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.

Considering CC-NonCommercial?

About a year ago, I posted a short video on Flickr of my daughter that captured her first moments riding a bicycle without training wheels. When I post images or video to Flickr, I usually assign a Creative Commons license, specifically a Non-Commercial, Attribution, Share-Alike (NC-ATT-SA). When I share moments like this online, I do so for a number of reasons. First, there’s the obvious reason that I like making moments like this accessible to my close friends and family. Second, while I could password protect such videos to share with only a small group, I also like to share such moments with many of my trusted friends from around the world (of which there are too many to list). And third, I believe that in carefully discriminating what to post online and what to avoid, I may, in some ways, demonstrate and model responsible citizenship and personal identity management for my children. Now, not everyone feels as comfortable in posting such photographs and videos online as I do. But in the spirit of Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, I ask you not to necessarily buy what I do, but if anything, buy why I do it.

So, several months after posting the video of my daughter, I received a Facebook message from a representative of Stalkr.tv regarding licensing the video clip. At first, I thought this was going to be some sort of Nigerian 419 scam, but after I performed some careful research about the individual and the company, I ended up licensing the clip to the agency for a new Nokia commercial.

Now, with all the thousands of clips and images I have shared, this is the first time I have ever been paid for something. It may never happen again nor has money ever been a consideration. But, I can think of hundreds of instances where my work, my images, or my videos have shown up elsewhere for educational purposes. For instance, Raj Boora just notified me today that one of my images showed up in this education-related post. While the attribution format could have been a bit more direct (as noted by D’Arcy Norman), I am happy to see my photos being used to help express such ideas.

I guess I should get to the point. I have heard the argument from many people over the years that they didn’t feel right just ‘giving away’ all of their ‘stuff’. For me, I am happy to give away my work, especially if it is found useful, and ideally, if others add to the work or improve it. But if that is not enough for those who refuse to consider Creative Commons licenses, perhaps they should also know that with this CC-NC licensed clip, my daughter now has a very healthy start to her College fund.