EC&I 831: Island Hopping Cruise Ship

I’m finally getting a chance to go through some of the data collected from the study of my EC&I 831 graduate course. I absolutely love this passage from former student, Cindy Seibel, who describes her learning experience in the course.

To me this course was a personal journey loosely coupled in a community. I liken it to an island-hopping cruise ship. When we were on the ship on Tuesdays and Wednesdays there was an array of activities for us to participate in. Then we would stop at an island, get off and go on a personal investigation. We could sit on the beach and reflect, or go off an investigate something that had been triggered for us on the last ship’s activity. Our reflections and learnings were captured in our blogs and we would seek out each other through those expressions. Others outside the course would also participate in the same way, joining us randomly on the island or the ship. Then we would get back on the ship on Tuesday for a new buffet. So could we have done that with a closed LMS? I don’t think so. The public blogs were absolutely key to this experience. The open wiki was important as it forced us to “put ourselves out there”. That was an important part of the experience. We learned that there is a network out there if we choose to participate. The tools are almost secondary. Connecting to the network was key.

I love the cruise ship analogy. As well, I want to pay close attention to Cindy’s description of a “personal journey loosely coupled in a community.” It is an important distinction.

Draft of Article: Open, Connected, Social

I will be leaving to Greece shortly to attend ICICTE in Corfu. The following is an early draft of a paper I wrote for the conference that outlines some of the processes and early feedback I received regarding a graduate course I recently taught, EC&I 831.

Comments are welcome and encouraged. Keep in mind that this is an early draft and there are likely many errors. It was a paper written a while ago BEFORE I had much of the new data in (which I am working through right now). I have only shared it at this point as I enjoy making my writing processes as transparent as my teaching.

Dan Meyer Vodcasts

Dan Meyer announced a short while back that he would be producing a series of 10 vodcasts this season. After watching the first two, I am very impressed. Check out the latest vodcast below:

dy/av : 002 : the next-gen lecturer from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

For the last decade, I have been pushing the use of video for teacher reflection. Dan demonstrates this beautifully while simultaneously demonstrating the potential of visual media for math instruction. I look forward to the subsequent vodcasts.

JC Penny Mocked in Viral Ad

From the Wall Street Journal:

J.C. Penney Co. execs are blaming the company’s ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, for a fake ad that debuted at Cannes and is now on YouTube in which the retailer appears to be endorsing teen sex. The purported ad shows two teenagers in their own bedrooms stripping down to their underwear and then timing themselves as they race to put on their clothes. All this is done in preparation for the boy and girl to hang out in her basement while her mother is upstairs. The video, called “Speed Dressing,” ends with the teens heading down to the basement as the words “Today’s the day to get away with it” flash on the screen, echoing Penney’s use of the phrase “Today’s the day to…” in a series of ads it launched last year. Penney’s logo and “Every Day Matters” slogan then appear on the screen.

Edtech Posse Podcast 4.3

The latest Edtech Posse podcast has been released. The conversation provides thoughts on the recent TLT conference and edupunk. Dean Shareski, Rob Wall, and Rick Schwier were present. Heather and I were unable to make it.

More information and shownotes can be found at

Copyright Criminals – C61 Protest Video has released their first Bil C-61 protest video.

If you look closely, you can identify me as one of the copyright criminals.

Of course, that’s not the important piece here.

Here’s some stuff to love about the new bill, C-61::

-$500 per downloaded song
-No Fair Use rights for remix culture
-$20,000 for uploading content (youtube anyone?)

Show your protest by uploading a copyright criminal photo! (source)

Protest Bill C-61, stop this betrayal against Canadian citizens before it is too late. See Michael Geist’s most recent post to find out how.

Edupunk, Meaning, Identity

I have been wanting to jump onto the topic of edupunk for quite a while now, but I am happy that I waited. Since Jim Groom’s initial post, there has been a lot of debate around the term … but I won’t get into that. This post is really not about entering into that conversation. The term resonated with me, so please let me indulge in this bit of selfish, and very incomplete, introspection.

Edupunk Version 1

D’Arcy Norman proclaimed me an edpunk, and I am in excellent company. This proclamation resulted because of the work I did with my recent graduate course, EC&I 831 where I (with the help of Rob Wall) broke a lot of rules regarding course “delivery”. I have spoken about the course quite a few times since it has formally ended, and the question I am asked most often is “how did you get away with that?”. To Rob and I, the facilitation model came naturally, it made sense to be open and transparent. I hardly remember there being another way. Yet, I do not fully understand how I came to see the world this way.

The term edupunk comes to me at an ideal time. It is a term more relevant to me than most people would realize. I spent my teen years and early 20’s heavily into the punk scene, and I have vivid memories of these times. I have met dozens of punk and alternative band members over the years, many of whom are still my rock heroes. This post is not about generalizing what edupunk means to any one else. I am writing because I want to better understand how these musical, political, cultural, and social experiences have influenced the educator I am today.

So, here are the things I learned from punk, and why I embrace the term, edupunk.

Non Conformity – Yea, I know, I am a professor at a University, with several degrees including a terminal one. What would I know about non-conformity? But I wasn’t always this way, I was the kid with a mohawk in Grade 10. I spent a lot of time in the principal’s office. I missed a LOT of school. I had a list of speeding and traffic violations before I turned 17. I didn’t do anything bad, I just wanted to be noticed, and I wanted to be different. Well, different enough to get noticed. I was also very lucky to have been born gifted both academically and musically. I excelled at everything I attempted and my grades were at the top of the class even though I missed a lot of school. But I was bored, so incredibly bored.

And while I could go on and list dozens of punk rock anthems that deal with non-conformity, I’ll take a turn here. Rather, I’ll refer to Angelo Patri’s “A Schoolmaster of the Great City”, a book I read a few months ago. Even in the early 1900’s, Patri saw the issues of school conformity and student engagement.

Many parents believe that this is education. They covet knowledge, book knowledge for their children. Rich and poor alike want their children done up in little packages, ready to show, ready to boast of. They fear freedom, they fear to let the child grow by himself. Because the parents want this sort of thing, the school is built to suit – a book school – one room like another, one seat like another, each child like his neighbor. (p. 37)

I could not be sedated then. And while I have conformed in many ways to trade off the security that comes with this, I better understand dissent in society. And I rebel and innovate when I feel it is best for the learning experiences of my students, and for my own personal and professional growth.

Do-It-Yourself Culture – If I were to use one phrase to describe my approach to the design of courses, it would be DIY. While DIY culture was not born specifically of the punk movement, this is where it was exposed to me. My University gives tremendous support for course design and development. And while I do lean on these terrific people from time to time for graphic and multimedia design, I have done almost all of my course development myself. I am what Bates would call a Lone Ranger. And I have thought about it from time-to-time. Why don’t I just get the help available to me, to produce some really nice course materials? Why do I resist?

From Wikipedia:

According to Holmstrom, punk rock was “rock and roll by people who didn’t have very much skills as musicians but still felt the need to express themselves through music”. In December 1976, the English fanzine Sideburns famously published an illustration of three chords, captioned “This is a chord, this is another, this is a third. Now form a band.”

When it came to course design, this is how I felt. I didn’t have the skills to begin with, but the more I pushed myself, the better I became. I learned, discovered my art, had fun, and witnessed my students learn along with me. And this I discovered in bands like the Ramones, where none of the members were talented in any technical sense, but the band was able to influence the music scene and forever change the world.

Critique of Power Relationships … – For my PhD dissertation, I defined the term open thinking as follows:

… the tendency of an individual, group or institution to give preference to the adoption of open technologies or formats in regards to software, publishing, content and practice. Open thinkers critique, question and seek to reject technologies or formats that compromise the power of adopters, especially in the freedom to use, reuse, edit and share creative works and tools. Open thinkers value group-based problem solving and give preference to tools that enable social collaboration and sharing. Open thinkers actively strive to replace adopted technologies and formats with open alternatives. Open thinkers advocate for the adoption of open technologies and practice. (2006)

For the past 7 years, I have been a strong proponent of free and open source software, and then later, free and open content. As you can see in the definition above, my approach has been to critique and question the tools, content, and formats educators use on a daily basis, and to look for free and open alternatives. While much of this influence comes from more contemporary sources (e.g., Stallman, Torvalds, Raymond, Lessig, Downes, Lamb), for me this is only a reawakening of ideas I first discovered through punk rock.

In closing this post, I am going to take Jen’s advice seriously when she says about edupunk “Don’t dissect the metaphor“. Edupunk, if nothing more, has got many people talking, exploring their beliefs around education, and in some cases, reminiscing of day’s long past. The educational community is much too diverse, as it should be, for anyone to cling on to one single metaphor for meaning. I learned the lesson of community complexity when I studied meaning within open source communities. Gabrielle Coleman’s quotation still resonates with me:

The meanings, aims, visions, and aspirations of the open source community are difficult to pin down .… closer inspection of the movement reveals a cacophony of voices and political positions: anarchic ideals of freedom, “tribal” gift-economy rhetoric, revolution, Star Wars imagery, web manifestos, evangelization to the corporate sector, the downfall of the “Evil Empire” (a.k.a. Microsoft), grass roots revolution, consumer choice and rights, community good, true market competition, DIY (Do it Yourself) culture, science as a public good, hacker cultural acceptance, functional superiority, and anti-Communist rhetoric are but a number of the terms, images, and visions promulgated by and attached to the open source community.

The discussion around edupunk has forced me to think, and inspired me to write. Whether you agree with the term or not, it’s brought you this far with me. Thanks for reading.

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Can you relate?

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

I certainly can. Read this article, that is, if your attention span allows it.