Tag Archives: DS106

Contemplating the Early #ETMOOC Experience

With ETMOOC now two weeks old and almost half way through Topic 1: Connected Learning (Tools, Processes & Pedagogy), things are truly starting to take-off. It will be fascinating to see how long the legs last. I am hoping that it remains strong.

What is so great about what Alec Couros and crew are creating is the sheer range of participants. Of course this could be said of all MOOCs. Yet, this particular one seems to have a magical mix of educators, a number of seasoned, tech savvy established types and a whole lot of fresh, eager to experiment types, cutting across all grades from elementary to university. It is an impressive movement to track and participate.

I must admit that my MOOC experiences have been more of a gradual escalation. A few years ago, when this thing really got going, I was so fascinated and eager, but so quickly overwhelmed. It took a number of experiences for me to really feel like I had better set of bearings and could negotiate between my lurking and my participation.

When it comes to MOOCs, my desire often has outpaced my will. Plus, I have been involved in a for-credit graduate course more months than I haven’t over the past three years, if not more. Combined with my teaching load, I kept getting to a point where I just got too bogged down to continue. Despite the best of intentions, once I lost my momentum I always felt like I was in a insurmountable hole and already missed too much to get back into the mix. Yet with each experience, I started getting better and better, like tracking things with better filters, managing the amount of time I could engage more effectively, and catching my breath when I needed without completely disengaging.

By the time I jumped into #DS106‘s Camp Magic Macguffin, I started feeling like I was more successful MOOCing it. I had l already “finished” a MOOC at that point, although I have never been the most regular or consistent of bloggers. Even though I did have to stop participating in DS106 towards the end of the run, as a host of responsibilities needed more immediate attention, I felt really good about what I had accomplished. However, that was definitely the first experience where I truly felt that I was in a course that was more of a community. Those University Mary Washington peeps have really built something awesome with A Domain of One’s Own.

The coolest thing I can say about ETMOOC is that it already has the same kind of feel, more community than course. Sure it is loosely distributed and might not have all the trappings of the DS106 machine, like the Daily Create or Assignment Bank, but it has so much potential and the same kind of vibe. After all, ETMOOC is a really the evolution of the EC&I 831 open course experiment Couros conducted at University of Regina a few years ago. Given that short but significant legacy it doesn’t seem like a great leap to see DS106-style components developed and potentially built off ETMOOC as a platform. That too would be pretty awesome.

So despite all of the competing claims on my attention, I can’t help but want to stay connected to this thing that is happening. One of the beauties of ETMOOC is that each topic runs two weeks, almost ensuring that anyone can catch their breath along the way. That two week window is probably the one thing that has me feeling the best about staying involved and might be the master stroke for me in the planning and execution of this MOOC.

Learning I Value: A Video Product & Process

As part of MOOCMOOC one of the tasks was to make a video about the kind of learning we value most. It took a longer than I hoped for me to be able to do it, but I still wanted to do it, regardless. I reframed things a little, although that is kind of the point often, now isn’t it?

I had to steal minutes here and there to put it together, but once I was able to get a good run at the work things started to come together quickly. While the task allowed for more time, keeping things short and simple is always a challenge. I was trying to cut it down to a single minute but that would have actually taken longer, and I didn’t want any more delays.

In the spirit of another MOOC, DS106, here is the method behind the making. Made all with an iPad, tried playing around here a little. I started just kind of playing around and sketching some ideas in the app Paper 53, just thinking really. While playing, it occurred to me that that rough, sketched look could work on its own.

From there it was a matter of shooting a little bit of footage. I opted for some quick and dirty B-Roll type stuff that just came to mind. Being primarily for the MOOCMOOC community of online collaborators, it seemed appropriate to I include myself with a basic A-Roll talking head shot.

Lately, I have been opting for the app Pinnacle, formerly Avid Studio, to edit video over iMovie. Using Pinnacle allows for dropping in a separate audio track for narration over the B-Roll with relative ease. It is a small but significant feature that iMovie does not have.

Finally, since I mention jazz, metaphorically, it seemed almost necessary that I drop some in to score a portion. For speed sake and because my iPad’s memory is practically full, rather than download something and try to cut it, made something quick in GarageBand. It is kind of amazing how someone with little to no musical talent, like myself, can string together a handful of instrumental loops, tinker a bit, and create something that isn’t half bad.

The real trick is getting the audio out of GarageBand and into Pinnacle. As expected, Apple doesn’t necessarily play well with others, especially if they have a competing product. So it is a couple of touches to export audio from GarageBand into iMovie, which is actually what I did. Then exporting the audio from iMovie, unfortunately as a video file, allowed me to kick it into the Camera Roll, where I could easily pull it into Pinnacle. At that point, I could use it as just another audio track. A little fine tuning and I had my own original score. A minor workaround that I thought was worth sharing.

Gearing Up for Calderwood Fellowship: Reviewing Berthoff – Part 2

This summer, I have the great fortune of participating in the Calderwood Fellowship for the Teaching of Writing at UMass Boston. It is an exciting opportunity to conduct some funded action research over the course of a year. It starts with a week-long, intensive seminar in July which is just around the corner. In preparation for the seminar, we were asked to read a handful of texts.

The first one I opted to read  was the short article “Learning the Uses of Chaos” by Professor Ann Berthoff. This is the second of a two-part reflection on my reading.

While I have long been an advocate of asking students to engage in meta-cognitive writing. More recently, I have been playing around with the idea of narrating the work or process, as explained by writer and software developer John Udell, author of Practical Internet Groupware. It is not necessarily all that new or radical an idea. In fact, it seems that Udell even picked up a thread from biologist Edward O. Wilson’s book Consilience. By demonstrating the process in an open, confessional way, access to the creator’s mind is established. That is not only what teachers must do for students but ask students to do it too. By laying the process bare, in all of its chaotic mess, almost like a journalist, we clarify it for others and ourselves. It is a great kind of writing, albeit not composing, that provides a window into the head of the thinker. That window is what all learners need more than anything.

When Berthoff begins to engage the idea of context most directly, I kept returning to the Robert Frost piece “Education by Metaphor.” As challenging as that text can be, it holds great wisdom, providing an anchor for how we see the world. As Berthoff, writes on page 3, “We know reality not directly but by means of the meanings we make,” all I could think of was changing the word “meanings” to “metaphors.” I also kept feeling that in her discussion of contexts that it was really more about reading than anything. Yet reading and writing are also so intimately commingled that they too are nearly one.

Still, a key concept to making meaning from chaos for Berthoff returns to ambiguity. Possibly my second favorite sentence in the article is a partially borrowed one from page 4, “We must realize ourselves and make dramatically evident to our students is what I.A. Richards means when he calls ambiguities the “hinges of thought (1959, p. 24).” What great phrase, “hinges of thought.” Moreover, I found Berthoff’s challenge to teachers to ask better questions particularly resonant. In that last few years, I have migrated to making the vast majority of my comments on student papers simply questions. While I may fall victim to “What do you mean hear?” I am definitely trying to compel students to answer the questions I pose, as well as clarify. Additionally, I am hoping to reignite the thinking that may have sparked their idea in the first place. Always considering how to reframe questions is a good takeaway for me.

I have been chasing methods of helping students to ask themselves better questions for some time now. The goal has always been helping them to develop quality questions in such a way that their answers will ultimately help them construct their compositions. I often comment, “Writing essays in school is often about asking yourself really good questions and arranging the answers into a cohesive whole.” Adding to the question development kitbag is ongoing.

A small surprise for me was Berthoff’s transition into “interpretive paraphrase,” which I believe to be a great insight into how to guide student revision. By “continually asking ‘How does it change the meaning if I put it this way?’ — is of course a principle method of enquiry, but its importance for us in the composition classroom is that it teaches students to see relationships and to discover that that is what they do with their minds,” from page 4. Here Berthoff champions the idea that “Language is an exchange” and the importance of dialogue, also on page 4. It reminds me of how much of the benefit from taking any course is the social context. Similar to Vygotsky, Murray, and others, I am reminded of just how much it is in the conversations where the real meaning begins to emerge in thinking.

This left me quite fond of her page 4 ending, “Dialogue, that is to say, is essential to the making of meaning and thus to the learning to write. The chief use of chaos is that it creates the need for that dialogue.” Therefore, a teacher’s job is to help students spot ambiguity, like truffles in the forest, and help them learn to grow comfortable with a certain degree of chaos. I wonder if it is a concept that they may actually be more familiar with outside of school than in it, considering our modern lives. Perhaps getting students to see that idea as neither “isolated” or “absurd” is a key in reframing their relationship to the classroom, wherein the classroom becomes a context for not only making meaning but training for using writing as a means for navigating through the chaos that life presents. It is a lesson many modern adults could serve to learn as well.