I just spent a fantastic three days with Etienne Wenger at a series of workshops and conferences, and he was kind enough to give my work at LCC this plug….
Boud, D, (2009) Assessment, Experience Reflection keynote address
Cann, A, Badge,J, Moore, D and Neylon, C
(2010). Google Wave in Education ALT online newsletter http://newsletter.alt.ac.uk/jxyzb5e3yo3 15 January, 2010 (last accessed 15 January, 2010)
Cross, J, (2004) Learnscape Architecture
http://www.elearnmag.org/subpage.cfm?section=best_practices&article=50-1 (Last accessed Feb 11th 2010)
Educause (2009) 7 Things You Should Know About Google Wave 29 October, 2009 (Last accessed Dec 12th 2009)
Laurillard, D. (2006), Rethinking University Teaching: a conversational framework for the effective use of learning technologies, London, Routledge Falmer.
Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Jennings, J, (2010) Google WAVE for Education CESI Conference 2010 Portlaoise College, slideshare presentation (Last accessed Feb 11th 2010)
http://lifehacker.com/5272048/google-wave-is-what-email-would-look-like-if-it-were-invented-today may 28 2009 (Last accessed Dec 12th 2009)
Roschelle, J. & Teasley, S. (1995) The construction of shared knowledge in collaborative problem solving. In C. O’Malley (Ed.) Computer-supported collaborative learning, Springer Verlag, Berlin, Germany, pp. 69- 197.
Tinsley, R Lebak, T, (2009) A Collaborative Learning Model to Empower Teachers to be Reflective Practitioners
Saljo, R, (2009)Technology, mediation and access to the social memory
http://www.cal-conference.elsevier.com/speaker_bio_roger_saljo.htm (Last accessed Feb 11th 2010)
Schon, D. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner. New York: Basic Books.
Schon, D. (1987). Educating the Reflective Practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Stahl, g, (2005), Human-Human Interaction and Group Learning
Stahl, (2009) Chat on Collaborative Knowledge Building
Wang, F., & Hannafin, M. J. (2005). Design-based research and technology-enhanced learning environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 53(4), 5-23.
Wegerif, R, (2006) A dialogical understanding of the relationship between CSCL and teaching thinking skills
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: a guide to managing knowledge.
Wenger, E, (2009), Digital Habitats, stewarding technology for communities, CPSquare, Portland OR
The student feedback generated a considerable amount of information, most of it positive. On the negative side, the issues raised were the lack of an automatic notification when a wave is added to, confusing organisation within waves and of a series of waves, and ‘information overload’ which one student referred to as a ‘Google Tsunami’. However, participants made useful suggestions to address these concerns, for example working in smaller groups to make the interactions more manageable, and better organisation of waves into folders and within waves into different sections of a wave for different parts of a project idea.
This response was typical of the survey,
‘I think Wave is very good for us, allows us to know what everyone else is doing, to help each other with ideas/suggestions/experiences and to get feedback. On the other side, and to be honest, I don’t have time to read all of it, I have a look to new posts but can’t really go into all of them and have a think about them, so maybe I should just have a look to some of them so I can really contribute something useful? Realistically, there is too much info for me to go through (unless I forget I have a life!) Is this the same for other people?’
Another participant saw it as a
‘fantastic way to work in a collaborative way. whilst allowing a fast response. I think that we should keep using this as an effective tools for collaborative cooperation. In fact, the wave becomes a wiki. This could be a great to display collaborative projects.’
Interestingly, in the light of the idea of learning as a dialogue, one respondent picked up on this theme, highlighting Wave’s ‘function as an editable conversation piece’, noting that he and a colleague had used it to great effect to work together on a joint project. His co-creator noted that it ‘leaves a trail that we can each reference and amend over time’. This extended temporality of Wave emerged as a key feature, with one student noting that it creates a ‘logical and easy to navigate log where we can share each other’s project ideas and provide/receive feedback in a way other platforms can’t do so easily’. However, they also noted that the sheer volume of activity could be overwhelming, maintaining that
‘For everyone to feel the benefits though it’s going to be more of a challenge. In confirmation of what others have already noted there is a lot of information to catch up on and keep up to date with.’
An investigation into the content of the waves revealed a significant amount of critical engagement with each other’s work, at a level rarely encountered in more traditional face-to-face tutorials. Additionally, there was a lot of very practical down to earth advice and suggestions for further research and links. This combination of critical feedback and supportive sharing of contacts made for a very rich and stimulating exchange, in which each individual’s project was moved forward in a process of engagement with the community in a collaborative endeavour.
‘Our experience of space is becoming a dynamic mix of physical and virtual relationships, of synchronous and asynchronous connections, where our togetherness is fleeting at the same time as it is becoming ‘always on’’. A range of different experiences of space and time becomes an integral part of our digital habitat’. Etienne Wenger (2009, p 175)
Many of our findings on this research process relate back to those in the literature on CSCL, particularly reflecting Wenger’s insights into the ‘dynamic fluidity of togetherness and separation’ (2009, p 175) For example, our students suggested that working in smaller groups would be beneficial, which coincides with Stahl’s findings that in groups of 3-4 the ‘construction of knowledge becomes much more of a group achievement, resulting from the intricate semantic intertwining of postings and references rather than being attributable to individuals’ (2009). He notes that in his analysis of chat logs he can see ‘cognition taking place as knowledge artifacts build up, as words follow upon each other in subtly choreographed sequences to construct new ideas’ (2009); a process I observed taking place in our students use of Wave, as they interacted with each others ideas in a critically supportive environment, making suggestions and comments that were confident, useful and reflective. The depth of response was far greater than one expects in traditional group tutorial settings, when in my experience participants generally limit their responses to generalizations at the level of ‘that’s a good idea’, and relay almost entirely on the tutor for validation of their ideas and guidance on how to proceed. However, in this experiment with Wave, although my presence as a tutor was seen as significant, and my interjections valued, the peer to peer support that obtained was as important in shaping and forming participants project ideas to an extent rare in a face to face group tutorial environment. This process of what Boud calls the ‘calibration of judgment’ (2009) is an essential part of becoming a practitioner; the ability to decide whether a project or idea is good without the validation of an academic staff member is vital. This interaction of different critical viewpoints is a key enabler of learning, as Stahl notes
‘it is precisely the friction between disparate perspectives that sparks productive knowledge building in the collaborative effort to clarify and/or resolve difference. The kinds of rhetorical and logical argumentation that arise in small-group discourse dealing with misunderstandings, alternative proposals or disagreements are then internalized in the reflection skills of individuals and in the controversies of communities. There- by, small-group cognition provides the origin for and middle ground between individual cognition and community knowledge building.’
Although Wave is still in a beta form, as an enabler of dialogue it offers considerable potential for collaborative learning, offering significant potential for collaborative peer-to-peer learning. It’s temporality as somewhere between synchronous and asynchronous makes it more immediate yet more reflective that either real-time web conferencing or discussion forums, and the ease of introducing media into waves means that a wide variety of research materials can be combined easily and quickly, creating artifacts that can be referred back to in the future. The replayability of Wave also allows for the research to be unpacked, giving unparalled insights into the thought processes of students.
In conclusion, I would like to note that the whole experience of introducing Wave to the course was in some sense a validation of our course philosophy in the use of learning technology to support individual and collaborative engagement. We explored Wave together, as a learning community, combining course staff, students and learning technologists from CLTAD, embarking on an iterative process of seeing how useful this new platform might be in resolving a pedagogical need that we had previously identified collectively. The fact that the initiative initially came from the students themselves, their subsequent engagement with it, and that their comments and reflections on it validate the existing research on CSCL environments is a testament to the adaptability and digital literacy of the participants on the course, as one participant eloquently summed up
‘While we might complain sometimes about how many new tools we have on the go and the confusion it creates, I’m really starting to see the benefits of all of this experimentation.’
This process of experimentation, feedback, evaluation and then improvement is an ongoing one that will inform our future use of Wave, as it does all of the various platforms we use to deliver the course.
We use several interactive spaces for communication and collaboration on the masters course, including the Wimba live classroom for web conferencing for tutorials, lectures and seminars, reflective blogs for collaborative learning, a wiki for group research and a social networking site called Ning for discussion forums and social presence. Our experience of introducing new platforms is that we do it gradually, and do not force everyone on the course to adopt a new technology in the beginning, but rather allow the ‘early adopters’ to explore the platform and help work out how best to use it. However, we do not simply try out every new tool that emerges, we only explore something new if we can collectively identify a need for it in terms of a pedagogic function or requirement that is missing or could be improved.
One of the key activities that the students engage in on the course is initiating, researching, developing and then executing a practice project. As part of this, they have to brainstorm their ideas to ‘test them out’ with others, including their tutors and their peers. We do this typically in live group tutorial sessions, and by using their blogs and discussion forums on the Ning site. However, between the active, live energy of the tutorial and the passive, reflective thinking of the forums, there seemed to be something missing, a space where ideas could be posted and responded to quickly, a space somewhere between synchronous and asynchronous. There was also a real need for something to fill the gap between the tutorial sessions especially during the non-teaching weeks on the course. Having identified this need for a new collaborative space, we didn’t at that point actually have a platform that would fill the gap.
Google Wave was introduced in late 2009, and initially I felt that introducing Wave would have been too much for the students to take on board as it was such a new technology, largely untested despite considerable hype about its potential as a radical new form of internet based communication. However, several students began to explore it themselves and then suggested that we try it out. We therefore began to experiment with Wave as a space for interaction and real-time collaboration, learning together how to use it to enhance the peer feedback process. Initially we decided to use it for collaborative project brainstorming and concept development, both for a practice project and a research project that the students were working on at that time. Altogether 23 students out of 27 now have Wave accounts, and collectively they have started 37 waves. The level of interaction and participation on many of the waves has been high, with one reaching 82 posts, whilst others had 59, 44, 35 and 27 for example.
I posted some tips and hints on using Wave initially, but didn’t carry out any formal session on using it, partly because it was a very new platform for me as well as for the students but also because I didn’t want to pre-empt the ways the students might use it themselves.. We invited Lindsay Jordan, the educational technology developer at CLTAD, to join in the waves as well as she was very interested in exploring how it worked.
Most participants posted a summary of their idea as their first post, and then others, including the course team, added their comments, feedback, ideas, links and suggestions for further research or development of the project. This often included reference to other students’ previous work as in the exchange below,
Hi B yea I was just thinking about getting a thread going. Cheers for the tweets – I found a good wiki page about Koreans in Japan. I’m gonna make it my first step to look into finding some Zainichi…. dunno how though! I think the first step for me is to start the project very basically (a bit like Daniels Durban project – simple portraits of a wide demographic with some soundbites of their thoughts and feelings. Once I get a few contacts or interesting/wiling people I can build on developing themes and issues from there I reckon…….
Sounds great. I was just reading about Zainichi. Interesting stuff. Also like the approach your taking. I’m finding it hard to choose an angle this early in, so I’m kind of thinking the same. Tonight I’m going to meet some comfort women at a fundraiser and see if I can get them to agree to tell their stories and have portraits done.’
In some cases, several ideas were posted and feedback was sought as to which was the best, and in several cases participants made use of the instant poll feature of wave to get people to vote on their ideas. One particularly effective example was one student who asked if they should shoot their project in black and white or colour, and embedded a poll to gauge people’s responses, the verdict was to stay with colour.
Students uploaded images from work in progress or inspiration from other projects, links to their work hosted elsewhere, videos, maps, and a whole variety of other links, creating a very rich array of media inputs. In several cases participants photographed or scanned physical objects they had been using in planning their projects, one participant uploaded an image of a notice board where he had mapped out his ideas. Many of the waves were extensive, at the time of writing one that was used for two students for work on a collaborative project plan contained over 3900 words posted over three weeks, whilst another ran to 2500 words in 82 posts in the same time frame with 13 participants, and included images, videos, maps and other media as embedded objects. Only six of these posts were from the tutor, and 32 were from the posts originator, so 44 were from other students on the course. The level of feedback varied from very practical information and links to other research or projects that were relevant, to some very complex critiques of the ideas, as this excerpt in response to a project on the stereotypes of the Middle East demonstrates
‘I really like the idea of Rethinking-Islam, but I’m sure their have been projects in the past that havent really rethought Islam and just reinforced stereotypes I think this is becasue of course the sterotypes are some aspect of them do exist and if you are an outsider you are always going to see things through a window. Youre challenge will be how to fracture these cliches; this could be by working on a personal , intimate level, through Islmaic people you know or are familiar with, so to already gain some empathy? or possibly looking at people from your own country and area who have converted to Islam or lost faith even and the reasons why?’
This level of engagement and critical advice on each others’ projects is hard to generate in conventional group tutorial sessions, and this excerpt shows a sophisticated and deep level of engagement with the process of giving feedback, referring to both the posts on Wave and a live tutorial session and focusing not on the specific project at hand but on a deeper level on the motivation behind being an artist in the first instance,
‘rather than give advice or suggestions on how you are shooting, the possible presentation of the work etc something else occurred to me after reading through your wave and being in the tutorial yesterday. I take your points (and the tutor’s) that you shouldn’t have to over explain your photographs and that they should communicate with their audience as they are but vital to this is to know what you are trying to say/communicate about this subject matter you have chosen? I am sure you have lots to say about it as this appears to be a long term project for you and is therefore close to you and your motivations so I suggest tapping into some of those reasons that are compelling you to make the work in the beginning?’
We quickly realised that the almost synchronous nature of wave was potentially powerful, but equally that its lack of a notification push out of new posts and comments meant that it was hard to know when to go and look at Wave to see if anything new had been posted. We therefore established that one day a week would be ‘Wave day’ when the students and myself would endeavour to access Wave regularly during the day to give feedback and advice. At first this was on Tuesdays, but we quickly moved to Fridays as this meant that they could have a tutorial on a Tuesday with a live session and then get further feedback the following Friday via Wave.
After using wave for a month, we initiated a feedback and evaluation of its usefulness. Together with Lindsay from CLTAD, we developed a set of questions to engender feedback, but before posting them onto Wave we simply asked the participants to give their reflections in a wave without predetermined questions. After a week of feedback, we posted the more formal questions. This generated a significant amount of feedback with 10 people responding in total. I then analysed this feedback, and implemented the main recommendations, which included breaking the group up into ‘surf parties’; smaller groups who would read each other’s waves more carefully; and suggestions for how to better organise waves internally, separating out the various parts of the project idea from each other to make them easier to navigate.
‘If we now situate knowledge building in groups or communities, we can observe the construction and evolution of the knowledge in the artifacts that are produced, in the sentences spoken, sketches drawn and texts inscribed…..building collaborative knowledge, making shared meaning, ….and creating significant artifacts are foundational activities in group processes’ Gerry Stahl (2009)
The emerging field of CSCL focuses on investigating how the affordances of learning technologies can impact on small group collaborative work. Stahl, Koschmann and Suthers identify several key features of CSCL environments, in that they are reconfigurable and dynamic, and that in their ability to document the interactions and process of collaboration they ‘turn communication into substance’ (Dillenbourg, 2005), providing a ‘persistent record of interaction and collaboration as a resource for intersubjective learning’ (2006, p12). Different platforms have different orientations, as Wenger (2009) et al maintain, some are more suited to informal, collaborative learning whist others orient more towards individual, formal learning. Stahl notes that
‘Different technologies can provide different kinds of support for the construction and maintenance of shared conceptions. ….. Designers cannot predict many ways that these spaces will be used without observing actual groups of interacting students trying to work out their tasks situated within specific environments’ (2008, P6)
The knowledge produced in such interactions is situated in the activity of creation itself, in what Wenger characterizes as a process of reification (1998). Stahl emphasizes this as central to the work of collaborative learning, creating what he calls ‘knowledge artifacts’, that are constructed collaboratively in virtual shared spaces. Indeed, many authors point to the potential of computer mediated communication (CMC) as superior to traditional face-to-face encounters. Wegerif notes that the ‘ease by which anyone can ‘take the floor’ and the possibility of multiple threading for example, make it a better medium for an “ideal speech situation” than face-to-face dialogue’ (2006). The co-construction of digital artifacts then encapsulates the activities of learning and knowledge sharing, providing a reference point for everyone concerned to return to; a digital trail of the thought processes of creativity.
What is Google Wave?
Google announced Wave in May 2009 as a web-based service in which threaded ‘waves’ consisting of a series of ‘blips’ (messages) are written and edited by multiple participants. One of the developers of Wave has described it as ‘what email would look like if it were invented today’ (Lifehacker, 2009). Underlying this is the idea of ‘Conversation as document’, with Wave archiving and preserving the content of a discussion or debate. Like a discussion forum, people go to a wave to communicate, and it stores all of that interaction in one location accessible to everyone who is part of that wave. The ability to edit, modify or add to a wave allows participants to create collaborative documents, edited much like wikis. Waves can easily link to other waves, thus a collection or constellation of waves becomes like an online discussion forum. One major wiki like feature is the stored history within every wave. A playback feature can replay the growth of the wave, showing who added what against a timeline. There is a drag and drop interface that allows for the easy addition of rich media, images, videos, maps and links. Wave operates in real time, with text appearing on the wave almost instantaneously, and in its raw form, so spelling mistakes and colloquialisms are common. Google Wave therefore appears like a combination of email and instant messaging within a collaborative shell. Wave is potentially a ‘powerful means of enabling collaboration, either with people or machines on the web, around objects that might be text, conversation, multimedia, or interactive objects’ (Cann et al, 2010).
For Educause, a leading authority on e learning, Wave offers a ‘compelling platform for personal learning environments’ that makes ‘interactive coursework a possibility for nontechnical students’ and ‘challenges us to re-evaluate how communication is done, stored, and shared between two or more people’ (2009)
As Roger Saljo notes, this is a common trait of many emerging web 2.0 platforms; by providing a rich array of data and a trace of the collective memory of a group they make it possible to ‘document and distribute not just information but also the traces of human thought processes in the form of increasingly sophisticated procedures’ (2009). John Jennings identifies the greatest benefit of Wave as being in the multivalent communication it engenders
As part of my PG cert in teaching and learning in art and design at CLTAD, I am carrying out an action research project, so here is the proposal….
Live online research seminar
For some time I have been aware that in most of my teaching practice I am emphasising collaboration and student centred learning, but that in most of my lecture presentations I am still delivering a relatively traditional lecture using slides etc with me as the ‘expert’ interlocutor, in both online and f2f contexts.
I have been thinking about how to adapt this format so that the necessary ground can still be covered on the course, but that the students can be empowered to learn themselves during the class, with me acting more as a lead researcher, or mentor, to them in real time.
On my online course, during lectures the participants use the text messaging box within the web conferencing software we use to provide a constant stream of feedback, questions, weblinks, analysis etc about the presentation, allowing me to answer their questions and elaborate on points they are unsure of without having to break the flow of the presentation by asking for verbal questions. Of course, due to the virtual nature of the class, this kind of multitasking is a given, as they are all using computers from the onset. However, the idea of students using their laptops or mobile devices during traditional f2f lectures is often met with considerable scepticism and even hostility, with the usual response being ‘they will be just texting their friends or playing games or on facebook’. However, such comments are potentially answered by my experience in the online space. I therefore would like to experiment with using real time messaging within an f2f class using twitter. Here is an example of Cole Camplese using twitter during a session at Penn State University in the US
My proposal then is to carry out a series of live online research seminars, each lasting for 2 hours, where we will seek to collectively research a particular subject relevant to our practice area, and then build a publically accessible digital artefact using web 2.0 collaborative tools – e.g. wikis, rss feeds, Ning, twitter, Diigo etc.
This will serve as an action research into how to make a typical 2-hour class session more collaborative and meaningful, empowering the students to research a subject that is authentic to them and generating new insights.
The sessions will be evaluated on how effectively they enhance collaboration, research skills, understanding of the Internet and sources, understanding of how to reference Internet sources and plagiarism, etc etc
We will carry out an initial survey of the classes’ web research skills and then a further evaluation after the sessions to see to what extent these have been enhanced.
A record will be kept of the interactions during the sessions by using the digital artefact itself and video recording the project is inspired particularly by the teaching methods of Michael Wesch, Ass Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas University, in particular the video ‘A portal to media literacy’ and the paper ‘From knowledgeable to knowledge-able’.
A large part of my time over the next year and a half is going to be devoted to a JISC funded project to trial how online collaborative tools can be used to enhance the relationship between the academic world and that of business and the community – known as BCE for short. My project is one of 9 that JISC have funded as part of their BCE programme, and will concentrate on building an online community of practice around photojournalism. The project outline is as follows:
This proposal outlines how an online community of practice for the professional photojournalism industry can be established, using web 2.0 social networking tools and live web conferencing to provide an arena to encourage serious debate about the direction of the profession. This would bring together professionals, stakeholders and interested parties ranging from individual photographers, photo agencies, large-scale news operations like the wire services, editors, consumers of images, galleries, academics and critics, educators and aspiring entrants to the profession in the form of postgraduate students and early career photographers. A global network of institutions and individuals from a range of backgrounds and interests would thus be created, which would give unparalled access for students to the highest levels of debate from industry professionals. Our experience in delivering a fully online Masters Programme in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London (UAL) has convinced us that successful communities of practice (Wenger, 1998) can be built online that link industry professionals with students and other stakeholders, but this requires leveraging the synergies between the engagement of real time live webinars with the more reflective, analytical spaces of asynchronous tools like blogs, social networks, wikis and forums. In the initial phase, such networks need support to maintain and develop them until they gain the critical mass within an industry to become self-sustaining, ideally through the role of a community co-ordinator (Wenger etc). The development and evaluation of such a network would provide an excellent case study for the BCE programme in how to build an online community of practice around a specialised area that combines freelance practitioners, industry contacts, companies, academics and students.
The proposal presents plans to establish a virtual network centred around a series of live webinars and discussion sessions presented by leading industry professionals to an invited audience of peers, academics involved in the critical debate around images, aspiring photojournalists from the majority world, and masters level students of photography. The webinars will be delivered using the Wimba live classroom web conferencing platform, a tried and tested delivery system that is ideal for the discussion and analysis of images in an online environment. Wimba has been used by UAL as well as by hundreds of other programs in education worldwide to successfully deliver online programmes. This will be supported by a blog, shared bookmarks on Diigo, and a social networking group run on Ning, which has proven to be a stable and easy to use platform for the building of online communities, especially in education. Together, these various tools will create an open research network. Debates will take place monthly over a one-year trial period, and will seek to ask challenging questions about the future development of the industry. All the presentations will be archived and available for later viewing online. Also, as Wimba is available 24/7, rooms can be easily made available online at short notice for any other debates, discussions or working groups that might emerge organically from the network. The network will thus grow and develop over a one year period, initially under the guidance of an editorial board but then increasingly by the network itself.
The landscape of professional news photography and photojournalism has been transformed in the last decade by a combination of technological changes, economic developments and ethical challenges, creating an overwhelming need for the industry as a whole to debate, discuss and open dialogue both within itself but also with interested parties who engage with visual news media, a process that is difficult to undertake conventionally because of the disparate nature of the profession, spread out geographically and economically with a large number of freelance practitioners.. A discourse between the industry and the academic world is essential to both for critical engagement with the issues facing the media but also to involve those studying photography in debates about its future role in society. One need that is absolutely key is to make the forum for debate global, and to involve practitioners from the majority world as well as from the West. What follows from this is the potential of peer and collaborative learning amongst the student group, staff and external agents and industry contacts, collectively generating a ‘community of practice’ with much learning involving ‘legitimate peripheral participation’ (Lave and Wenger 1991) as those aspiring to join the profession interact and debate with established professionals.
The project will begin with a trial period involving a limited number of partners who already have established a ‘real world’ network, based around already established links between the UAL, the World Press Photo’s educational programme and the Drik photographic education programme in Bangladesh. This network has worked over the last 10 years to develop the skills of photojournalists in the Majority world; a programme that has brought together highly regarded and experienced practitioners with photojournalists from countries from all over the developing world. WPP has delivered training and development to hundreds of professionals in these areas, greatly building their capacity for independent journalism and enhancing the contribution they can make to civic democratic discourse in their respective countries. Together UAL, Drik and WPP have an extensive range of contacts in the industry and related areas, ranging from academics to editors, photographers to NGO’s, critics to photographic agencies. This initial network of approximately 400 students and professionals will be the starting point for the online community, and will seek to link industry, students and academics in the West with those in the Majority world, so that an interactive collaborative dialogue can be established.
One of the big themes that came out of Wimba Connect 09 which has just finished in Phoenix AZ was that of how live web conferencing can move out of the classroom and into the world outside, both in terms of the internal communications of the academic institution, but also in terms of the relationship to the outside world, especially 2 main stakeholders, prospective students and potential employers.
There was a growing sense that live interactive communication can be used to bring the world into the university and bring the university into the world.
There were several really good examples of how Wimba can be used to bring the world of business and work into the institution. On my course, we regularly bring practitioners in to talk about their work, but the focus from some of the other universities was different, and more clearly focused on employer engagement and enhancing the employability of graduates.
Alice Bird and Alex Spiers of Liverpool John Moores University LJM introduced Wimba in 08, and have trialled it out in a variety of ways, on which more later, but specifically in employer engagement they have a programme called WoW (World of Work), and are starting to use various Wimba tools to enhance this. They are creating employer podcasts using Wimba voice, where they get someone in business or industry to describe a typical day in their life, to give students a better idea of the realities of work.
They are also using live classroom to bring in industry professionals talk directly to students in a Q&A format. There was a great idea from the floor where one institution sends a headset/mic combo, webcam and a small present to everyone who presents instead of the travel expenses they would otherwise have paid, which makes the industry professional feel valued and respected.
Ideas came thru as well of how to use Wimba to run open days for prospective students, and for outreach to the parents of K12 children to help them understand how to help their children.
The other main theme in this regard was in how Wimba products can be used internally for communication within the institution. Ivy Tech Community College has rolled out pronto to an impressive number of students and staff, with some 17k students and 1400 professors signed up. They use pronto for helpdesk support, with library, blackboard, tech, admin and financial service desks at both a global and local level, many open 7 days a week from 8am -10pm.
LJM also demonstrated how they used voice tools for formative feedback, describing it as their ‘killer app’, for me the real insight was how the same 2 minutes of staff time could be used to write 150 words of feedback or say around 500, so giving the student much more in depth feedback for the same amount of effort, and feedback that was sent back to the student immediately. They felt that audio feedback gave flexible delivery of feedback in an authentic voice. They also used the Wimba podcast feature for revision, subject expert debates, community building and employer Q&A’s. They saw some barriers, however, in that its non searchable, the length of recording vs engagement needs to be monitored, its not suitable for large group discussions, and accessibility is a major concern.
Finally they had some good stats on student feedback to Wimba, 25% responded that Wimba was much better than other distance learning software they had used, 100% said it had a positive impact on their learning,100% would choose to study on a wimba enabled course again, and it had an overall 8.75 /10 satisfaction rating as learning tool
Wesch just gave a keynote at the Wimba connect 09 conference in Phoenix AZ, and it was great to see him deliver in the flesh. Having seen most of his material online, there wasn’t much new here (in the sense of new to me, because of course everything about his research is new!!), but he really holds the stage with a great delivery style, funny yet profound, simple yet deep, great visuals but also great words. For me there were a couple of genuinely emotional moments, once with the one world project which is so simple, so naive yet so powerful, and once in his closing slide of an image of the earth from space with the sentence ‘What do we need to know for this test’
So many good lines it’s almost impossible to list them all, but I’ll note a few highlights for me. Firstly, his title, the need to shift from knowing facts and figures to knowing how to find facts and figures, how to analyse them, and how to collaboratively create new knowledge: knowledgeable to knowledge-able.
He started with a great analogy that there was something different to the classroom of today from that he studied in as an undergrad, that there is ‘literally something in the air’ between the students, that being the ‘digital artefacts of 1.5 billion people’, part of the staggering figure of 70 Exabyte’s of information that will be produced this year, less than 0.1% on paper. The pace of change is now so fast that concepts like digital natives become irrelevant; there is no native to something that is less than 5 years old and nobody will ever be native again. His survey of futurist writers gave him his ’20 second vision of the future
‘ubiquitous networks ubiquitous computing ubiquitous information at unlimited speed about everything from everywhere and anywhere on al kinds of devices,’
One thing that really resonated with me from this presentation was the idea that the way media is generated by the smart people, and appears to be targeted at you, the individual, it’s very flattering to one, it makes you feel special. The real world, however, say mountains and deserts has the opposite effect, it is humbling, because it’s not made just for you.
He weaved into the presentation a wonderful analysis of the changing meaning of a phrase in his
“A brief history of ‘whatever’”, following its shifting emphasis from:
1960s: that’s what I meant
Late 60’s: I don’t care, whatever
1990s: MTV gen the indifferent ‘meh’ of the Simpsons
1992: The of nirvana, there are so many huge issues out there in the world that the response becomes ‘whatever’; I can’t do anything about it.
This culminated in his ending takeaway, an invitation to rescue the word, and to transform it into the clarion call of
‘A new future of whatever – I care! Lets do whatever it takes to change the world by whatever means necessary’