It was my birthday on Friday. It was a great birthday. I had meals with friends, Maureen took me to Hyperthinking by Phillip Weiss at Grant MacEwan. The girls were at camp with Pathfinders so I had a romantic weekend with Tom. And I took the weekend off, barely touching the keyboard, checking my Twitter feed or working on my reflections for #oclmooc.

But the highlight of my birthday celebrations was a gathering of Edmonton change-makers that I was invited to on the Morning of my birthday. Agents of Social Change: A Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration brought together changes makers in non-profit, government, design and entrepreneur sectors to collaborate to foster positive social impact in Edmonton. The event was hosted by Chantal Norman from Thrive Facilitation and Kali Gordon from Weavin.

Chantal set the stage by playing Shift and then talked about key trends in the social innovation sector including social labs and Impact Investing.

Kali shared Local and global case studies on how Architecture and Design can create dynamic social impact and lasting social change within our communities. Tad Hargrave from The Local Good talked about some of the great things already taking place in Edmonton.

Then there were table discussions about what is possible in our community of change makers and what are some radical ways we can come together to tackle social issues. These were organized, with introductions, conversations and brainstorming with a small group at one table, moving on to a new table, new introductions and more conversations. I met some very interesting people doing great work and there were some good ideas shared and connections made. The event wrapped up at 10 am, but the conversations and networking continued for another half hour. And I know that the connections and collaborations will continue for the rest of the year.

It was a great way to spend my birthday!

I loved watching the latest iteration of Twitter vs Zombies (#TvsZ) this weekend. I knew I was too busy to play (I have learned from experience that when I sit down to play for an hour, it will be at least three hours later when I step away from the computer) but I really enjoyed watching the game via the #TvsZ Twitter feed.

This is the 6th iteration of Twitter vs Zombies and the basic storyline has evolved dramatically. During the first five games the basic narrative was that of a zombie apocalypse – the game started with one zombie (Patient Zero) trying to infect the rest of the players. The narrative took a turn during the last game when some non-violent zombies weren’t interested in infecting others and formed a new non-violent species.

The game this weekend had a different narrative but the game play was the same. Instead of zombie infection players would get recruited to other teams. Here is how Maha Bali pitched it to her class and Kevin Hogson’s explanation of how the game is played.

I loved watching the game unfold with the new storyline. There was at least as much word play and digital storytelling usual but it seemed like there was more playing with the rules.

Here is a summary of the weekend play by everyone’s favourite wired grandmother, NanaLou Burgeron.

Here are Kevin’s reflections about the game and Maha’s reflections her experience playing with her class in Cairo as well as a TAGS Explorer summary of how the participants connected.

I am looking forward to the next game, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Topic 5 of Connected Courses started this week, we will be exploring co-learning for the next two weeks. Topic 5 is being hosted by Howard Rheingold, Alec Couros and Mia Zamora. The first synchronous event was a hangout with Howard, Alec and Mia and some of the many #etmooc alumni who still connect and collaborate on a regular basis. I was honoured to be included on the panel with my friends: Susan Spellman Cann, Paul Signorelli, Erin Luong and Jeff Merrell.

Here is the archive of the conversation about why #etmooc was so successful and how it has led to many other successful learning communities and here is a link to Paul’s post about the session.

Today I spent several hours working on an enormous post about all of the great learning opportunities that I got to take advantage of in October. Between The Open and Connected Leaning Mooc (#oclmooc) and Connected Courses (#ccourses) I took part in many synchronous sessions about digital identity, open learning, web literacies, community and connecting and had many interesting conversations with participants in both communities.

I have been working on an enormous, way too enormous, all encompassing post about all of these experiences. I was not getting very far. I had written the first several paragraphs many times now thinking each time that if I approach it from a different angle, use different words, my ideas will coalesce and the words will start to flow.

Then I read this week’s writing prompt for Digital Writing Month this week about sharing unfinished work, so I started thinking about sharing part of the unfinished enormous post. I had successfully procrastinated for a few weeks and I really wanted to post a learning reflection for #oclmooc, and I want to share my refections with the #ccourses community. I know I won’t be able to match Paul’s number of posts or insightful reflections, but I do want to add my thoughts to the conversation, I want to make a point of continuing the conversation that was started last month.

I had planned to publish a post this afternoon before the #etmooc Connected Courses session tonight with Alec Couros and Howard Rheingold, but that was before I realized that the knee/back of chair ratio on the bus from Calgary to Edmonton would make it impossible to view my laptop screen.

As I contemplated all of this, with my laptop closed and the sun on my face, I realized that the details of the specific sessions I attended (and who the faciliators were, and what they got me thinking about) weren’t the most important part.

For me, it’s about community. The connections I make with others who are exploring the same topics, sharing our ideas and our learning and sometimes just playing together. And for me this month it has been about one part of my PLN, a few people who keep playing roles in my many varied communities. I met many of them during #etmooc and we have stayed connected for the past two years. We stay connected through #PostEtmooc and we keep running into each other as we participate in other open learning experiences.

For the last few months I had the pleasure of working with a few of them to build and support the learning community in #oclmooc. It was huge of a leap of faith for me to launch #oclmooc and invite others to co-create it with me, but I am so glad that I did. I loved working with all of the #oclmooc co-conspirators, but it was especially rewarding to work with Verena, Susan, Erin, Paul and Karen. We met during #etmooc and have shared many wonderful learning experiences and communities since then.

For me the best part of all of my learning experiences in October was the people. I met a lot of interesting people from around the world during #oclmooc and connected with familiar avatars (how do I refer to these friends who I know but have never met?) during #ccourses. And best of all, I got to build and support the #oclmooc learning community with a brilliant group of co-conspirators.

Well, maybe the best part is that the learning continues. Alec Couros, #etmooc‘s lead learner has invited some of us to join him in the #ccourses session tonight to talk about our experiences during #etmooc. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Karen Young hosted the final Open and Connected Learning Mooc on October 28th 2014. Here is an archive of the session.

The Open and Connected Learning Mooc (#oclmooc) ended on Thursday and since then real life has caught up with me. I have been online much less, and I haven’t been blogging on RhondaJessen or oclmooc. I have been thinking about everything that happened during and leading up to #oclmooc. I have been sketching out my reflections and mapping them on paper, but haven’t completed the blog posts yet. #oclmooc has shifted in my sight lines and I have been checking the feed less frequently.

But this evening I feel that something is missing. It’s Tuesday, there should be an #oclmooc Twitter chat. It would be an opportunity to connect with many of my #oclmooc friends, participants and co-conspirators, all at the same time. This weekend I realized that I met at least one new person in every #oclmooc Twitter chat that I participated in.

Note: I missed the Twitter chat when Verena met the Premier of Alberta

Tonight, Tuesday November 4th 2014, I miss the #oclmooc community.

Hello #oclmooc friends. I enjoyed connecting with you and exchanging and exploring ideas in our Twitter chats. As I reflect on our chats, posts, webinars and other conversations, and the conversations I have been watching for Connected Courses I feel fortunate to teach in a time when there are opportunities to connect and learn from and with other educators from around the globe.

I’ll be sharing my reflections in blog posts soon, but for now, it’s Tuesday and I miss my #oclmooc Twitter Chat.

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.