, share and learn from each other. Thank you to Frances, Ulop, Roy, John, Leila, Ailsa, Heli, Eduardo. I learned a lot from this session.

Still trying to work out what I am learning from all this – but I feel as though the fog is lifting slightly!

Visitor/resident – some further thoughts

I can’t make up my mind whether I’m a visitor or resident. As Dave White says in his presentation its not a dichotomy – but rather a duality (which is very much Wenger’s approach to communities of practice). In his presentation Dave makes some comments that I have been thinking about:

Visitors leave no trace – my feeling is that this is not possible. Maybe they hope to leave no trace. I can see that they could leave an absolutely minimal trace, but not no trace. It’s a bit like when someone briefly enters a meeting and leaves quickly – their leaving and absence still affects the meeting. In relation to this, I believe that ‘lurkers’ can affect what is going on through their absence.

Visitors worry about identity theft – I would say that visitors might worry about identity full stop, particularly if the visitors are novices. In fact isn’t it possible that visitors may be visitors not by choice but because they are novices in the online environment.

Residents try to keep visible by continually feeding the machine – have residents subjected themselves to the ‘tyranny of participation?’

Remaining visible is important for residents – Why? What is in it for them, particularly if a lot of what they post is banal? Isn’t being perceived of as banal counterproductive?

The word ‘nebulous’ can be used to describe residents – Dave didn’t talk about this and I’m not sure what this means.

A resident is less likely to have their own blog – this seems to contradict the research that John, Roy and I did where we equated residency (we called this a ‘home’) to a blog. This brings up the complexity of the way in which we use language and metaphors to describe the way in which people learn and interact online.

The visitor is no more or less technically adept than the resident – this depends on whether the visitor is a visitor by choice

Visitors take an individual approach to working online – I don’t see an individual approach or autonomy as the preserve of visitors. The question of autonomy is complex and not easy to understand or unpick.

Lots to think about. I’m looking forward to the session tonight – Elluminate Conference

Visitors and residents

David White’s description of the way in which people use the internet as being like the behaviours of visitors or residents has captured my interest this week. A link to his blog and his video were posted in a CCK09 forum this week.  Roy in his post – Thursday, 22 October 2009, 05:29 AM – has suggested that there might also be a ‘traveller/gypsy’ mode. I probably have not understood this correctly – but I’m not sure that this is necessary. David White views visitors and residents at either end of a spectrum along which people can position themselves differently at different times and in different contexts.

The ‘resident’ description makes perfect sense to me;  it’s so easy to identify ‘residents’ amongst the people I know. I wonder what proportion of any given population you would expect to be residents. Would this be about 10% – a figure quoted by Nancy White as the percentage of people you might expect to be very active in an online course or community.

‘Visitor’ is also an interesting idea – but I’m not sure that I’ve got my head round exactly what visitor behaviour incorporates. In terms of online teaching and learning the ‘resident’ is probably easier to work with, because we can get a very good sense of the ‘resident’s’ personal learning environment. The visitor’s work is less transparent. I think we probably need to know more about how ‘visitors’ learn.

On Dave White’s blog a number of commenters have recalled Prensky’s ‘digital natives/digital immigrants’ description. I see Prensky’s and White’s descriptions as being on different issues. Prensky’s is more to do with technology and how technological skills affect behaviour and learning online, whereas White’s is more about attitudes and approaches to learning – personal learning organisation. In the latter the learner is more in control. For me this is interesting as I think it reflects the increasing shift away from focussing on technology towards online learner behaviours, attitudes and preferences.

Research and dissemination

In another meeting this week there was discussion about whether it was worth the time trying to publish in academic journals. A project I am working with at the moment has to meet a requirement to disseminate their work and developments. For academics, publication in an academic journal is not only important for personal advancement and career development, but is also important for the University’s research rating. But does this help dissemination?

I think many people would agree that most journal papers are very rarely read. Not only that but they take so long to be published that if you are working in the area of technology-enhanced learning, then by the time the paper is published its out of date.

So what are the alternatives? The web offers many alternatives. There are open e-journals, blogs, newsletters, press releases etc. But do these offer the peer/expert review offered by respected journals and colleagues? 

So what do you go for –  to have your paper accepted by a recognised/high status  journal, despite the fact that it might not be read by many people, or have your work widely disseminated on the web or elsewhere?

John, Roy and I – with our papers on researching the CCKO8 experience have tried to find the middle way – a respected conference in which to publish, but a conference that publishes papers online – for wider dissemination.

What is the future of research papers I wonder?

Group think

My online PGCert group (for which I am a facilitator)  is currently studying a module on the emotional intelligence of teams. Had I not worked on the connectivism course in 2008, I might not have even thought to question whether working in teams/groups is a good idea and also whether working in teams/groups leads to group think and stifles creativity.

As a result of CCK08 I have been able to play devil’s advocate with my teaching group and question these assumptions that they might carry with them into the workplace – i.e. that working in teams is  the way to go!

One thing I have learned from Stephen and George (and others such as Stephen Brookfield)  is that it’s worth surfacing  assumptions, even if it means challenging the assumptions of CCK08/09 – rightly or wrongly. Who’s to say?