Thursday, February 01, 2007

Online Connectivism Conference

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A while back George Siemens asked me if I'd be willing to participate in his Connectivism Online Conference as a "context filter." The format is a sort of smaller scale K12 Online. There will be a preconference keynote given by George this Friday at 11:00 am (N. American CST) and then five presentations given one each day next week at the same time of day. This is the schedule:

I'm most looking forward to the presentations given by Bill and Terry. While I don't always agree with everything Bill writes I think his is an important critical voice. He always has a well articulated perspective and really makes you think. Terry's presentation attracts me because I'm also interested in new pedagogies made possible by the proliferation of tools and potential on the web.

The role of the "context filters" (myself and 12 other folks not sure if their identities are public knowledge yet) is to reflect on the relevance of each presentation in the context that applies to them. For me, that means as a senior high school teacher.

I really like the way George is doing this. He has emphasized several times that the presentations are intended as conversation starters. The real value will grow organically out of the asynchronous, distributed conversation that will take place afterwards in blogs or the Moodle installation (click on the [login as guest] button) set up for the conference. Now, that's something that I think could have been done differently to improve access and distribute the conversation across a wider audience.

The Moodle installation, while it is open to everyone for viewing, only allows registered participants to post. The registration has been closed at just over 1000 people. I can see why George might like to have everyone registered in Moodle -- it's a way to track the number and identities of the participants. I think there are better (read: more open access) ways of doing this though. I guess that's something to think about for the next conference. ;-)

3 comments:

Bill Kerr said...
2/2/07 04:47  

hi darren,

When I look at my presentation part of me thinks that I'm not offering much to the classroom teacher. George was good enough to invite me after I was critical of his commentary on constructionism and I felt obliged to accept. Since then it has been theory, theory, theory until my head hurts! Deep down I think its important and I have actually enjoyed the study. But it's not at the stage yet where I can say, here it is, take it to class. When I look at the practical orientations of the context filters and knowing how practical classroom teachers are (I am a classroom teacher!) I think, whoops!? So a big part of my thinking has recently been this: Deep change probably does require deep theory. But how does that work out in a practical sense. I wish I knew.

I also wish it could be a real discussion and not a lecture but once you have an audience of 1000 (registrations), it becomes a lecture.

I agree with your comments that the forum should be more open. Also the resulting dialogue will be fragemented, all over the place, perhaps. But, on the other hand, it is also good that George has been prepared to invite a critic such as myself.

Darren said...
2/2/07 08:56  

Hi Bill,

The theme of the entire conference is theory based, so in that context it's only natural that your presentation (which I have glanced through -- looking forward to hearing you articulate it) should take on a theoretical tenor.

With that said, you're the only classroom teacher on the panel. That's what brought me to the conference. Like you, I think theory is important to the degree that it informs pedagogy. To the degree that it doesn't is only of academic interest.

I doubt all 1000 registrants will be in the elluminate room at any one time and you know how we are -- more likely than not to pepper the chat window with questions. ;-) I will not be able to participate in all the live sessions but I plan to watch the recordings afterwards. I think you're on when I'm teaching class.

What fascinates me about the online conference format is how intimate it is. It puts every participant on equal footing. Every voice is heard with equal volume and people make personal connections with each other that aren't likely to be made in face-to-face settings. It looks like some of that has already begun in the moodle installation. Hopefully it'll spill out into the blogosphere as well. ;-)

George Siemens said...
2/2/07 14:39  

Hi Darren - quick comment - I agree that moodle is not the most open forum (in contrast with blogs, for example). I have encouraged individuals to post in their blogs using the conference tag (OCC2007). However, it appears that we are not all bloggers :). Many individuals genuinely enjoy the centralized nature of forums. We don't yet have the acceptance of ambiguity (or distributed thinking) that is required - i.e. in your k-12 conference.

This conference has attracted some bloggers, but many of the participants - from what I can see - are from "the establishment" - i.e. they haven't bought into blog love (and I'm not saying they ought to...openness is critical. However, for some, centralization is of more value than openness). With that said, to critique my own statement - I'm sure I could have created an open forum (with no restrictions to post). Blame my partial familiarity with moodle in not pursuing other options (access to an installed platform is a determination of what we opt to do, after all).

Bill - like you, I'm sick of theory. The practical work of teaching, learning, sharing, collaborating, etc. is far more interesting. To me, theory is like chocolate - great in small doses...but as a steady diet, I feel ill.

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