Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Olé, Olé, Olé

According to Wikipedia (Oops! The mention of this word might start a friendly argument!), the word "olé" might refer to several things, including a football chant, with the star footballer's name added to the end. In my case, I refer to both a rah-rah cheer (Go! VCU OLE!) and a program the ALT Lab is running.

Today was Day 1 of the Institute and has been a pretty intense time with lots of ideas presented to participants. We are all going to spend some time tonight doing HW, yup, Home Work! So this is going to be a short post. I will share 3 things that stood out for me today:

1. Example of an engaging learning experience that makes students think deeply. 
Leaf from a shrub? Spicebush
Leaf from a shrub? Spicebush?
I took some pictures of leaves in the setting sun and uploaded one of them to a course site, Field Botany. (FYI, I'm a little confused as I'm unsure if the leaves were those of a tree or shrub since I will admit I rushed through this exercise to get to other OLE prep for tomorrow. I invite you to click on the course site and explore it yourself.) This is a well-crafted, interactive and engaging learning experience. It allows the learner to use various thinking skills to learn about trees/leaves -- observation, comparison, making connections, forming conclusions, reasoning ... Yes, I am a fan of learning via thinking and intellectual development.

2. Video-conferencing presents challenges and has yet to live up to its promise. 
My colleague, Enoch Hale, gave a presentation that was shared with another group of OLE participants meeting on the Monroe Park campus via videoconferencing. Despite advanced testing and preparation to use the software, some challenges still arose. Audaciously, I'll say that no current videoconferencing hardware and software are able to capture the in-person experience and transmit that to another location in a manner many of us desire.

The audio capability of the software was not optimum today. In both rooms where human conversation had taken place at a normal decibel level, the presenter was tethered to the console/microphone because moving any distance away led to participant feedback about inaudibility. Also, for a presentation where there were a number of starts and stops for participant discussions, it was difficult for my colleague to try to catch the attention of participants on the other campus via video when he wanted to start or stop the activity. Initially, I had to text another colleague to get him to relay the presenter's messages to the facilitator on the other campus. I attribute the challenges to both human and nonhuman factors. However, I believe the poor audio capability of the hardware/software made things more difficult for the presenter to control the discussion starts and stops. My verdict: we need more sophisticated video conferencing hardware and software.

3. What if...
I wonder if we could have participants get up and move around a bit more to actively participate in the experience. Although they were encouraged to take notes on the shared Google Doc, I wish the room had more writing/doodling surfaces -- whiteboards, touch screen monitors, and space to encourage learners to be more active in documenting their learning. (Yes, there are understandably facility constraints.) I was glad to see a few learners taking pictures and sharing the camaraderie on Twitter. Well, tomorrow is another day of possibilities. 


Tom said...

We had similar comments and experiences around the synchronous video piece. It actually led to some really good reflection on telepresence, live vs recording etc.

I know David has been taking lots of notes on things we can improve on and I've jotted down a few things. We'll have to make sure we get a solid after action report before next week is over and the memories slip away.

Yin Wah Kreher said...

I've been trying to think about some highlights of the learning experience, and things to improve for the next iteration also. The synchronous events are undeniably one area we want to think about improving extensively. I see a combo of human and nonhuman factors that contribute to the challenge.