In my last post, I ran a “call for network mentors” for the open graduate course that I am teaching this Fall. The response was overwhelming with over 120 people volunteering to take on a guiding & support role for my students. Last night I emailed all of the mentors and students to help suggest their role in the early stages of this course. In keeping with the openness and transparency of this class, I have copied the email transcript below to give people an idea of what I am trying to accomplish for my learners. I am sure that I could have gone many directions with this, but ‘Plan A’ seems to be the right approach for the moment.
But before I drop the text, here’s a quick reminder. The weekly synchronous sessions are open to everyone on the planet. The first one is tomorrow (September 27, 2010) at 7pm Saskatchewan time (that currently equates to MST). Our guest tomorrow is Dr. Richard Schwier, and he will be talking a little about the history of educational technology and a bit more on his work with online communities. Dr. Schwier is one of my favorite people on the planet – he’s brilliant and inspiring – and he knows the field of educational technology better than anyone. You can connect via Elluminate tomorrow at http://bit.ly/eci831live.
And here’s the text of that email …
If you are receiving this email, you are either a graduate student of mine or someone who answered the “Call for Network Mentors” found here: http://eci831.wikispaces.com/Mentors . I would say the call was a great success as somehow it enticed 122 individuals to consider giving my students some assistance in understanding the core content of the course – ‘social media & open education’.
I have spent much time contemplating the teaching & learning possibilities of having 120+ volunteers to assist about 17 students (possibly up to 19 before registration is done) and the approximate 6:1 ratio this provides. At one point, I had planned to see if I could accurately match the profiles of the volunteers with the needs of my students. While that may still happen (see Plan B), I have come around to consider that a) I’m lacking the algorithm and resources for an educational eHarmony, and 2) (and most importantly) I am thinking that a more chaotic approach *could* naturally lead to the formation of groups and supports that I could have never planned had I tried to be more intentional. Community formation is chaotic, but even in chaos, we do find order and meaning.
So here are my thoughts in what I will call for now, Plan A.
As I mentioned in my call, I am hoping that the mentors will
- subscribe to the blog feeds of one or more of the students and being and active commenter on their posts (e.g.,
- similar to that of a critical friend);
- follow and support the learner(s) on Twitter;
- providing advice, ideas, or support through other media (e.g., Skype); and,
- support students when considering and completing their assessments in this course.
The first two points are fairly easy to do (I think). The third point would likely require the building of at least some trust, and only occur when necessary. And the fourth point could possibly occur through comments on student blogs or via Twitter. Of course, I don’t want to place any restraints on how people interact, but just remember that many participants (mentors and students) are new to this, so we want to make sure everyone feels comfortably challenged. My primary hope is that we develop some sort of distributed learning community that continues well beyond the end date of the course (mid-December).
For mentors – there is no limit in the number of students that you can help. You may want to choose a few, or just generally watch the feeds and tags for the course. The tag for this course is mostly #eci831 – please everyone, use it, and use it often (on Twitter, in blogs, Youtube, Flickr, etc.). More information on tags here: http://eci831.wikispaces.com/tags
OK, so let’s learn more about each other and get this learning party started!
Mentors – here is some information about the for-credit students:
Students & Mentors:
- a) I have shared a complete list of mentors with information here: http://bit.ly/eci831mentorinfofall2010 – take a look to find out more about these great people.
- b) If you are on Twitter, or thinking about it – I’ve also created a TweepML list of all of the mentors who use Twitter. http://bit.ly/eci831mentorsfall2010 – This is also a good way to gain a bit more information about each person. Mentors may also want to use this list to expand their personal learning network – you can subscribe to all, or the ones you select.
- c) I’ve also created a Google Blog Bundle with most of the mentor blogs (those who had blogs, whose feeds worked, or who had educational blogs). Both mentors and students may want to subscribe to all of these blogs (in one click). It will create a folder in your Google Reader, and you can always whittle down the list (unsubscribe) if certain blogs are outside of your area of interest. Students: I know many of these blogs are excellent and would be great sources of inspiration for the things that you write about in your own blogs. Here is the blog bundle. http://bit.ly/eci831mentorsblogsfall2010
Other students that could use encouragement:
- I am also currently teaching a technology integration course to undergrad students (ECMP 355). If you are a mentor (or student) that would like to encourage those who are in their first years of teacher education, their blog bundle can be found at: http://bit.ly/ecmp355studentblogsfall2010
- Zoe Branigan-Pipe is also teaching an undergraduate course at Brock University – she also has preservice teachers.
I will follow-up with an email once I get her links. It would be great if we could include them. Update: You can find Zoe’s students here in this blog bundle.
So, I want to give this rather unstructured approach a try for, maybe, about three weeks. Depending on the feedback (feel free to send me ideas anytime), we can decide whether or not to stick with it, or try something a bit more structured (perhaps, more specifically matching individuals).
And, of course, I’d like to invite you to the synchronous sessions in Elluminate every week. The first ones are planned, and can be found here. http://eci831.wikispaces.com/Session+List . Our guest this coming Tuesday is Dr. Richard Schwier who will speak about learning communities – he’s done some great research in this area, and is a wonderfully experienced voice on the topic. The link to join is http://bit.ly/eci831live (the same link every week). The sessions are every Tuesday, 7pm Saskatchewan Time. Currently that means MST, but after the first Sunday in November, we are equivalent to CST. Saskatchewan is one of those rare places in North America that doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time.
Currently, most of the communication in this course is distributed – meaning, there is no CMS/LMS and the main wiki is mostly for content (not significant interaction). This is purposeful as to create multiple ‘centres’ of learning, each controlled by the learner. Typically, when this happens, conversations happen in a number of places – on Twitter, on multiple blogs, etc. However, if we need a place to centralize asynchronous conversation at times, I would certainly consider setting up some sort of forum (or similar tool) for more traditional, online communication. Feedback about this (and really everything) is more than welcome.
So, I am not sure what else to tell you right now other than I am incredibly excited by this opportunity. I am truly humbled by the number of people who signed up to help, and I do believe we are going to have an incredible learning experience together.
Thanks all, let’s stay connected and learn with each other for a long time to come.
All the best,