Disclaimer: This post is a reflection on my experiences this morning at the K-12 Online Conference Week 1 Fireside Chat. It is not a criticism in any shape or form of any of the organisers, participants or the Elluminate environment. This is just my version, captured freshly for my own purposes.
I was a bit late logging on, getting the Java flowing from within Firefox and then into the Elluminate environment itself. The participants were all listed in alphabetical order down the left hand side and you could hear the audio coming through nice and clear. Even after having a Skype chat the other evening with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, I was feeling uneasy about the possibility of speaking to the assembled crew. I found that keeping track of everything in the Elluminate environment wasn't an issue - although the chat box was a bit small - but soon became clear to me that having 34 people online at once wasn't going to produce any indepth form of discussion. I found it very similar to other social situations that I've experienced in f2f life. It felt like everyone else knew each other with a buzz of chatbox inside chatter and I was the outsider looking in, not sure where to start. Terry Freedman and Alan Levine were nice enough to personally greet me (I think Bud did too) and I didn't really start name-checking anyone else possibly due to my usual lack of self confidence in large group situations. I also felt that the conversation seemed to be skimming from one thing to another and it was hard to pick up who the different messages in the chatbox were directed to. I did get a whole stack of new skype names - that could well be the best part of the hour for me as it was a more direct conversation that would be of benefit to me. I'm not sure this could happen but a valuable twist on this concept could be breaking up a large group like this into smaller groups (4-6 people) to go to another virtual room and talk, maybe on a pre-identified topic. As my disclaimer, I am not criticising what was obviously extremely valuable for many of the attendees - I am trying to accurately describe my experience.
As for the actual conference, I have to admit I am struggling to find the time to get into the assembled content. I listened to most of David Warlick's keynote and then the file corrupted and refused to play any more (it was good but Leigh's talk the other week was meatier and held my interest the whole way through) and then I checked out Alan Levine's excellent "I Did Not Know You Could Do That With Free Web Tools". The way he jumped from one technology to another across the web was brilliant and is exactly how our students operate. Again, heaps more to explore but at least I can say that I've attended his session in full. Also as the inverse to the question I posed on the whiteboard for Alan, there is much the K-12 sector can learn from the tertiary sector. What else have I checked out? Kathy Cassidy's presentation was also exceptional and a great example of how to keep things short and concise.
I've checked out the first 20 minutes or so of Mark Wagner's blog presentation (one vowel away from being my brother's namesake) but I have to say a lot of the US based references and anecdotes had me lost. I watched most of Vicki Davis' wiki presentation - that was good but I left it a bit late at night to start watching it!! And now the other presentations keep piling up - I want to get into them but real life (and still keeping tabs on the rest of the online world) keeps interfering. I think that this is going to be continuing for me well beyond the conference endpoint - I still haven't finished checking out all the acculumated resources from the FNLW travelling unconference.
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