I just finished an Elluminate session put on by our state DOE featuring Dr. Shawnee Wakeman from UNC Charlotte. You can see a copy of that session here. I was good and quiet…for at least the first half of it!
I’ve watched a few Elluminate recordings but this was my first live one. Well, my second if you count the one from yesterday which I showed up late to. It is definitely a cool medium but it also takes time to warm up to it. It also takes more concentration than just listening to a podcast or watching a video because ideally you’re supposed to react and participate. So there are some definite chat aspects to it. Sort of like Yahoo Chat with a Whiteboard and a lot less spam.
One complaint I have with Elluminate or at least the rendition of it that I experienced is that I would’ve liked to have seen profiles of other participants for reasons that I’ll get into in a moment. I did see and input my own profile into (including the URL to this blog). But I don’t think anyone else saw it.
Dr. Wakeman was the primary presenter and if you log in to get the Elluminate archived session, you will probably also get a copy of the power point. Today was day 2 of a 2 part presentation and if I would have been able to make more of that one I might have had less to say in the first one! I did manage to listen to a lot of it from the archive during my planning time (such that it is) and got up to speed. I also poked around her site to look at some of the other work her and her colleagues are doing. And I can’t find the link to it, but some of the work regarding different levels of intentional communication sort of resonated with me. A huge part of what we do with our students is trying to raise and harness the level and sophistication of that intentionality.
I won’t get into the entire presentation as there was a sizable portion at the beginning that went over and through me. I still had a room full of kids as we had buses that were running late. My paras are really good, but that late in the day everyone is just letting off steam. And sometimes the kids can get loud and restless, too! It was just difficult following along right then, which goes back to what I said about Elluminate requiring more sustained attention than I initially expected. With the recorded version, you can always pause it and come back. When it is “live,” if you snooze, you lose!
Once the students and paras were all gone and after the cleaning lady had buffed my floor with her diesel-powered buffer (LOUD), I was able to tune in. But I have to admit to taking more time to get turned on. This is where having profiles would have helped fill in a few blanks, such as the grade and instructional level that people taught. A lot of the material seemed to be pretty far above where my students live, and if it weren’t for me deciding early on that I wanted to try to blog, I might have left early. But I’m glad I stuck around. I thought Dr. Wakefield did a good job of hitting on some ideas for increasing the depth and breadth of knowledge during our instruction. And she did actually get to me on a couple of points (although I didn’t let her know it at the time) as far as continuing to do the same things over and over and over and over and over again.
Yeah, guilty. That’s me. I do have a kid who has been trying to identify his name from an array of 3 for 5 years. And still he can’t do it independently more than 30 percent of the time. HOWEVER, we did (FINALLY) get him to identify the penny, nickel, quarter and dime. After 5 years. And he’s counting to 5 after learning the numbers 1-5. So here’s the tough part; knowing when to quit. It took him 5 years (at least) to master those few skills. We’re extending to numbers 6-10 and deepening to counting other things but I could have just as easily given up 2 years ago once he finished his GAA. But I’m stubborn like that.
Is being stubborn an asset or a liability in this business? It probably depends on the quality of judgement. I’m still working on that part of it.
But as a high school teacher trying to do this with students who have severe and profound (mostly profound) cognitive disabilities there was still some distance between the expectation and what I see myself being able to do with a room full of students. Dr. Wakeman did sort of address that, which is about where I piped in because it was the first I was able to really get turned on to her material. I think if, as educators, we can succeed in jumping the enormous gap between a high school profound student and their grade level standard, doing it for the rest of the student population would be absolute gravy. Once we landed people on the moon, flying to Califronia or even China didn’t seem so difficult. Same thing, here. So my recommendation for future training would be to zero in on conquering that challenge: the distance between the most profound student and the highest grade-level standard. So much of the conversation on aligning standards seems to be akin to getting to California from Georgia when my kids are trying to get to there from the moon! Can they do it? Yeah, maybe with the same amount of time, intensity and resources as an Apollo moon mission. But no one is offering NASA-sized resources to my class at the moment. Perhaps I’m still thinking too small. I’m willing to try and think bigger and jump higher.
Anyway, it was a worthwhile presentation that was done well. I did come away with some new insight and not all of it was guilt! Perhaps doing more with less would improve future presentations, but only if there are other loudmouths like me in the room. It’s the participatory potential of Elluminate that can make the house rock. So thank you Dr. Wakeman, for virtually visiting us in Georgia!
Of course, I already had a lot of background in this material, thanks in large part to Dr. Toni Waylor-Bowen (she needs her own webpage) and her partner in crime at the time, Jessie Moreau. Dr. Bowen was the moderator of this session and everyone needs to give her kudos for being such a good (and patient) sport to some of my snarkiness. Regular readers know my feelings toward the GAA and she did a swell job of fielding my comments and questions. I might invite her to do a podcast or some sort of interview type of thing in the future to address some of those issues. As it was, we did sort of get into it toward the end of the Elluminate session which may or may not have made it more interesting. I think we could have gone on for some additional time, but at 5:00 most of us were ready to go home. Or use the bath. TMI but at least more truthful for me!
I think I might blog Dr. Bowen sometime separately later on, because she does have a good story, lots of experience and is totally willing to help and share.
So any and all, feel free to have at me in the comments!