Had a really frustrating experience at a conference in Second Life today but am grateful for it due to the thinking it has stirred.
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no, but you are MY STUPID HUSBAND

"no, but you are MY STUPID HUSBAND" CC (by) nayrb7 http://www.flickr.com/photos/nayrb7/3044673793/

The session was about social networks and viral systems (no, not going to name the conference or the session or presenter, this isn’t about dissing).  Because viral content spreads across channels, my first question was – what’s the tag for this session?  The presenter told me to ask a conference organiser.  The organiser said there was no tag.  Okay, some people don’t think of this stuff – but in a session on viral marketing, gotta say I expected it. The lecture progressed on interactivity and social networking and the instructor failed to engage with the text chat in a constructive way. Some people in the audience complained that the text chat was distracting them and was blocking the powerpoint on effective interaction. If you’re not laughing yet — let me explain why this is sadly funny:
  • A session on interaction where interaction is discouraged and/or dismissed
  • A session dealing with social networking that did not allow for cross-channel seeding via tags
  • A session on social networking that compared Facebook and Second Life — two completely different tools – and made judgement calls because one was not like the other.
  • People attending a session on social networking who don’t like it happening and find it distracting
  • A session on social networks and viral marketing where avatars sat in chairs, faced front and the presenter did not build in any time for interaction and social networking
What if we’d gone to this session on social networking and he’d removed all the chairs and replaced them with rings or platforms with different keywords or interests and asked us to pick one, meet three people, move to two others? What if he’d canvassed a wider variety of social networking tools, explained there are horses for courses, asked how we used them? What if he threw out his opinion or findings or whatever they were that Second Life is NOT a valid social network because 1 million people can’t be on at once and we can’t use our real names and asked us to challenge it? Finally, what if he’d been using a social networking tool during his lecture and invited us to interact with him there as well as in SL? The thought process this irritation set in motion sort of hooks into a blog post I wrote a while back about people at a tech conference complaining about others who were Tweeting. There are multiple tools available to us all – for group learning, collaboration, communication.  Viral communication works best when it’s organic.  And as different people are drawn to different tools or communications channels — communications jumps channels. I find out about great YouTube videos via Twitter.  I find out about great web sites via me.edu.au, or Second Life, or Twitter, or Flickr or Diigo. I can start a conversation in Twitter and it will end up in Second Life or Skype. And it’s easy to find conversations when they are tagged with keywords that would stir my interest or that are unique and shared across networks. In creating learning modules and sessions on interaction, communication, collaboration, engaging learners — in short, all the faboo ways teaching and learning is being transformed — shouldn’t we ensure that we model those teaching and learning practices in our modules and sessions??? At two other sessions today, presenters standing in front of rows of avatars while standing on stages said we have to get rid of the sage on the stage mentality. *sigh* Anyone – care to design a conference where PowerPoint, whiteboards, chalkboards, flip boards, butcher’s paper, videos, stages and seating that faces in one direction are outlawed?  Where there are NO presenters or presentations – but facilitators in the truest sense of the word? We could do it in Second Life — I can get us some free space.  We could do simultaneous sessions in Skype.  Maybe Elluminate. It CAN be done.  It doesn’t mean anarchy.  I worked with Jo Kay and the Jokaydians last year to lead educators through tours of Second Life that taught them a helluva lot more than any PowerPoint could have. Jo shows, tells and offers opportunities to get hands one.  A role model. Frankie Forsyth of Pelion Consulting, a consutlant from Tasmania, facilitated sessions for educators that drew information out of the participants in a structured way to achieve a common goal using an online classroom. She introduces research summaries, has questions where participants write out free form replies and then presents all the answers given and leads discussion.  She’s another of my role models. Because she takes it out of theory and puts it into practice. I attended an Elluminate session on Friday sponsored by Edublogs on how to engage audiences using interactive tools and guess what? The presenter used interactive tools and we interacted and fed back what we thought and how we could use those techniques in our own sessions! Wow! Another role model! So — are you a role model? Image license is CC (by) – http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

5 Comments

  1. Thanks for this post, Kerry, and for challenging as I am getting into ‘teaching’ people about social networking. In fact, your thoughts are relevant to teaching of any topic. Cheers, Sarah

  2. Thanks for that Sarah! Another dimension of my frustration this morning that I’ll save for a future blog post is that I fear academia needs to be change or we’ll end up with a society incredibly skilled at and focused on justifying their opinions and preconceptions at the expense of debate and learning.

  3. Motivation to be in any mmo is to interact and participate. Sadly two decades of office automation leads to numb discussions. I’ve been to SL events with the ‘big’ US shift advocates, who routinely only interact with existing friend networks and ignore the crowd. I like to ask students to use tinychat to comment on what I’m saying, so I can answer their questions as I go. The three Rs: realism, relevence and retention. Powerpoint is none of these. Designed by techies so that they didn’t have to talk to the suits at mircosoft. Ironic the anti-meeting too became the bohemoth it is today.

    Learning to deal with the backchannel means thinking on your feet, dealing with a crowd. Some can’t deal with it. Some thrive on it. Me, I’m too tight to upload slides to Linden. That’s my excuse.

    • What can we do as educators then to model the behaviours we discuss? Cuz’ it’s not just Second Life conferences where we can find these ironic situations of one sage talking about the “wisdom of the crowds”….

  4. Hi Kerry, I think I know the conference. I think many of aspire to be role models – and sometimes we get caught out and do it all wrong despite the good intentions. I know – I think I was presenting at the same conference and I have very intention of running a practical session from the beginning, but I got caught up talking… and the practical stuff was relegated to the end when there was too little time. As soon as I finished I knew what I should have done… I should have started by diving into the practical activity and explained the purpose only if it wasn’t apparent to the participants… that’s the great thing about being a reflective practitioner… we learn from our experience… especially when someone takes the time to considerately guide our thinking…

    SNAFU can happen to us all.

    The good thing about learning is that when it goes awry we can still learn… sometimes we learn about what not to do, other times we discover an inventiveness in ourselves that seeks to solve the problem creatively – I think you’ve demonstrated in the “What If” questions you posed.

    Everyone is at different stages of learning and I don’t think there is a commonly agreed upon lexicon for new technology use… when I say social network is it the same as what you think?

    We’re all role models… just modelling difference…

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