Glass orb with reflection of the landscape in it

I’m now in Nottingham at ALT-C – which is a much larger conference than I’ve got used to! There are people everywhere – and a choice of 9 sessions to attend each time.

The first Keynote was Michele Selinger (link to Elluminate recording), who spoke about a range of different “chasms” – and how we might get over them. I was particularly interested in the north/south issues. She also mentioned podcasts quite a few times, though not really how she saw them being used. From what I’ve seen, and other posters that are here, etc., I’m not sure that many students would want podcasts as an alternative to a lecture; though as a revision aid/ catch up tool for missed lectures, I can see that they’re useful.

The majority / Western divide came up again in a later session, when Alanna Fitzgerald discussed the “Overcoming Poverty project”; which aims to have a range of case studies looking at overcoming poverty, through initiatives such as the Grameen Bank.

Sue Rivers looked at the ideas of “Online Silence”. It’s an interesting concept, as it seems that as academic staff, we can cope much better with students who listen to class discussions, only commenting occasionally, but in the online environment, students who are reading but not writing are seen as “lurkers”. A friend, in a different situation, has used the description “listeners”, which I prefer, as lurking does have rather negative connotations. She said that few of the students partipated (Sue herself was both student and researcher), though the students were working in the eLearning field. The question that I would have asked, had there been the time, was if any of those non-partipating students were intending to use discussions with their students…

One session that I found particularly interesting was Michael Cameron’s. He discussed a History Unit, where the lecturer, in the past, had had good student participation on the discussion board in Blackboard. Suddenly it had declined. Jo had, therefore done some investigating and had discovered the students were using Facebook. She joined, and, because the students liked her, she was invited to join the group that was set up for the unit. That gave her an insight into the things that they were discussing. While some were “What a boring lecture”, others were discussing the sort of things she wanted them to discuss; albeit rather informally! She was able to act as a broker – to get those students to refine and then post to the discussion boards.

In several papers, this same idea of drawing in things that students are doing outside, rather than moving out to join them seems to be coming up. I, too have an account on facebook, which some students have found & some have made me a friend. (Facebook doesn’t have a “I taught …” as reason for knowing another person)

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