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

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: . 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:

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: – 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. – 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.

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:
  • 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. . 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 (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,

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.

“Teach Us Something” – Submit Your Microlectures

As part of the open graduate course discussed in my last post, I have put out a call for microlectures to be included as a resource on the course wiki.

From the wiki:

As an experiment in this course, I am attempting to solicit short, five minute or less, recorded microlectures that will benefit the course participants and hopefully, will also benefit those individuals who submit them. The basic request is simply “teach us something” in a style and media format of your choosing (screencasts, talking-heads, lectures, presentations, hands-on, audio, music, animation, drawing, machinima, etc.). While the course is focused on topics related to social media & open education, I also welcome other subjects as I believe it is important that the power of social media is not in simply teaching about social media.

If you would like to submit a microlecture, please fill out this Google Form with the appropriate information including a web link to your media. Once submitted, the information will appear in this Google spreadsheet.

Thanks to all who consider this request. The course runs from September until early December, so you will have several months to participate. I am hoping that this will become a useful resource for others.

Open Access Course: Social Media & Open Education (Fall 2009)

I will be facilitating an open access graduate course this Fall titled EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education. I expect about 15-20 registered (for credit) students, but I am opening up the experience to all other interested not-for-credit participants. This will be the third time I have run the course, and it has been quite successful in the past. I have rethought a few pieces, and I am hoping that this offering will be the best yet.

The course wiki is available here: The “synchronous sessions” page is slowly being filled out as I work to schedule presenters and appropriate weekly topics. Additionally, I have set up a Google Form to gather information about those who would like to participate as not-for-credit students. Quite a few people have already signed up, and we’d love to have you participate as well!

Participation is quite flexible. This can mean simply joining in on the weekly synchronous sessions (these run every Tuesday from Sept 15/09 to December 08/09, 7 p.m. Saskatchewan time). You could also help inform our reading list by tagging relevant articles & media as ‘eci831readings‘. You could respond to the weekly lectures through your blog, or whatever media/site you choose, and tag these as ‘eci831responses‘. Or, you could comment on student blog posts (feed/links will be available after Sept 8) and expect other participants to engage you in your writing spaces. And, I am sure there are many other ways to participate, create, and collaborate that we have yet to discover.

If you have any questions about the course, feel free to contact me. And if you are interested, we would love you to join us in this upcoming, collaborative learning experience.

Seminar: Social Media and Open/Networked Learning

I am very fortunate to have been asked to teach a seminar this summer with UBC: Okanagan in Kelowna, BC, as part of their Summer Institute in Education. The seminar runs from July 27 – July 31, and I will have 15 hours in total. I am looking forward to meeting my new students, learning with them, and pushing the possibilities for immersion given such a short time-frame. My goal is to provide much more than a ‘taster’ for social media & open learning, but to help nurture a passion within these learners: to foster genuine interest and active participation through social learning, to nurture critical producers & consumers, and to convey the benefits of media sharing in education & society. I believe that the success of a workshop/seminar/course can only be measured in its effects on learners well after the official experiences are complete. I hope to someday know that this summer experience made a difference for all of those involved.

I am currently working on the course wiki (btw: quite enjoying the use of Wetpaint) and I would be happy to receive input from critical readers. Also, if anyone would like to suggest readings or media that could be shared with this group, I invite you use the tag edst499k in your Delicious links. That will automatically add your suggestions to the Readings & Resources page of the wiki.

Thanks for connecting.

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 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 version of the video is now available.

Open/Networked Teaching Keynote at MoodleMoot

I gave a keynote today at Canada’s MoodleMoot ’09 in Edmonton, Alberta. Below are the slides and a list of some key links. The talk was given to about 300 in-house delegates and about 80 online (via Elluminate). I will share the recording once/if I get access.

Relevant links in order of appearance:
Wordle: Make “beautiful” word clouds.
Networked Teacher: Diagram via Flickr.
Twitter: Dominant microblogging tool.
EC&I 831: My open graduate course.
Open Doctrine: Alec’s own attack ad.
Network Sherpa: Diagram via Flickr.
Cathedral and the Bazaar: by Eric S. Raymond.
The Fifty Tools: by Alan Levine. Free web streaming.
Omegle: Talk to strangers.
Twitter Search via Google: Firefox/GreaseMonkey script to get live Twitter results via Google search.
Amherst College IT Index: Tracks technologies brought in by students.
– “RiP: A Remix Manifesto“: Excellent open source film on remix/mashup culture.
An Anthropological Introduction to Youtube: Excellent presentation by Dr. Michael Wesch.
David After the Dentist: My blog post on this viral video.
The Show: Ze Frank’s one-year long series feat. “if the earth was a sandwich project“.
Postsecret: Collaborative art project, people sharing their deepest secrets.
Amateur: Creative video by Lasse Gjertzen.
Thru-you: An amazing set of tracks that were created by mashing up youtube videos.
Grad course trailer: Trailer for EC&I 831.
Thinning the walls: Visualization of networked teaching.

Update: The Elluminate recording is now available here.

Visualizing Open/Networked Teaching: Revisited

I recently posted a developing framework for open/networked teaching. In the post, I introduced a working definition for open teaching, and two diagrams; analogies to inform the open classroom and the emerging role of the educator. This ‘revisited’ post provides revisions to these preliminary ideas, reflections on what was learned, and insight into why developing thoughts ‘in the open’ is an important process for (personal) learning.

Working Revisions:
Knowledge is both a process and product. Improvements to my framework were fostered by the conversation around the previous post.

Working Definition of Open Teaching:
First, as I have thought for some time now, and as Dave Cormier challenges, the term ‘teaching’ in ‘open teaching’ is problematic. This problem was also voiced by Sui Fai John Mak in the comments of the previous post. I have lamented that I would rather use the term ‘open education’ (to include those that do not regard themselves as ‘teachers’), but that term has already a distinct meaning. For now, the problem remains unsolved. Does anyone have suggestions for an appropriate ‘catch-all’ term for educators (teachers, professors, instructors, lecturers) who increasingly use and advocate for open and networked forms of teaching and learning in educational environments. Or, is ‘open teaching’ good enough for now? Do we need to get hung up on a term? I look forward to the day when we do not have to distinguish among educators who facilitate learning this way; when ‘open education’ is simply ‘education’.

That note, leads me right into the next big observation regarding my thoughts on the subject so far. It was observed by both Richard Schwier & Silvia Straka that my ideas on open teaching were intensely value-laden. While these comments did not seem written as distinct criticisms, it really did alert me (as I often forget) the basic assumptions regarding teaching, learning, and society that ‘openness’ encompasses. A few of the most prominent assumptions in my work include:

    * the importance of information and communications technologies (ICT) in teaching and learning;
    * the relevance of critical media and technological literacy as a way to expose and deconstruct power and influence by consumers/adopters;
    * a strong focus on social learning, collaboration, and group growth (as a means for individual growth); and,
    * the nurturing and preservation of a free and open knowledge society, where access to information and knowledge is a basic human right (where proprietary knowledge & ownership are dramatically reduced, or ousted altogether).

While this latter point may seem radical, I found that my thoughts on the subject were not nearly as radical as others would have liked. Commenters Minhaaj Rehman, Steve Foerster, and Charles Evans (collectively) argued for a position beyond Creative Commons licensing and to advocate for public domain dedication (no restrictions to users/consumers). I do not oppose public domain dedication at all, in fact, I believe it to be a pure form of gifting within the knowledge economy. However, my support for Creative Commons licensing is based on these important premises.

    * Creators are given a choice of what licenses to waive or to keep. (I feel this is important for artistic works, although my position flips when it comes to life, death, economics, poverty, education, e.g., genetic/pharmaceutical patents, some educational resources). In my work as a professor, I am able to give up rights to my work through copyleft licenses and still get paid. Those who earn their living through the sale of books, music, poetry, etc., should not be required to waive their rights to support their livelihood. Yes, many fine lines exist.
    * I believe that attribution is vital to the history and progression of ideas in society. A simple ‘attribution’ requirement is not too much to ask for most work.
    * Creative works, in at least the current political and economic economies of Canada and the US, are often produced because of existing monetary incentives. This is not to defend the capitalist system, but rather to explain that an entire reality (e.g., copyists, copyleft licenses, pirates) are reactive channels to current, restrictive conditions (e.g., intellectual ‘property’), not components of an alternative, viable economy in and of itself.

It is also important to know that a true Public Domain designation is not legally possible in many nations. The new Creative Commons Zero license (CC0) is about as close as creators can get in some jurisdictions (here are the details).

From these critiques, and others, I will continue to improve the working definition of ‘open teaching’ (or whatever it may be designated as in the future).

Thinning The Walls (Diagram):
The “Thinning the Walls” diagram was fairly well received. This diagram represents my experiences in facilitating the EC&I 831 graduate course where students went from a (somewhat) traditional learning configuration to an increasingly networked learning context. The walls of the “classroom” where slowly thinned as students developed their personal learning networks (PLNs).

Open Teaching - Thinning the Walls

The most important feedback on this diagram was that it failed to represent the continuous learning of the teacher and it failed to recognize the knowledge of the students (special tks to Kristina Hoeppner & Maryanne Burgos). These aspects were always meant to be within the overall model, but I believe it is important to make these pieces more explicit (as attempted below).

Open Teaching - Thinning the Walls - Revision #2

Network Sherpa (Diagram):
I also put forth one possible analogy for the role of a teacher, that of the ‘network sherpa. At the time of the post, I could not recall where I had heard this term. I have since remembered that it was included in Wendy Drexler’s Networked Student video (recommended viewing), although I do not believe this is the original source. While the diagram was generally well-received, critique included:

    * the idea of sherpa bearing the entire ‘load’ of learning (a critique I thought was pre-empted with each individual carrying identical baggage);
    * the difficulty of (re)presenting inquiry within the diagram (or analogy itself);
    * “that it misses the tremendous amount that teachers learn from their students” (Maryanne Burgos); and,
    * ethnic misinterpretation or discriminative interpretations by the name (a critique I take very seriously).

Open Teaching - Network Sherpa

I stand by the analogy as a potentially powerful way to view a method or view of open/networked teaching. However, for those that dislike the metaphor, I now provide you with an alternative.

Open Teaching - Network Sherpa - The End

“Publish Then Filter” & The Importance of Analogy:
A week from today, this blog will be five years old. While this space serves a number of purposes (resource sharing, announcements, advocacy), the most important activity to me is that it helps me think. Not only is it a giant storehouse of my ideas, it is a place where my thoughts are vetted, beaten around, and transformed. It is an extension of my brain and one of the entry ways into my personal learning network. It is where, as Shirky describes, I “publish then filter“.

The most popular of my posts, not surprisingly, have included visualizations, rich media, metaphors, or analogies. The latter two devices played an important part in these discussions as the diagrams provided the context to resonate, to disagree, to extend, and negotiate understandings as well as to project future visions for teaching and learning. As Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein (1999) point out “it is the inexact, imperfect nature of the analogy that allows it to bridge the gap between the known and the unknown.” So while the analogies may not be perfect, this is quite intentional, unavoidable, and (I believe) forgivable. It will take many of these imperfect models and raw conversations to create and shape the future of education. Believe in the conversation, throw out your ideas, engage with others, and teach and learn with the passion that this process breeds. This is openness at its very best.

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.