Tips Up or Tips Down?


cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by courosa

I just returned from the grocery shopping with my five-year-old son. As we approached the fruit section, my curious little guy asked, “Do bananas grow with tips up or with tips down?” Since we don’t have a lot of banana plants in Regina, I didn’t actually know off-hand. But, being the connected father I am, I pulled out my iPhone, Googled it, and in less than 30 seconds, we were looking at photos of banana plants and we no longer had to wonder.

We no longer had to wonder.

I did that entirely wrong. At the very least, I could have asked my boy, “Well, which do you think son?” perhaps followed by “So, why do you think that?” But I didn’t. And because I didn’t, I messed up a great learning opportunity.

Instead of providing my boy with an extended opportunity to be curious, to imagine deeply and to think creatively, I reinforced one of the worst habits of our generation. I demonstrated to my boy that you can solve a problem without thinking. And, I won’t do that again.

Rethinking #etmooc – Towards the #unmooc

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.

Planning meeting with Alan Levine, Helen Keegan, Lenandlar Singh & Valeria Lopes. Sean Williams not shown.

Google Hangout planning meeting with Alan Levine, Helen Keegan, Lenandlar Singh & Valeria Lopes. Sean Williams attended, but not shown.

The Problem:
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.

Focus:
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)

Audience:
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.

Content/Curriculum:
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).

Timeline:
#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.

Interactions:
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.

#etmooc – Let’s Get Started!

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):

  • History of educational technology in teaching & learning.
  • Relevant educational theories & integration models.
  • Overview (how-tos & critique) of current gadgets, resources & web tools.
  • Connected/networked learning and personal learning networks/environments.
  • Mobile learning overview, strategies and resources.
  • Learning management systems, overview & critique.
  • Copyright, copyleft, mashups, remixes – overview & practical use.
  • Digital citizenship, digital identity, footprint, ethics.
  • Privacy, edu. business models, terms of service – what to know about web services.
  • Digital storytelling & other non-literary modes of expression.
  • Memes, viral videos, and how information spreads.
  • 21st century literacies (whatever that means).
  • Openness in education (Open educational resources, MOOCs, etc.).
  • BYOD initiatives, responsible use policies, and other ed. leadership topics.
  • Future of … (technology, schooling, education).
Again, these are just a few suggestions. I’m looking for your feedback. I think that once we refine the list, we can start scheduling and finding individuals willing to facilitate these topics (and others that have not yet been suggested).
Beyond the content itself (outlined above), I am hoping that the greatest benefit of this course will prove to be be participants developing resilient personal learning networks, forming the habit of connecting with others to facilitate independent learning goals (both planned & serendipitous), and nurturing online communities based upon sharing & transparency.

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:

  • the bridging of educational sectors (K12, university, tertiary).
  • development of global nodes of activity, time-shifting, & having localized events.
  • assessment (peer assessment, do we need assessment?).
  • credit (badges, peer developed, localized approaches, no credit?).
  • type of assignments (maybe something like DS106 assignments model?)
  • development of peer mentorship relationship (support participants at various levels).
  • involving the less connected (e.g., teachers at schools who would have never heard of a MOOC but could be supported & encouraged locally/globally).
  • development of participant blogging (or other publishing) spaces to decentralize the learning environment.
  • development of a common hashtag (#etmooc?) and other ways to aggregate data (such as Downes’ GRSShopper or tools like http://paper.li)
  • a central aggregation site for course information (like http://eci831.ca)
  • development of a research agenda/protocols/ethics for those wishing to study this experience.
  • getting people interested & involved & sustaining participation & engagement to avoid MOOC dropout.

What do we need to make this happen?

  • What tools & processes will we need to develop the content? Timelines? Responsibilities?
  • What tools & processes shall we use throughout the course?
  • Who shall we invite to facilitate? How do we develop localized nodes?

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.

 

Edtech MOOC, January 2013?

During my sabbatical year (July 1/12 to June 30/13), I plan to focus on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as one of my key areas of research. To do so, I’m considering planning, organizing and facilitating a semester-long MOOC focused on educational technology starting January 2013. I am envisioning the course to be somewhat similar to my EC&I 831 course, but with the focus more explicitly on the integration of technology in teaching, learning & professional development (hands-on sessions exploring major categories of tools with a focus on pedagogy & literacy).

I’m thinking that this course would be relevant to teachers, administrators, preservice teachers, teacher educators, librarians, parents and likely many others hoping to sharpen their understanding of emerging skills and literacies. Also, it would be great to have newbies involved (people that are fairly new to educational technology and/or those we wouldn’t normally find on Twitter). However, before I get too far along in this, I want to make sure there is interest from both those that would enroll, and those that would help develop & facilitate the experience.

So, is there a need for this sort of thing? Is there anyone willing to help plan the experience? Anyone interested in participating in a course like this? Any thoughts on what we could do to make this successful? I’d love to hear from you.

Edit #1: There seems to be some interest already, so to make sure that I don’t lose any potential collaborators due to the chaos that is Twitter, please fill out this very short form if you are interested in participating. I will contact you very soon to get things started.

Edit #2: I wanted to capture the responses of potential collaborators/participants, so I put together this Storify. I’m really excited about this, and will get back to everyone by early September at the latest.

What endures? What remains?

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.

Today, I discovered a photo (source) that made me think about these key questions a bit differently, more in-line with my work in developing & sustaining network interactions/communities.

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?

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 – Fall 2011

For the third year in a row (see 2009 and 2010), I wanted to use the last post of the year to share a few examples of the great work that is being done by my graduate and undergraduate students. I am so very fortunate to have creative & hard-working students who are committed to improving their knowledge of teaching and learning in light of our new digital landscape. I hope that some of these examples will inspire you to take up new challenges in your own context.

From EC&I 831 (Open graduate course, Social Media & Open Education):

 Summaries of Learning:

  • Leslie – used stop-motion technique.
  • Tannis – used Glogster, an interactive, digital poster-making tool.
  • Shauna – used Freemind (free & open source mind-mapping tool) & video-editing.
  • Laura – used Xtranormal, a freemium “type-to-create-movies” tool.
  • Gail – used Screenr, a free and easy screencasting tool.
  • Kelley – used Jing, another free screencasting tool.
  • Lorena – used Voicethread, a group conversation and presentation tool.
  • Katy – used TikaTok (a tool for creating books) and Jing.
  • Alison – used Prezi, an less-linear Powerpoint alternative.
  • Kevin – used Knovio, a video-enhanced presentation tool.

Final Projects:

From ECMP 355 (An Undergraduate Technology Integration Course):

Summaries of Learning:

Electronic Portfolios:

There were many other good projects to share, but this represents a good sample of the student work from the semester. I’m looking forward to one more great semester before a 16 months hiatus from teaching as I move toward my sabbatical planning.

Happy New Year everyone!

Writing Prompts (Collaborative Document)

In the style of previous collaborations (here and here), we’ve collaboratively written a great list of writing prompts related to technology & media in teaching & learning. These were intended for the teacher candidates I teach, but I see tremendous value for anyone who is writing or thinking about the use of technology in education.

Thanks again everyone for showing me that this form of collaboration really does work and for contributing great ideas to the document. I now have a great, growing resource for my students when they tell me ‘I have nothing to write about’.

See the collaborative document here.

Teaching & Learning in a Networked World (Keynote)

I am on my way home from the Quest Conference held at Richmond Hill, Ontario where I was fortunate to have given a preconference keynote presentation. The conference was really great, and this trip gave me a chance to enjoy time with old and new friends, many who I’ve met online via Twitter. There are really some great things happening in Ontario schools, and I’m very proud to know some of the wonderful people creating positive change.

I wanted to take this opportunity to share the recording and the slides of my keynote in case this is useful to anyone. Thanks to the organizers of Quest for inviting me to your excellent conference.

Recording:

Slides:

View more presentations from Alec Couros.

Call for Network Mentors – Follow-Up

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 …

——-

Hey everyone!
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.

Plan B?:
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).

Synchronous Sessions:
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.

Other Communication:
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,
Alec

Open Graduate Course & Call For Network Mentors

The University academic year begins tomorrow and I am delighted to announce that I will be teaching my open graduate course, EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education, once again. This will be the fourth time I have taught the course since 2007, and based on student feedback and network reviews, I believe it has been very successful.

However, being a critically reflective practitioner, I am hoping to advance my practice and further improve the course based on feedback from and interviews with course participants. This year, I am hoping to improve specifically on levels of trust between for-credit and non-credit students. I believe that increased levels of trust will lead to a more collaborative and rich learning space for all course participants.

Background:
EC&I 831 is an open course. This year, I have approximately 20 for-credit students (learners enrolled in the course for university credit). However, the course is also open to non-credit participants. This means, you, your friend, your neighbour, and your sister’s roomate’s dad’s hairdresser are all welcome to participate, especially if they are interested in topics such as social media & open education as these relate to K12 and university teaching. In the past, we’ve had over 200 non-credit students per term participate to various degrees

I have made this course open for three main reasons. First, I am philosophically committed to the concept of open education in all forms. That means I choose to publish only in open access journals and books (e.g., Emerging Technologies in Education), I attempt to model my professional life as a public scholar (e.g., my Open Tenure & Promotion Application) and I license my work under Creative Commons licenses (e.g., Considering CC-NC). Offering open access courses/experiences is an extension of this philosophy in practice. Second, I believe that there are powerful pedagogical affordances available to us when we leverage forms of open & networked learning. I have written about this previously here and here (also see comments for rich insight). And finally, it is my belief that in order for students to best understand topics such as social media and open education, they are well served through immersion in the context guided through authentic, experiential learning.

While I see much of this as common-sense, I’ve had my critics and was once even labeled as a techno-communist. As an aside, here was my response in the form of my own attack-ad.

How Can You Help/Participate?
So, in light of what I have learned in running the course the previous three times, I am proposing two options for non-credit students. First, there is the somewhat passive option that I have offered in the past. Participants can come to our weekly synchronous sessions (staring September 28/10) and learn from our guests (more to be added soon). You can comment on student posts, add suggested readings and tools to our Delicious tag, or perform other things mentioned here. There’s not much commitment, but you still get to participate, and we’ll certainly learn something from you. However, this semester, I am also proposing an advanced, non-credit participation mode in my Call for Network Mentors. Basically, I’m looking for knowledgeable and savvy volunteers who get to participate in the course sessions, but also will focus a bit on supporting/mentoring learners along this journey. I have written some ideas of what this would look like here but I’m really hoping it simply evolves into something good – good for my students and everyone involved – something I could never have anticipated.

So if you are interested in option #1, the more passive route (and really, there’s nothing wrong with that) – you may consider adding your name here.

And, if you are interested in becoming a network mentor, whatever that will soon mean, consider adding your name to the list found here. From the interest seen so far, I know that I will have many non-credit volunteers per for-credit student, so the workload may essentially be light.

Other important information:

  • Course is open to the public starting September 28/10.
  • All information about the course for all participants will be posted at the course site.
  • I will be emailing all Network Mentor volunteers information re: their role with necessary information (e.g, student feeds, twitter lists, etc.) by September 28/10.
  • Weekly sessions are listed here. They are held every Tuesday at 7pm Saskatchewan time. Currently that is equivalent to MST, but after the first Sunday in November, it is equivalent to CST.

Thanks everyone for putting up with this rather long blog post, and congratulations for making it to the end! I hope to connect with many of you in the months ahead. Thanks for considering this opportunity.

Technology & Social Media (Special Issue, Part 2)

Last December, I announced my contribution to Part I of the Technology & Social Media (Special Issue) of in education journal. I am now pleased to announce that Part II of this Special Issue is now available, featuring nine academic articles and an edited book review. Acknowledgments are made in the Editorial, but I do want to thank, once again, all of those individuals (e.g., editors, reviewers, authors, readers) who helped make this issue a success.

Technology & Social Media (Special Issue, Part 2), 2010, 16(1)

Enjoy.