EC&I 831 Is Back! Call for Non-Credit Participants & Network Mentors

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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

Thanks for considering. I hope that we can continue to learn together, but in a different way.

Technologically-Mediated Human Relationships

A couple of nights ago, I was watching Youtube videos with my 3yr old when she noticed a thumbnail of a video featuring my dad. She instantly yelled, “Pappou, Pappou, I want to see Pappou.” We began to watch the video and within seconds, she began to call directly to her grandfather. It began slowly with “Pappou. Pappou.” But quickly, she became noticeably agitated that dad seemed to be speaking over her and not responding to her voice. She became frantic and began to yell, “Pappou! Pappou! Listen to me Pappou!” Then, she began to cry. For the next 45 minutes, she cried hysterically for her grandfather.


At some point during this, I realized that she had never before simply “watched” a video of her grandfather. Before this, every time that she had seen my dad on screen, it has been through a two-way, interactive medium such as FaceTime or Skype. For kids growing up today, the boundaries between physical and virtual may not be as well-defined.

As I consoled her through this very long moment, the professor in me contemplated how incredibly different it will be for my children to grow up in today’s technology-saturated world, and more in particular, I wondered what this mediated reality will mean for their current and  future human relationships. As parents, educators, administrators, and theorists, we really need to pay attention.

“It’s Not Going Away”

My brother George recently wrote the post “Denying Our World” where he recalls a compelling narrative that causes him to reflect upon what it means to live ‘online’ and our associated imperative as educators to teach to this reality. In the comments of this post, ‘Kirsten T.” pushes back with a thoughtful response, and in part states:

I find the argument “It’s not going away” to be neither substantive, nor compelling. It echos to me the feet stamping of educators who say “I’ve always done it this way”.

I’ve used a form of the “it’s not going away” argument in past conversations and presentations, but its meaning for me seems very different than what is described by Kirsten. Since there seems to be discrepancies of understanding, I feel that the statement is worth exploring and further articulating. So what do I mean when I say “it’s not going away”?

First of all, what is the “it” that I am referring to? “It” is a transformed reality where access to new tools, abundant content, and vast networks simultaneously provide countless new affordances and associated challenges. “It” describes:

I could go on …

And what do I mean by “… is not going away”?

Change is constant, so obviously, our current conditions will not remain exactly the same. Rather, there are likely three possible futures related to these new affordances (this is a simplified argument but for real substance, check out Downes’ “Ten Futures“)

  1. Things regress, people get bored with media, and we go back to some pre-telephony version of society. I think this reality may include roller-rinks, dance-halls, and lots and lots of bowling. Actually, bowling may be a bit too high-tech especially if there are those digital scoreboards. In any case, I’m pretty sure this reality isn’t going to happen so there is not much need for further speculation.
  2. Governments, against the will of the majority, sign secret treaties that seriously threaten future innovation and the openness of the Internet. This is a horrifying reality, and unfortunately not very far-fetched. However, online protests to ensure and protect our Internet freedoms have been unprecedented in size and scope. The Internet allows citizens to have their voices heard, and collectively, people have successfully influenced ill-informed government legislation. And, an open and free Internet is the key to our own self-determination.
  3. Things move ahead; new tools are created, more content becomes available, and networks continue to be used to form and sustain important aspects of our relationships (including those of teaching and learning). And the implications of these technologies will continue to shape our world. Think, for instance, of what the impact of this “breakthrough” in spoken-word translation could have on our lives. We will soon have the ability to have accurate, automated live translation of our words into just about any language spoken. What does that mean for second-language learning? What does that mean for opening up our world to different forms of cultural knowledge? What does that mean for creating a more global, and peaceful society? And that is just *one* new technology.

We live in complex, media-rich, connected environments. As adults, we have built these spaces for our kids and set them up in situations where I’ve heard members of our generation exclaim, “I’m sure glad Youtube or Facebook didn’t exist when I was a kid!” But these do exist. And no one – no one – really understands the full implications of what these devices and spaces have on the future of our children. So what are our *obligations* in all of this as administrators, parents, and educators? Do we selfishly ignore “it” because it feels uncomfortable and complex? Or do we roll-up our sleeves, embrace this discomfort, and live up to our ethical responsibilities for our kids?

We don’t need to have all of the answers. But we need to model what it means to try.

#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
  • a central aggregation site for course information (like
  • 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.


RIP Steve Jobs

Today, the world lost a remarkable man – a visionary and a world-changer. You will be deeply missed Steve.

I’ve always loved this video (above) of Steve introducing the Macintosh in 1984. There’s something about the look on his face as people applaud near the end – it’s like they all knew Steve would change the world. And, as we all know now, he truly did.

Connections: A Free eBook

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.

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.

Crowdsourcing Alternatives To Delicious

Twitter was abuzz with the news that Yahoo! will be shutting down Delicious, the popular social bookmarking site. Delicious has been a very valuable tool to me for several years now, and I, like others, will be sad to see it go.

However, rather than dwell on the news, it’s better to move on, and find a viable alternative, especially one that will allow the migration of data from a Delicious account to a new host. Rather than trying to find a solution on my own, I thought I would crowdsource an alternative through the sharing of a collaborative Google Document. This crowdsourced approach was very successful back in April when Ning announced their service would no longer be free, so I thought it would be worthwhile to try it again.

I set up the shared Google Doc, shared it, sent out a tweet, and the magic began!

Tweet for Collaboration

In literally seconds, the document began to fill out as people arrived to collaborate or observe. On many occasions, people were booted out as the maximum number of editors had been reached (a number that seems to be around 50 simultaneous users). It was interesting to watch the information emerge. As well, I was fascinated to see others who focused on the formatting and readability of the document. Individuals decided what they could contribute, and worked together for a common goal.

Below is a screencast recorded by Sean Nash of the document as it was being edited minutes after it was tweeted out.

Six hours later, we have hundreds of edits, at least 40 authors (evidenced by the authors that wrote their names on the bottom of the document), and at least sixteen viable alternatives to Delicious with pros/cons listed.

This is a wonderful way to get things done. To me, it’s truly breathtaking to watch and think about what is going on here, and really to consider the geographic distribution of this effort.

However, amazed as I am by what I saw here, this and the Ning example are relatively easy-to-solve problems. I wonder – how well does this kind of crowdsourcing work with deeper, more difficult, or perhaps, more meaningful questions? Thoughts?

You can find the Delicious Alternatives 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.



View more presentations from Alec Couros.

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)


Universal Design & Technology with Ira Socol

I am pleased to announce the Ira Socol will be giving a publicly available presentation on Universal Design on Monday March 8/10, at 6:30 p.m. CST. This session is directed at our preservice teachers who are taking Disability Studies, but the presentation will be available to all interested attendees via this Elluminate link.

Ira is a fantastic presenter and a guru in the field. I am really looking forward to this presentation, and I hope that many of you reading this can make it. Please pass on this information to others that may be interested.

Update: The Elluminate recording of Ira’s presentation is now available here.