To Produce Independent Learners, Schools Must Change

Greg Walker, 9/18/13: Stephen Downes in, Connectivism and the Primal Scream states, “At a certain point, we want people to stop being novices, and to start being self-motivated and self-managing learners. The idea that we are treating university students and adults as ‘novices’ is, to my mind, appalling. If a grown adult still requires a teacher to provide encouragement and support, positive role models, to select resources and scaffold learning experiences, then that speaks to the substantial failure of the traditional system of education. To my mind, it is as astonishing a failure as it would be if adults expected their teachers to read the lessons aloud to them.” Thoughts? Agree, why? Disagree, why?

Stephen Downes

Stephen Downes


This is a touchy subject, and Downes gets an A for courage.

If we begin with the outcome, independent learners, and reverse engineer the school system to produce students who are able to learn independently with educators as guides and facilitators rather than teachers, I think we’d end up with a completely different system.

A system that’s cultivating students who become increasingly responsible for their own learning from P-12 would gradually replace the lockstep age groupings, standardized curricula, and teacher-led classrooms in the lower grades with open learning environments in the upper grades. The educator’s role changes, too, gradually shifting from teacher to guide, advisor, facilitator, coach, etc.

The open environments would cover a wide range of options, including blended and online, but the primary change would be toward anytime-anywhere learning, with students becoming increasingly skillful in managing their own schedules to complete learning projects on and off campus.

Students would learn from peer tutors and also serve as tutors for other classmates. They would also incorporate MOOCs into their individualized programs. (Yes, MOOCs will become a huge part of secondary education.) School program advisors would play a critical role in the upper grades, guiding students toward objectives that would facilitate transfer to postsecondary programs.

Throughout the model, the focus is on the student, not the school or teacher. The question is always What’s best for the student? and the school’s resources are geared toward guiding her/him toward her goals.

The measure of success for the school and its staff is the percentage of students who enter postsecondary programs prepared to learn independently.

Reply to Dean/discussion forums/week 2

This was my reply to a great discussion which was initiated by Dean and to which Lori and Rachel added their thoughts too.

Great discussion so thank you for initiating it, Dean, and to Lori and Rachel for their thoughts. Here are my 2 cents!

1) Re promoting interaction in class forums – like you, Dean, I always set a follow-up task to get them reading each other’s posts, but I add what they should be looking for, e.g. “Read some of your peers’ postings and find a person you have something in common with. Reply to this person by … stating what it is that you both have in common”. OR “Read a few postings and select one which you can relate to”. So similar to what Rachel does though she goes a bit further by giving them some triggers to get them going. Rachel – I’m going to add some of yours to my list – thanks for sharing :-)

Rachel’s triggers: I usually provide more explanation of what is expected from a post and response. For the response I include something like this: Read your classmates’ posts throughout the week. Reply in at least two well-thought-out paragraphs, to two (2) classmates’ postings by . Go beyond a “yes” or “no” or “I agree”. Give them advice, ask them questions to clarify, suggest alternatives, extend on an idea, offer a resource link for more information, or otherwise engage with one another’s comments. E.g. I was intrigued…; When you mentioned that… it made me wonder….; Have you thought of…; What about…?

I also get students to make voice recordings which they link to a forum, rather than always setting written forum tasks. Since I teach EFL, this has the added value of giving them speaking practice. It also allows me to provide feedback on their pronunciation/intonation, adds variety/is more fun than always writing, and voices are personal – we’re back to the human touch!! Here’s an example of a forum task using voice recording: “Find an article/video/podcast on knowledge flow/communication in the supply chain. Identify 3 key points while reading/listening to it. Then prepare a short talk (max 5 min) using the presentation framework from F2F 2. Remember to think of a catchy opener, an effective ending and to structure/signpost your talk appropriately. After practising your talk a few times, record yourself on Vocaroo. Post your article/video/podcast title, the source and the Vocaroo URL on the SCM forum by… Enter the title of the article/video/podcast title in the subject line, and make sure that no one else has already chosen this source. Follow-up task: Listen to a peer’s recording and comment, either in writing or orally, on what you found particularly interesting about the talk as well as on how well the topic was presented i.e. how attention-grabbing the opener was, whether the main part was signposted appropriately and if the ending was memorable /effective. Pls do this by …”

2) Re assigning some of the course grades to participation – totally agree with Lori. My Master’s students all work full time, so they’ve got to prioritise when it comes to deciding what they do. No grade is unfortunately equivalent to not necessary/important – I’d probably do the same too. And as I mentioned in a previous posting, it’s then entirely the student’s decision as to what they do, which I respect.

Enough for now, and wonder if anyone else has a suggestions on how to get students interacting more naturally and purposefully in forums. And I hope that we get some input on this in week 3 or 4. But as you say in your posting, Dean, this is all VERY time consuming for us teachers :-(


coLAR Mix and International Dot Day

Just had to share about a great activity that happened during the Digital Storytelling ACE program.  After we read Ish by Peter Reynolds and talked about International Dot Day, the students partnered to decorate a dot provided by the coLAR Mix app.  They opened the app on the iPad and hovered over their dots.  The dots came to life!  Spiraling spheres of various sizes entertained the students with music coming on and off.  That app is enthralling!

I'm trying to print the bird coloring page for the app as that looks even cooler.  

Comment on Thompson Video: Human Touch

I viewed the John Thompson webinar recording last night and really enjoyed it. Brent, Greg, and Rachael are masters at creating an environment that’s more like friends sitting around a table chatting over coffee, and Thompson has an easygoing style that’s more conversational than lecture. Lori, a participant, asked some great questions. The following are points that rang true for me. The graphics are from the talk.


Teaching online literally means communicating with students 24/7. Obviously not every minute of every day but logging on to review and respond in email, discussion forums, course sites, etc. throughout the day, everyday. Thompson apparently gives his cellphone number to students, but this is a practice that I wouldn’t adopt for myself.

When he sent an eblast to the class, a student responded, assuming that it was a private message to him alone. This happens often, even when the “to” line suggests otherwise. A purely online phenomenon. LOL!


Depth of comments varies, and Thompson found that, in grad courses, student responses were longer and more thoughtful than in undergrad courses. I also find variations in type of course and student class levels and age in a given cohort.

In response to a question about peer-to-peer learning, he said that in one of his classes, students said they learned just as much from peers as from the teacher. In my mind, this is one of the most important goals of online learning.


Re collaborative group work, he said that 90-95% of his students don’t want it. I’ve found exactly the same.

This quote is perhaps the most important in his presentation: “Anytime you go away from that 24/7 flexibility, you’re at odds with what the students really like to do.” I refer to this as the anytime-anywhere advantage of online learning. For him, this means that, for online courses, set office hours and F2F optional sessions don’t work. He had zero drop-ins with the former and only 25-50% participation with the latter.

Furthermore, his experience with hybrid (aka blended) teaching didn’t work out. He and his students decided that they “would never do that again.” The fact that it was an intense summer course might have been a critical factor. However, this was my experience, too, with full semester hybrid courses. Part way through, we decided to move all meetings online. I kept the F2F sessions going for drop-ins, but few if any showed up, and none hung around for the entire session. I never did hybrids after that.


Some students never read emails. I now use Twitter to signal important email, both eblasts and private mail. For example, “John, check your UH email for an urgent message from me.”

Thompson’s comments on “trickery” hit home. He inserted an offer of bonus points in some of his email and discussion posts for a rough gauge on whether his messages were getting through. All they had to do was email him back within a certain period of time. He says that he’s always surprised at how low the returns are. He mentions 50% as a general figure.

I, too, have been embedding “tests” in some of the readings, announcements, and guidelines, and the 50% result is generally true. Within the text, I embed a brief statement asking students to email me, within a specified period of time, a keyword in the subject header and leave the content blank. I record an “X” for each response. The number of Xs for a student is a pretty good indicator of how well s/he will do in an assignment and in the course. I also use these reading test scores to determine my response in student drafts and email requests for help. I know when to say “carefully review the guidelines” and when to provide additional explanations.

Thompson didn’t spend much time talking about course design as an indirect measure of human touch. For example, he said that when it comes to explanations, more is better than less. I disagree. All too often, more simply expands confusion, and even more will expand confusion exponentially. The key is simplicity and clarity, and posting key information in only one location and linking to it as often as necessary from varied pages, sites, and media. Students shouldn’t see variations of the same info in different places. This forces them to review it multiple times to discern the differences and leaves them confused about which is the most complete or up-to-date. A well-designed course (including writing style features such as voice) also communicates the human touch of caring.

Review: Sue Waters Webinar

I was really sorry to have missed the live session of Sue's webinar on "The Art of Blogging: How to connect, interact & build rapport with students" but really appreciated having access to the archive. For me it has been the most engaging session I've reviewed so far - as I watched I kept wishing that I had been there to engage in the conversation and ask questions.

Here's why it worked for me:

  1. Interactive Discussion vs. Presentation: Sue modeled good web conferencing practice. She asked questions, had attendees respond to a question by writing on the whiteboard, got us to think about our own personal experiences [to help us think about how best to get our students engaging in blogs], and encouraged us to think critically about different tools.
  2. Engaged in Some Good Focussed Distraction: The discussion went on an interesting detour that included topics/tools related to online teaching - e.g. how our MOOC facilitators are creating the newsletter using mailchimp, how to make good use of flipboard, pinterest - but then came back around to the main topic of blogging. 
  3. Practical Focus: Sue talked about how things work, and pointed to examples, to help us understand how we might use these tools in our own practice. 
  4. Excellent Resources: Some great resources and exemplars where shared throughout the discussion - see list below
This was the first presenter, that I really felt has taken the time to look at what we've been doing in the MOOC and, because of this, she was able to comment and engage discussion on how we have been experiencing the different tools that are being used in the MOOC - newsletter, flipboard, twitter, G+, blog/community wall, individual blogs.

Other themes with visuals in the session:
How Blogs are Used: Thought blogs are used for a variety of purposes, and are popular in the classroom, they are also a powerful tool for making global connections and engaging in personal reflection. 

Sue described the Blogging Stages: tears, anger, awe - that time when things click and you start to get it. I think I may be in the awe stage myself. After a few years of dabbling, I feel like I'm starting to finally see the point of why blogging can be a great tool [and enjoying it too!].

What Have I Struggled With in Blogging and Why? I wrote down: Purpose - is the blog for me,
my students, others? Time - never enough; and Awkwardness - about what I'm writing, the quality of my writing, etc.  I appreciated Sue's response that our blogs should just reflect things we are interested in, and be a means for processing our own personal learning.
I haven't used blogs enough with my students to note whether or not I've see the audience effect in my courses, but I think there is something to this.

As for the impact of blogs on learning, I do believe that if properly implemented they can have a positive effect. Sue gave some good tips: starting small, providing good guidelines for students, and thinking up front about structure. I liked the example of using a single blog and having students use specific tags - which then get fed to another 'group' page on the blog - vs. trying to manage multiple individual student blogs. Still trying to get my head around the mechanics of how that would work. 

How Would I Use Blogging in the Future? Aside from trying to keep my own blog, I am still pretty new at integrating this tool in my teaching. I did recently have moderate success using a blog for a course:  Though I liked using the pages, and the idea of a collaborative journal, I felt that the discussions were not as rich. In future I need to think about how to make the discussions more authentic and relevant to the students.

Webinar Session Resource Links
The State of Educational Blogging:

Sue Waters Blog

Eric example remixing:

Sue's Flipboard:
Flipboard guide to subscribing, curating & sharing:

Pinterest Boards on Tech Tools:

Brent's Course blog:

Edublogs in Action
- includes an example of good Blog Guideline Page:

English Teacher Blog- example of clear structure:

Discussion Questions (week 1)

  1. How do you want to teach online?
    I believe a combination of both models is what I want to apply to my online course. I want to convey information and also design activities and materials that will help them use this knowledge to learn to do something. For example, I will add content in the lectures on how to create effective lecture videos for online setting, the theory and research behind the recommended practices, but I also want them to go ahead and develop a demo applying what they just learned. During the whole lesson, I will schedule live interactions where they can ask questions, I will elaborate more on some of the topics covered on the lessons, I will give also feedback on the demos they will be posting on the course site. In my case, I will be creating the content for a new online course, I will not be converting material from face-to-face setting to online, which means I am very open to new things and new technologies to achieve the learning goals.
  2. What ‘mix’ of face-to-face and online learning will be best for your course, and why your “mix” is best.
    My course is completely online, there will be no face-to-face contact, unless live webinar sessions count as that. I believe this course has to be online because it is directed towards professionals that are probably already working and have families. The convenience of an asynchronous course that can be taken online has many benefits to this particular audience. I will have many technology tools and human resources to create the content and applications for this course. I consider myself a good instructor in the classroom setting and now I want to prove myself that I can do the same thing in e-learning.
  3. Why do you need to focus just as much on student activities, what they need to do, as on creating original content for your courses? Describe the activities do you plan to focus on.
    Because we want the students not only to memorize material, so that they can face a final assessment but we also want them to learn how to do something. I believe that any subject can be adequately converted into an online course, the bottom line being what resources I am willing to put up in order to develop that course. When I am developing the content I have to see how I can create an activity that will make good use of the information being presented. The student activities are going to reinforce the knowledge they just reviewed in the lesson, and it has to be done immediately after the material in the lesson has been covered. I am planning on creating short multiple choice questions when there is material that requires to be learned by the student, such as concepts, rules, laws, processes, etc. Then, during the lecture material, I will add more multiple choice questions that will test what the student learned during the lecture. This will help the student assess how well they acquire the new information.
  4. Describe how you create a strong structure for you online course, so students are clear about what they are expected to do, when it has to be done. How do you ensure that students have adequate online activities? Describe the trade-offs you have to make between content and activities if the student workload is to be kept to manageable proportions?
    The first thing I would like to develop is some kind of syllabus that contains the rules of the game: policies, how to get help, and most important, the course structure. In my case, I like to develop courses that follow a rigid structure because I believe that in the online learning environment, since there is hardly any instant human contact, it is necessary to guide the students at any point in the course. I am planning on creating a course with ten lessons that will follow the next template: definition of lesson objectives, reading assignments, some kind of short lecture (audio or video), and activities. Until they are able to complete these activities then they should be able to move on to the next lesson. Since my course is oriented on how to develop online content, I am planning on creating activities that are more hands-on (around learning how to do something as opposed to did you memorize it?). I will set up the LMS system so that they cannot move to the next lesson until they submit their assignments and complete their activities. Before we launch the program we will use testing students that will provide feedback on the effectiveness of the activities laid out in the lessons, and I will adjust accordingly. Again, the activities will be centered around learning how to do something, there will be also questions that will invite critical thinking and analysis. This is supposed to be a short course (40 h max), which means we cannot introduce content that is not going to support learning. We will introduce meaningful resources that the students can use later on, but they will not be required to cover that material. Our lectures will be short (max 15 min), and most of the time the students will be working on their activities and assignments, there is reading but we will keep it at a minimum to cover important definitions, rules, suggestions, but we will no assign reading of whole book chapters.

Remixing and Repurposing: how am I going to put these ideas into practice?

Yesterday I was thinking about how to apply the concepts of this course to my real life. I am not a teacher so the ideas don’t directly relate to me - I work for an LMS provider and am taking this MOOC for a better understanding of the teacher (and student) experience in an online setting. So I’ve been struggling with trying to figure out how to use what we’ve learned in real-life situations because these new ideas will vanish in a poof! if they are not practiced.

Then I had a brainwave. It seems that there are parallels that can be drawn between the difficulties encountered with online teaching and those seen when managing (or working with) remote employees. In both groups, there is the risk that the students (co-workers) can feel isolated, have difficulties understanding the material needed to do the work, experience time and geographical issues, etc. So for me the question becomes: can I apply the concepts learned for successful online teaching to a geographically dispersed workforce?

Disclaimer: this still doesn’t directly relate to what I do in my daily life since I am neither a manager nor a remote employee, but I think I’m getting closer to seeing how to put these ideas into practice.
Next step: noodling on how these ideas can be applied in my specific workplace.

WEBINAR TODAY (9/18) Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education

Wednesday, September 18th,  12 pm- 1 pm, Hawaii Standard Time (HST).  World Clock  Teaching online for the first time is a little like trying to drive a car in a foreign country. You know how to drive, just like you know how to teach, but it sure is hard to get the hang of driving on the left side of the road … you’re not quite sure how far a kilometer is … and darn it if those road signs aren’t all in Japanese


Dr. Lawrence C. Ragan has played a leadership role in the development of Penn State’s World Campus since the start of the initiative in 1998 serving as the Director of Instructional Design and Development, Director of Faculty Development, and most recently appointed as Co-Director of the Center for Online Innovation in Learning. Dr. Ragan presents internationally on the topics quality assurance online, instructional design, multimedia integration, faculty development programming, and instructional design for distance and blended education.

Information Overload

I began this MOOC with the greatest of intentions, to learn how to teach online.  I found so much information however, that I am lost in the information overload.  I think that I am posting in week three, but I am not sure.  I am also unsure what a sense making artifact is, even though I went to the suggested site and tried to digest that information too.  So I will settle for a simple reflection this week, and try again to digest what I am reading in the upcoming round of information.

I viewed the webinar with Tony Bates and found it to be quite interesting.  The focus was on the steps needed to design and implement an online course.  He discussed some of his 9 Steps that I also mentioned in my last blog. Mr. Bates also outlined the differences between open source learning and classes that are designed "for credit".  The main difference lies in the structure and evaluation that is inherent in courses designed for university credit.  I think I like structure.  I need to know what the ground rules are - specific examples of work that I need to produce to earn my credits.  Although courses for credit require a lot of reading and writing, the information is more contained.  Topics are specific, and discussion posts for the week usually center around one main issue.  If the class is divided into groups, then there is a specific purpose to the grouping, at least as far as I can tell.

In this MOOC, I am never sure if I am responding to one of the instructors, or if I am responding to a fellow student.  From the many blogs that I read, there are a number of people taking the course who are also instructors at a university.  I find that interesting.  Perhaps there is a real need among university professors to improve their online course structure, or to at least find out what all the hullabaloo is about - OR there are a lot of instructors for this course. 

One of my issues with online courses is the evaluation of work.  How is it done so that the student does not feel it is all automated?  It is one thing to turn in a test and know that the score is machine scored, but it is another thing to wonder if the professor actually read any comment or essay that you posted.  Is the entire grade made up of on-time postings, or do instructors at least read some of the comments some of the time?

Suggested Reflections (week 1)

In week 1 I learned the steps on how to build an online course, some of them I have been doing for quite some time (although I did not know I was doing it that way). The first step is very important and one I did nor consider before. Do we really need to develop an online course? The teaching philosophies is a good point I have not thought about before. In some subjects the objectivistic approach is required (chemistry, for example) but other courses can be conducted using the individual development approach (I can think of a writing course, for example). But I think I am sold on the idea of combining both, the benefits are obvious. In my work setting we actually start at step 2 where we are deciding what kind of online course we want. This is the part where we decide the kind of content we need in the course. It is very important to determine this because then we have to look back and figure out if the resources to develop that kind of content are available. The final step is one of the parts I am trying to get involved with because evaluation and improvement are nowadays being driven by decisions based on data. Analysis of data from student activity and data collected from their own input has become a valuable tool to make decisions on the course offering, improvements, things that require change or plain eliminate other that did not work. I believe education will be driven by big data in the future as well.
This is a very different MOOC. It has allowed me to express my thoughts and what I have learned through the use of my own blog. This is a tools that I have helped set up before, but have not actually used extensively as an educational tool. Now I can see the potential in future course developments I happen to be involved in later on. I think this is one of the things I like best about this course.

Activity Reflection (Week 1)

This week I came back from a conference with the determination of completing this MOOC. I have been trolling around Coursera and Udacity, signing on for very interesting MOOCs that I never complete. But this MOOC is different. This one is actually giving me the freedom of developing content for what I hope to be my own online course on how to create content for online learning. Working on my posts has given me the opportunity to reflect on many topics related to online teaching, which I haven't done in quite a while. So, as soon as I came back to the office on Monday, I started working on my assignments for the past two weeks, and covering the material for both weeks as well. I have not been just skimming or going through the material with no analysis whatsoever. In fact, I have done quite the opposite. The content offered in this course actually has offered new ideas that I have not considered before.
This week I created my first artifact about blogs. In the materials for week 0 this topic was amply covered by both the instructor and the invited speakers in the webinars for that week. Even though most of the content related to blogging was directed towards developing a full blog system, I actually just skirted my artifact around the use of blogs for educational purposes. I have no intention in becoming a professional blogger, but the application of technology in developing this tool fascinates me. I also like to develop content for blogs which will serve as assignments or activities for an online course. The part of creating blogging activities that can be linked to a learning outcomes has a great appeal to me because it demands the use of my analytical and critical thinking skills in order to create an activity that both fulfills the learning outcome and conduces to learning.
Before I only consider blogging as another way to create a discussion forum, in fact, I was against the use of blogs a few months ago when we were developing a new project because the amount of work the instructor would face since it was required to produce a grade from the posts. But now I understand that blogging is a more personal issue that actually helps in developing critical and analytical thinking skills. A discussion forums is for very short responses on topics the instructor would like the students to weigh in.
One aspect of the whole blogging tool that I need to discover is how to use media to enhance the activity. I would like to encourage my students to not only develop a blog post, but support the post with media that they produce or that the could curate from other sources (for educational purposes). Does media actually help the blog post in conveying the information to the student, and what is required from them? Is media distracting in a blog post? Do I need to place restrictions on the type and quantity of media that students can use? These and other questions, that I think would like to ponder for a while, make blogging an attractive tool for education.

Next MOOC: writing skills?

Blogging seems to be a great way to connect with whatever online community you are part of. But I think that in order to communicate effectively, good writing skills are a "must". My writing skills are not well developed. I stink at it. I have 2 Math degrees and one of the reasons why Math appealed to me is because I wouldn't have to write essays! Equations are much more succinct. Easier. Direct and to the point.

And yet...... without good writing skills, a person loses the potential to communicate ideas with their comrades. Who knows how many great ideas withered into oblivion because they were not well expressed? I read others who have posted blogs for How to Teach Online MOOC and their words seem to flow like water. Or silk? I don't know, sometimes it seems that the perfect word is just out of grasp. Hidden somewhere in the mist.

I guess that I ought to consider taking a writing skills class as my next MOOC.

Webinars TODAY!

So how do teachers close the “distance” gap and build rapport?

Tuesday , September 17th,  2 pm- 3 pm, Hawaii Standard Time (HST). World Clock Discussion on

  •  the importance of intro videos (can be simple….recorded with an iPhone or iPad) and provide 10 tips to recording to set the students up for success
  • Importance of responding to emails within 24 hours and tips for managing emails and diminishing the amount of technical questions through a robust student orientation (that the students have access to until the completion of the program)
  • Ideas for humanizing the online classroom and building community

By Dr. Melissa Kaulbach Dr. Kaulbach is currently the Sr. Director of Academic Services for Academic Partnerships and also serves as faculty at Sarasota University. She conducts faculty workshops for professional development on topics ranging from effective online pedagogy, instructional design, how to increase student engagement through robust online course design, and teaching online with technology. Dr. Kaulbach has been in the education industry for twenty four years. She has presented at numerous conferences and has served on university-wide committees Dr, Kaulbach served as the Chair for the 2012 Academic Partnerships Online Research Grant program. She is also the co-host of the Ed Tech Du Jour web show, which focuses on improving online instruction. Dr, Kaulbach earned her B.A. In Elementary Education & Music, her MAED in Instructional Leadership, and her EdD is in Educational Leadership.

 The Art of Blogging: How to Connect, Interact, and Build Rapport with your Students

Tuesday September 17th, 3pm-4 pm  Hawaii Standard Time (HST). World Clock  Experience how to blog to build rapport by connecting and interacting with others. Participants will reflect on how they can blog to build rapport with their students. By Sue Waters Sue Waters an Australian based in Perth, is married with two kids. While her work as an aquaculture lecturer earned her the coolest job title, her passion is the use of technology to enhance student learning. Sue’s technology use has changed considerably since she was first introduced to it’s potential in 2000; from a LMS (WebCT) to Virtual Classrooms (Elluminate), mobile technologies (spyglasses, PDAs, iPods) and Web 2.0 (blogs, wikis etc). Her passion has led to a transition from aquaculture lecturer, to facilitating professional development workshops on elearning and web 2.0 technologies, to her current role writing on The Edublogger and as Edublogs‘ Support Manager. Sue’s personal blog is also well known and as a blogger she  stands for — practical application of technologies in education, and most importantly HELPING OTHERS learn how to use these technologies.

Reaction to John Thompson’s talk- re: Discussion forums

Question for my fellow MOOC-ers:  Any tips on promoting interaction  in whole class forums where let’s say 20 students are reaction to a reading or what not? How can I help students get past the “post-’n-go” mentality? I want them reading each others’ posts and respond.  I will say: “Post AND respond to at least two other students’s posts,” but it seems stilted and generally it seems like a lot of “Oh, good job, Johnny” that doesn’t lead anywhere. I also don’t want to get into nickel-and-diming them points in the gradebook for posting/failing to post these kinds of responses to each other.  How can we help it become a more organic process for them? (This is for a community college writing class where some inexperienced students and a range of abilities.)  Also…

~Thank you, John Thompson, for encouraging instructors to be involved in discussion forums.  A colleague and I have discussed this – ie., does it highjack the students’ interactions if the instructor inserts herself?  I tend to chime in and highlight students’ posts that show quality thought, supportive interaction, etc.  I also try to refer students to other students’ posts (eg., “Did you see Jenny’s post?  She said a similar thing but added a point.  What do you think?  Neat to see the same line of thinking here!” )  Otherwise, I fear forums are just another place where students submit  their writing and walk away without reading each others’ posts.  In fact, that’s the hardest part of whole class forums for me:  getting students to interact. Small group peer review forums are more interactive, but sometimes I want the whole class posting in the same place.  I think my presence helps there, but, yes, it takes a lot of time!

Cranky and Sarcastic no longer?

I’ve been reading week 2 resources on how to connect with your learner…and they all seem to follow a familiar theme of being friendly, open, accessible, and connecting on a personal level. Now, this is not revolutionary news as it is pretty much what I was taught while getting my teaching baccalaureate and what I have heard every year after while actually teaching. Get to know your students! Share something personal with them to help them relate to you! Lend a friendly ear! Etc. But that’s not who I am. I am cranky and sarcastic and that’s how I have been in the physical classroom for 10 years and it has worked very well for me. Students also appreciate honesty and don’t like a “fake” who is trying to win them over and that would be me if I adopted that approach. I strongly feel that my students still feel very comfortable and safe in my classroom and they still seem all-too-willing to tell me their problems or what’s going on in their lives even though I never ask, never share anything personal with them, and always say, “how does this relate to our work in class?” They seem to revel in my over all “grumpiness” and love the sarcasm–I mean, come on, sarcasm is awesome. And funny.

That being said, I can see how that would not translate over to the online forum where I have only my written word to rely on and they can’t see my expression or the reaction of other students who enjoy it as humor. I read that in one of this week’s posts and it made me think hard about it. Do I have to change my nature to be a good online teacher? Or just curb it in? Perhaps the online world is not for me. This blog is my first, and only, form of social media so that is telling about how comfortable I am with posting personal thoughts and letting it float in the internet stratosphere. Hopefully, through the rest of this MOOC, I can find ways to be a good, effective online teacher while not having to change my personality.

I also feel bad because many, many of the MOOC contributers are currently teaching online classes and therefore have way more insight and knowledge to share. I feel like I am just taking, taking, taking from their expertise and experience. I joined just to learn about it–haven’t tried teaching online yet so everything I say is pure opinion and theory….

Online Group Work

I read “Reflection Activity — Breaking out the Black Hat” on the Community Wall and definitely agree that there are huge problems. Education is filled with huge problems that always seem to boil down to the same issue: idealistic vs. realistic. In an ideal world, group work is awesome! Team work, collaboration, multiple brains and personalities coming together to create! In the real world, even in the traditional classroom, it can be a pain. Student schedules never match up, personalities can clash, someone always has trouble finding a group and feels like the odd one out, and then, within the group, someone always doesn’t do their “fair share” and discontentment stews.

Solution? My only solution so far is to either 1) have the group work be a very small project that is mostly just practice or just one small step of a bigger paper OR 2) make very clear, defined roles within the group project so that when someone doesn’t pull their weight or show up I know who it was. I always make students designate tasks beforehand, instead of doing a reflection afterwards, and if the group project has, say, 10 components to it I try and design it so that 8-9 of those components can be done by individuals on their own and they really only need to really on the group for the last 1-2. Is it even truly group work? Well, they need to meet up initially and assign tasks and roles and create (and turn in) a strategic plan. And then for the end they need to produce or present the project or paper together…though someone’s role could have been the “assembler.”

Online has even more, and bigger, problems when it comes to group work. I imagine they would have to start their own side forum/discussion and do something similar where they all chose different tasks and keep posting their progress and someone will have to piece it together…..

Week 1 Teaching Online is Critical – A Recipe for Making the Connection with your Learners

Connecting with Learners is the topic of Week 2 for the Teaching Online MOOC. It's a very important topic in technology-mediated distance education. Setting the tone from the beginning is an effective way to close the transactional distance between the instructor and the students, who many never meet each other physically during the semester. How do you do it effectively? Well - it's not an exact science and there is more than one way to accomplish this task. Do you want to see how I do it?

I do it in three parts:

Part 1. I write an email message to the students the week before class. The purpose is five-fold: 1) to confirm their email address on file is correct, 2) to share my contact information, 3) to share a link to a 10-minute video intro of the course, 4) to share some ground rules of the course, 5) to give them a task of preparing a personal bio/intro for themselves, and 6) to share the Course Outline.

Part 2. As I mentioned in Point 1 above, I make a 10-minute video intro for the course. It's purposefully and simply just a talking head on YouTube. I spend time giving them my perspective on the course and the online course delivery method. The goal is to convey that together we are a learning team and I try to break down some of the anxiety issues that they might be feeling about taking a course online.

Part 3. In the email message I send out before class, I ask them to prepare a personal bio/intro (and I give them specific criteria to include). The goal of the activity is to establish Social Presence in the course and I try to inject a somewhat humourous and casual aspect to the activity. Here's the key: I model the activity on the course website BEFORE students have access to the course website so that when they first logon and look around, they see my version of the activity laid out for them. Modelling has the result of encouraging the desired community-building behaviour. Then as the first few days of class unfold, I make it a point to reply to each intro to try to build connections. Again, I do this in hopes that other students follow suit, and invariably a sub-set do!

So in the spirit of sharing, below you will find a copy of an Introductory Email message I sent out this term to students in my Basic Chemistry course. Also, find my 10-minute video below too.

What tools/techniques/strategies/approaches do you use when connecting with learners in the first week of your online class? Share your comments below.

---body of email message below---


I confirm that as of today (Sunday August 25th) that you are one of the 22 students registered in CCE106: Basic Chemistry at RMCC. The course is web-enabled and in 6 or 7 days you will be able to access the class website at I am not 100% certain when students are given access to the class website - it could be as late as the first day of class: next Tuesday September 3rd. If by Tuesday you still do not have access to the class website, then please call the RMCC IT Help Desk: 1-866-677-2857 for assistance.

ACTION REQUIRED: I would ask that each of you please confirm receipt of this message so that I can be assured the correctness of your email address that is on file.

Let me give you several ways with which you can contact me during this term: Email:

Office Hours / Face-to-face or telephone: by appointment

Instant Messaging Services:
GTalk: (no email here please)
Facebook: Eric Tremblay in Kingston, Ontario (add me on LinkedIn too!)

In addition, I am required to remind you of the RMCC Academic Honesty Policy which reads:

"Academic misconduct, including plagiarism, cheating, and other violations of academic ethics, is a serious academic infraction for which penalties may range from a recorded caution to expulsion from the College. The RMCC Academic Regulations Section 23 defines plagiarism as: “Using the work of others and attempting to present it as original thought, prose or work. This includes failure to appropriately acknowledge a source, misrepresentation of cited work, and misuse of quotation marks or attribution.” It also includes “the failure to acknowledge that work has been submitted for credit elsewhere.” All students should consult the published statements on Academic Misconduct contained in the Royal Military College of Canada Undergraduate Calendar, Section 23."

When preparing assignments, if any questions arise about how to interpret this policy please ask me BEFORE you submit your assignment. In this case, asking for advice before submitting an assignment is far better than asking for forgiveness after the fact.

Please find attached the CCE106 Course Manual that will serve as the syllabus for the course. If you have not already done so, you should order the required textbook for the course. Details are found in the Course Manual. Also, I made a quick video Intro to the course. Check it out: (if that link doesn't work, try this one: ) Let me know what you think. I have also posted an Welcome Message on the class website. Because you don’t yet have access to the class website yet, I copied it below for you.

I'm looking forward to learning with you really soon.

Take care


---copy from course website---

Welcome Everyone to CCE106. I am Eric Tremblay and I will be your instructor this term. Feel free to read my bio or view the Intro Video post to the main page of this course.

I am really looking forward to a fun semester of learning. In order to kick it off on the right foot, I have a few ground rules to explain and requests to make.

Ground Rules

Rule #1. Learning is fun. If you don’t want to have fun, then drop this course right away. (*smile*) I’m a jovial person. I try to be positive-minded and I crack the odd joke here and there. Also, I’m the kind of person that loves learning – I have been doing it my entire life. I love it because I find it very enjoyable and challenging. And who doesn’t enjoy a good challenge anyway? So I hope you are prepared to mix a little fun in your learning this semester – even in an online course! I sure am.

Rule #2. Please leave your rank at the door. If your rank is General, then with all due respect, I will not call you ‘Sir’ during the offering of this course. I understand that rank has its place; however, in my classroom everyone is equal – including the instructor. So I would like everyone to simply call me ‘Eric’. Please, no emails calling me ‘Professor Tremblay’ or ‘Sir’ or anything like that. Just plain old ‘Eric’ works for me. In return, I will address you by your first name also.

Rule #3. What happens in the classroom stays in the classroom. This particular ground rule is better suited for a humanities course than a science course, but I am still going to state it here. I taught a Bioethics class in the past and some pretty personal and heart-felt comments were uttered by some members during class time. It’s important to always be aware that if someone shares with you a sensitive/personal anecdote during the course of this class, that that occurrence is not a license for you to broadcast this personal information across the CF or at your work. Let’s keep the classroom a safe place for us to share whatever we wish with each other in the context of the subject matter being studied.

Rule #4. Respect other people’s contribution to the class and do not fear mistakes. We are all responsible for collectively learning the material for CCE106 this semester. We are all here to help each other and invariably some of us are going to know more about the subject matter than others. Be mindful that everyone is a valuable member of this class and that we all have learning to do. In addition, remind yourself that we all make mistakes – and that’s ok, in fact, I encourage it! Myself included. Just because I am the instructor does not mean I am the ‘God of Chemistry’ (*grin*). I am far from that and I will make mistakes during the term. Remember that old John Powell quote: “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” So when it comes to learning, mistakes are a necessary part of the equation. In the context of the lab experiments this term, you may end up making some mistakes while conducting the procedures – that’s ok. Take a deep breath, count to 10, check to make sure you have enough supplies to start again, re-read the instructions and then start again. It’s normal.

Rule #5: Extensions. From time to time our personal and professional lives infringe too greatly on our studies. In those cases you may need an extension on an assignment or a lab. I do grant them in some warranted cases. So if you request an extension please supply an excellent reason and propose a new due date for your assignment/lab. I carefully consider each request and I will get back to you quickly with my decision. If I decide not to grant your request, be advised that I do accept assignments and labs late. In the course material, a daily late penalty is defined for each assignment/lab which will allow you to submit things late if you wish. There are some types of extension requests which I never honour: 1) extension requests that come in on the actual due date of assignment/lab, and 2) extensions on extensions. In these cases, late penalties will begin to accrue. I hope you see the fairness in this system.

Rule #6. Know your netiquette. This course is not heavily rooted in weekly discussions but there may be times when we want to talk about a current event or something so be sure to understand the etiquette for online discussion. Sarcasm does not translate well in writing. So if you want to make a joke, then please give us a visual cue. Use things like emoticons, smilie faces, bracket comments like (*grin*) or (*smile*), or the abbreviations ‘j/k’ for ‘just kidding’ or ‘lol’ for ‘laugh out loud’.

Ok, those are my 6 ground rules, now it’s time for two requests.

Request #1: During the first week of class, I would like you to post a message in the main discussion forum introducing yourself. The message must cover the following topics: a) Your name
b) Your current occupation
c) Your geographic location
d) [Optional but highly encouraged] Basic information about your family status. For example, “I am single”, or “I have a wife and two boys, ages 3 and 7”, etc.
e) Why you are taking this course
f) One (or more) interesting ‘fun facts’ about yourself. Examples might include, “I have eleven iguanas”, “I once had beers with Tom Cruise”, "My hobby is playing World of Warcraft", or “I was the first Canadian to play drums on a tour with the band KISS”, etc. You get the idea. (*smile*)
g) Your favourite music band or singer.
h) Post a picture (or a link to a video!) of yourself as an attachment to your message.

Request #2: During the 15 weeks that we will be learning together, if you travel anywhere on vacation (or on Temporary Duty), you must then post a picture of yourself while on this trip in the discussion forum and you must tell us a little about it. I love to hear about people’s vacations/travel when I take an online course. It reaffirms to me that online learning is a great way to study because it still allows time for ‘real life’ and doesn't force you to be in one place all the time. (*smile*)

Ok, so, enough typing from me for the moment.

Again - Welcome Everyone to CCE106!



Reflection Activity — Breaking out the Black Hat

Ok, so I have been thinking about the various suggestions and it seems like again and again, we keep hearing about encouraging group work with online students.  The more I think about this, the more I am inclined to break out the black hat.  I just see too many problems associated with group activities with online students.  This may come from too many bad personal experiences in my own online undergraduate and graduate studies, but I really think many others also have the same opinion.

After watching Dr. Thompson’s webinar yesterday, I was almost relieved to hear one thing he said.  It was somewhat reassuring to hear that he had also noted that most online students don’t like group work.  I tend to believe what Dr. Thompson said in yesterday’s webinar.  I agreed with Dr. Thompson on two points. I felt like he made a valid argument when he said that most online students don’t like group work because of bad experiences.  It is probably my own personal bad experiences that have soured me most about group work in the online environment.  On several occasions as I completed my studies as an online student, I was assigned group work projects.  More often than not, these projects turned out to be a failure in my eyes, mainly because I felt like my grade was pulled down because some in the group didn’t live up to their responsibilities to the group.  I felt like I was taking online classes for a reason — to be independent in my learning.  I hated when my grade depended upon someone else.

Another point Dr. Thompson made which I strongly agreed with was that in many ways having online students do group work is at odds with the asynchronous nature of online courses.  For group work to be done right, students need to be able to collaborate and for students with varying schedules in multiple time zones, this is not always feasible. I cannot see how on one hand you can tell students that one of the advantages of online work is that you can work at your own time schedule and pace while at the same time expect them to be able to ”meet” classmates online to participate in a group assignment.

While I admit I’m very adamant in my feelings about  assigning group work to online students, I will also listen to other points of view.  I’m interested to hear what others have to say about group work for online students either in support or in opposition. Please respond and let me know about your feelings and even your own experiences whether those experiences be as an instructor or as a student.

Sensemaking artifact Week 0

Blogging as an educational tool is a new concept that has circulated the internet for some time. It is being used by colleges, universities, and educational organizations as another tool that aids and supports learning. It is true that blogging started as a communication medium for the masses. Now everybody can put forth their thoughts at any time and place, and millions of people will have access to that content. Unlike live interaction over the internet (webinars, chat, etc.) this can be used as an asynchronous interactive tools, since communication does not happen immediately, the receiver of the message will not read it until later on. There is also a period of time while the message is being elaborated. This is a very important and crucial step in the whole process. This is the part where the blogger lays out the ideas that will be sent, reworks the structure of the message and finally makes sure that the message is clear and free of typos and errors. One can tell when a blog message was made on the fly, with no final review whatsoever. While the blogger thinks about on how to structure the message, critical thinking and analysis is happening, and learning is happening. The blogger will consult other resources and do research before or while elaborating the blog content. All these activities are done by students in a classroom setting when they are asked to work on a project. Blogging can also be conducted individually or in groups, just like classroom projects.
So, nowadays the question is not if you can blog, it is why are you not? The technology is here to do it for free (although it was not the case some time ago), the second question is how can I make my blog visible to others? Social media is an answer but word of mouth still works, networking is the most effective way of growing your audience these days. It is no secret that a successful blog is not the one with more content, but the one with meaningful and valuable content. Building a reputable blog still takes time and effort, blogging is a work of its own. The most important part of building a blog still involves some cosmetics; I also believe that making the navigation in a blog easier is as valuable as the content it contains. I cannot tell you how many times I have left a blog because the internal navigation is so confusing, I get frustrated and quit.
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But blogs started as a way to communicate your own ideas. How about we use it to prod ideas out of people who would not use blogs regularly? I am guessing somebody actually had that idea at some college or university when pondering what tools to use to make student interaction easier. A blog requires analysis and critical thinking, if done properly. If you ask the right questions to students, or suggest the best way to express an idea, then blogging becomes a powerful learning experience. Many students on their own will not be able to come up with the ideas themselves, they are not used to employing the tool. That is why the involvement of the instructor is very important in this setting. In a MOOC that can be a nightmare because the enrollments in these types of online courses are in the thousands. But in many cases the use of supporting staff ameliorates the problem, but even in this setting instructor involvement is very important.
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Most interesting of all is when blogging is utilized as an educational device in hard sciences and mathematics. I am currently actively involved in utilizing blogging for learning activities in engineering, physics, mathematics, and chemistry online classes. I believe that learning can be facilitated if the student is allowed to express concepts in these subjects through the use of blogging tools. By expressing their ideas on a particular subject, critical thinking is allowed to happen, and the instructor can assess what the students actually understand from the subject. The hardest part though, is creating the right questions and subjects to discuss in a blog. Yes and no questions do not help the process; you need to create prompts that can be expanded in a blog after some analysis from the student.
I believe the future of blogging lies ahead in educational settings, but there is still room to amplify its use for communication of ideas over the internet. Blogging is not a tool that everybody can use with no previous knowledge or practice. Students enrolled in online classes will learn how to use this tool and will gain a skill that can use in their future workplace. More instructors will start using this tool to communicate with students and gage their understanding of the subject being taught. They need to be more involved in the process to fully take advantage of this device that supports learning in the online environment.

Week 2: Response to What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain

I appreciate the list from Ken Bain’s book.  Given my experience teaching community college writing online in a really diverse community here in Hawai’i, I think he hit the nail on the head.  The Canadian h.s. survey, however, included some suggestions and teaching practices that worry me a bit.  I understand the survey focused on adolescents who may need a different online experience than adults, but I question suggestions like — ie., be willing to allow as many resubmissions of work as students need and engage socially (to the extent where you may become a counselor, it seems to imply). This goes hand-in-hand with some comments in this MOOC that students need to know we’re available 24-7 online. Hmmm…

As a recovering workaholic (ha!), I’ve been talking lately with another dedicated writing teacher about how to make our jobs sustainable.  We’ve also been talking about how to make students more accountable for problem-solving, using the resources we provide (“Did you read the assigned sample essays and analyze them as we asked?”), and not blaming the instructor as a first reaction.  Comments made in this MOOC in the webinars and readings acknowledge that teaching online requires an enormous amount of time and personal investment.  That’s both wonderful and challenging.  But, I do think we need to train students to understand there is a balance… We are there to support them in a genuine, connected manner, but we also have to find ways to make this work sustainable.  For example, for me, this semester, it means I cannot read every draft of every paper my students write and allow repeated graded revisions. There are too many of them, too few hours in a day, week, semester.

I am reminded of readings I’ve encountered about the “milleniums” — this generation of students who have been described as highly distracted, multi-taskers who want things to be spoon-fed (ideally through multi-media), etc.  They want what they want –now! I don‘t agree with a lot of the negative descriptions, but the conversations that arise out of trying to define this generations’ qualities do make me question: How far do online instructors work within a culture of “give me what I need now”?  Can instructors really keep up and provide these students with the “quick hits” (quick responses, immediate feedback) that social media, etc., sets as the norm?  Just thinking…

Last thought:  In the community college setting where adjunct faculty are underpaid and where full-time faculty are saddled with committee work, etc., how do instructors commit to the level of involvement needed for a successful online class?  More and more, we’re asked to think about “engagement” as an answer to curing the horribly low graduation rates and swelling numbers of developmental students.  Cracking the code to “engagement” is hugely important, and I do agree that small efforts can have great benefits.  Ex: I’m try to show my personality, add humor, motivate with cool quotes and images, respond immediately to questions/concerns, grade work quickly, post announcements and reminders, use voice memos, pick up the phone to call struggling students, and generally cheer on students daily.  That’s all do-able. And, I love it actually.  I really do.  Compared to the 1.5 hours/2x/week that I get with my f2f students, I do enjoy the on-going rapport with my online students tremendously.

But, over- individualizing instruction or extending ourselves too far in an effort to engage students who come to online education without really understanding their role or without the necessary skills can drown us and make us feel like we’re bending over backwards in a setting that doesn’t necessarily support us.  (Examples:  A college allowing students to register and begin an online class 3 weeks into the semester.  Or, a student who wants feedback on every draft every step of the way and thinks nothing of messaging me 3-4 times a day. ) That’s a recipe for burnout.

  To an extent, the learners need to find it in themselves to show and do the work and take charge of their educational experience.  So, that brings me back to Ken Bain’s last point: “Understand your students’ ambitions.”   I’d add “Help your students define their own ambitions and help them seek the many resources that can assist them (not just you).

In What the Best College Teachers Do, Ken Bain (2004) discusses some of the major ways that teachers can connect with students through the practices of effective teaching. Below is a list of suggestions to help you connect with your students.

  • Spend time online with students to nurture their learning.
  • Invest in your students by not fostering a feeling of power over them.
  • Have the attitude that, “There is no such thing as a stupid question.”
  • Create an online environment where everyone can contribute and each contribution is unique.
  • Foster the feeling that teachers are fellow students and human beings struggling with mysteries of the universe.
  • Provide task praise (you did that well) and avoid person praise (you are so smart.)
  • Give students as much control as possible over their learning.
  • Provide lots of non-judgmental feedback.
  • Encourage collaboration and cooperation.
  • Provide many opportunities to revise and improve work.
  • Avoid language of demands and promises.
  • Make a promise to your students that you will try to help each one achieve as much as possible.
  • Understand your students’ ambitions.

Essential Question to answer (Week 0)

Question: Creativity comes through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things. How can you help your online students to be more creative?
I think one of the first things I would do is to ask them to describe a situation in which they believed they were being creative. Asking questions as to what kind of environment they were in, what resources they had at hand, what mood they were in, if they were alone or in a group. Then I would ask them for another example in which they were faced with a problem that required a creative solution, but they failed to come up with something novel. Again, I would ask what state of mind they were in when that happened, if they were alone, in a group, outdoors, indoors, etc. I think by comparing both situations they will understand the ideal situation they have to be in that will foster creativity.

What I have learned this week (week 0)

I think the most important thing I have learned this week is that a blog can be a powerful educational tool. Collaboration among peers through blogs is a medium to share ideas, thoughts, insights, and pass on information that can help our personal growth. I have also learned that building a community in an online class is dependent on the instructor's ability and will to participate at all times in the process. The instructor needs to be engaged, which in turn will make students engage.
I will participate by attending as many webinars as I can, share my thoughts through the blog, and participate in discussions with other learners. I will try to complete the assigned materials on time every week.

Building Rapport with the Distance Learner

Building rapport in distance education sounds a lot like building a physical classroom community and atmosphere, just with technology.  This reminds me of the SAMR model with the substitution enhancement.

Instead of sitting on the floor together in community circle, we could either type an introduction, share through a Google hangout or post an avatar with description.  

In watching my son take distance classes years ago in high school, this community building was not done.  It was very difficult to communicate with the teacher, so I also know how important viewing the teacher as approachable is.

Timely feedback, encouraging words, an understanding online countenance, and willingness to bend for emergencies are all vital in running a distance course.

Assignment for week 2 of How To Teach Online

Standard Conventions of writing too out-dated for modern forms or still a “must?”

I was reading a post that brought up an interesting conundrum about what is acceptable in terms of writing and standards on an online class. If you are “tweeting” or posting something on facebook should it be held up to the same standard as a “formal” paper turned in for a “grade?”

This paragraph gave me pause:
“In this scenario, the teacher as sole evaluator is replaced by the concept of real world audience, and the ultimate test of correctness may be reader response. But this may create disconnects. For example, a work receives a top grade from a teacher, but no one or only a handful view it. Another work receives a mediocre grade but goes viral online as much for the content as the style. Which is the more effective? Or, more important, How should we define effectiveness?”

This is a tough situation. I totally get what they are saying and could argue for either side right now. However, the teacher might be the sole evaluator but she or he “represents” the academic world and, probably, the standards of most bosses in the job market in terms of what they would want to see on a job application, proposal, or report. Lots of pieces with so-called terrible-writing go viral and get many views–but how long does that impact last? It might have had a bigger impact than the teacher, but it often seems to be fleeting and is quickly forgotten and replaced. Plus, even in the world of viral videos, memes, and social media, I feel being able to clearly and accurately express yourself is still incredibly important. Magazines may be on tablets now and they may be about pop culture, but the pieces are still well-written. Youtube clips from shows (like SNL), that pay professionals and give them the “big bucks,” are well-written and a lot of thought goes into the dialogue and “sound bites.” Most of the popular web-tv shows are well-written, like Lisa Kudrow’s web therapy that got picked up recently. Yes, some people get paid for tweeting, but that is not a majority of the population and those who do can’t usually live off of it. The ones creating a career off of this digital age are doing so by incorporating smart writing into this new form. Right now, at least, social media is mostly a form of just that–social connection. If students want to think money and career, they still need to think about their writing skills. Blogs are huge and many people get paid to blog–several have managed to secure lucrative book deals. These were not terrible writers with no grammar and who used immersive “text-slang” while doing so. They were all writers who wrote well thought-out blogs with complete sentences and punctuation (for the most part.) Anyway, this argument could go on forever, but it is one that we probably should have an answer to, in our own opinion, for when our students want to know “why” they have to still check grammar….

“High tech, high touch”

Had a bit of a frustrating time attending John Thompson’s webinar on using human touch to engage online students because my (hotel room) wifi connection kept on breaking up – technology – grr!  Not to worry – I got most of it and it was the first time I was able to participate live so that was fun. A lot of what John talked about wasn’t new to me, but there’s no harm in being reminded. The three things I found most memorable are connected to caring and presence:

I think our facilitators are doing a pretty good job as far as caring and presence are concerned – thank you!

(By the way, “High tech, high touch” is from John Naisbitt, Megatrends,1982.)

Value of TOMOOC Webinars?

Anonymous 9/13/13: Another perspective on the webinars is that they have been largely informal and questions are welcomed at any time. Similar to live class, the presentation is only as good as the questions asked. It is one step better than watching a recorded session or TED video because it is a chance for participants to engage each other.


Hi, and thanks for your thoughtful comment on Responses to Veronica, Ida, Sara: 9/13/13. I agree with you re the potential for webinars to be very effective. The better ones are, as you say, less formal and focused on questions from the audience rather than on straight delivery — the idea of flipped classroom transferred to a live web platform (btw, Bates had originally planned his seminar as a flip).

My concern is neither antithetical to nor critical of webinars. It’s more a question.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of online learning is the anytime-anywhere factor. This elimination of time and space barriers to learning is, in my mind, the greatest invention since schools and the printing press.

At once, online classes even the playing field for those who can’t and can afford to be in a classroom or hall located at a specific place at a specific time. And with MOOCs, the gap between the have-nots and haves is also eliminated.

This is the online advantage, and I’m reluctant to give it up. It’s disruptive, opening the doors of higher ed to a whole new population of learners. However, when we insert time-bound activities into the online learning environment, we automatically lose the anytime advantage and eliminate all those who can’t be there. The medium is the message, and when a MOOC devoted to How to Teach Online, such as this, emphasizes live webinars, then the message seems to be that webinars are best practice.

I guess I’d like to see the delivery emphasis shift, even a little, to using asynchronous methods to create engaging learning experiences.

I think the planners of this MOOC are moving in this direction by archiving recordings of sessions. Perhaps another kind of “flip” might be to ask the presenters to, first, post their presentations in TOMOOC and, second, to participate in a week-long asynch forum on their topic. All of this would be asynch. Would this non-live version be less dynamic than a live webinar? My guess is it would be just as if not more dynamic — but in a different way that doesn’t disparage synch modes.

The point is that each approach, synch and asynch, has its strengths. The asynch forum I’m suggesting may be better for online learners with varying schedule demands, but it also changes the burden on the presenter, requiring a week-long commitment to participating in a forum with course participants. An interesting variation may the posting of video responses by the presenter to questions and comments in the forum. The short videos could be posted once a day, covering posts up to a certain date and time.

In the interest of more dynamic asynch MOOC learning activities, perhaps the planners could add a new dimension of forums, a discussion board with different forums, some ongoing and others for specific periods of time. Each forum could be devoted to important topics aligned with each week’s objectives. Other forums could be devoted to special interest groups. Some webinars could be presented as forums or both. Just a thought . . .

By exploring and experimenting with asynch strategies for online learning, we increase the range and value of common tools that are available to all online teachers.

Best teacher and worst teacher (week 0)

I guess I will have to talk about my graduate work experience. My best teacher in graduate school was on a class called colloidal science. My worst teacher in the same setting was my instructor on a class called Separation processes in chemical engineering.
I think the most memorable moments in that colloidal science class was the fact that the class was conducted in a very informal matter. By informal I mean that the subject of the day was mostly presented by the instructor but he will devote the rest of the class asking us questions about the material and how to apply what we just learned. The course did have a structure and we were handed out a syllabus at the beginning of the semester. He always started the class with a picture or video that would convey the subject of the day. This facilitated the learning process because we saw a real world application of what we learned today.
Based on this, I have elaborated a list for four DOs:
  1. Use external resources that help students understand the subject being exposed,
  2. Ask questions to students, call on them and ask for their opinion so that you can assess how much they know,
  3. Conduct the class in a way that students feel relaxed in your class,
  4. Prepare a final project that requires student collaboration and encourages discussion.
What I think are four DON'Ts
  1. Be too rigid in class just because you have a Ph.D. and you look down on your students,
  2. You talk must of the time, make students participate,
  3. Present only text material with no media that helps understand concepts,
  4. Rely too much on an assistant to keep in touch with students.
I am planning on using these two lists when I design online courses by developing material that is engaging by adding activities where the students are asked to comment on something or make an analysis on the subject being presented. I also plan on treating students as colleagues and not as pupils, conveying that respect during the live interactions planned for these courses. Even though it is difficult to create that "human touch" in an online environment, something that is easy to accomplish in a classroom, I will set up discussion forums, chat sessions, and live video sessions that include personalized messages so that the student would not feel as another number in the enrollment.

About myself (Week 0)

My name is Julio Castro and I am an instructional designer at the University of Florida. I learned about this course from one of those alerts that I have set up in Google Alerts. I am ready to start developing an online class on how to teach online, and I want to see how this one has been set up. Although this is not the approach I will be using in my course, I found the method very interesting. It also happens to be that I have never taken an online class (I am a Gen X guy, all my formation happened in the classroom), and I thought this one would be the one I would choose to be the first one.
To me, the most important issue in teaching online is how to create engaging content that can keep the students interested in your course. I think another issue is the technology we want to use in our courses. How much is too much? Creating games is still expensive and time consuming, but there must other ways to design games that teach something and would not require that much money and time. Another issue I find fascinating, the fact the nowadays anybody can publish an online course. The technology is already here and it can be done cheaply and fast. I think online or e-learning will eventually go through the same process that books and music (and movies) went through: the self-publishing movement.
I think I can contribute from my experience designing online courses. But I also need to take the next step to becoming and online teacher or instructor. I love developing content for online courses, I have done that in the past when I taught courses at UF in a classroom setting. I also have a technology background since I have used web programming and computer programming for a long time. I am also trained in the use of development tools (software) extensively used in instructional design.
I think I would like to develop strong relationships with others in this course, learn more about them and maybe continue the chat and sharing of information beyond this class, maybe through other social media tools. I see this community morphing into a collaborative group in the future.
I don't consider this fear but mostly a lack of grit on my side. I am intended on overcoming this by catching up with the class and keeping up by taking small steps everyday to complete the activities and attend the live or recorded sessions when I can't attend. The feedback from others once my content is out there is what is going to be a challenge to me since I will not have the chance of meeting my fellow classmates personally, but I plan on following on any feedback received, make an analysis and identify the merits to the suggestions provided.

Teacher Response to Language in Student Writing: Implications for Online Courses

Veronica 9/14/13: Maybe I need to review whether the reflective report (in which I mark the language as well as content/task achievement) should in fact be part of the student’s SDL grade. In favour is the fact that the report is usually an enlightening (for the student) overall reflection on the process/outcomes of his/her SDL and hence a valuable task. But something still bugs me about it!


Hi Veronica.

Your question (in Responses to Veronica, Ida, Sara: 9/13/13) re when to mark language in student writing forces us to address a tough issue. There aren’t any easy answers — except “It all depends,” which isn’t an answer at all.

It’s especially relevant in the online learning environment where communication style is critical. For example, Which set of standards should we use? Should there be just one standard across the range of onground and online platforms? If we use different standards for online, What are they for communications in social media? When we take the broader perspective of rhetoric, which taps all the means of persuasion that’s readily available to writer and reader, What role should multimedia technology play? and, perhaps more importantly, How do we evaluate its use in student artifacts?

As a writing teacher, I find myself increasingly questioning the role of traditional documentation (APA, MLA, Chicago) style in online digital writing. Much of the rules seems irrelevant with the advent of digital media and URL links. And it doesn’t stop there.

I do know that the whole idea of readability has been radically altered by the new rhetoric of online social engagement and that traditional formal academic prose is going the way of landlines — at least in the real world of virtual communications.

So the whole notion of marking papers may be changing, and one of the new indices for readability may be the idea of “hits,” i.e., How often is an artifact read or viewed? How do readers rate it? and How extensive and dynamic is the attached discussion among readers and author?

In this scenario, the teacher as sole evaluator is replaced by the concept of real world audience, and the ultimate test of correctness may be reader response. But this may create disconnects. For example, a work receives a top grade from a teacher, but no one or only a handful view it. Another work receives a mediocre grade but goes viral online as much for the content as the style. Which is the more effective? Or, more important, How should we define effectiveness?

When the potential feedback is the world rather than a single teacher, I think we need to rethink the role of teacher in the writing process. For example, her/his task may be to explore and establish the most useful platforms for facilitating audience feedback on student works and guiding students in interpreting the results and exploring implications. In this role, the teacher becomes a coach, guide, consultant, advisor, and her task is defined as much by her knowledge of the student as her mastery of the new rhetoric with an emphasis on audience response.

In addition, her job doesn’t end there. She is further tasked with the need to empower students so that they leave the course with the the ability to independently understand and use reader feedback to guide their own writing development.

Online isn’t just a bunch of new technology but whole new sets of challenges that force us to reexamine our roles as teacher.

My presentation at the FDLA Annual Conference 2013

I am again at the office and I have decided to share with you what I learned at this conference. I found great interest on the subject I presented. I was dreading the moment when I was finally going to face my public because to tell you the truth, I though I was going to preach to the room walls. I saw some presentations that had only one person present, that was not a good sign. The attrition rate was high in this conference. A lot of people showed up the first day but by the third day there were only a handful of people around, but the last presentations did have great attendance (even though there were a few around only). I was ecstatic that people were genuinely interested in what I have to say. I received lost of questions and I even received a couple of requests for my information for later contact. If you have the interest of seeing the slides from my presentation, please send me a message through this blog.

Week 1

As a social worker, I was taught to use reflective practice as part of my regular routine.  I’ve enjoyed that this community has been about sharing and reflecting.  Making sense of material and trying to see how it relates to us educators.  The “What? So What? and What Now?” and reflections and sensemaking activities that have been presented as part of this MOOC has impacted so much, that I’ve adapted it for my class.

I struggle with my role as an educator.  I am caught between the paradigm that was my experience and that which I am told is best practice. In social work (and other helping professions) our roles are often that of guide.  I use this idea of being a guide in my role as an educator as well.  My students are at various points in their learning process.  I know and appreciate that I only have a brief amount of time to help them acquire the knowledge and skills that are set for the course, knowing that mastery of the material will be a long-term goal they achieve well after the conclusion of the semester.

This approach of being a guide is different then my academic experience.  In trying to move myself towards this new way of educating, I have no model of comparison.  So as I spend a class period doing activities, I think back to the lectures that I was exposed to and wonder if I am doing everything wrong.  The responsibility of preparing these learners to be the leaders of my profession is daunting.  I worry that I do not do enough to prepare them to be successful.  I wonder how much I must do to create a experience that will motivate them to do more and to do better.

Perhaps is the best thing that I am always questioning if I am doing things right, it keeps me thinking of how to improve myself and my class.

This semester I started a few new things in class.  I end each class with a closing protocol where I ask my students to provide feedback on: what they learned; what they would change; what went well; and what they dislike.  They can also provide a “Tweet” of the class or use 6 words to describe what they learned.  I am hoping that by doing this, I can adapt to their needs and that I can tackle any issues or concerns before they become a problem at the end of the semester.  By collecting the feedback, I am able to gauge what is working and where I may be missing the point  I also started a new “living” assignments and readings document.  This is a Google Document that I update ever week.  Based on class each week, I add new content for them to read in future weeks.  My goal is that they see how fluid a class must be for me to guide them on this journey.

The funny thing is that in doing this Blog, I am gaining an appreciation for the work that I ask of my students.  Here I am, trying my hardest to complete an assignment and turn it in before it is due.

A hui hou!


Week 1

As a social worker, I was taught to use reflective practice as part of my regular routine.  I've enjoyed that this community has been about sharing and reflecting.  Making sense of material and trying to see how it relates to us educators.  The "What? So What? and What Now?" and reflections and sensemaking activities that have been presented as part of this MOOC has impacted so much, that I've adapted it for my class.

I struggle with my role as an educator.  I am caught between the paradigm that was my experience and that which I am told is best practice. In social work (and other helping professions) our roles are often that of guide.  I use this idea of being a guide in my role as an educator as well.  My students are at various points in their learning process.  I know and appreciate that I only have a brief amount of time to help them acquire the knowledge and skills that are set for the course, knowing that mastery of the material will be a long-term goal they achieve well after the conclusion of the semester.

This approach of being a guide is different then my academic experience.  In trying to move myself towards this new way of educating, I have no model of comparison.  So as I spend a class period doing activities, I think back to the lectures that I was exposed to and wonder if I am doing everything wrong.  The responsibility of preparing these learners to be the leaders of my profession is daunting.  I worry that I do not do enough to prepare them to be successful.  I wonder how much I must do to create a experience that will motivate them to do more and to do better.

Perhaps is the best thing that I am always questioning if I am doing things right, it keeps me thinking of how to improve myself and my class.

This semester I started a few new things in class.  I end each class with a closing protocol where I ask my students to provide feedback on: what they learned; what they would change; what went well; and what they dislike.  They can also provide a "Tweet" of the class or use 6 words to describe what they learned.  I am hoping that by doing this, I can adapt to their needs and that I can tackle any issues or concerns before they become a problem at the end of the semester.  By collecting the feedback, I am able to gauge what is working and where I may be missing the point  I also started a new "living" assignments and readings document.  This is a Google Document that I update ever week.  Based on class each week, I add new content for them to read in future weeks.  My goal is that they see how fluid a class must be for me to guide them on this journey.

The funny thing is that in doing this Blog, I am gaining an appreciation for the work that I ask of my students.  Here I am, trying my hardest to complete an assignment and turn it in before it is due.

A hui hou!

Week 1 of How To Teach Online MOOC – Everyone’s a Teacher…

It’s a tenuous time at work as we await the announcement of repoints to roles so the MOOC work outside of work hours has been providing me with the mental stimulation I need.

This week marked the end of the first week of the How To Teach Online cMOOC.  Reading some of the blog posts, many of the MOOC participants come from an education or academic background and have written their posts to the exact requirements of the activities.  Me, my mind doesn’t work that way.  It wanders.  Meanders. Goes on tangents.  It links to  other posts, articles, videos that I have seen on the web that week and then I try to make sense of it using my own workplace situation by asking the following questions:

  • How is this relevant to me?
  • How can I apply this to my workplace?
  • Is this something my clients would be open to? Why? Why not?
  • How will this solve business performance problems in our workplace?

We were asked to view this excellent Australian video called “How To Teach Online“ on how universities are dealing with the move towards blended learning.   They are seeing that the way we learn is changing in society and this impacts the way they have taught for years.

Some of the concerns they voice are similar concerns of many Learning and Development professionals.

However blended learning is not new to our organisation.  70-20-10 is integrated and part of the vernacular and all of our courses in our curricula have been redesigned to reflect the blend of education, coaching and on-the-job experience.   Many of these courses are owned by Learning and Development and indeed, we still have facilitators running some face-to-face workshops but who are also dual specialised to run them as live online learning events too.  The challenge is not the facilitators (who coincidentally love the live online environment) but it is soon to be something else.

I’m now seeing the increasing trend of business subject matter experts becoming the teachers. 

And that’s a good thing (I think so anyway) but this is now changing the control outside of L&D hands and into the business.  They are taking charge of their own teaching/coaching/learning in the business but not overtly calling it “training” or “learning” or “courses” or “training events” like L&D do.  Instead, they are integrating it with their own work and using the technology such as Webex, Sharepoint and Yammer to connect with others within and external to their business to do business.

The mere fact that they’re talking to each other about work and collaborating on their projects is learning.

Therefore it’s becoming apparently clear to me that in open, shared and collaborative workplaces, coaching, feedback and inquiry skills are becoming critical – as is the need to be savvy with technology.  So subject matter experts need to have ‘e-facilitation’ skills so that they can seamlessly share their knowledge and expertise to teach others within the contexts of their work.

I’ve now been in this role for a few months and I’ve been reflecting on the question, “What Have I Taught?” (and not the ‘how have I taught‘ as the MOOC activities asked for).  Apart from teaching these subject matter experts to use Webex, podcasting and using Sharepoint and Yammer, much of what I have taught is outside of work hours.  I have openly shared my work through my blog, Twitter, Yammer and learning events. Through this sharing, I have met some wonderful people both within  (who share my passion for learning) and external to the organisation.

Over the weekend I stumbled upon this gem promoted by a tweet from David Hopkins   It’s Kid Presidents message to teachers on “What are you teaching the world?”.  He’s adorable but his message goes to a wider audience than just school teachers.  It can be applied to anyone as he says, “everybody’s a student and everybody’s a teacher” and it’s what resonated with me this week with my work with my business subject matter experts and this MOOC.

What do you think?

Filed under: Development, TOMOOC Tagged: 2013, development, September, September 2013, TOMOOC

Week 2 in Review

My Reflections from Week 2
I am finding that while I can easily get lost looking at every post, video and artifact, it is all very interesting. It is easy to wander off on a tangent, but it is worth it if something is learned. This week I was lost understanding the difference between a cMOOC and an xMOOC. A couple of searches and web pages later, and I had learned the difference. I can see the benefits and difference of both.
One thing I learned for sure, you can get lost following a thread in an xMOOC.

Discussion Question
1. When I first created an online course it was not much more than shortened lectures, and questions that I asked in my f2f class, pasted onto a web page. Well, it was online. It was also boring. What I wasn’t able to paste onto the page was the interaction I had with my classes that made things interesting.
Later versions of the same class were much better when I learned to remix and re-purpose my f2f class into a different class. I went back to some of the better online courses I had taken. They included information from the instructor, the SME, and then helped me to find new information for myself. When I thought about it, creating my online class used many of the same concepts as my better f2f classes. It was always better when I acted as facilitator rather than “knowledge giver.”

Week 2 (September 16 – 22)

Objective: Decide how you will “build rapport” with your distance learners.

Aloha and welcome to Week 2- Connect with your learnersPlease begin by reviewing the resources on how to connect with your learners.  Choose and explore topics that meet your needs and interests. Topics:

  • What the Best College Teachers Do.
  • Close the “distance” gap and build rapport.
  • What the Best Online Teachers Should Do
  • Five factors for building rapport.

Activities & WebinarPick and choose what you will do this week.

Webinar Sessions (all sessions will be recorded)

  1. Use Human Touch to Engage Online Students. By Dr. John Thompson. Full recording (opens in Blackboard Collaborate). Video recording
  2. So how do teachers close the “distance” gap and build rapport? By Dr. Melissa Kaulbach. Prezi PresentationFull recording (opens in Blackboard Collaborate). Video recording
  3. The Art of Blogging: How to Connect, Interact, and Build Rapport with your StudentsFull recording (opens in Blackboard Collaborate)
  4. Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education. By Dr. Larry Ragan.Full recording (opens in Blackboard Collaborate). Video recording.
  5. Weekly RoundupPresentation slides (PDF)Full recording (opens in Blackboard Collaborate). Video recording

How to Teach Online Flipboard Magazine

Here is a magazine view the blog posts for How to Teach online. Flipboard works great on iPad’s and android devices. You’ll need to install the app first.

First 2nd Saturday Showcase

Today I attended a great professional development led by my friends Annie and Jeanette!

 They started with talking about the SAMR model with this video:

 We considered how to redefine, modify, augment or substitute stations with technology for the tradition pen and paper stations. Here are some suggestions.

 Encourage students to write and submit reviews and poetry to

 Have a website that is easily found outside of school. Annie uses the NHE campus website and her page is easily found by searching for Ms. Mitchell's website NHE

Sign up the class for SumDog
In playing the games I've discovered some of it will be over the 2nd grader's math levels.  Sometimes I clicked on games and got the message that I didn't have access.  I am not very sure on this one.

For student created books, try
This looked very exciting for publishing and consuming ebooks!

For allowing students to show what they know:


And my new friend, Sydnie, at Valley Oaks, suggested this for Singapore Math practice:
While there is no Primary 2, there is Primary 3. 

So, thanks for a fun Saturday morning!

Artifact: Life Is Making Sense

Video, Quick Clip – Sunrise from Outer Space, YouTube, 11/10/11.
Audio, 2001 A Space Odyssey Opening in 1080 HD, YouTube, 9/22/10.
Video, Memory – Okuribito (Departures) Soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi, YouTube, 2/9/10.
Graphic of Big Bang, Paul Laurendeau, “De Nihilo Nihil…… (nothing comes out of nothing),” Nothing Out of Nothing, May 2010.
Photo of lightbulb, “Improving Light Bulb Energy Efficiency,” NHPR, 9/4/11.
Video, Infant in Garden
Video, The Living Art of Ikebana, YouTube, 4/10/08.
Video, Picasso Painting Live, YouTube, 7/19/08.
Video, Shodo Japanese Calligraphy Demonstration – Senri no Doumo Ippokara, YouTube, 12/22/12.
Photo of Fallingwater in Western Pennsylvania, “Featured Artist: Frank Lloyd Wright—American Architect,” Arizona Experience, n.d.
Video, Sunset from space, YouTube, 12/12/10.



This is one of those photographs that is so old it has the texture and feel (at least to me) of an oil painting. This is the Old Train Bridge (probably before it was called “old”), as taken from the North Side of Fredericton. Or is it? I know this is the North Side Green. Given the position of the Cathedral steeple on the South Side, this must be it. Now it is a pedestrian bridge. I haven’t crossed this bridge since 2011. Which doesn’t seem like a long time ago, except for everything that’s happened in the interim.

This is supposed to be a post about Ed Tech. I have been progressing nominally through Open Online Experience 2013. As mentioned in the Twitter feed, I have been greatly impressed by the course tool kit. The teaching online course had a number of excellent guest speakers. The Metaliteracy course is ticking along. Mostly I have been catching blog and Twitter posts associated with these courses. The other morning I got up at 2:30 for a synchronous session with my Ed.D cohort. Last month I missed all the synchronous events of a UCalgary Teaching Online Program (TOP) due to browser issues shutting down Elluminate. Now the fail has been fixed. Now the synchronous sessions are over for another month. There are some excellent, engaging discussions going on in all these MOOCs.

Living on the other side of the world from where one grew up feels pretty meta. There’s a huge delay between anything you’d like to do in real life, and what you are able to do with regards to reaching the home country. Technology enables all kinds of virtual actions. But it won’t get me into the Harvest Jazz & Blues Fest in Fredericton. And it won’t make it any easier to connect with friends and family except in tiny digital-slivers. We talk about “affordances and constraints” in regards to features of technology. When you are at a significant geographical remove, you tend to place a great deal of emphasis on your link to the home country. You wonder if people in the home country are thinking of you the same way. And the answer is: they absoloutely cannot be. The idea of synchronous communication through technology is great. But you have to do a great deal of mental gymnastics in order for it to be meaningful or effective. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Image from: Vintage Fredericton FaceBook group



artifact week 1

Wordle: tomooc wk1A  Wordle of my week 1 postings.

 Not surprisingly, students, learners, online, content, teaching, learning, outcomes, skills, and time are prominent – hence frequent, as well as done and want, meaning done a lot but still want to learn/do more! I use Wordles in my teaching as a way to introduce/summarise a text and for vocabulary work.

artifact week 1

A  Wordle of my week 1 postings.  Not surprisingly, students, learners, online, content, teaching, learning, outcomes, skills, and time are prominent – hence frequent, as well as done and want, meaning done a lot but still want to learn/do more! I use Wordles in my teaching as a way to introduce/summarise a text and for vocabulary [...]

@AZB Great PowToon Thank you for taking the…


Great PowToon, Thank you for taking the time to put that artifact together.

I have also wondered how to take this Massive concept of the MOOCs and integrate it into a traditional education atmosphere. One item that I picked up this week is that MOOCs should have learning objectives. That makes sense, just like any other course. Once you have a learning objective I suppose you can come up with rubric to assess an artifact. Which can then be tied into a traditional grade system?

WEEK 1 Artifact & Reflection

The artifact I created is essentially a summary of my journey this past week that includes keywords, visuals,  and snippets of things that stuck. Like some others, I thought I'd try at different tool - PowToon was fun to use! I suggest this might be a lot more interesting than the lengthy reflection that follows.

Making Sense of Week 1
It's almost the end of WK1 & my head is spinning. I've reviewed a lot of materials over the last days and due to other commitments had trouble attending all of the live webinars - I just managed to squeeze in Bates' presentation but wasn't in a clear headspace to get a lot out of it or contribute to the discussion. I have, however, enjoyed reading his work in the past did find the 9 Steps interesting:

  1. Decide how you want to teach online.
  2. Decide what kind of online course you and your students need.
  3. Work in a team. 
  4. Build on existing resources.
  5. Master the technology.
  6. Set appropriate learning goals for online learning.
  7. Design course structure and learning activities
  8. Communicate, communicate, communicate
  9. Evaluate and innovate
#5Master the Technology, presents a problem for me. How many teachers have time to master the technology before implementing it? If they feel they have to master it, chances are they may never use it. In my work, I advocate a one step at a time approach - select a tool, try and learn what you can, and let your students work with you and explore how well it contributes to the learning process. This approach connects with #3, Work in a Team, as my students become the team. Sometimes it is hard to connect with other colleagues.

Activity Reflection
KEYWORDS: enormity, chaos, head spinning, time consuming, challenging, barriers, energizing

What I did this week
I consumed a lot of material - readings, videos, pots, blog or group posts, sites... I jumped all over the place, and at times that made me feel totally overwhelmed and fragmented. But I'm committed to using this MOOC as an opportunity to embrace the chaos and not let my old ways influence or close me off to the experience. As for sense making I've tried to document as much as possible so that I dont get totally confused, lost and flustered [I like to think of myself as being organized. If I couldn't remember where I read something [there's just too much out there] I just went with it. I used my Diigo AboutMOOCs group, a handwritten journal, Evernote, monitored the Hangout and, occasionally, #tomooc. After culling for my own learning, in the Hangout, I went back through the posts and+1 all the references that I thought were useful, hopefully as a sign of my appreciation and to be a collegial. I usually only commented when I had something to add.

I like to think of myself as an open, progressive educator, but this course is showing me how linear and traditional I can be [sad but true]. I got involved in this MOOC because I wanted to learning about online teaching, experience an innovative MOOC - the cMOOC fits my philosophy - and thought I was ready. But the truth is that it's going to take a lot of work to rewire all those years of learning how to survive in academia and traditional schooling.

So What?
And to what end? The more I read - and by the way get excited about the possibilities - the more depressed I'm becoming about the state of education. What are the chances that I can actually bring this into my practice? I'm already fighting with my students to take ownership of their learning. Our educational system is so rigid and stuck in their ways. 

A few years ago I moved away from our institutional LMS as I felt constrained and wanted to be able to personalize my own online learning environment. This lead me to a line of research on participatory action research and personalizing virtual spaces - I've talked about this here:

I've been really pleased with this direction, although it's a hard sell to the administration and even to my students [though most of them get it and appreciate it]. Then surprise, surprise, today I was listening to Stephen Downes talk about personal learning vs. personalized learning and realized that what I've created is a means of personalizing my own teaching & learning but not my students! I've got to go rethink that...

So this led to a question, can MOOCs really fit in education as it currently exits? I want my students to learn to be independent, self directed, and more importantly I want them to go out and teach that way. But how does that work when we are constrained by a system that focuses on marks - and especially for k-12 teachers - testing? cMOOCs are great, but I'm thinking it's going to be a hard sell.

What Next?
How do we effect change? I have to rethink, completely rethink what I've been doing.
I have a lot to learn.
I have to figure out how to practice what I believe is my responsibility as an educator within the constraints of my field as it currently exists and help my students see... [how do I do that?]

ALOHA from rainy London My new blog is…

ALOHA from rainy London!

My new blog is in a POEM..

Taking into account the postings on the community wall about short attention spans and since I often think in lyrics and colour.

Please enjoy and thank you once again for a great week of materials from all participants and Tutors.