K12 Fireside Chat – Elluminating?

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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5 thoughts on “K12 Fireside Chat – Elluminating?

  1. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

    Hi Graham,

    I was so excited to see you in the Fireside Chat! I waved and said hi …but you must have missed it with so much going by so fast. I also mistakenly asked you to introduce yourself, thinking your presentation was set to go on Friday– my mistake, sorry. Thanks for handling it so graciously.

    I love your idea about breaking into groups. I had suggested that when we were thinking how we would go about this chat. We struggled with how many folks would attend. If as many as with David Warlick’s chat showed (178 tried) and we had removed the cap so we could have had 100s– no way we could have managed
    breakout groups. It is a great idea though and I have used it many times with great success.

    We also thought some participants might not be thrilled with their group placement if they came to be with a specific keynote or presenter. So we decided not to structure it that way.

    Speaking of structure… Alan was in favor of it being really loose and organic and just seeing what would happen. I had just arrived a few minutes before we began (coming in from an Elluminate session where I was training National Board teachers to facilitate for an upcoming f2f policy summit) so I was feeling a little more off than normal in that environment.

    The conversation did jump around a bit, and having 3 moderators was a bit trying…but we are learning. It is tough to plan with so many unknown variables and only 1 hour of time.

    Thanks for your feedback though. It really helps me understand what we need to change for Saturday’s fireside chat. I hope you will consider attending.

    I look forward to talking on Skype again soon.

    Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach
    K12 Online Organizer

  2. Graham

    Post author

    Sheryl, I hope you read my disclaimer. It did feel like a lot of people knew each other and that’s OK – hopefully, it met a lot of other people’s needs. I hope to be there for Saturday’s – it depends on how tired I am and if me being on the computer disturbs other family members. Thanks for responding to my post – I don’t usually tag my blog so you did well to find it! Thanks for your encouragement and support. At least I might get to check some more presentations tonight as I wait….

  3. Mark Ahlness

    Hi Graham,
    It was great to hear you again, even for just a bit. Yes, I agree the large group, one mike, situation is tough. I was mostly just (very) happy to sit back, watch, listen, and read. Until, from out of the blue, I get the urge to say something (where in the world does this come from?). Then it gets all serious and sitting up straight. Am hoping more experiences in this environment will make each successive one easier, more meaningful, and rewarding. Will be there again in a few hours. Hope to see you there. – Mark

  4. Mike Dunlop

    Hi Graham….
    I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this post! I’ve been following your blog for a while now, trying desperately to keep up, and feeling largely incompetent. I’m an IT teacher/co-ordinator, struggling with teaching “old fashioned stuff”, never mind much of the web 2.0 stuff I’m learning about. Far too insecure to comment on most of what I read(let alone blog)….
    What a relief to know that keeping up with all the k12online info isn’t easy for you either! Not sure what it is about that that’s so comforting, but I’ve been mulling over this post for days.
    I’ll probably just crawl back to my rock now, but wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your work (and that of other bloggers).


  5. Graham

    Post author

    Now I know where that dot on the African east coast is coming from on my Clustr Map! Mike, I really think we need lots more grass roots educators like yourself to join conversations and talk just as much about the difficulties and reality of schools worldwide. It’s another reason why I was interested in the Overcoming Obstacles strand – you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge (ugh – a Dr.Phil quote!) – and I think I’m a good example of how a regular teacher with a keen interest in computing and the web can crawl from under my rock and can connect and join in and learn and contribute to something much bigger – maybe the fuure of learning. All bloggers start from where you are, unsure and tentative, but if you can “overcome those obstacles” then you stand to personally gain more than you would get from just reading. But don’t get me wrong, reading is a good place to start. And those of us who are at the actual chalkface in classrooms with kids as part of our job have a practical, does-it-really-work, how-about-this-idea type role to play that complements the theoretical, the visionary, the administrative, the technical and idealistic blogs already in existence. I think Mark Ahlness expressed this well a while back when he highlighted how classroom based bloggers can blog that other education bloggers can’t –

    “They live where the rubber meets the road.”


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