Friday, October 17, 2008

CCK08: Too Much Openness?

One of the questions that came up in Alec Couros's excellent presentation in the Wednesday afternoon Elluminate session was whether there can be too much openness in this kind of networked, massively open teaching and learning environment.  It is a good question, and one that gets at some of the aspects of CCK08 that I've found less than cozily enjoyable: the back channel chatter.   Although my professor's p.o.v. makes me have a knee-jerk response to shush chatter, I know from my meeting participant's and student's p.o.v. that it is not necessarily disrespectful or off-topic, but can be a way of actively participating and creating connections among the group members (albeit not all members simultaneously).  

But in Wednesday's session, the text chat was a separate discussion that did not riff off of the audio presentation.  It was so distracting to me, a self-confessed text junkie who can't not read something (which is why the ever-more cluttered television screen is driving crazy), that I had to push the window off to the side so I couldn't see the text.  I thought it was rude, and was surprised to see who was doing the text chatting.

I have, however, decided to stick with CCK08, as a mediocre student, muttering to myself, writing my comments about the experience in the margins of my notebook/here on this blog.  The ideas are intriguing even if I don't burn for the details of the theory of connectivism, and the questions raised are important ones.  

In particular, I have been thinking of one of the themes that has recurred: digital identity (or digital citizenship, which isn't my favorite term), and how my students may or may not be thinking about how the traces they leave online might affect them later on.  I for one am glad that there wasn't a permanent, public face to my college years, and part of the separateness of the college experience as a place of experimentation and making mistakes that, certainly, can have consequences, but also can be separate from the "real" world of adulthood and worklife has been lost.   It's like we're all a little more stuck living in a small town.


arieliondotcom said...

Which session did you participate in? If it was the evening session as I expect the reason the chat was off topic was because Couros was giving a word-for-word repeat of the earlier session. It also was not on the topic many had expected. So those who had been at the earlier session had heard him already and were there to get other input from each other.

Also I think you missed the ciontext of the issue of openness. The discussion was about security and privCy and identity. Nothing to do with those who were allowed to chat or whether they should. I hope next time you are in this situation you will find out how to filter out those chatters you don't want to read while keeping the chat of others, especially Stephen and George. You are denying yourself rich resources for no reason.

Steve Sorden said...

Not to be argumentative, but I have to admit that I was a little shocked by it too. I've also complained about it in some of my own posts. Some of us rush home to see the second viewing because it is hard to watch the first one at work. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I have to say that I think it is a little rude to the speaker. It is also not cognitively sound. As we are learning with texting and driving, multitasking is not really possible. I had to close the window myself so that I could focus on Alec's presentation.

It is true, though, that we are free to close the window. I just think that I would be a little thrown by it if I ever had to present under those conditions.

Steve Mackenzie said...

Hi to ProfLL and more of a response to Steve.

I was not at the meeting, but it does not sound at all good and does sound totally disrespectful.

the beauty of the synchronous environment, especially when used more in an interactive learning way, is that the variety of tools does help to keep a variety of different learners engaged, and when the side discussions are relevent it adds to the learning experience.

I think most people are initially overwhelmed by the amount of mulititasking, but eventually become more comfortable with it.

I have only attended the first synchronous meeting. i quickly decided in this context thetextchatwas not much use to me - mainly because too many people, too many opinions on the same thing.

In smaller groups, say 15 it would work better

cheers Steve

Alec Couros said...

Hi all,
What you perceive as rudeness, I perceive differently. This backchannel chat, on that is not directly associated with the speaker, has been going on for quite some time. I noticed it in my online course, I notice it when I attend sessions at Edtech Talk, and I have noticed it at just about any Elluminate session I attend. As a speaker, I have never taken offense to this. In fact, I encourage the chat if people are indeed engaged and are learning. And it really changes the dynamic of what is important in many of these sessions ... student learning first, where what the speaker is saying is somewhat background 'noise'. This is not to say people do not take in some of the speaker's important points ... instead, they use certain pieces when relevant, and attach it to their own experience.

I prefer it this way. This was also a topic in my recent online course, and several students also thought it felt rude doing it. And I am sure many speakers would be offended in many cases, but I think we just have to think closely about what is happening, where learning occurs, and how presentations invoke learning.


Alec Couros said...

I should also say, that I agree with you though ... that learning this way is not for everyone, and if one wants to filter out the chatter(s), that does become difficult in a session like this. Thanks again for listening to the presentation.

Steve Sorden said...

I definitely agree when the chat window is used as a reflective and thoughtful way to interact with the speaker. If you look at the recording of the second session, however, the chat was off topic and conversational much of the time. When a guest speaker takes the time to prepare a presentation and takes time out of his or her day to speak with a group, then I think the group owes it to the speaker to stay engaged or at least not distract. I guess for me, it is a larger question of civility and manners. There is always time afterwards to hold a post-session chat for those who want to continue the conversation or take it in a new direction. Also, there is probably a difference in expectations between a talk-show format like EdTechTalk and an invited speaker academic presentation. :-)

BTW – Great presentation Alec. Lots of things to think about, especially on the differences between a PLE and a PLN, if there are any.

Prof LL said...

I'm relieved Alec didn't think it was rude, but I guess I still do. I respectively disagree with Alec when he says that the speaker is background noise and student learning is foregrounded. What about teaching focus? What about listening and being surprised by what you hear, rather than chatting with your peers? Isn't there a point at which decenteredness makes it too hard for people to find the center again?

I also think, as I tried to suggest in my original post, that there is a difference between doodling in the margins of one's notebook and whispering in the back of the class; one only involves your own attention and the other requires others. As a teacher, I've seen students lose their way back to the center of the learning because they become so involved in the social activities that of course are going on in the traditional classroom, especially in mine, which have a lot of group and independent work. In the massively open environment, I see this pitfall writ large, because I am facing a version of it myself.

As I think about how I would want to employ some of these tools in my own teaching, especially thinking about the possibilities and pitfalls of the dual voice and text modes available in SL or in Elluminate that really have no parallel in brick and mortar classrooms, I think I would want to keep the text and voice conversations linked, perhaps with a designated text chat moderator role rotating among the students.

And, hey, thanks for reading and responding. I am completely thrilled by the comments here on the blog!

Alec Couros said...

@prof re: your disagreement "the speaker is background noise and student learning is foregrounded", I think I would agree with you in many cases, but I think it also depends on the learning situation that has been built. You (and the others here) have made me rethink this a bit, and I may have to blog it soon ... or at the very least, bring it up in the discussion of my open grad course next January. I think a balance must be gained among attribution factors: teaching styles, learning styles/preferences, and civility/protocol/manners.

Thanks again for blogging this, and thanks for the compliments (and for sticking up for me:-) ).

All the best.