Need Your Help (Again) – unKeynote/Keynode 2012

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:

  • Submit a short video or audio clip (between 30 seconds and 1 minute in length) that helps to answer this question.
  • Submit a single PowerPoint or Keynote slide or image that in some way represents your response.
  • Respond to this question on your blog or similar personal space.
  • Respond to this question via Twitter using the hashtag #WhyNetworksMatter.
While I am happy if you respond in any way possible, I would love to have at least a few video or audio responses so that I can feature these during the presentation. And respond in any way you wish – whether it’s very personal (from your own experience) or something more ‘academic’ – the key question is broad and ambiguous to allow for multiple interpretations and responses.
To submit, use a medium of your choice (e.g., Youtube, Soundcloud, blog, etc.) and send me the link at couros@gmail.com. OR, submit the file directly to my Dropbox folder using this link with the password ‘pleconf’ (this option will only work with files that are 75MB or less). For Twitter responses, I’ll likely use Storify to archive and arrange your tweets.
And, because the conference is coming up very soon, I am hoping to receive your responses by July 8, 2012 so that I can sort and arrange your work in some meaningful way. Sorry for the short notice!
So are you willing to help? Please?

Student Work – Winter 2012

As I’ve done previously (see 20092010 and 2011), I wanted to share some of the best examples of student work from my ECMP 355 (Technology in Education) undergraduate course. These students are all preservice teachers and they range from being in the first to the fourth (final) year of our program. If you have any questions about the work featured here, please comment below or email me. I hope that you will find these projects valuable.

Final Projects: The goal of these projects varied – essentially, they were either of the ‘build a learning resource’ or ‘learn something of significance using the Internet’ variety.

Blogfolios: Students were tasked to create blogfolios in the class as a means to strengthen their digital identities, and experience an important form of alternative assessment.
Summaries of Learning: These summaries of learning are typically a 3-5 minutes reflection/presentation/celebration of what students learned throughout the course.

Need Your Help – unKeynote/Keynode

Graham Attwell and I have been paired together as co-keynotes at the PLE Conference in Barcelona, Spain, July 8-9. The organizers have asked us to do something different than a typical keynote, so we previously asked for feedback on the format. Here are some of the ideas that emerged from that process.

Today, Graham and I met, went through all of the responses, and decided to go with format outlined below. However, to make this work, we would really love your responses. Please help!

How (We Think) the Session is Going to Work:

We have put together a a list of questions (see below) and are inviting your responses. We will put together a joint presentation based on your slides.

We will present the ‘keynote’ together but will be encouraging participants – both face to face and remotely – to contribute to the keynote as it develops.

Where We Need Help:

  1. We’d like you to respond to one or more of these ‘key questions’ found below. We suggest responding through the creation of a (PowerPoint) slide, or creating a very short video (less than 1 minute?). Or, if you can think of another way of representing your ideas, please be creative.
  2. We’d like you to provide questions for us. What did we miss? What are some of the important questions for consideration when exploring PLEs/PLNs in teaching & learning.
  3. Please send your responses to graham10@mac.com (and cc: couros@gmail.com) by July 6/10.]

Key Questions:

  1. With all of the available Web 2.0 tools, is there a need for “educational technology”?
  2. What are the implications of PLEs/PLNs on traditional modes/structures of education?
  3. What are the key attributes of a healthy PLE/PLN?
  4. What pedagogies are inspired by PLEs (e.g., networked learning, connected learning)? Give examples of where PLEs/PLNs have transformed practice.
  5. What are the implications of PLEs/PLNs beyond bringing educational technology into the classroom, and specifically toward workplace/professional learning?
  6. If PLEs/PLNs are becoming the norm, what does it mean for teachers/trainers (or the extension: what does it mean for training teachers & trainers)?
  7. As our networks continue to grow, what strategies should we have in managing our contacts, our connections, and our attention? Or, extension, how scalable are PLEs/PLNs?
  8. Can we start thinking beyond PLEs/PLNs as models? Are we simply at a transitional stage? What will be the next, new model for learning in society? (e.g., where are we headed?)

We’d love to get as many responses as possible to make this work well. It doesn’t have to be much, or anything comprehensive. Just pick up on one of the pieces and let us know what you think on the matter. Again, we need these by July 6/10.

Thanks!!!

Keynote: Harnessing the Power of Social Networks

I gave a keynote presentation yesterday titled “Harnessing the Power of Social Networks in Teaching and Learning” at the University of Delaware. Below, you can find the archived video and my slide deck.

I want to thank all of the good people at the University of Delaware who invited me, greeted me with wonderful hospitality, and let me be part of their excellent summer faculty institute. It was a terrific experience!

Tweet & A Poke: Camosun Keynote

I was fortunate and honoured to have given the keynote address at Camosun College’s 2009 Walls Optional conference in Victoria, BC. The presentation provided a brief overview of the changing nature of knowledge, the rise of social networks, and the impact of emerging technologies/media on teaching & learning. Below, i have included the recorded video feed, the slide deck via Slideshare, and a link to the original Keynote file. Note that the Keynote file is very large (over 300MB) as it includes video files. Also, this file includes my speaker notes which were written as personal prompts and not as the actual, given dialogue.

Full video of the presentation is available here.

Slide deck (via SlideShare).

Full presentation available here in Keynote.app format.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the presentation, or any of the content discussed. And thanks to the good people at Camosun College, the individuals I met at the #VictoriaTweetup the night before, and those that drove in from outside of Victoria for the event. It was a pleasure to meet you all!

Update: A Blip.tv version of the video is now available.

Visualizing Open/Networked Teaching

Recently, I have been conceptualizing/personalizing the concept of open teaching as informed by my facilitation of EC&I 831 and ECMP 455. In my view, open teaching goes well beyond the parameters of the Free and Open Source Software movement, beyond the advocacy of open content and copyleft licenses, and beyond open access. For open teaching, these are the important mechanisms, processes, and residuals, but they should not be viewed as the end goals in themselves. Rather, open teaching may facilitate our approach to social, collaborative, self-determined, and sustained, life-long learning.

My working definition of open teaching (focused on the above areas) follows:

Open teaching is described as the facilitation of learning experiences that are open, transparent, collaborative, and social. Open teachers are advocates of a free and open knowledge society, and support their students in the critical consumption, production, connection, and synthesis of knowledge through the shared development of learning networks. Typical activities of open teachers may include some or all of the following:

* Advocacy and use of free and/or open source tools and software wherever possible and beneficial to student learning;
* Integration of free and open content and media in teaching and learning;
* Promotion of copyleft content licenses for student content production/publication/dissemination;
* Facilitation of student understanding regarding copyright law (e.g., fair use/fair dealing, copyleft/copyright);
* Facilitation and distributed scaffolding of student personal learning networks for collaborative and sustained learning;
* Development of learning environments that are reflective, responsive, student-centred, and that incorporate a diverse array of instructional and learning strategies;
* Modeling of openness, transparency, connectedness, and responsible copyright/copyleft use and licensing; and,
* Advocacy for the participation and development of collaborative gift cultures in education and society.

(Key phrase, “working definition”, comments always welcome.)

Through interactions with current and former students, the resulting practice has lead to a learning environment where the walls are appropriately thinned. This process is visualized through the following graphic.

Open Teaching - Thinning the Walls

Through the guiding principles of open teaching, students are able to gain requisite skills, self-efficacy, and knowledge as they develop their own personal learning networks (PLNs). Educators guide the process using their own PLNs, with a variety of teaching/learning experiences, and via (distributed) scaffolding. Knowledge is negotiated, managed, and exchanged. A gift economy may be developed through the paying-forward of interactions and meaningful collaborations.

In the digital and rich-media environment, educators may also take on different roles, metaphors that extend beyond “sage on the stage”, “guide on the side”, etc. The “network sherpa” (source?) may be a suitable metaphor to describe these pedagogical processes.

Open Teaching - Network Sherpa

This metaphor projects the role of teacher as one who “knows the terrain”, helps to guide students around obstacles, but who is also led by student interests, objectives, and knowledge. The terrain in this case consists of the development of media literacy (critique & awareness), social networks (connections), and connected/connective knowledge.

As with any models/images/diagrams/metaphors there are always limitations and (outright) flaws. Yet, I present these three pieces (i.e., working definition of open teaching, thinning the walls, network sherpa) in hope that it will lead us to a discussion on some of the perceived changes in teaching & learning in the wider scope of education.

Feedback and critique always welcome and encouraged.

Feedback and Support for My Students?

As many of you know, I am teaching two online courses this semester. These courses are ECMP 455 (undergraduate) and EC&I 831 (graduate), both which are focused on educational technology. My students are all blogging, and I’m starting to see some real improvement in their writing and reflecting on topics related to the course.

I have tagged my student blogs in Google Reader, and shared the public pages below:

I know that many people in my PLN have already begun engaging my students, and commenting on their blogs. Several of my students have commented on how inspiring and motivating this interaction has been for them.

For those interested, I would love if you could subscribe to the feeds above and follow my students through their journey. They could definitely benefit from your encouragement and insight. And, interactions like these are important for them to understand the benefits of a personal learning network.

Thanks if you are able, and always greatly appreciated.

Digital Storytelling Resources

I find that one of the most useful features of Twitter is the resource sharing. With a well-established network of educators, it seems easy to solicit responses from educators who are willing to share favourite resources on various topics. Today, one of my undergraduate students Krystal (@tealek) inquired about digital story telling resources. I sent out a tweet, and many good people within my network sent back their responses. I have collected these below (sorry if I missed anyone):

- @pcwoessner sent me to David Jakes’ excellent Digital Storytelling resources.

- @CherylDoig offered Jason Ohler’s resources.

- @lloydcrew sent me to the Images4Education site, and a great article by Bryan Alexander and Alan Levine.

- @cheritoledo offered a link to the Center for Digital Storytelling.

- @clintlalonde sent me to his long list of Delicious bookmarks tagged as digitalstorytelling.

- @plowenthal linked to a techheds podcast on digital storytelling.

- @sammora sent me to the resources at Montclair Public schools and their digital authoring initiative.

- @MagistraM led me to Langwitches blog and the various resources offered there.

- @bcdtech offered her Diigo list/digital storytelling category.

- @jorech sent me his Wikispaces page with a long list of resources.

- @shyj offered her list of Delicious bookmarks tagged on the subject.

- @barbaram sent Krystal her wiki of resources on storytelling and other activities.

- MtnLaurel offered her Diigo collections of resources.

Again, sorry if I missed anyone or screwed up any of the links. Do let me know.

This is one of my favourite uses of Twitter. Through the generosity of educators, it can be easy to gather a substantial list of educator-recommended resources on topics like this. And, I’m happy that through this post, I can give back a little to my network.

What is a PLN? Or, PLE vs. PLN?

I am currently writing a chapter regarding open and networked learning. I have used the term Personal Learning Network (PLN) dozens of times over the last few years, and have seen it mentioned countless times in blog and microblog posts, and other forms of media. However, I cannot seem to find a solid reference or definition for the concept of PLN. I sent out several email messages asking people if knew of an existing article or reference for the PLN definition, and I have yet to receive a response. About the best lead I could find was a post from Stephen Downes that mentioned “Dave Warlick has taken the concept of the Personal Learning Environment, renamed it (to Personal Learning Network).”

I thought it was appropriate to ask the question to my PLN (or what I perceive as my PLN) via Twitter. I asked if anyone had a definition for a PLN, or if they knew the difference between a personal learning network and personal learning environment (PLE). I received varied responses, and the majority of these are pasted below. To make more sense of this conversation, read these from the very bottom to the top as they are in reverse chronological order.

PLN Conversation 15
\PLN Conversation 14
PLN Conversation 13
PLN Conversation 12
PLN Conversation 11
PLN Conversation 10
PLN Conversation 9
PLN Conversation 8
PLN Conversation 7
PLN Conversation 6
PLN Conversation 5
PLN Conversation 4
PLN Conversation 3
PLN Conversation 2
PLN Conversation 1

There were a number of interesting perceptions revealed regarding PLNs and PLEs. Participants of this conversation seem passionate about these topics, and there are some very interesting research questions that begin to emerge. If anyone has suggestions for existing academic research that relates to PLNs and PLEs, please let me know.

And this conversation itself seem to have sparked some creativity around these questions. For instance, @bookjewel posted this conversation to Plurk, where @catspyjamasnz (Joyce) developed and shared this diagram (below) that describes her current understanding of the differences between the PLE and PLN.

PLE vs. PLN

I also received a Twitter direct message from @BlancheMaynard who shared this important distinction:

PLN is organic; PLE is mechanic. You can use ‘tools’ like Twitter within your PLE to access your network, but the tool isn’t the network.

And, I received a very thoughtful email from @jrichardson30 (Jeff) that helped to give me insight into PLNs and this very conversation. I have included only a small piece of this message as I am hoping Jeff posts his thoughts in their entirety in his own space.

I have a PLN but really haven’t tried to describe it. I have talked about PLN’s with the teachers at my schools but I really haven’t defined it in any certain terms…much less in 140 characters (actually, 132 characters by the time I added in the @courosa to respond on Twitter). So I distilled out what I thought was a somewhat thoughtful response and tweeted it. Well, just like any good steward of Twitter, Dr. Couros quickly responded to my answer. But his response was another question! Isn’t that what good teachers do…use good questioning techniques to get students thinking on higher levels? Of course it is. And he must be a good teacher because his question led me to closely examine what a PLN really is…to discover what it means to me personally. It’s not that defining a PLN has been a pressing issue for me or something that I have lost sleep over. It’s the fact that I entered into a conversation, shared my thoughts and then the conversation didn’t just end. It was been furthered by another person’s response and question…a true conversation.

This conversation has become a learning opportunity for me, my chance to create meaning and gain a better understanding for myself…a meaning and understanding that I can then share with others in my PLN. Maybe I can further this conversation or enter into a new one, but the difference will be that I have something NEW to bring to the community because of my personal discovery as a result having a PLN. Isn’t that our goal for our students…for them to authentically engage in the learning process so as to create/discover meaning that is useful to them personally and then hopefully to contribute to the larger society? Isn’t that what a good citizen does? I believe that is what a PLN is all about…To act as a source AND catalyst for this sort of thought-provoking conversation and authentic experience mentioned above that leads us to a point where are required to engage, to reflect, and ultimately to contribute instead of just consuming.

Beautiful!

From a simple question on Twitter, I received dozens of twitter replies, direct messages, and email responses. While I am still having trouble defining exactly what this is, I know that what I observe to be my PLN has dramatically changed the way I view teaching, communities, and the negotiation and formation of knowledge.

So let’s keep the conversation going. What are your thoughts?

Networked Student – The Video

With a style borrowed from the Common Craft videos, Wendy Drexler has put together an excellent video depicting what she calls the networked student. This is a terrific description of how networked learning may look for an individual student. Thanks Wendy for your obvious hard work on this concept and video!

More info:

The Networked Student was inspired by CCK08, a Connectivism course offered by George Siemens and Stephen Downes during fall 2008. It depicts an actual project completed by Wendy Drexler’s high school students. The Networked Student concept map was inspired by Alec Couros’ Networked Teacher. I hope that teachers will use it to help their colleagues, parents, and students understand networked learning in the 21st century.

The Personal in PLNs

I will teaching two open online courses next semester, and I have been brainstorming a number of ways to do things a bit differently. In both courses, students will go through the process of forming their own personal learning networking. “Their own” is key here and is something I have been struggling with. In the past, I have just given students a list of people from within my network, but I am beginning to think that this practice may be problematic. First, is this not a bit contrived? Or is it? Is this an accurate way of representing how learning networks form? Maybe. I am not sure. Second, does this not just lead to replicating well-formed, existing networks? Or, does this contribute to the dreaded “echo chamber” effect?

Sure, I know that if I give a short list of network contacts to my students, they are not by any means going to form the same exact network that I have, but I would bet these would be very similar. And I am not by any means trying to criticize the members of my own PLN. In fact, I wouldn’t be connected to you if I did not feel that it was a positive connection. But I am curious of what I am missing. I want to understand personal learning networks not only by the connections that form, but also by those that are absent.

So, help me out here. What if I gave each of my students a single point on the the network, a single individual (probably via a blog address), and made all attempts to keep these points as unrelated as possible (yes, quite difficult in our x degrees of separation world). What networks would students form? How similar would these PLNs be? And what could we learn about how educational PLNs form?

Most importantly, if I used this approach with my students, would this in any way disadvantage their learning opportunities?

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.