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Orientation day.

Orientations. I’ve had a few. But then again. None good enough to mention.  Typically, my experience is…

Someone is telling you an awfully large amount of information that is absolutely necessary for you to assimilate in a manner which guarantees you will have forgotten it before the person has finished saying it.

or

Someone is telling you an awfully large amount of information that is absolutely unnecessary for you to assimilate in a manner which guarantees you will have forgotten it before the person has finished saying it.

Both modes typically involve Powerpoint, Which is a way of not being in a room with thirty people while you are in the room with thirty people. I’ve never met a Powerpoint experience I wanted to repeat.

Today’s orientation was good. (the sessions are archived here) It may even have been very good. Here’s some stuff I learned.

  • Find a more knowledgeable other, and be one. And make both visible. Documenting your learning in a publically accessible format allows others to learn from you, and you to maximise your own learning.
  • If you are using a Blackboard collaborate, or webex, or Hangout, or any other videoconferencing tool, have good moderators. Valerie and Alison were really good. Entusiastic, knowledgeable and responsive. They answered on and off-topic questions, highlighted useful, interesting comments, dealt with problems, posted resources, and posted useful links to support, underpin or expand on the topic.
  • Use the collaborative aspects. So many lecturers say they are uninterested in transmission teaching, in talking, in being the locus, and then talk, straight, for ninety minutes. The collaborative tech (here, the use of the interactive whiteboard, which was simple, intuitive, and quick) allows for a lecture which is reflexive, responds to the knowledge and curiousity in the room.
  • Advance Organisers are good.  (This MOOC has some here)In session, people were obviously at different knowledge levels, with some people being technological newbies, and some being advanced. The same is the case re learning philosophies, MOOC experiences, open source philosophy, and digital sociology. An advance organiser is something that prepares students for the material they will encounter (there are other types that do different things, but this ius the type that’s useful here). It can cover basic jargon, basic ideas, practices, philosophies and techniques. A good advance organiser is short, to the point, easy to access and elective, for people who need it, getting them up to speed so that they are able to keep in touch with material as it unfolds.
  • Encourage students to be resources for one another, and recogbise that when  it’s happening. Alec and the mods did this – thanked people for helping out, and making suggestions, read out contributions and commented on the,. asked people to contribute and genuinely engaged with them when they happened (as opposed to encouraging participation and then ignoring it – a particular bugbear of mine). You may want a student lead process eventually, but the instructor’s attention and feedback can be a powerful tool in establishing that. Students posted links, ideas, contributions, suggestions and articles.
  • Have your application mirror your method. To approrpriate Seymour Papert, get people to do what you eant them do do, but at first have them do it without them explicitly realising it. To get people to collaborate and share, don’t tell them to collaborate and share, give them tasks and utilities that put them in situations where they collaborate, and then tell them what they’ve been doing. This isn’t the only way to do it, but it’s a good way. In this case, we used the collaborative aspects of the software to demonstrate the collaborative nature of the course. The tool we used was an object lesson in the philosophy being deployed.
  • Be knowledgeable, competent, and enthiusiastic, but you don;t have to be the smartest person in the room. If there is someone smarter in the room (and there will be) use them, give them a platform. That smarter person may be everyone. In fact, if you use everyone well, then the entire room will be the smarter person.
  • Good teaching is sometime improvisation around a theme. The central theme should, often, follow a definite plan, but there needs to be room for improvisation, change of direction, and movement.
  • Blackboard collaborate is sometimes slow. Audio can be delayed,, chat and audio can take a while to respond, text input insn’t instant. It can take a minute or two before responses come up. So, when you open the floor, leave it open for a while. This wasn’t a problem in the Orientation – there was lots of time, but it was an issue for me in the Twitter session. By the time I managed to type my question, the session was being wrapped up. I guess the lesson here is, be aware of your technology from a user perspective. If it has glitches, limitations and pauses, plan and allow for them. Question and answer sessions in collabotrate should probably take longer than you think.

Several questions were posed by several different people during the orientation. How do I keep up with so much new information in such a seemingly chaotic format (advance organisers are a good idea here) How do I organise so much new information. How do I take advantage of the newtorking and comnecting aspect of the MOOC efficiently and well.

I’ll be interested in seeing how the course answers them.

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