Shout Out for “Learning in Real Time”

A new book on synchronous learning strategies has just come out– Learning in Real Time by Jonathan Finkelstein, and there is a new web site companion for the book.

Disclaimer: I got to read a preview of the book last Spring, and was asked to write a few remarks for the back cover

I write less than to give some PR for a colleague’s book, and more so since I have “known” Jonathan for years via various online events run through his company’s services (LearningTimes)… a few of the TCC Online conferences, another event where I did a keynote for a group in Australia, and more recently through the NMC Online Conferences.

But we never met in real life until this year’s NMC Summer Conference in Cleveland, yet I already felt like I knew him for years. I’ve never seen anyone so smoothly handle the logistics and facilitation of the synchronous events done the way Jonathan does via LearningTimes, and especially in the Elluminate tool they use for the live sessions. I can own up that I “stole” several online presentations strategies I have seen Jonathan use.

But what I like about his new book is that is very much practical strategies and processes anyone can use who is teaching, leading a workshop, or just running a meeting with synchronous tools. And although his experience is with LearningTimes (and some of the diagrams you can tell were done in Elluminate), his book is not technology specific in its examples. For example, in “Facilitating Learning in Real Time” is a section, “If It Drops, Pick It Up”:

When distractions crop up during a live session (for example, a student types an inappropriate comment igniting a disruptive dialogue, or there is some noise heard in the background because an instructor’s neighbor is mowing her lawn), one tendency is to ignore them and hope they go away. Another tack is to confrnt them head-on, neutralize them, and move on with everyone’s focus recentered.

The most single most important piece of guidance in dealing with these situations comes form Emil Maurer, an English teacher who also directed school plays. He shared with his student actors a simple piece of advice not foreign to those trained in the theater. “If something falls, pick it up.” In other words, if you are performing and a prop– a hat, for example– accidentally falls on the stage, simply pick it up. Untrained actors will often get nervous, pretend it did not happen, and leave the hat on the floor. Meanwhile, each audience member is sidetracked by the hat and no one is watching the show.”

Nothing about techno-widgets, and not really about dropped hats, but just nugget of some practical, grounded suggestions in this book.

While I am very much a person that prefers to communicate on the asynchronous side of the coin (reading blogs, writing comments, etc), working with Jonathan and LearningTimes in the last few years as re-inforced the importance and value of well designed synchronous activities.

Lastly, as a web bonus, the book site features the Real Time Minute, short video segments Jonathan shares on this concept… the first one on “real relationships” actually recorded on his laptop while sitting in the window seat of an airplane.

End of plug. This was not a paid political announcement ;-)

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I’ll join in your shout for Learning in Real Time. I bought it a couple of weeks ago and was very impressed. I’ve been attending online conferences for some time and teaching for an online university for five years, and found this book packed with practical information for improving interactions. I will apply what I learned right away. My copy made it into my suitcase when I went on vacation and came back read cover to cover, with underlined passages and all. I may be the first person to read it while on the beach in Vieques… it was that enjoyable!

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