ALT-C 2009 Day One Roundup

Well, I am exhausted! It has been a busy day. I don’t feel like I’ve done anything, and yet it feels like I haven’t stopped.

Mike Wesch’s keynote this morning was very interesting. I’ve seen his youtube videos before and the content of his talk seemed very familiar. I don’t think I’ve attended one of his talks before, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I have.

While I don’t necessarily agree with any conclusions he may make, I did find his research fascinating. I’ll go so far as to agree that technology and media do shape how we see the world and how we let the world see us.

There did appear to be the insinuation that the lecture theatre will always limit, to some extent, how far we can change learning and teaching. I suppose it is inevitable that every part of the learning environment imposes a limit of some kind, but does the lecture theatre impose a harsh enough limit that we need to break free of it? He didn’t necessarily say that, and I wouldn’t necessarily say that. ut at times like this (end of a long day at conference) I am reminded of my student days and I now (as then) don’t want to see a lecture theatre for a long time. However, two more days to go, so I’ll have to grin and bear it 😉

As for the rest of the day, there are a few things I want to pick up on.

Last year I attended an ‘audio feedback’ talk, and was very much taken with the idea. This year’s feed-forward paper renewed my interest in forms of feedback that differ from ‘boring’ text. There was, however, an important caveat that I had not thought of before. Audio feedback is a different medium from textual feedback, and therefore does (after the paper today I believe it does) require a slightly different set of rules to go with it. A different way of communicating is needed. Critical audio feedback delivered in an un-careful (so much feedback to record, recording teacher is getting bored/impatient) tone of voice can be very damaging for the receiver to the point of destorying their confidence rather than helping them improve. Speech is a much more powerful means of communicating than text. While there are dangers with text (difficult to deliver a tone of voice which can totally change the meaning of words) there are similar dangers with speech if you aren’t watching your tone or are more critical than you are positive.

When it came to the video feedback, video footage recorded live in the Biology lab of instructors walking around talking to students, asking and answering questions, I saw much potential. Such students did not recognise the value of the feedback at the point in which they received it, but looking back got the benefit of the feedback to themselves, as well as all the other feedback to colleagues. In addition the video played a valuable role in providing instructors lab instruction best practice (where done well) and opportunities to see where improvements could be made (where they see flaws).

Paper 132, the two year switch to Moodle was a very rewarding session. Many, if not all, of the experiences spoken of, could easily have been Kent’s story. One other member of the audience raised his hand at the end to say that he could hhave given the exact same talk, so similar was it to his experience too. One flaw in the project plan was that training had been given too early to their staff. Training that had been mandatory and unavoidable, with the result being that refresher courses had to be run by the time Moodle arrived. Looking at Kent’s Moodle project, we planned similarily early training sessions (although not mandatory) and as a result of poor attendance we have had to run more and more training sessions running into September (the month we said we would not run any!). The result is

  1. an absolutely insane (approx 6 hours a day, every day, 2 weeks straight) training workload for us (grrr!!) at a critical point of the year when we should be free to deal with day-to-day VLE queries (of which there are so many before a new year)
  2. staff that receive training very close the the point at which they are putting it into practice and, hopefully, not needing refresher courses.

Is (2) the silver lining or everything working out for the best? I’ll let others be the judge.

Paper 306, the SLE. It’s interesting to see people looking at the big picture. After implemennting Moodle it would be easy for them (and would be easy for us) to see Moodle as the final and sole product. But instead they are only looking to Moodle as a core set of tools, and specifically relying on a range of other tools to fill in where Moodle may have a feature, but doesn’t do it best.

This is just a very shallow scratch in the surface of Day One, and I am sure that by tomorrow I’ll have forgotten more than I will remember.

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