As the calendar turns from 2013 to 2014 I find myself looking back over all that has happened in the last twelve months. The year has been filled with great experiences. Because I am not teaching in the classroom I don’t have to plan lessons and correct so I have much more time in the evenings and on weekends. I am able to spend more time with my family and I also have time to collaborate, learn and connect with my Personal Learning Network.
The year started in beautiful Bragg Creek with a small ceremony and a few Sun Salutations at the top of Two Pine Hill with my friend Emma. Taking the time to step away from the busyness of my family to get outside and think about my intentions for the year ahead really started the year off well and showed the work/life/family balance that I strive for. I used a photo that Emma took as my background image on my About Me page so I saw it often. It reminds me of the feeling of peace and new energy that I felt at the start of the year, and has helped keep me on track when things got busy.
I learned More About Edmonton
I am really enjoying living in Edmonton. It is a vibrant city, with more festivals than I have time to take in, wonderful food and markets, and is pretty easy to get around in by public transit or car. It also has a great ‘make it happen’ vibe. A few months ago the girls and I helped The Little Free Library in Oliver get off the ground by helping to paint the newspaper boxes where the books would be stored; a Make Something Edmonton project. I was an enthusiastic volunteer at the e-Town Festival in September, and not just because Commander Hadfield and the Barenaked Ladies were there. It was a fantastic experience and I am looking forward to helping out again next year.
This year I have met many Edmonton-area educators, so I don’t feel disconnected from the Edmonton educational community as I did when I first moved here sixteen months ago. I was an enthusiastic participant in Edmonton’s EdCamp, #EdCampYeg, when it took place in November. I really enjoy EdCamp events, the small size and participatory format always leads to interesting conversations, sessions and learning; and I always meet people face to face who I know and interact with online but have never met in person. I am looking forward to Calgary’s Edcamp, EdCampYYC, on April 21st, and Red Deer’s EdCamp, RedCamp on May 31st. I haven’t been able to check out Lethbridge’s EdCamp, LethCamp, yet and it looks like I will miss it this year on January 25th.
I also get to meet interesting Edmonton educators at work. Some, like me, are seconded to Alberta Education, others work in K-12 and post-secondary classrooms here in Edmonton.
I Learn Best When I Choose My Learning Experiences
I started the year by taking a risk and joining ETMOOC, an Educational Technology and Media Massive Open Online Course. I had participated in online courses before, but I had never participated in anything like ETMOOC without knowing at least other participant. It was a fantastic experience! I met interesting people from around the world while developing my understanding of connectivist learning by…well by learning and making my own connections to the topics being explored. I participated in interesting sessions, had conversations and collaborated with other participants using many different tools (Twitter, Google+, Blog posts…), and actively developed my ability to use web 2.0 and social media tools more effectively and efficiently.
This year I have connected and collaborated more with others online than I have with people that I see face to face. I am also fortunate to have weekly meetings over a morning cup of tea with two inspiring educators, Maureen Crawford and Terry Godwalt through my involvement with the Centre for Global Education. I really appreciate the time we spend together, planning, collaborating and sharing.
I Learn More when I Share My Learning, collaborate and co-create with others
My goal for ETMOOC was to share my learning more with others. I started by inviting my coworkers to participate in ETMOOC sessions and webinars with me and by blogging more about my learning. I shared my learning artifacts and reflections, I curated content from other participants. I got in the habit of blogging more frequently, and I stopped trying to perfect my posts before I published them. I realized that sharing my ideas was much more important than polishing them because sharing often led to interesting conversations and more learning.
I also learned how to use Twitter more effectively and changed my Twitter philosophy from one of scarcity-limiting the number of people I followed, to one of abundance-following many more users who teach me and inspire me daily. As I evolved from a lurker to an active participant and curator of content on Twitter I have had the opportunity to participate in events (like Connected Educator Month), games (Twitter vs. Zombies), and many, many webinars, Twitter Chats, Hangouts and courses than I have time to experience.
Some of the new experiences I have had as a result of sharing my learning include hosting Lunch n Learn sessions in person and online about the same topic, participating in and hosting Twitter chats and hangouts, and participating in and creating Google+ Communities.
In fact, the format of this post, reflecting on 5 things that I have learned in 2013, is thanks to my friend Julie Balen, who I met in ETMOOC, who pointed me to the 5 Things website in her ETMOOC Anniversary Post.
For me, it’s cMOOCs Over xMOOCs
In the last year I learned about MOOCs through participation and research. It seems to me that cMoocs and xMoocs seek to create different learning experiences. xMOOCs are interested in replicating lecture-based, sage on the stage teaching experiences with a one size fits some of the many, many people who sign up. I signed up for a few xMOOCs, and completed one about Leading for Change from Vanderbilt University. I learned from the experience, but I didn’t really get much out of the videos or readings, I got the most from discussions with the two people I was taking the course with. I can’t imagine I will participate in many more xMOOC unless it is to study the pedagogy or if the content was really fascinating.
ETMOOC was my first MOOC, and it provides the template for the kind of connectivist experiences that I seek out. Since ETMOOC I have participated in MOOC MOOC’s MOOCification, DS106, and a few other cMOOCs. I am also one of the mentors in OOE13, which is a year-long MOOC based on the ETMOOC model which has been developed and led by 40+ educators, many of whom are ETMOOC alumni. I have never revisited any of the information or connections that I made in an xMOOC, but I regularly collaborate and connect with those I have met as a result of participating in cMOOCs.
Even when I don’t complete all of the suggested learning experiences in cMOOCs, I always seem to get exactly what I need to learn. Although I wasn’t able to fully participate in Exploring PLN, I did learn a lot, I connected or reconnected with interesting people and applied what I was learning to my real life so the experience felt like a success rather than a failure.
I am a Community Builder
I have realized that one of the reasons that I like participating in cMOOCs is that I love learning with others. As ETMOOC was drawing to a close I realized that I didn’t want to loose the connection to my learning community so I launched the Post Etmooc Community in Google+ and invited four of my new friends to help me run it. It has been a rewarding, and authentic learning experience. We have evolved from a group that explored a set topic and blogger every month, to a group of connected educators who love staying connected and sharing their learning together. We are planning two events to celebrate the anniversary of the launch of ETMOOC.
If you are an ETMOOC alumni please join the Post Etmooc group in celebrating the anniversary of ETMOOC by participating in a #etmchat Twitter chat on January 14th at 7:30pm MST, and Old Times Sake hangout on January 21st at 7:30pm MST or sharing a post about your ETMOOC experiences. You can learn all about the upcoming events here, and join the Post Etmooc Google+ Community here.
I am looking forward to the experiences that 2014 will bring.