The very first time I ever went online I found myself looking at a list of the holdings in a library in Australia. I realized that I had no use for the information I had found but that night a barrier crumbled for me. It was so cool that somehow from a dumb computer terminal at work in the middle of the night in Banff, Alberta I had made a connection with Australia.
A year or two later I somehow found about Phil Agre’s Red Rock Eater’s News Service. I had no idea who Phil was and many of the things he wrote about didn’t interest me but enough of it did that I stayed subscribed to his mailing list for a while. He talked about what interested him, politics, his work, books he liked, and pens; he talked about pens a lot.
One of the things that has stuck with me was a series of first-hand accounts from Belgrade, Serbia in December, 1995. Phil may have shared a few first hand accounts, or maybe just one which led me to subscribe to another mailing list, I don’t remember anymore. But reading those first-hand accounts of civilians under attack from their own government crumbled another barrier for me. This was way before CNN and the 24-hour news cycle and the extreme connectedness of the world today, so having that kind of insight into something happening around the world that from a perspective that was not getting covered on the evening news was thrilling and intense. I don’t think I could effectively explain to my teenage kids, who have always lived in a hyperconnected world, why reading those reports from a real person on the other side of the world was so transformational for me. I guess it was my first taste of the power of the internet to connect us and my first exposure to what Henry Jenkins calls Participatory Culture.
Another barrier fell for me as I watched the 2005 London subway bombings unfold in almost real time via social media posts. It was such a dramatic contrast to the speed at which the news unfolded on 9/11 when I was glued to the TV after the twin towers fell, hoping for updated information that came very infrequently amidst the repeated footage of the towers falling and people stumbling away under clouds of ashes.
Now that we have access to more information that we could ever consume, I think the tendency most people have is to insulate themselves in a cocoon in order to manage their exposure. Much has been said and written about the echo chamber effect of social media and the impacts it is having; so I will not add more here.
However, despite the way our world and our interconnectedness have evolved, I do believe that is is still possible to have random encounters that break down barriers and open up worlds, online and in real life. Perhaps this is because of my optimistic nature or because I limit my use of social media and news consumption and make a point of connecting with people and ideas that are different than my own.
The barriers that break down don’t seem to transform my world as much as they did thirty years ago. That could be a function of age or or how the world has changed.
But barriers still crumble for me. Five years ago I participated in my first connectivist MOOC, #etmooc, and it forever changed how I approach learning and how I show up online. Two years ago I tagged along to a workshop on design thinking with a colleague that blew open my world and led to a graduate certificate in Social Innovation and connections with others who are passionate about using new approaches to solving some of the wicked problems facing society today.
This evening, it didn’t take me very long to learn way more about Phil Agre than I ever knew when his news updates arrived in one of my very first email inboxes. I had no idea about the extent of his publications or that he was considered missing for a time.
I wonder if being missing was his way building a cocoon and disconnecting from the world that has changed so much since he first started publishing his Red Rock Eater’s News?
This post is my response to the Topic 1 Challenge in the Engagement in a Time of Polarization MOOC:
Topic 1 Challenge:
“It’s not that there’s anything particularly healthy about cyberspace in itself, but the way in which cyberspace breaks down barriers. Cyberspace makes person-to-person interaction much more likely in an already fragmented society. The thing that people need desperately is random encounter. That’s what community has.”
– John Perry Barlow, 1995, from http://www.lionsroar.com/bell-hooks-talks-to-john-perry-barlow/
Maybe Barlow was wrong? Discuss.
How does Barlow’s idea of random encounter – in a positive, world-opening sense, online or offline – operate today? 24/7 news feeds and social media mean we’re constantly bombarded with messages reducing the Other – and often ourselves – to political positions. Can we approach the Other with an open mind? Should we? What are YOUR stories of random encounters, on or offline? When and how have they broken down barriers for you? When and how have they not?]]>
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.]]>
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.]]>
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.
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.
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?
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.]]>
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.
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:
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 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.]]>