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The value of the OULive Session

With six OU modules under my belt, five MA ODE and one MBA module and a year working at the OU Business School my personal and in-house experience of these live tutor moderate sessions convinces me that, for all their foibles Elluminate before and OU Live now are vital tools – they can give you some of that residential school/tutorial feel but CRUCIALLY they are an often well needed injection of ‘humanity’ if I can put it that way: humour, friendship, sharing and even team building and committment. My very best experiences of the MA ODE have been during and after such sessions – I wonder therefore if I go back through this OU student blog I can identify a ‘bounce in my tone’ coming out of them. There may be stats that if nothing else coming into and leaving a Live session increases activity and improves motivation – even works in favour of commitment and seeing it through?

Sometimes the appeal of the Elluminate sessions was so great that we’d meet up in Google Hangouts too afterwards to keep it going … the most memorable, and ‘clean, open and honest’ in an OU student way, was the ‘pyjama party’ we had. A laugh and worthy as a ‘memory making’ experience – and this with people across several time zones. We clearly had amongst us something of a hyper-gregarious ‘party girl’ (not a sexist term I trust, would ‘party person’ be better? Anyway, it isn’t gender specific, more the outgoing, gregarious, organising, doing person).

So yes, a crucial ingredient that personally I feel should be right at the start of any module. Hear a person laugh or sneeze, get a sense of who we all are and buy into that natural inclination amongst us to want to learn together, help each other out and feel we belong to a thing.

To add to my experience of this I will keep signing up to things so it is about time I wrote this up … doing a traditional, on campus MA is an extraordinary contrast. I really feel that it had might as well be the 1960s: long reading lists, back to back lectures (I fall asleep in the afternoon) and picking an essay title every couple of months for assessment … but you chat over coffee and share a sandwich in the canteen and slowly form a bond, even if it’s as if we are fellow galley slaves and to graduate will require two years of rowing! And come to think of it, one of the impromptu ‘hang outs’ we did in an MA ODE module included food and drink …

What I miss was getting to know six or seven people as people – not the 2dimensional ‘Gravatar’ and biog, but, as it can slip out, a person doing ‘person’ things even as simple as ducking out to answer the door or put on the kettle. Though odd if you think of them as a formal learning gathering where in one case a fellow student always brought a plate of food to the session and the other tended to be in bed – once, LOL, with her grumbling husband at her side trying to read a book! People eh!?

This is the point, to a degree, the door just open a chink, you see a little bit into the lives of your fellow students.

And do we learn something? I don’t remember, but is the learning the LEAST important reason for doing these things?

Fascinating, but possibly a couple of years since I did one.

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62 matters relating to Social Media Learning

A call from a colleague with a major corporate and we talk social media learning for nearly three hours.

During this time I repeatedly search this blog, using the e-portfolio that it has become, sending charts and grabs from Picasa and from the iPad, creating a mind-map in Bubbl.us and balancing how the MA in Open and Distance Learning compares to the OU MBA he completed last year and the MRes he is doing now.

Just a phone call. We could have gone to Skype, Elluminate or even Google+. The phone freed up the laptop. Several photos picked up from workshops, as well as screen grabs, were emailed from the iPad which was also running. 

INSERT IMAGE

Fig.1. Social Media Learning Mind Map

Timely as I am procrastinating over the ECA which will be on the use of Forums and Mobile devices in e-learning.

A reminder of how a synchronous conversation can achieve so much, especially when there were items set before our eyes to discuss.

We also discussed (I hadn’t the energy to take many notes. In retrospect I wish I’d recorded it):

  • Belbin Team Roles
  • Activity Theory
  • Management Mindsets
  • Silos
  • Web 2.0
  • Learning on the periphery
  • Vicarious Learning
  • Medical Market Research
  • TV Production
  • The role of an Alumni Board
  • Narrative
  • Research
  • Assessment
  • Blogs as ‘electronic paper’

It was invaluable to have the external point of view, someone from a global comany of thousands talking about social media learning. Looking at the devices we now have, such as smartphones and tablets, it was particularly interesting to be reminded of human nature, how devices may be used for things and in ways that they were not designed.

Whilst the iPad permits mobility, we often use it when static: in our favourite chair, recumbant on the sofa, even in bed or in the bath. Is this mobile learning? It’s hardly getting out of the house, drawing down data on the run using augmented technology to enhance the environment your in. And simply having content on an iPad so that you can using the touch screen to open and close the text, enlarging text, flipping the screen size between portrait and landscape all the time – the joy of its tactile nature. Unable to sleep I use the light from the iPad as a torch to sneak away from the marital bed and passed the children’s bedrooms and to find my way downstairs withouth having to put the landing light on.

It also was clear how both devices and approaches to learning cannot be isolated, we got our joint heads around Engestrom’s ‘Activity Systems’. The technology is complementary, the move to personalise everything through device and software choices.

I’d played Devil’s Adocat a couple of times suggesting that ‘nothing had changed’ only to come away agreeing that many of my behaviours were/are different as a direct result of Web 2.0. I have gone from learning in private, hunched over my books never showing it to anyone to a situations where, more like someone tending a public garden, or at least one seen from the street, people can see my thinking. Ironically, it is the end result that often fails to appear because I’m not about to post TMAs and ECAs online.

Some authors I quoted/cited during the conversation:

  • Vygotsky
  • Engestrom
  • Richardson
  • Moon
  • Cox
  • John Seely Brown
  • Jonathan Swift

To which I subsequently add as a result of browsing the blog and so re-engaging with my own experience within the chronology of the module; it is this, after all, that is to be examined, rather than my knowledge from this and the preceding modules. A learning design fault?

  • H807 You diddle about with every instrument in the orchestra and several that have just been invented.
  • H808 You learn to conduct, or at least why a conductor is important (even if you can’t play an instrument or read music).
  • H800 You learn to play an electronic keyboard

I quoted Swift as saying (paraphrasing) ‘I don’t know what I mean until I hear myself speak’. If anyone has any idea how to cite this please do offer your thoughts.

More authors to consider in this context (mobile learning, forums, e-learning, web 2.0):

  • Haythornthwaite
  • O’Reilly
  • Weller
  • Traxler
  • Gregory
  • Mason
  • Sharpe
  • Beetham
  • Belshaw
  • Hinchcliffe
  • Bacon and Dillon
  • Siemens
  • Boyer
  • Wenger
  • Bruner

Other topics that we should have discussed:

  • User Generated Content
  • Collective Intelligence
  • Apprenticeships
  • Problem based learning
  • Participation
  • Demand Pull

REFERENCE

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Can dentistry be taught online?

I go to the dentist. He tutors online and has had problems with this. Before and after a check-up, replacement filling and de-scaling we discuss the pros and cons of e-learning over residential schools.

Dentistry, quite frankly, isn’t one that struck me as something that could be taught online.

Maybe if I’d signed a release form the contents of my mouth could have been chewed over online.

For my ‘A to Z of e-learning’ I now have another ‘d’.

I guess dentistry can be taught online, though as amalgamated learning rather than blended learning.

On the surface it sounded like a technical issue, though I know that familiarity with the tools, with being online, with even hearing your own voice online can be issues, let alone the natural desire of people to have some kind of opportunity to get to know each other.

He said that people were happiest typing synchronously rather than speaking, in which case that is what you go with, playing to people’s strengths within a zone in which they feel comfortable.

Hearing someone for the first time creates a different image in the mind’s eye, often an image that is at odds with a person’s profile picture or how you perceived them.

Virtual Learning Environment vs. Personal Learning Environment. Who wins?


  • John Petit
  • Martin Weller
  • Niall Sclater

Stephen Downes – Students own education

·How much do they actually differ in their views?

·What is my perspective?

·Freedom is lack of choice

·Parameters work

·Creativity is mistakes

·Have rules, the mischievous or skilled will break them anyway

·The end result counts.

a)This isn’t a debate. Neither takes sides and the chair interjects his own thoughts. A debate, whether at school, university or in a club, or in a court of law or the House of Commons, is purposely adversarial, people take sides, even take a stance on a point of view they may not wholly support, in order to winkle out answers that may stand somewhere between the two combatants.

b)During the MAODE this might be the second such offering as a ‘debate,’ the last being as weak. What is more I have attended a Faculty debate which shilly-shallied around the issues with at times from an audience’s point of view it being hard to know whose side the speakers were on?

c)As well as deploring the lack of rigour regarding what should or should not be defined as a debate, the vacuous nature of the conversations means that you don’t gain one single new piece of evidence either way. Generalities are not arguments, neither side attempts to offer a knock-out blow, indeed Martin Weller seems keen to speak for both sides of the argument throughout.

When Martin Weller implies that a VLE constrains because ‘There are so many fantastic tools out there that are free and robust and easy to use.’ I would like a) example b) research based evidence regarding such tools, which do offer some compelling arguments, these commercial and branded products have to offer something refreshing and valuable.

Unlike some university offering they are therefore not only effective, but vitally, they are fun, tactile, smartly constructed, well-funded, give cache to the user, are easy to share, champion and become evangelical about, explored, exploited and developed further. Here I compare Compendium with the delight of bubbl.us.

Here I compare blogging in the confines of the abandoned cold-frame that is the Victorian OU student blogging platform compared to the Las Vegas experience of WordPress.

I can even compare how WordPress performs externally compared to the shackled version provided by the OU. On the one hand there is a desire to treat students like sheep; there is even a suggestion in this chatty-thing between Niall Sclater and Martin Weller than OU undergraduates ought to offer the most basic environment in which to operate. Access is an important point, but you don’t develop players in an orchestra by shutting everyone in a hall and giving them a kazoo. And if that Kazoo requires instructions then it deserves being ignored. Having lived with it for a year the OU e-portfolio My Stuff might best be described as some kind of organ-grinder with the functionality and fun-factor of Microsoft DOS circa 1991.

Martin Weller makes the point about tools that might be used this before, during and after their university experience. There is a set of ICT tools covering word-processing, databases, number manipulation, calendars and communications that are a vital suite of skills; skills that some might already have, or partially have … or not have at all. The problem is in the accommodation of this widely differing skill set.

JV Exposure to new, or similar, experience of better as well as weaker programmes/tools, fashion, peer group, nature of the subject they are studying, their ambitions, who they are, how much time they have, their kit, connection and inclinations, let alone the context of where they are going online.

In this respect Martin Weller is right to say that ‘some kind of default learning environment’ is required first of all.

Caveat: You are going to need people to use the same kind of things in order to be able to communicate.

·University blog vs. their own bog.

·University e-portfolio vs. their own portfolio.

·Elluminate vs. Skype.

·Mac vs. PC,

·Tablet vs. laptop.

·Desktop vs. smartphone.

·Paper vs. e-Reader.

·University Forum vs. Linked in or others.

·Twitter vs. Yammer.

Swimming analogy: training pool, leisure pool, main pool, diving pool, Jacuzzi.

Niall Sclater makes a point about a student using an external blog that doesn’t have a screen reader. Do browsers not offer this as a default now? Whilst I doubt the quality of translation I’ve been having fun putting everything I normally look at into French or loading content onto an e-reader and having it read to me on long car journeys. The beauty of Web 2.0 and Open Learn is that developers love to solve problems then share their work. Open Learn allows these fixers to crack on at a pace that no institution can match.

Perhaps issues regarding passwords is one such problem which is no longer a problem with management systems. Saving passwords etc.: Other problems we have all see rise and fall might include spam. The next problem will be to filter out spam in the form of ‘Twitter Twaddle’ the overwhelming flack of pre-written RSS grabbed institutional and corporate messages that should without exception be ‘flagged’ by readers as spam until it stops. I never had a conversation with a piece of direct mail shoved at me through my letter box, or spam come to that matter. Here largely the walled, university environment in which to study, is protected from the swelling noise of distraction on the outside,

Niall Sclater talks about the Wiki on OU VLE, in Moodle ‘comprises what we consider is the most useful functionality for students. The OU ‘cut out a lot of the bells and whistles you find in MediaWiki’. New to wikis I enjoyed being eased into their use, but like a keen skier, or swimmer, having found my ‘legs’ I wanted incremental progressions. Being compelled to stay in the training pool, or on the nursery slopes, to return to by Kazoo metaphor, is like having Grade 5 flute, but having to play with six novice recorder players in Kindergarten. We move on and therefore what is offered should move with us.

Universities fail abysmally to sell their products to their captive audiences.

Commercial products are sold, invitingly to everyone who comes within earshot. There is a commercial naivety and intellectual arrogance sometimes over stuff created that must be great, because it is the invention of brilliant minds … and that its brilliance will be self-evident even if it sits their within its highly branded overcoat waiting for some time to take an interest and take it out for a test drive. Creators of these tools forget that a quick search using some of the terms related to the affordances of the product being offered will invariably produce something more appealing from the likes of Google, Adobe, Apple or Microsoft.

Nail Sclater points out that some students can be confused by too much functionality. I agree. If there is a product that has far too much functionality, it is Elluminate. And even for a library search, it ought to be as simple as the real thing … you go to a counter and ask for a title. Google gets it right. Keep it simple. Others are at last following suit. Or is the Google God now omnipresent?

Martin Weller stumbles when he says that Nail ‘hits on two arguments against decentralised PLEs by

a)Giving three arguments

a.Authentication

b.Integration

c.Robustness

b)He is meant to be in favour of PLEs.

i.e. academics are incapable of debate because they are, to use of Martin Weller’s favourite terms ‘contextualised’ to sit on the fence. A debate should be a contest, a bullfight ideally with a clear winner, the other party a convincing looser.

You wouldn’t let a soldier chose his weapons then enter the fray. There has to be a modicum of formal training across a variety of tools, and in a controlled, stepped fashion in order to bring people along, communally, for retention and to engender collaboration and participation and all that benefits that come from that.

Who at a time of change is going to declare their role, or department redundant? Brought into a new role, Social Media Manager, I feel I will have succeed in 12 months if I have handed over the keys to others, spread some of the glory about. That’s how I see it, a little bit of everybody’s lives. You can wordprocess, you can do some aspect of Social Media. There are other functions though that long ago were circumvented by clever software. Web 2.0 deplores the gatekeeper. It wants to put everything ‘out there,’ enabling everyone and anyone to make of it what they need and please.

Personally I’ve been loading content, text and images, in diaryland since Sept 1999 and have never had an issue with access, yet I have repeatedly found my OU e-portfolio failed, or that while composing a response in a forum the system fell-down and I lost what I was doing.

Nial Sclater argues in favour of VLEs to ensure usability, access, extension to students, common ground on terms of tools, opportunity and form an assessment point of view, use of content too.

While Martin Weller wants to ‘Support’ – an argument for VLEs. (I’ve now made the point several times that Martin Weller seemed unsure of which side he was on, and by personality and from experience, will never take a side in any case).

We DO want people going away being able to use package X. Do we turn out Roy Castle types who can play loads of instruments not very well, or a virtuoso performer who can at least play the cello well?

JP stepping in ‘as my confidence grew I got to know that and my confidence grew across the year as I got to know that and one or two other very limited and well-supported tools’

Nial Sclater’s point that the same tool is required for collaboration and assessment. This applies also to reading the materials provided and doing the activities so that these are the points of reference for assessments (as currently practised). How can a Tutor mark an assessment that is based on vegetables from a walled Victorian kitchen garden, when the student offers flowers grown from seed in a tub? To return to my sporting analogy, how might I judge a person’s ability to swim after 12 weeks if they’ve been learning how to sail?

Parameters have a purpose.

The greatest resistance to a writer is having no sense of purpose, no goals, no parameters, no set pieces, no one to be on their case. A free for all, perhaps as the new London Business and Finance School is finding, is that just giving students the lot and telling them to get on with it is not conducive to a viable learning experience. (Nor do I think it’ll deliver someone is able to work with others).

Johnny Depp was my line manager

And if real learning occurs, is it no longer ‘virtual?’

Where does reality end?

What part of your subconscious is real?

It happens after all, if yo think it or dream it. We distinguish between learning and e-learning; should we ? Did we distinguish a different reality after the train, after the telephone, after television or a man on the moon?

I am often online, I speak to people through Skype and Elluminate.

Yesterday I likened an Elluminate ‘tutorial’ with seven or eight fellow students as wearing a blindfold in a meeting; yo have to be alert to the presence of others, be sensitive to their interest (or lack of), their hand going up, or not. You are dependent on your only sighted person present – the tutor or moderator.

Over the last month I have been interviewed for a job on Skype. Producers have discussed my work on Skype.

I have been set task to show what I can do, somehow my body of work, the videos and scripts not real enough. Can I still fill a blank sheet of paper with pertinent and persuasive ideas; that’s what they want to know.

My blend of learning uses the conscious and subconscious.

I consciously go to bed with a book, now on Kindle, currently reading through my extensive highlights and notes on two books: Education Psychology (Vygotsky 1926) and ‘Rethinking Pedagogy for the Digital age (Helen Beetham & Rhona Sharpe eds. 2007). As I drift away I may close the Kindle, may slip it safely to one side .. may not. I matters not a jot. I’tll look after itself.

No wonder I find myself dwelling on all matter of things.

Earlier I woke thinking about one of these job interviews: it may be to work on contrast, it may be to work freelance, there are even a couple of full-time posts. All want to know what I have done recently. What they really need to know is what can I do for them next week or month. Or now.

As I return to consciousness I reflect on the interview that was on my mind, only to realise that it is highly unlikely that my future boss Is Johnny Depp. I’ve been duped by my own mind. No worries. The thoughts relate to the real opportunities, not this peculiar mash-up in a virtual world.

I have multiple presences in cyberspace with ‘faces on’ that may be anything from a week to 15 years old. Indeed, I ought to attach an image of the six year old me to a collection of ‘earliest memories.’

I have a couple of existences in Second Life too, though I’ve yet to run with these.

Would I not get more confused over where reality ends?

If it is becoming less easy to distinguish reality from the virtual, how are we supposed to differentiate between learning and e-learning? Is it not the case that both could be going on … but a student, or the students are doing no learning in either situation? That they are elsewhere? That they are not engaged? Yet hours later, consciously or otherwise, a recollection of a ‘lesson’ may produce a learning moment, may generate ‘stuff’ a learning object in that person’s consciousness?

 

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