This morning my work group visited Monsignor Fee Otterson, a five-year old K-9 school in south Edmonton. I could tell that it was a welcoming place as soon as I walked in the door, it was a place I would be happy to work in. We were offered a great breakfast before we toured their kindergarden, grades 1 and 2 classes as well as Baby EMU – a brand-new early learning maker space/exploratory travelling lab space, and Mama EMU Edmonton Catholic School Board’s 21c early learning version of a bookmobile that travels around Edmonton. I also got to check out their CTF classroom.

The minute I met the principal, Marie Whelan, I could tell that she was an strong leader, her leadership was obvious when I talked to the students and the teachers who were well spoken and passionate about their students, about their classrooms, their focus on emergent curriculum based on student interests and different ways that they documented learning experiences. Her leadership was apparent in the way that the school was decorated and laid out and in the behaviour of the students.

Her open leadership was obvious when she spoke about the school, sharing her vision, the school’s mission statements and stories about the school, as well as ways that she shares what is happening in the school with visitors from around the world.
We also learned about Edmonton Catholic’s Curriculum Prototyping project and how Monsignor Fee Otterson was involved in the project. It was great to see their vision of potential K-3 curriculum in action in their classroom.

Tom and I went for a wonderful walk this afternoon with some golf clubs. Since the topic of my daily photo this month is texture, I find myself noticing small details wherever I go. Here are some of the details I noticed today.

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It’s been a whirlwind for the past few weeks. I’ve been getting the Open and Connected Learning Mooc (#oclmooc) launched, and participating in some of the Connected Courses (#ccourses) events. I knew I wouldn’t be able to participate in everything going on with #ccourses, but I couldn’t resist the topic and the course instructors.

On September 15th, I watched the kick-off live event with Mike Wesch, Cathy Davidson, Randy Bass. This was the first event for week 1: “Why We Need a Why”. I watched the webinar as I put the finishing touches on some of the #oclmooc blog pages, and worked with the fantastic co-conspirators to finalize the details of the first few weeks. It was great to hear Mike, Cathy and Randy’s thoughts about the purpose of higher education, and although I don’t teach in higher education, the questions they were contemplating were also relevant to my experience as a K-12 teacher, and as a cMooc facilitator.

In framing the topic for week 1, we were asked to consider three questions that are usually considered as we plan courses: What is to be taught/learned? How should it be learned? Why should it be learned? and how everything changes if you approach them in a different order starting with “Why should it be learned?”

I followed up by watching Mike Wesch’s presentation “Why We Need A Why?”. I have been thinking about these questions over the past few weeks, and I have had this blog post written in my head but once we launched #oclmooc on September 24th, it took all of my attention. Now that we are into week 2, and the infrastructure to support participants’ learning experiences is set up and other co-conspirators have taken the lead, I finally have found the time to get the ideas that have been rattling around in my head down in this post.

In week one we were asked to consider the following questions:

So what is the real “why” of your course? Why should students take it? How will they be changed by it? What is your discipline’s real “why”? Why does it matter that students take __________ courses or become _________ists? How can digital and networked technologies effectively support the real why of your course?

At the moment I am not teaching in a classroom. I have been seconded to Alberta Education, where I have been working to refine and validate the draft Career and Technology Foundations (CTF) curriculum. It’s a very interesting time to be at Alberta Education, as they have been exploring what curriculum is and how it is developed. Our CTF curriculum is several steps ahead the Curriculum Redesign project which explores how curriculum can be developed in a different, more collaborative way and with a different emphasis than a long list of outcomes that need to be taught; but CTF follows the new guidelines for curriculum development and in some ways has provided information on how curriculum redesign could unfold.

CTF is different in many ways, from the curriculum itself which has only 13 outcomes for five grades (CTF is an elective curriculum for grades 5-9), to the fact that it is the first curriculum in Alberta that is being developed in French and English at the same time, to the collaborative way that it is being refined and validated with teachers and administrators who are working in the field. We have spent the last two years considering the type of questions that #ccourses asked.

Here is my take on the “why” of the CTF curriculum

So what is the real “why” of your course?
We spend a lot of time talking about this, to groups of educational stakeholders (Dave and I spent 12 hours driving this week to deliver four presentations about CTF in southern Alberta), to individual teachers and administrators who contact us with questions, and in documentation we create for Alberta Education. CTF is being developed because most elective classes for students in grades 5-9 don’t have a curriculum. The need for a curriculum was identified by practitioners in the field who were looking for more consistency in elective classes. It is the first curriculum which follows the new standards for curriculum development, which include less outcomes. It is competency-focused, which is one of the goals outlined in last year’s Ministerial Order on Student Learning, and is being emphasized in post secondary institutions and in industry.

For me the most important “why” of CTF is that it will allow students to explore their interests and passions and shifts the emphasis from the product to the process. Students will still probably create bird houses and movies and CO2 cars, but teachers will have permission to emphasize and assess the process of creation as well as the end product.

How will they be changed by it?
The curriculum provided by Alberta Education is the why, and teachers provide the how, so I can only speculate on what CTF will be like for students. But I hope that it will give students the opportunity to explore and learn about the occupational areas and think about potential careers, as well as learning important 21st century skills like critical thinking, problem solving and working with others.

What is your discipline’s real “why”?
These are the three essence statements of CTF, what we have identified as the foundation of CTF: CTF is exploring interests, passions and skills while making personal connections to career possibilities. CTF is designing, creating, appraising and communicating responses to challenges. CTF is working independently and with others while exploring careers and technology.

Why does it matter that students take CTF courses?
CTF courses will hopefully provide students the opportunity to learn about what they are interested in and discover their interests (and just as important what they are not interested in) and how these interests might be used in different careers in a low-risk environment (junior high elective courses). Hopefully they will also learn, use and enhance the type of skills that are needed in the real world: designing, creating, appraising and communicating (what I learned as the design loop), critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration.

How can digital and networked technologies effectively support the real why of your course?
Technologies can connect students (and teachers) to experts in the fields that they are exploring, can provide them with tools to express themselves and their ideas, and to share their learning and what they create. Our students are already using technology to learn about their interests and passions, for example how to change the skin of their avatar in Minecraft, why wouldn’t we do the same in the classroom?

Next Steps

I would like to consider these same questions for #oclmooc and what I hope participants will get out of it, but I am going to have to stop here for now as it has already taken me three days to write this post. I will continue to monitor the #ccourses feed, jumping in when I have time, lurking (or sampling as my friend Maureen puts it) and participating vicariously through the tweets and posts of those in my PLN, my MOOChort as my friend Paul Signorelli puts it.

Wednesday was the start of The Open and Connected Learning Mooc and our entry event was a joint event with the PostEtmooc Community. I hosted a hangout with the PostEtmooc community where they shared their experiences and advice for participating in a cMooc.

In case I haven’t said this often enough I really value my connections with the PostEtmooc community and feel fortunate that they are part of my PLN. Here is an archive of the hangout:

Hello to all of you who are participating in the Open and Connected Learning Mooc (#oclmooc). I am a little overdue on my personal introduction; I’ve spent the last few weeks getting things ready for the launch of #oclmooc this week and I have been neglecting my own blog.

I am a media and computer teacher, with a strong interest in open and connected learning and community building. I have spent the last two years working in Edmonton for Alberta Education. I’ve been seconded from my school board to work on the refinement and validation of the innovative new Career and Technology Foundations (CTF) Curriculum. It is very interesting and rewarding work. CTF is the first curriculum in Alberta that is being released in English and French at the same time. I have the pleasure of working with a great team to ensure that the draft CTF curriculum met the standards for curriculum development as they were being nailed down for Curriculum Redesign, as well as the needs of educational stakeholders – our work has been strongly informed by feedback from teachers and administrators in the field. One aspect of my job that I really enjoy is community building as we work with an expanding number of stakeholders. CTF is in a Scaling Up phase this year (teachers can use it if they choose but it is not required) and it is expected to be fully implemented by September 2015.

Over the last two years I also discovered Moocs, and the open educational community. The first Mooc that I participated in was #etmooc and I fell deep down the rabbit hole, spending almost all of my free time participating in sessions, blogging, and connecting with other participants from around the world. I’ve since participated in several other Moocs, and open learning experiences like Twitter vs. Zombies but I have learned some balance, and no longer let them take over my life. I have created two open learning communities, PostEtmooc and MetaMooc, and regularly collaborate, connect and play with people that I met during #etmooc.

Last year I realized that although there are some fantastic, innovative educators in Alberta, I connect more with educators from outside Alberta than from Alberta, and the idea for the Open and Connected Learning Mooc was born. From the start the idea was to model connected learning, and provide participants with tools they could use to create their own connected learning experiences. Verena Roberts and I built the framework of the course and then invited others to help develop and support it. #oclmooc is entirely teacher/trainer led; there are ten co-conspirators who have helped shape its development and who will be leading and supporting the learning experiences over the next few weeks. It has been a great experience working with them, and #oclmooc is a much stronger course as a result of their participation.

Now that #oclmooc has been launched and week 1 is almost over, other co-conspirators are going to take the lead. I hope to have more time to connect with participants, take part in the scheduled webinars, Twitter chats and other activities and learn with other #oclmooc participants. I also intend to write more here, doucmenting my learning as #oclmooc unfolds.

I am looking forward to connecting and learning with you during the next 4 1/2 weeks of #oclmooc, and hopefully after that as well. Thanks for joining us on this learning journey.

The Open and Connected Learning Mooc (#oclmooc) launched this week! We have just over 70 participants signed up and we held our first two synchronous events over the last two nights. I’ve been working to set up #oclmooc for the past three months. I’ve been fortunate to have a fantastic group of co-conspirators to help with the planning, but even with that help, #oclmooc has taken all of my time for the past few weeks.

I’ve written lots of words lately, in the form of blog posts and pages on the #oclmooc site and in the Google+ co-conspirator and #oclmooc communities, and I have several ideas for blog posts rattling around in my head. Unfortunately, for now they’ll have to stay in my head because I don’t have the time to get them down on the page just yet.

For now, I’ll have to settle for re-posting the summary I wrote up about Dave Cormier’s session about Success in a Mooc on the #oclmooc website this afternoon:

Last night Dave Cormier was our special guest in the first webinar of #oclmooc. It was a great session!

He took us on a historical journey though the history education from the tradition of oral learning, through the catechetical era through to the current textbook model. We all agreed that cMoocs are most like the tradition of oral learning but participants are no longer limited by the need to be in the same place at the same time.

Screen Capture from Dave Cormier's Webinar

Dave talked about rhizomatic learning and encouraged us to think of the Community as the Curriculum – because the content that the community provides ends up being what you learn, but more importantly because being able to participate in a community is what it means to know. You aren’t an expert because you remember information about a topic but because you can make decisions about it and you can engage in a community of knowers about that topic. This is why we need to learn as social people.

Dave shared his advice and experience about how to succeed in a Mooc, expanding on his 5 Steps to Succeed in a Mooc:

  • Orient
    • This is the step that many learners miss and it is crucial for success in a Mooc
  • Declare
    • It’s your job to give others a chance to know who you are – you need to share.
    • We recommend blogging, participating in the Google+ Community and sharing and connecting via the #oclmooc Twitter hashtag.
  • Network
    • Then it is time to connect with others – responding and commenting on what others say. Networking is never coherent it’s always messy and real – like our lives
  • Cluster
    • You can’t follow everything and everyone. At some point you start to cluster around people who are doing work that is important to you, who make sense to you, who challenge your work.
  • Focus
    • There is a cycle that happens at the start of Moocs where people are really enthusiastic but that isn’t usually sustainable. You need to decide what you are going to focus on, how you are going to leverage the network and cluster to get the work that you need to do done.

If you weren’t able to join us last night, or if you would like to view the webinar again, you can listen to the archive. Here is the link to the archive of Dave’s session. It is a Blackboard Collaborate archive so you will need to install Blackboard (or perhaps update Java) if you haven’t done so. You can find instructions for installing Blackboard here.

I haven’t had time to post much in this space lately as I’ve been getting ready for the launch of The Open and Connected Learning Mooc in two days. Here is what I sent out to #oclmooc participants on Sunday:

 

The Open and Connected Learning Mooc (#oclmooc) starts next week. The page for week 1, with resources and suggested activities will be posted soon. Some participants might be wondering if there is anything they can do now to get ready. Many courses have pre-reading material and other things that you can do to get ready and #oclmooc is no different, although in our case, these are recommended but still optional.

Get ready to connect

You can get ready for #oclmooc by getting ready to connect. There will be a lot of conversations taking place in Twitter, the #oclmooc Google+ Community, and on participant blogs. If you don’t have a Twitter account and a blog, or you haven’t joined the Google+ Community, you can do so now so that you’ll be ready to go once #oclmooc starts. You can find instructions here. You can read more about the tools we’ll be using to connect on the Getting Started Page.

Spread the word

You can also spread the word about #oclmooc by telling others about it. One of the goals of #oclmooc is to connect participants with each other and to start conversations. The more people in the #oclmooc community, the more possibilities for connections and interesting conversations. You can spread the word via Twitter (don’t forget to include the #oclmooc hashtag), in an email, a post in Google+ or your blog, or through face to face conversations (we support those too) with those you think would be interested. You might want to share the link to the About #oclmooc, and Getting Started pages, as well as the registration link.

You could visit the Google+ Community and introduce yourself, or comment on someone else’s introduction. You could write a blog post about the start of #oclmooc, or check out some of the blogs in the Blog Hub and leave a comment.

If you are keen to get started these are some of things you can do before the official course start on Wednesday. But you don’t have to do anything at all to get ready, you might prefer to get outside and enjoy the last weekend of summer (it’s the autumn equinox here in Alberta on Monday).

We look forward to learning with you over the next five weeks, and hopefully long after the formal end of #oclmooc on October 30th.

Why your should join #oclmooc

Why your should join #oclmooc

Working at Alberta Education has been a fascinating, always learning experience. For the past two years I have had the pleasure of helping to refine and validate the draft Career and Technology Foundations (CTF) curriculum. We have been working with fantastic educators to ensure that CTF will work in their classrooms, no matter where they are in the province. I’ve never worked at Alberta Education before, but I understand that we are using a more collaborative model than has been used in the past.

At the same time, Alberta Education has been exploring new ways of working. One of the challenges of doing things differently is figuring out how to do things differently. For example, Alberta Education doesn’t normally post curricula on their web page while they are still in draft format.

This school year CTF is available for provincial Scaling Up, which means that it is available for teachers to use in their grades 5 to 9 classes, but it is not mandatory that they use it. Because of this, the CTF curriculum needed to be available on the Alberta Education website, even though it is still in draft form. It’s taken a while for all of us to work through the hoops to get it all posted and approved but we are now really excited that the CTF website is up and running.

Check it out – I’d love to know what you think about our innovative, draft, elective curriculum.

I have signed up for another Mooc – Connected Courses – because it looks really interesting, many of the Tweeps that I enjoy learning and playing with are signing up, and I am a serial cMooc addict.

I am really excited about the course, the content and the instructors. Alec Couros, Alan Levine, Howard Reingold, Laura Hilliger, Jim Groom and Mike Wesch have probably had more of an impact on me and my teaching practice than all of my professors and administrators combined. I participate in learning spaces that they have designed like #Etmooc and #DS106. I read their words and watch how they model open leadership in online spaces like Twitter, Google+ and on their blogs. I have even had the pleasure of learning from most of them in online sessions. Michael Welsh blew my mind wide open the first time I saw The Machine is Us/ing Us and his work has continued to impress me ever since. I am so excited to see them all together in one (virtual) space. Plus Connected Courses features other instructors that I haven’t had the pleasure of learning from yet.

I am a media and computer teacher in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Right now I am seconded to Alberta Education, where I have been working on the refinement and validation of the innovative, draft Career and Technology Foundations Curriculum for the past two years. Prior to teaching in the K-12 system I taught computers to adults and other nerdly things through my computer consulting company, Innovations, and other techy jobs.

I am very interested in community building and the value of connecting with other educators. I am currently working with a team of co-conspirators to lay the stage for the Open and Connected Learning Mooc, for Alberta (and other) educators (and learners). #OCLMooc starts on September 24th so although I am very excited about Connected Courses, I more likely a lurker than an active participant.

Fortunately, since it’s not my first experience in a Mooc, I know lurking is ok too.