Tag Archives: CCK09

Entering the #ETMOOC Fray

On the heels of a week spent wading through as much of Hybrid Pedagogy‘s MOOCMOOC as I could muster, I decided to jump into ETMOOC with Alec Couros. Truth be told, when it comes to MOOCs, I can’t really help myself. I am completely hooked on the MOOC phenomenon. While I am far more keen on the cMOOC variety, I am potentially going to take a flyer on an xMOOC soon, just to experience what those are all about too.

Like so many others, I have struggled to finish previous MOOC efforts. I think it took me untile the third time to really even feel like I had a handle on how to operate within one. Thus, I can seriously sympathize with all those that struggle, feel overwhelmed, or just get lost along the way.

After missing the initial Connectivism and Connective Knowledge MOOC, my first genuine MOOC effort was the next round CCK09. The whole experience was simultaneously awesome and a complete disaster. I dove in so deeply in the early going. It was as if I couldn’t help myself. It was all so new and cool and I was so fascinated by the material and the concept. I tried reading almost everything. after a few weeks, I was totally engaged and completely overwhelmed, eventually floundering entirely. Still, the hook was set. I kept trying and began to figure out how to feel reasonably successful, even completing some MOOC experiences in the traditional sense.

Since then I have tried many MOOCs with varying degrees of success. From lurking, following, many different levels of participation, always trying to stay connected what can only be called a MOOC Movement. Despite life or some other for-credit professional development classes sometimes getting in the way, I keep entering the MOOC fray. I still find it all too fun, too cool, and always get something from the experience no matter what.

With ETMOOC, I am hoping to do as much as I can, helping out where possible, and contributing to the effort whenever my schedule allows. It will no doubt be challenging, as 70 writing portfolios and semester exams are waiting for me on this month’s horizon which will need to be graded. Still, I am really excited about what Couros is going to do in this latest installment. There are already so many names I recognize, which is already motivating.

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Thoughts on an NWP MOOC

One of the charges for my Flat Classroom Certification was to begin designing a project. While I have a couple  of other ideas that have been taking shape in my head, in the last month or so one idea has been taking serious root. So while it is not an exact fit with the course, the instructors were generous enough to allow me to pitch the following as part of the course. It definitely an idea that has taken hold of a lot of my thinking of late, as I investigate it more. I welcome any and all feedback as I continue developing the idea.

Last year began a genuine fascination with the Massive Open Online Class (MOOC) concept, courtesy of George Siemens and Stephen Downes. Despite my better efforts my initial efforts to participate fell short. Regardless the concept was a fascinating one to me. When this year’s Personal Learning Environments Networks & Knowledge MOOC ran, I jumped back into the fray and this time participated more fully. Participating to the end was considerably more satisfying than my previous attempts and it got me thinking about the applications of this new learning model. Additionally, a team including Siemens, Dave Cormier recently released The MOOC Model for Digital Practice wanting to experiment with them.

I would love to try it with my high school English classes, but there are some limitations when working with minors. Plus, it is harder to imagine as many participants being interested in a course geared toward fourteen to fifteen year-olds. Then it ocurred to me that National Writing Project (NWP) might be the best place to experiment with a modified MOOC application.

The National Writing Project already offers an extensive network of educators across disciplines at all levels, early childhood through university. Moreover, the network is comprised of teacher consultants (TCs) that have already experienced the formative Invitational Summer Institute (ISI). However, there are over 200 local sites offering an ISI, which is the official introduction to the network, and beyond that what local sites can offer is considerably uneven, depending on available resources. While all sites offer some kind of follow-up continuity events, these are point of continual struggle for all local sites.

Consequently, my idea is to adapt the MOOC framework for interested NWP TCs. The idea would be to offer a kind of synthesized packaging of some of the work that affiliated NWP channels are already doing into an Advanced Invitational Summer Institute, of sorts, where the invitation to participate is essentially open. While the target audience would really be designed to appeal to existing TCs, already familiar with the NWP model, and looking for another ISI like experience, it could potentially be a way to enlist and introduce new participants to the NWP network, as well as potential international connections.

There are a lot of potential advantages to this approach, it seems to me.

On a fundamental level, the open nature and scale of an effort like this provides an additional means for interested TCs to be involved in the network on their own terms, pursuant to their own personal interest and goals. Of course, this already exists with available resources, but it is only possible through considerable individual effort navigating all of the various NWP channels and initiatives. Not all local sites have the capacity to provide large-scale guidance throgh the deep resources that already exist and are constantly emerging. One of the goals of an effort like this would be to provide some relatively focused guidance and curation for participants navigating and making sense of their journey with them material and resources.

Due to the great diversity in what each local site can offer in addition to the mainstay ISI, it allows TCs who would like to deepen their experience and connections within the network a chance to do that with a grander set of resources and appeal, while still attempting to emulate aspects of the ISI models of professional development. While a virtual experience, another real advantage is the fertile ground that can emerge for cultivating new and interesting connections that may not have previously been a available or known. It is another step toward extending and strengthening the “National” aspect of the network.

Also, being a virtual experience, it would advance and even explore many aspects of teaching the “New Writing” or “Digital Writing,” an area where NWP has been a clear leader in professional development. A MOOC of this kind would then serve as a grander hub of activity, that would build upon and bring together some of the best offerings of NWP, for example like the work that is done in the E-Anthology, Digital Is, Teachers Teaching Teachers, current Initiative strands, in a guided or facilitated way geared more for the “advanced user” but open to anyone interested. It would provide some focused inquiry on elements of NWP work that many TCs might not know exist or don’t yet have a strong grasp until they have made a more concerted effort to investigate.

The benefits would be in the participating. More than that, I see it as a valuable enhancement or enrichment for interested TCs that may not feel as connected. The open invitation has a lot of appeal to me, and the prospect that people outside NWP or even internationals  might participate is a genuinely exciting possibility. With a variety of ways to participate, individuals have enormous flexibility on the amount, degree, and interest in participation. Additionally, it potentially offers an alternative way towards continuity for building capacity on a larger scale that could benefit the local sites where participants are affiliated. The open nature of it also offers potential to not only eliminate geographical boundaries for existing TCs in larger rural states but enrich already existing efforts in those contexts. The potential content and knowledge that an effort like this could create is worthy of investigation, as well as being a potential boon for NWP related activity and awareness.

If anyone else is interested in this idea, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Learning Evolution & Connectivism Resonance

I have to admit that there is no question that I am learning differently now than I was five or ten years ago. For one, I was able to complete my Master’s degree from a Chicago university, after moving to Boston, by completing three online courses. This was nearly five years ago and that wasn’t even my first foray into online learning. The blossoming of the internet into a faster and easier vehicle for communication has changed much of how everyone learns. Have a question, search for an answer. Depending on the question, the answer may be a fraction of a second away from appearing – fraction of a second! This now mundane fact of life still manages to astound me. The deepest well of resources in the history of mankind, for many, is literally in the palm of hand. Immediacy of that kind has stunningly powerful consequences for both life and learning.

I have always been a fairly voracious reader. However, the volume I read has increased exponentially over the last ten years. I still love books. My house is filled with them. However, I recently lamented about how few I have read cover to cover recently. I still read some books that way but the way I read has changed, which is why I now love books even more when they are available in some digital form. When this is the case, they become more than books, more than the sum of their parts because the parts are so much more available, pliable, usable.  In fact, my very notion of what a book is has morphed into something that is more aligned with the abstract notion of a text, something readable.

My learning has grown even more personal since the time I was a student. Of course some of this is a function of maturity, but the availability and accessibility of indulging my research interests is a kind of fuel for learning. Better still is the immediacy of available information. Much of this has made for a far more immersed in information experience, the kind that I craved as a student but is now so much more available, can go deeper and broader. Also, with greater volumes of digital content and search recall is not quite as labor intensive as it once was. I now embrace the messiness of learning with much greater relish as a result of the technology innovations.

Another way my learning has changed relates well to connectivism, in that the number and quality of available connections has increased substantially. If I am investigating something I have greater unfiltered access to sources of information than ever before. So, I can attempt to contact someone with the expertise I am seeking with greater ease and probably a better chance of success. The technology has facilitated connections with data sources that simply were not nearly as readily available in the past. In fact, I would submit that the technology encourages contact with these data sources. This might be one of the first resonances I see with the learning theory.

Additionally, the relation to brain function and neuroscience has my interest peaked in terms of resonance. It seems to me, that regardless of whether or not the theory holds up as a legitimate one worthy of academic research and life , it does offer a valid framework through which to view learning. For my purposes this is enough. It may be a theory for the now, but from what I can tell that is all that is reasonable. As perceptions and knowledge change with new discoveries this theory may become more brittle, but that is proving all too common and doesn’t necessarily invalidate it. For one, I am still stuggling with where there is room for developing knowledge and understanding independently or in isolation. So even my own understanding of connectivism is evolving but I certainly recognize it possibly offers some serious insights.