I recently joined the Teacher’s Education Review Podcast and talked a bit about Connected Learning. A recording of the podcast is found embedded below.
Thanks to the folks at TERPodcast for the opportunity.
In August 2013, I spent some time with the Department for Education and Child Development in South Australia. While I was there, I was interviewed about a number of issues related to technology and social media in Education. One of the resulting videos is found below (“Using Twitter Effectively in Education”), and there are 12 others found in this playlist.
And, for other interviews from the Department by other groups and individuals, check out their Youtube channel.
My popular open-boundary course, EC&I 831 (Social Media & Open Education), is back for the Fall of 2013 and we’d love you to participate as a non-credit student, or possibly, a network mentor. If you’re interested, please use this form to sign up!
Here’s a brief description of the course from the about page:
EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education is an open access graduate course from the Faculty of Education, University of Regina. This course is available to both for-credit and non-credit participants. It features openly available, weekly, interactive presentations with notable educators & theorists. More importantly, the course encourages and nurtures rich interaction through a number of open spaces such as our Twitter hashtag (#eci831), our Google Plus Community, and our student blog hub. The open nature of the course. and the sharing that it inspires, benefits current and former participants, especially as the goal of the course is to foster and develop long-term, authentic, human connections.
Non-credit participation officially begins on September 24, 2013 and the course ends on December 3, 2013. There are many ways to participate, and the commitment is up to you. But, collectively I know that we will make this experience amazing for everyone involved, so it would be great if you could join us.
If you sign up, more details will be sent to you via email as we approach the 24th.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for considering. I hope that we can continue to learn together, but in a different way.
My friend @robwall sent me this tweet a couple of days ago:
— Rob Wall (@robwall) August 31, 2013
The image that (currently) previews in that tweet isn’t the original photo that was posted to this Ars Technica article. Originally, the article featured an image of my three children engaging in a Facetime conversation with my dad. I released this image under a Creative Commons license (BY-NC-SA), one that requires attribution, non-commercial use, and that the license remains the same even if someone adapts the photograph. Below is a screenshot of the original photo placement in the article, and you should notice that attribution is not provided. This seemed particularly ironic as the content of the article deals with intellectual property, and the author writes prolifically on these topics.
Shortly after I received the tweet from Rob, I sent the author a tweet and posted a comment on the article. Essentially, I was fine with Ars Technica using the photograph, was happy to provide permission for non-commercial use, but urged Ars to provide proper attribution for the image. While it took several hours for a response (which I think is quite reasonable), I eventually received this tweet from the author, @joemullin.
.@courosa Your photo had a CC license that we use routinely; but no attribution was an oversight. 100% my fault, I apologize. Plz email me
— Joe Mullin (@joemullin) August 31, 2013
I was pleased with the response. I don’t see this as theft. I recognize that this could easily have been an oversight. And apologizing publicly is not easy for many. So, I respect Joe for that and appreciate the transparency in his response.
Shortly after this tweet for Joe, I also received an email from the editor. I have pasted the text of this email below, and respond to it here.
Hi, I’m the creative director for Ars. First off, let me apologize for the oversight on your image credit. Our policy is always to credit and link all CC licensed photos, a quick glance at some other stories on our site should show the credit below the image. This was simply a mistake, didn’t mean for you to feel ripped off or cheated in any way.
Thanks Aurich. I’m happy with your swift response. Personally, I do not feel ripped off or cheated as I don’t feel a strong sense of ownership for the content that I create. However, the lack of attribution cheats your readership (the general public). While it may not seem like a big deal in the case of this single photograph, I feel that proper attribution is essential in providing others with the origin, adaptions, and travels of an artefact or idea. I love seeing that my work is useful for others. But, without attribution, we silence potential conversations around the matter and the context of ideas/artefacts being shared.
Let me also apologize for using an image that must resonate with you emotionally right now, definitely not our intention. I prefer that our writers not use photos of people from Flickr, even when licensed clearly for use, they’re not professional models and it can sometimes come out badly. Better to stick with licensed stock art for that kind of thing when possible.
If you missed it here’s the public apology from the author:
Our policy is to just immediately pull any image if someone claims the rights to it and objects. We don’t even verify they own it, better safe than sorry. So in this case your photo was immediately pulled once your comment was seen.
I also want to address the non-commercial license issue, it’s a bit of a mess as far as sorting out what it means. My understanding from lawyers (I’m certainly not one) is that CC licenses under “non commercial” are fair use for editorial purposes, even if the site in question also operates as a for-profit entity (so banner ads etc). Understandably some people might be 100% fine with that, and others might object because it doesn’t meet the spirit of what they thought they were putting up under that license.So Joe wasn’t ignoring your license, he was just doing what he was told is fair game.
I really mention this though to say that it’s a pretty common industry practice, and if that bothers you then you might want to reconsider what CC license you use for some of your photos. I would hope that everyone would pull a photo down immediately if requested, but you still have to find out they’re using it first.
If I can help with anything else please let me know, I wanted to reach out to you directly once I was made aware of the issue. We’re grateful for people who share their photos for use, we don’t have a photography staff or art department, and we’d be poorer off without that generosity. Any time there’s any kind of issue with the system I want to make sure all parties feel like we take their concerns seriously.Thanks for your time, and sorry for the mixup.
If you’ve been following this space, you’ll know that we’ve been considering and planning an educational technology focused MOOC to begin January of 2013. I’ve written on the development of this idea here and here, and there are a number of us who have been working on this collaborative #etmooc planning document and discussing possibilities in this Google Group. Progress has been intentionally slow, and very thoughtful.
Yesterday, I had a chance to meet with a few interested collaborators in a Google Hangout and the resulting conversation has me thinking about this project in a very different way than what was originally conceived. I think that this is a positive step, and I am sharing my thoughts here in hope that others will provide feedback on this reconceptualization.
Each time I facilitated EC&I 831, a MOOC-like course, I was fortunate to have a core of 20+ registered students that took the course for credit. The approximately 200 other students, many who acted as mentors, had very loose responsibilities around the course, and came and went according to their commitments and interests. #etmooc, as planned thus far, would not have that core group. So, much of the discussion thus far around #etmooc has been around developing learner motivation, engagement & retention especially in light of the high drop-out rate for MOOC participants.
While I viewed the lack of a core group as a welcome challenge, until this latest Google Hangout, I hadn’t really considered the freedoms that a core-less MOOC also provides. For instance, the most discussed elements around #etmooc planning so far have been related to decisions around the specific content areas to be covered (see table), especially since our potential audience is somewhat uncertain. It took me some time to realize that I was planning this too much like a traditional course, focusing on a pre-constructed curriculum, scope & sequence. This is an unnecessary constraint.
I feel that it is the ‘Course’ element of the MOOC acronym that constrains our thinking (the ‘Massive’ is a close second), so this is exactly the component that I hope to avoid in moving this #etmooc project toward the vision of an #unmooc.
So what could our #unmooc look like? Here are some ideas that originated from our planning meeting.
The original content area for #etmooc was educational technology. This is such a broad area, too vast to cover in any one course, and certainly my bias has been towards social software, free and open content and connected learning. For the purposes of this #unmooc, I now propose that the general focus should be around supporting the creation of practical knowledge and experiences for developing connected learners. (It’s roughly worded – please help me idea/word-craft this)
The #unmooc could be appealing to educators of all sectors, preservice teachers, students, parents, or really anyone wishing to be supported in developing connected literacies & skills for themselves, or for others.
Rather than developing a long, defined list of topics, it would be ideal to have curriculum driven by participants – curriculum that is responsive to not only learner interests, but to current trends & events (while scaffolding within a historical context). Weekly ‘topics’ could be broadly themed with variations across interest groups, sectors, subject areas, and geography. I would suggest thorough, ongoing & recurring orientation to connected learning concepts (including tool orientation & #unmooc sharing protocols) so that participants develop basic literacies & skills necessary to share, discuss, and create.
There could also be a strong focus on creating learning artefacts (this was voiced loudly in our meeting). An Education adaption of the #ds106 assignments database could prove worthwhile. As well, as I did with my #eci831 course, it could be ideal to have any educators who participate in #unmooc to develop projects that could directly be applied to their own contexts. Thus, #unmooc could become an ideal testing ground (e.g., virtual lab) for teachers (or preservice teachers) to develop or facilitate presentations/projects with other educators before implementing elsewhere (e.g., in classrooms or with colleagues).
#etmooc was originally planned to begin in January, and end in April. But there are several of us beginning to question the need for an end date. I know from my own experience with #eci831, that many students became so immersed in the network, that it felt odd & unnatural (and sad for some) to have to ‘end’ the experience. For several students, the residual experience of the course has remained. If successful, the #unmooc could go well beyond April – and if not, we could pack up early. But since we are not bound by academic schedules, there seems little point in predetermining an end-date.
In our meeting, Helen Keegan raised a good point regarding her approach with her students. In her courses, students spend a portion of time sharing their artefacts and celebrating their successes in public spaces. In support of this, Alan Levine added that there should be a set of explicit milestones for participants. In my own experience, my students’ ‘summaries of learning’ have been wildly popular in the courses that I teach. So, even without an end date, it is likely important to establish milestones throughout an #unmooc experience to celebrate successes, share creations, and renew connections.
The type and format of participant interactions in the #unmooc could vary greatly. I believe there is still great value in large synchronous web-conference sessions/presentations, especially for introducing/advancing ideas and for tool demonstrations. However, deeper interactions are certain to occur through one-to-one or small group communications, both synchronously and asynchronously. Spaces could be provided via the #unmooc but as I’ve often stated, I believe that as much as we can use and control our own learning spaces (e.g., self-hosted WordPress blog), the better off we are in the future. Of course, with this distributed approach, proper illustration of the importance and utility of tagging is essential to aggregating networked conversations.
While interactions in the #unmooc would likely be more often serendipitous in nature, designing interactions would be key to the function of the #unmooc. Forums could be provided and/or we could setup a virtual helpdesk through a Twitter hashtag, or more directly, through a tool like Google Hangouts. As well, the nurturing of subject-area, sector-based or geographically-bound sub-groups would be beneficial to deeper interactions.
One of the most important comments from this recent meeting was from Alan Levine when he suggested that the #unmooc should help to encourage people to “do things out in the world”. While I have suggested above that activities in the #unmooc could directly inform what educators do in their classrooms, I think that this notion is extended by Alan’s comments. If we can nurture this idea, to enable participants to do (good) things out in the world, whether simple things or those of deep social value, I believe that this alone would justify the existence of this initiative.
Did I Just Describe Twitter, Classroom 2.0, or the World Wide Web?:
Some may argue that much of what I described above already exists in other spaces, and perhaps then, there isn’t really a need for this. I would argue that we should proceed anyways for at least two important reasons. First, much of what I see on Twitter, and elsewhere, can be quite shallow, lacking depth, and for many people new to these networked spaces, entry can be frustrating and difficult. This is not so much as a critique of the Twittersphere, but more so, of the medium. Educators need a rich set of tools and experiences to encourage deep learning, and I feel that thoughtful design and guidance can provide this. Second, spaces like Twitter are becoming increasingly controlled and restricted. We are losing the ownership of our own conversations and learning spaces. Though admittedly a grand ambition, I hope that the process of developing an #unmooc, while providing a rich place for learning, can help us become more thoughtful and considerate of our learning spaces and the control of our discourse.
So did you get this far? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.
In mid-August, I wrote a post to gauge interest in a possible Edtech-focused MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) to begin January of 2013. I received a handful of responses on my blog, dozens of Twitter replies (captured in this Storify), and (to-date) 142 individuals stated their interest in participating via this Google form. I believe there is more than sufficient interest in an Edtech MOOC, and so I am very happy to begin the development process. I am looking forward to those who have expressed interest and those we are likely to pick up along the way.
I thought I would share my ideas for the course. These ideas are informed by my initial thoughts on the MOOC (from my experience running #eci831 & blended courses), the growing body of literature on MOOCs (especially the cMOOC variety), informal conversations with individuals (theories, practitioners, students), and the many responses received through the process mentioned in the above paragraph. I also hope to make as much of the planning & development of the MOOC open & transparent so that others can understand and learn from decisions made around tools, technical processes and pedagogy. Thus, I will be doing my best to gather documentation, and I invite others to do so as well. I hope that the ‘making of’ the MOOC will be as valuable as the MOOC itself.
Ideas will be shared below. I will then copy the headers into an editable Google Doc so that facilitators/participants can write, edit, add feedback or sign-up for key roles.
What should this MOOC be about?
I am hoping that this MOOC will be developed on the topic of educational technology & media, a broad-ranging and continually expanding area of study. I believe that this MOOC can be relevant to all educators (P-12 school teachers, instructors, professors) and learners across a number of educational systems. As well, it is my hope that the MOOC is accessible and relevant to participants across the globe, wherever there is access to Internet technologies.
Some possible topics may include, but are not limited to the following (in no particular order):
How should the MOOC be organized and/or facilitated?
It feels traditional, but I assume we will need to come up with a time-frame for this experience (start & end date, semester framework?) and methods of facilitating content/connections (e.g., live seminars, networked writing spaces, microblogging, newsletter, etc.). Other logistics needing to be discussed may include:
What do we need to make this happen?
Who’s going to help, and what role will you play?
In the online form featured in my first post, I broke down participation into four major roles: development/planning, session facilitation, online mentors, participants. Obviously, individuals could choose more than one role. Am I missing anything?
For those who would like to help planning/developing this MOOC, consider signing up for the #etmooc Google Group. If you have a suggestion for a better place to collaborate, please let me know.
Thanks to everyone who is considering some form of participation in this experience. I look forward to working with you and making this experience beneficial for those interested in exploring technology & media in education.
A couple of weeks ago, several colleagues and I arranged a retirement dinner for my former Dean, Dr. Michael Tymchak. Michael was the Dean when I was hired at the Faculty of Education back in 1999, and I’ve worked with him in various roles over more than a decade. Michael is one of the most inspiring people I have ever worked and has done powerful work in our province in the areas of teacher education, northern & aboriginal education, and in the development of inclusive, community schooling.
At his retirement, Michael told a story about a recent visit to his family’s homestead. He recalled how as a child he would play and explore in and throughout the many buildings found on the farm – a complete universe through the eyes of youth. Now, with his return, the buildings are completely gone, the land is bare, and the farm is owned by another family. Yet, on this visit Michael dug through the dirt with his hands where he remembered the old landmarks. He tells of finding a perfume bottle, still intact, with a fragrance that triggered still more memories. He also found something he described as a ‘heel protector’, a device much more common at the time. Little things perhaps, but things once important, and at the time of Michael’s visit, enough evidence to trigger important questions, “What endures? What remains?”
I have been thinking about these questions since Michael shared them. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts with you – this is sure to be more of a ramble than a coherent progression of ideas.
For instance, I saw a post recently on Reddit that was simply titled “Life in Three Pictures“. While I have no idea who these two men are, how they may have lived, or the strength of their relationship, the three photos express so well the commonality of our lived experiences, our changing relationships, and our inevitable fate. But I’ll save those topics for another post.
Here, I saw the metaphor for so many abandoned online communities. This is MySpace and Friendster. And some day, this will be Facebook & Twitter. Online communities face the same inevitabilities as any other form of community.
This isn’t much of an ‘aha’. I assume that anyone who has studied or participated in online communities would quickly come to the same conclusion. Communities are hard to sustain and develop, and all communities have a finite life-span. So why write about this at all?
First, I think that examining the question “What endures?” is incredibly important for educators – and not simply for its philosophical relevance. Educators are designers. We design (learning) experiences and (hopefully) foster the development of communities for our learners. In these roles, what should we hope endures for our students? What will remain of these experiences? And what do we know will not?
And second, for us – those especially invested in social networks – I hope these questions increase our awareness of the depth and quality of our own connections. While I’ve spent the last decade studying and promoting the importance of ‘weak ties‘ for collaboration/cooperation, I would be the first to admit that such ties can be more practical than meaningful, and by definition, tenuous.
Finally, on the practical level – think about your own use and embeddedness in social networks. Say, if Twitter or Facebook were gone (or dramatically different) tomorrow, would the human connections that matter to you be easily rediscovered/re-formed elsewhere? Are your relationships platform-dependent? Is it time to increase the depth and quality of your social network relationships? And if so, how will you do this?
As expressed near the beginning of the post, these are mostly just rambling thoughts. Help me make sense of this. Your thoughts?
Two years ago, I was asked to do a co-keynote with Graham Attwell in Barcelona for the inaugural PLE Conference. At that time, Graham and I decided to crowdsource our ‘unkeynote/keynode’ and to invite participation from anyone who wanted to contribute to the live conversation. The original call is found here. The contributions from others were amazingly creative and generous, and we both felt that the experiment was a success.
This July 12 to 13, Joyce Seitzinger is organizing a PLE Conference to take place in Melbourne, Australia (concurrent to the European strand) and I have been asked to participate as one of the keynote speakers. I am hoping to facilitate something similar to the 2010 unKeynote/Keynode experience.
So, if you have a few spare minutes, this is where I could really use your help.
The question that I am hoping to facilitate is, “Why do (social) networks matter in teaching & learning?”. To help answer this question, I am hoping that people will do one of the following things:
During my sabbatical, I’m hoping to dive into research around the value of social networking tools like Twitter in the professional development of educators (including administrators). Today, I began with a some reconnaissance around the topic.
At this point, I’m still developing developing questions that need to be answered. Please take a look at the conversation captured in this Storify, and I’d love if you could either add to this discussion or provide advice as to what questions on this topic are worth exploring. I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Thanks!
One of my favorite people on the planet, Dr. Richard Schwier, has just released his new free eBook titled Connections: Virtual Learning Communities. Read about the book here, or download directly from this link. The book is in .epub format, so if you are unfamiliar with how to handle that format, see this resource.
A little bit about the book:
This ebook pulls together the big ideas from our work for educators who might actually be able to put what we have learned to good use. That’s what this book is about—making sense of online learning communities. In a sense it isn’t original; it is rewritten out of material the VLC Research Lab already created along with a healthy dose of my own speculations. So it is selective rather than comprehensive. It doesn’t attempt to pull together all of the excellent work and writing about online learning.
This is also an experiment with this digital form of a book. The ebook format offers a number of fresh affordances and imposes some really difficult layout restrictions. The book includes a number of links to resources and examples. Every chapter has a video introduction that you can jump to if you want to get the big idea without combing through an entire chapter to dig it out. And by the time I release the next edition, I hope to discover a reasonable way to embed videos into the document, instead of having to link to external files.
Thank you Rick for pushing the boundaries on academic writing and sharing this work for free and in the open. I’ve downloaded it to my iPad, and I can’t wait to read it.
This morning I noticed an emotional thread on Reddit, a popular, user-generated, social news site. The thread began as an IamA/AMA (“I Am a [blank], ask me anything…”) where a pseudonymous poster (‘lucidendings’) described having only 51 hours to live due to a long battle with cancer and having chosen to die under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act. While reading through the comments, it was difficult not to get caught up in the emotion around this post and the outpouring of (mostly) kindness toward this person. I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories, the #ShinyHappyInternet as my friend Jen often jests, and I regularly use such examples in my presentations (e.g., Help Me Fix My Last Picture of Mom, Kathleen Gets a Toy Shopping Spree).
If you follow the story through the thread, you will see remarkable things. For instance, the thread itself (at the time of writing) has over 6500 comments, the majority being kind & generous. There’s the user-generated map featuring warm, heart-felt messages from across the globe. There’s the touching but short-video from a Youtuber featuring a star-balloon as it rises to the sky (wait for the smile at the end). Then there’s the flurry of people attempting to stream the sun rising in Key West as it was identified by lucidending’s as a favorite moment in life.
Yet, the entire time I read through these threads and viewed the kindness of strangers, I thought to myself, what if this person is lying? It happens (thanks Chris). In this case, we may never know for sure. But how demoralizing could this be for a community (online or not)?
But maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe the humanity that emerges here in times like this is enough for us to be optimistic. Jen notes,”That whole thing is a good example of an occasion where it doesn’t matter if the original post is authentic.”
In digging deeper into the original thread, I find this gem. One Redditer, in critiquing the outpouring writes:
…another bandwagon to jump on. Just like the TSA and Wikileaks, reddits short attention span settles on the death of a complete stranger.
Countless people around the world are going to die today. Almost none of them are going to make that choice, almost none of them are going to choose to die today.
Lucid got to choose when to die. He gets to prepare. Not one tear for all the other deaths, but a thread of people bitching about onions for this guy.
He deserves the attention he’s getting. What he’s gone though, and what he will do through in the next few days… well, none of us could ever comprehend it.
And this is countered with the following …
I think you fundamentally misunderstand the outpouring of emotion for Lucidending. The outpouring of emotion is for all those faceless and nameless deaths, for our own deaths, and all the ones before and since. The outpouring of emotion is a small window into our own mortality and humanity, and with it the pain, love, joy, and despair of them all.
Lucidendings, if your destiny is as you describe, I feel nothing but warm thoughts for you and I wish you all the best on your journey. In any case, your post has inspired others to be generous, caring, and inspiring to others. I can still believe that the Internet, and of course the world that it reflects, is a (mostly) shiny, happy place.
So what are your thoughts on all of this?
Update: As was somewhat suspected, lucidending’s story may have been a hoax. Gawker’s Adrian Chen has taken responsibility for the hoax, although that story is also being disputed.
My friend and colleague Dean Shareski orchestrated a crowdsourcing initiative which resulted in this heart-warming video in honour of my birthday. The people in the video, about 75 in total, are my friends, many of whom I’ve been fortunate enough to have met face-to-face or online over the past few years. I am truly blown-away by this – this is seriously the best birthday gift I’ve ever received. Thank you to everyone who participated in this and to all of those who shared warm birthday wishes with me via Twitter, Facebook, email, and face-to-face. I am so very fortunate to have such wonderful friends and loved-ones dear to me. Thank you all!
Special thanks to Dean Shareski. I know how much time an initiative like this takes and it is truly appreciated. This is truly wonderful. This is community.
And, if you haven’t seen it, here’s the vid:
Update #1: I wasn’t sure exactly how Dean facilitated the crowdsourcing of this project, but Rod Lucier’s post explains the process a bit better.
Update #2: Dean put together a great post clearly explaining the process.