Created by Ruth Elliott

Welcome! Join me as I reflect on my learning journey with Web 2.0 tools. I'm sure I will find bandwagons to jump on along the way. Let's enjoy the trip.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Surfing the Wild Ride in Elluminate Sessions #eci831

Last Tuesday evening I participated in Dr. Alec Couros' virtual classroom. Dr. Couros is a professor at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. He has 20 for-credit students and around 200 not-for-credit students in this graduate level class titled: Social Media & Open Education. (#eci831) (To learn more, read my blog post at .) I am delighted to be one of the 200 from around the world who are benefiting from this class. Alec is bringing in some ex

Surfing BreaksImage by via Flickr

cellent speakers (via live video, of course). Students are writing blog posts about the class. (Learn more at Class information, It's not too late to join.

I have participated in two Elluminate sessions in this class. (Elluminate: Prior to these two sessions, I have been part of three earlier Elluminate sessions. When you truly participate and engage in those Elluminate sessions, they can be a really wild ride. It's like trying to surf (when you don't know how). The waves just keep on coming. Sometimes you jump on your board and try to ride the wave (this is when you're typing your chat so fast that you feel as though your fingers could fall off). Sometimes you lay on your stomach and just hang on to the board (this is when you simply lurk and listen, trying to take it all in. You may mutter a little or do some heavy sighing but only in the privacy of your own home). Other times you fall off and get eaten by a shark (this is when you get so sidetracked by your private thoughts or by a side conversation with someone that you stop listening to the main conversation).

Boogie BoardingImage by therealglen via Flickr

Let me share with you some of my experiences from the 5 Elluminate sessions that I have been part of. In the first session (with Edmonton social media guru Mack Male [Twitter handle @mastermaq]), I participated with my classmates and professor in an online class from the University of Alberta. There were around 16 participants that evening. I knew most of them from our discussions in the online class. Mack shared with screen casts and slides to illustrate his talk about social media. The backchannel chat was going fast and furious. However, since there were only 16 of us, it was manageable. Mack picked up on most of the questions that we asked. I do remember that at one point I asked a question. It got lost in the shuffle. Much later on, one of my online classmates asked (in the chat) whether my question had been answered. At that point the question was answered. That evening, each participant went away feeling exhilarated. There was no moderator of our discussion but we watched out for each other. There were only 16 of us in the session.

The next session that I was part of was a session with George Siemens and Dave Cormier. It was held just before the Open Education Conference in Vancouver. I know the hashtag was #smti but have forgotten what that stands for. I was totally overwhelmed during that session. I rarely participated in the backchannel chat. I did not know anyone else who was participating. The ideas were new to me. I was struggling to understand the concepts and I had nobody to talk to. Since it was a conversation between George Siemens and Dave Cormier, they had some "private jokes". Maybe everyone else listening was privy to the jokes but I wasn't. At one point, Dave or George referred to Web 2.0 in a derogatory manner (Something about Reilly and picking up on a name one of them had created.) Since I had just completed a Web 2.0 tool class, my ears perked up. Here were two social media big-wigs decrying the use of the term Web 2.0. Why? So I asked, "What's the joke?" because they were chuckling over this concept. Dave Cormier replied (in the chat), "what joke?". I tried to explain but never did get a reply. I went away from that Elluminate session feeling excited with the ideas but disappointed because I never did receive an answer for my question. I still haven't received an answer so if any of you know the answer, please let me know.

The third Elluminate session for me was in another online class from the University of Alberta. The professor was introducing some of the tools for the class. It was similar to a face-to-face lecture class. There were fewer than 10 people in the session. It was informative but not exhilarating.

The 4th Elluminate session that I participated in took place on September 15th--the first session of #eci831 that was open to non-registered students. Alec Couros introduced many of the tools that we would use during the class (Google Reader, Tweetdeck). Alec did present lots of ways of using the tools that were new to me. However, since I knew about much of what he was talking about, I could follow along. I even stood up and surfed the waves on my boogie board. I made comments, asked and answered questions. I heard many people's confusion as they plaintively bleated, "What's ____________________?" I tried to hear those cries and answer them if I knew the answer.

(Just a little aside here: I am taking another online class in Inquiry Learning. In this type of learning, students need a little background in a subject before they can begin to choose their own avenues of questioning and learning. During the provision of background, there can be a lot of discomfort because it is all new to the students. I could see this type of discouragement and frustration exhibited by some of the other students in #eci831. According to inquiry learning theory, these feelings are totally normal when faced with radically new concepts.)

Now on to my 5th experience with an Elluminate session: That would have been last Tuesday evening (Sept. 22). Fortunately I had read Dr. Richard Schwier's paper ahead of time. I had some ideas about where his presentation was going that evening. This helped me to cope with the three things that competed for my attention: Dr. Schwier's mini video, the slides of the presentation, and the backchannel chatroom. Once again that evening, there were approximately 80 people in attendance at the class. I assume that the 20 registered students were present. This means that they were competing for time and attention with the 60 non-registered students.

(Another aside here: This past week Shel Israel, author of Twitterville, was participating in a visit with a class somewhere. He publicized this visit on Twitter and invited people to attend via Twitter. I was following the chat (using the hashtag Shel provided). Shel's intention was that he would tweet with the students in the class while the other visitors would simply lurk and listen. Instead, the visitors began to overwhelm the discussion because they kept piping up with new questions or comments. Shel had to tell them, "This discussion is only for people in the class.")

That evening I really empathized with those people who are taking this class for credit. I think that their questions were getting lost in the hurly-burly of the crowd of others talking over each other. I think that some of them were feeling overwhelmed by the three streams of inpu

The ConversationImage by soylentgreen23 via Flickr

t hurtling their way (video, screencast, backchannel chat). They want to participate in the conversation.

(Another thought I had at the time has to do with the "banking model" of school. This is really completely unrelated to the logistics of an Elluminate session. I heard one student say that she wanted to hear the professor's voice. She may have joined this class because of Dr. Alec Couros. She wanted to learn from him. Now there's all these other people taking up Dr. Couros' air space. What is going on?!? Last year I had a similar thought in my first graduate level class. The professor of the class (the person with the PhD) kept asking the students to share about their lives as teachers and their thoughts and opinions on the ideas in the class. I kept waiting for the prof to speak up and tell us what we should be thinking about those ideas. This was the model from my under-graduate education. I felt ripped off because I was paying for the class, to hear this PhD person talk, and instead I was listening to my peers. Eventually I came to see that my professor was a constructivist who was encouraging us to meld our experience with our new learnings to build our own knowledge and concepts. She knew that each of us came in with our own funds of knowledge. We were not empty banks waiting for her to fill us. In the same way in this #eci831 class, we each come with our own understandings and diverse backgrounds. We each need to take new concepts and meld them with what we already know. It's not Alec Couros' voice we need to hear more of but that inner voice within us that says "Wow, I love that concept. It really fits with me. " or "What in the world? I don't get it. I always thought that ..." In this way, I grapple with the ideas and confiscate a few for my own.)

So how can #eci831 become more manageable for those of us participating in it?

1) Discussion moderator: I think it might be good to have someone to moderate the discussion, to pick up on those important questions or address people's confusion.

2) Some form of I.D. for registered students: I don't want to be like those outsiders who horned in on Shel Israel's discussions with a class. I know that I am an invited guest but I believe that the registered students need to have a voice. They are the minority group in this situation. Could they have a different colour of font or could they put an asterisk before their class name? I don't want their questions and opinions to be lost in the press of the crowd.

I thank Alec Couros and his registered students for allowing the rest of us the privilege of being part of this class. I am enjoying it immensely. Whether I'm standing up surfing the wave, just hanging on to the board and trying to survive, or even being eaten by a shark, I feel really alive (dendrites growing and zinging in my brain) every Tuesday night.

P.S. I came across this blog post about a teacher's use of Elluminate in an elementary school setting. She used it to teach students about the instruments of the symphony.
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  1. Hi Ruth,

    Sorry about that lack of an answer. As you say, those elluminate sessions are a wild ride. I remember saying "what joke" and never saw the answer... I'd hoped in the restatement of the question someone else would answer.

    That answering is something i'm very accustomed to during our shows on edtechtalk. All you needed to do was post it here :)

    The term "web 2.0" was branded by Tim O'reilly in 2004 and is, really, just a nice piece of marketing. The wikipedia article has some nice information on it and does a good job telling the backstory.

    The web has always been participatory, in one way or the other. Forums are user generated and they've been around as long as the net has. OLD bloggers like george get fussy about the term because they were 'being' the thing branded by web2.0 long before people started talking about it.

    The term itself tends to distract from some very important issues buried in the concept. Relative oppenness, ideas of power and commerce. Thanks for telling us about our being exclusive. We try to keep the show fun by engaging with each other, but we'll try and remember to let everyone in on the joke :P

  2. One more comment.

    It's the responsibility of the participants to self organize. More experienced members should be helping others... this is how community forms and how we decentralize the power structures in the open web. Moderators tend to restrict creativity and impede emergent thought.

  3. In M00C, I've never been able to sort out who's paying tuition and who's not. Whether that is good or bad is debatable. Some credit students like having the lead and some students prefer being the chorus. How are the elluminate sessions weighted? Is it about showing up or is it about demonstrating that the student did the pre-work and formulated relevant questions? When I was a non-credit student in a credit choral singing course, the talented students who sang solos did not receive higher marks for being divas because in choral singing, the ability to blend is equally valued. In Connectivity, is this about buying the instructor's time or is it about practicing the skills?

  4. @ruth it is neither of those things for me. My job (in my mind) for assessement is to allow the student to know whether they are getting somewhere and to, in the end, prove whether they have grasped what the course was designed to do. I don't particularly care how they do that.

    People taking the course should understand what kind of course they are taking. It is an open course that allows people to get a sense of what it's like to learn/know in a connected world. If you do not wish this... you should take a different course.

  5. On Sept. 26, the day I posted this reflection on Elluminate sessions, I had an interesting Twitter discussions with Alec Couros. He brought up some very valid issues and concepts that I had not thought of. With his permission, I am reproducing our Twitter chat below:

    @courosa My blog post on Elluminate sessions in online classes #eci831
    9:42 AM Sep 26th from web

    @RIElliott TY for post, will answer in detail, but think critically; perhaps not being distinguishable as non or 4-credit is part of plan?
    10:11 AM Sep 26th from TweetDeck

    @RIElliott We are only grouped into those camps inside of school. I want students to see what it means to break the chains of inst. learning
    10:13 AM Sep 26th from TweetDeck

    @RIElliott and the part you do not see (as non-credit) is our private communications (via email), which puts ur perspective at disadvantage.
    10:14 AM Sep 26th from TweetDeck

    @courosa Aha. There's a method to your madness.
    10:15 AM Sep 26th from web in reply to courosa

    @RIElliott funny, that's exactly what I was going to title my blog post on the subject. :-)
    10:16 AM Sep 26th from TweetDeck

    @RIElliott So, the confusion and chaos is intentional. Students learn by understanding new enviro, not by remaining passive/being coddled.
    10:18 AM Sep 26th from TweetDeck

    @courosa My post is about the tip of the iceberg--the part I see during the Elluminate class sessions. Twitter talk and email is invisible.
    10:18 AM Sep 26th from web in reply to courosa

    @RIElliott Of course, and the rest of the iceberg will slowly become apparent. It takes time, perspective, and hindsight to see it all.
    10:19 AM Sep 26th from TweetDeck

    @courosa I trust you that all will be revealed in time. In the meantime I will enjoy the waves and even the occasional shark bite.
    10:20 AM Sep 26th from web in reply to courosa

    @RIElliott and thanks for coming along for the ride and reflecting on the experience. We do appreciate it.
    10:21 AM Sep 26th from TweetDeck

    Thanks Alec for the comments. Wanted to share them and your perspective with others who have read this blog post.

  6. Thanks Dave Cormier, davy boy, and Ruth Demitroff for your comments,

    Thanks Dave for clearing up the Web 2.0 thing for me. I suspected it was something like that. Now, I want to whisper this to you: I get the sense that Tim O'Reilly is in this business for the money and maybe the power, too. It seems to me that you, George, and Alec are in it because you really believe in openness and want to encourage us to join you on your journey. Count me in.

    As far as the actual mechanics of Elluminate sessions, I revel in them now. I'm sure if I did join the one with 2000 people in it, I may be a passive participant--clinging to my boogie board. However, with the 80 people that usually attend the #eci831 sessions, I can speak up and help others as need be.

    I am always very interested in arranging things and organizing them so that everyone has the best possible opportunity to succeed and thrive. However, in another class I'm taking, about inquiry learning, I am realizing that discomfort, confusion, and uncertainty have an important role in learning. I think the latest term is "disruptive". When your way is blocked or progress is impeded in some way, you need to look for something new. That is when you learn.