#oclmooc and Connected Courses MOOC (#ccourses): When Personal Learning Networks Collide (Again)  

September 30, 2014

Connected learning went over the top again this evening as members of the Open and Connected Learning MOOC (#oclmooc) community of learning engaged in their/our first tweet chat as a group coalescing through a connectivist massive open online course (MOOC).

TweetchatsIt’s difficult to know where to start in describing how the learning connections expanded rapidly and rhizomatically during that one-hour session that was fast-paced and well-facilitated by #oclmooc co-conspirator Verena Roberts. There’s a temptation to talk about the obvious connections to be made between #oclmooc and the equally fabulous Connected Courses MOOC (#ccourses) community of learning since at least a few of us are participating in both and extending conversations between the two MOOC communities. There’s also the temptation to talk about how the #oclmooc session and so much of what we’re doing in #ccourses is making us more aware and appreciative of the importance of personal learning networks in learning—particularly since #ccourses just produced an engaging and inspiring session on “Social Capital and PLNs: Discovering, Building, and Cultivating Networks of Learners,” as I documented in a blog article posted yesterday. There is even a temptation to focus on the fact that what was originally designed to be a MOOC to connect educators in Alberta (Canada) quickly morphed into a MOOC open to—and attracting participation from—trainer-teacher-learners around the world (an obviously brazen and much-appreciated attempt by our Alberta colleagues to make the entire world a protectorate of Alberta and its innovative onsite-online learning community!).

oclmooc_logoBut what was most interesting to me at a personal level was how the open conversation taking place within Twitter drew in colleagues not previously connected through either MOOC. This has happened to me in other MOOCs, as I wrote in an earlier article, and I would be surprised if it hasn’t happened to others engaged in connected-learning environments. What was noteworthy and unexpected this time was how quickly everyone naturally and playfully fell into exchanges that suggest the blossoming of new learning—and, more importantly for explorations and documentation of how connected-learning works, the blossoming of new learning relationships, as Verena quipped when it became obvious that one of my New Mexico-based colleagues from the New Media Consortium had seen one of my tweets and retweeted it to her own followers. Not more than a few minutes passed before a Kansas-based colleague from an entirely different community of learning—the American Library Association Learning Round Table—saw my online admission that I hadn’t yet participated in edcamp activities.

“You, of all people, need to crash an edcamp,” she commanded with mock consternation shared openly with other #oclmooc participants. “Get with it.”

And to emphasize yet another element of these connected-learning rhizomatically-expanding interactions—the idea that our online interactions are not and need not all be conducted synchronously—I later realized, while reviewing a record of the #oclmooc tweet chat, that a North Carolina-based colleague that I know well from yet another first-rate community of learning (#lrnchat) had also responded with an edcamp response directed to two #oclmooc members and one other #lrnchat colleague.

ccourses_logoThe tally of net gains (networked gains?) from the session, then, include a strengthening of the #oclmooc community, which was designed to foster greater communication between teacher-trainer-learners; more cross-pollination between #oclmooc and #ccourses through the tweets and this follow-up blog post; the possible beginning of interactions between various members of my own personal learning network outside of the MOOCs and members of the two connectivist MOOCs—with no need for me to remain anywhere near the center of those interactions; additional interactions between all of us and a group of young connected-learning students we were encouraged to contact through their own group blogging efforts; and the pleasure of encountering new ideas through articles—including Clay Shirky’s essay “Why I Just Asked My Students to Put Away Their Laptops,” and Laura Hilliger’s article “Teach the Web (MOOC)”—mentioned during the live tweet chat. And there clearly is much more to come.

N.B.: This is the eighth in a series of posts documenting learning through #ccourses and #oclmooc.  


Openly Meandering and Learning During Open Education Week

March 12, 2013

A little exposure to openness can carry us a very, very long way, as I’m learning through my Open Education Week meanderings.

Open_Education_Week_2013_LogoInitially inspired to engage in Open Education Week ruminations and activities through my current immersion in #etmooc—an online Educational Technology & Media massive open online course (MOOC) developed by Alec Couros and colleagues—I am now finding myself nearly overwhelmed by how the current open movement module of the course is inspiring me to see rhizomatically-extending roots and shoots of “open” nearly everywhere I look.

There is, for starters, the idea that the open movement itself encompasses an incredibly broad set of terms and actions: the “connect, collect, create, and share” elements of Open Education Week; the four tenets of the open movement as cited in an #etmooc panel discussion (reusing, revising, remixing, and redistributing content); and Don Tapscott’s quartet of collaboration, transparency, sharing, and empowerment from the TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) talk he delivered in 2012.

Moretti--New_Geography_of_JobsBut there is much more, as I’ve been reminded through additional reading and reflection over the past several days. A brief passage that I found in Enrico Moretti’s The New Geography of Jobs, for example, beautifully captures the idea that physically-open spaces within our worksites and coworking settings can facilitate a different—yet not completely unrelated sorts of—open exchanges of ideas and “knowledge spillover”—think Google, Pixar,  the San Francisco Chronicle building Hub space mentioned by Moretti, and so many others that have recently caught our attention. (Not everyone is enamored of these physically-spaces, as the most cursory online search will show, and I certainly don’t believe that physically-open spaces should be universally adopted for all work we do; a little solitude can go a long way in providing us with the time we need to reflect and absorb what we learn.) The open work spaces, however, are far from revolutionary; they’re similar to what we have seen in our more innovative classrooms, for at least a couple of decades, where learners aren’t confined to desks but, instead, interact with each other and those facilitating their learning in collaborative ways. And it’s also the same concept we find in Ray Oldenburg’s The Great Good Place descriptions of how our interactions with friends and colleagues in our wonderful third places (coffee shops, neighborhood restaurants, and other settings which now extend to online communities where we can drop in unannounced and know our social needs will be met through stimulating interactions) produce the sort of creative results fostered by the open movement.

It’s just a short intellectual jump from the open movement and Moretti’s thoughts to the greater world of open-movement exchanges of ideas, as we’ve seen in Frans Johansson’s The Medici Effect, that wonderful reminder that chance encounters under the right circumstances between people of varying backgrounds can produce far more than might otherwise be inspired. It’s as if we’ve tossed The Medici Effect into a huge mixing bowl with James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds and Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, let them brew a while, and then scooped out a wonderful ladle of open, collaborative thinking to see what new flavors we can discover.

etmoocWhich brings us back to Open Education Week and #etmooc itself: using the online resources available to us and the collaborative, participatory spirit that is at the heart of a successful MOOC and the open movement, we learn to viscerally understand, appreciate, and foster the spirit of open that drives these particular learning opportunities. And encourages us to openly engage within others in the hope that everybody wins during Open Education Week and for many more weeks, months, and years to come.

N.B.: This is the twentieth in a series of posts responding to the assignments and explorations fostered through #etmooc.


Connected Learning, MOOCs, and #etmooc

February 3, 2013

Since the best MOOCs (massive open online courses) appear to be rooted in connected learning, it’s no surprise to me that my current exploration of MOOCs through participation in #etmooc—the Education Technology and Media course organized by University of Regina professor of educational technology and media Alec Couros and several “co-conspirators”—is leading me (and approximately 1,400 other learners) into an engaging exploration of connected learning.

etmoocIn the course of participating in or watching the archived version of Couros’s 100-minute interactive presentation on the topic, we are not only exposed to and inspired by a variety of ideas from Couros-as-instructor but also by the reactions of participants whose comments remain visible in the typed chat that occurs as he is speaking and interacting with learners. And if we follow any of the numerous links posted in that chat, we connect our learning to other online learning opportunities ranging from TED (Technology, Education, Design) talks to articles by other educators, e.g., Dean Shareski’s piece advocating that we document and share our own learning experiences with others so that we develop a community of learning in which each learner’s experiences become part of every other learner’s experiences—much as they do through #etmooc.

Furthermore, if we expand our personal learning environment to include the recently-released Digital Media and Learning Research Hub report Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design posted on the Connected Learning Research Network site, we can’t help but walk away from this multi-media experience with a great appreciation for what MOOCs are already doing to foster first-rate learning experiences.

The Connected Learning report itself should be required reading for all trainer-teacher-learners since it offers an engaging peek at how the world of learning is evolving: “This report investigates how we can use new media to foster the growth and sustenance of environments that support connected learning in a broad-based and equitable way. This report also offers a design and reform agenda, grounded in a rich understanding of child development and learning, to promote and test connected learning theories (p. 3),” the report writers promise—and we’re not just looking at ideas applicable in academic settings; there’s plenty to digest here for anyone involved in workplace learning and performance (staff training).

As is the case with well-designed MOOCs, connected learning “seeks to build communities and collective capacities for learning and opportunity,” the report continues. It “includes the ideas that everyone can participate, learning happens by doing, challenge is constant, and everything is interconnected”—which, when you get right down to it, is at the heart of the sort of MOOC that Couros and his colleagues are facilitating through #etmooc.

Connected_LearningPart 2 of the report takes us to the heart of the possibilities connected learning offers: “The trends we are seeing in today’s new media environment present new risks, but also unprecedented opportunities in making interest-driven, engaging, and meaningful learning accessible to more young people”—and, I would add, to adult learners as well. “[C]onnected learning is defined not by particular technologies, techniques, or institutional context but by a set of values, an orientation to social change, and a philosophy of learning….In many ways, the connected learning approach is part of a longstanding tradition in progressive education and research on informal learning that has stressed the importance of civic engagement, connecting schools with the wider world, and the value of hands-on and social learning (p. 33).”

By the time we reach the end of the report, we have a clear understanding of the challenges and the rewards of adapting connected learning wherever it can be applied: “Online information and social media provide opportunities for radically expanding the entry points and pathways to learning, education, and civic engagement. Further, there is a groundswell of activity in diverse sectors that are taking to these connected learning opportunities, ranging from entrepreneurial young learners, open and online educational initiatives, technology innovations in gaming and other forms of learning media, new forms of activism, and innovative schools and libraries. The connected learning model is an effort at articulating a research and design effort that cuts across the boundaries that have traditionally separated institutions of education, popular culture, home, and community. Connected learning is a work in progress and an invitation to participate in researching, articulating, and building this movement (p. 87).”

We’re also left with 11 pages of resources that could keep us busy for months or years if we wanted to engage in further explorations of the topic. But for now, I’m left deeply appreciative for the rich variety of resources this particular part of #etmooc has provided. While working my way through this first of the five #etmooc topics we’re all exploring, I watched that archived version of Couros’s introduction to the subject; followed links from his presentation to articles in the New York Times, George Siemens’ elearnspace blog and some of his writing on connectivism, and other online resources; watched a TED (Technology, Education, Design) talk delivered by Clay Shirky on “How Cognitive Surplus Will Change the World”; and viewed several graphics that added texture to what Couros was presenting.

All of which raises a very interesting question inspired by a learner’s comment in the session typed chat about how some schools are still blocking access to YouTube because it is not seen as a serious provider of educational opportunities, and also inspired by the still prevalent assertion that Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and other social media platforms are little more than frivolous time-wasters: if your school, university, organization, or business is still blocking access to these resources, how long is it going to take before you realize that you are cheating your learners—and yourself? 

N.B.: This is the second in a series of posts responding to the assignments and explorations fostered through #etmooc.


“American Libraries”: Media, Technology, and Community in an Onsite-Online World

July 18, 2012

Those who are wondering what has happened to our media clearly aren’t paying attention to what our colleagues at American Libraries have been producing. While some of our brightest thinkers, including Clay Shirky, are discussing the loss of traditional media and wondering what the future holds for those of us who love our newspapers and other publications, American Libraries continues, with little fanfare outside its own industry, to provide a 21st-century “publication” that seamlessly blends print and online offerings, content that serves its readers well, and information that appeals not only to its primary audience of American Library Association members but also to anyone interested in or touched by what libraries offer—which pretty much covers almost all of us these days in one way or another. And the funding model is straightforward and apparently sustainable: a combination of dues paid by American Library Association (ALA) members and revenues from advertising in the print and online versions.

The publication’s latest digital supplement, Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2011-2012, overtly focuses on how technology in libraries serves members communities throughout the United States. As the main title implies, however, it serves an equally valuable purpose: providing an example of how the interweaving of libraries and communities produces a tremendously positive impact on our quality of life even in the most challenging of times.

Just looking at the format of this publication goes a long way in knocking down some disturbing misconceptions about libraries, reading, and access to the first-rate information that makes a difference in our lives: we’re looking at a thoughtful, well-researched, and finely edited document that can be read online regardless of where we are (in front of a laptop or on the run with mobile device in hand, if we have access to the right tech tools) as well as in print if we are inclined to take the time required to produce a paper copy. It is well organized, with a standard table of contents that also works well in some online environments by jumping us to specific content at the click of a mouse or the touch of a finger on a mobile device’s screen.(We’re not yet perfect, mind you; the links didn’t work on my Android tablet, and the text was more than a little challenging on a 7” screen.)

When we dive into the content—which, ultimately, is what we’re seeking, regardless of format—we find some encouraging news within this thoughtful report: “Libraries continue to transform lives by providing critical services and innovative solutions to technology access, in spite of years’ worth of consecutive and cumulative budget cuts,” we read at the beginning of the supplement’s executive summary. “More Americans are turning to their libraries for access to essential technology services not found elsewhere in the community, including free computer and Internet access, technology training, and assistance with job-seeking and e-government services.”

It’s easy to be quickly buried under statistics and generalizations, so the writers and editors in the publication consistently return us to the “so what?’ at the heart of any exploration of what libraries produce in collaboration with community partners/members: skill-building workshops and courses that lead to employment and financial literacy in an era where to be financially illiterate is to be locked out of life-sustaining opportunities. Equally importantly, members of library staff are at the forefront of promoting and providing digital literacy—another life-changing survival skill that continues to elude many in search of work, health information, and many other essential resources that would otherwise be beyond their reach as they attempt to sift through the overwhelming amount of information that threatens to drown them rather than lift them closer to their goals.

It’s a far from perfect world that we find within Libraries Connect Communities and its special sections focusing on libraries and library users in Georgia and Idaho; members of rural communities served by libraries—representing approximately half of the libraries’ audiences across the country—see that their libraries “can neither provide adequate volume of technology training…nor keep pace with new technologies.”

Yet the role libraries play is consistently apparent: “Increasingly, communities across the U.S. depend on public libraries for a ‘triple play’ of resources; 1) facilities and physical access to technology infrastructure; 2) a wealth of electronic content; and 3) information professionals trained to help people find and use the information most relevant to their needs.”

And those of us connected to libraries and involved in training-teaching-learning depend on first-rate publications like American Libraries to help us remain in touch with the needs of those we serve. See how our information sources are continuing to evolve to reflect changing world in which we live and work and play. And find new ways to incorporate innovative responses to the challenges we face so we, too, can contribute to the vitality of our local and extended communities in an onsite-online world.


On the Horizon Report 2012: The Wisdom of the Crowds We Help Perpetuate (Part 3 of 3)

June 8, 2012

One of the most fascinating stories embedded in any New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report is how the reports themselves are produced: in a highly collaborative, asynchronous fashion using a well-facilitated technology tool—a wikias I’ve noted elsewhere. The process draws together colleagues from a variety of walks of life to produce something that none of them could individually ever hope to achieve. And if that somehow sounds familiar, it’s because the underpinnings of these interactions—so important for trainer-teacher-learners and others—is all around us in a variety of printed and online resources.

There is, for example, Frans Johansson’s The Medici Effect, that wonderful book describing how magic happens when people from different backgrounds briefly come together—a group of merchant marines, for example, who share ideas in a Greek tavern before parting and disseminating the results of their conversations with others all over the world. This is one of the major underpinnings of the Horizon process as nearly 50 of us from all over the world gather via a well-facilitated wiki to contribute to Horizon Higher Education reports. Or 9,000 people gather at an American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) annual conference for several days, then spend bits of pieces of the following weeks continuing to build upon and spread what resulted from the planned and chance encounters.

James Surowiecki’s fascinating The Wisdom of Crowds provides an additional book-length report that reminds us time and time that when we start with a diverse enough group of the right people—no groupthink here, mind you—any of us as trainer-teacher-learners produce more reliable results than any single member of a group consistently produces. The archetypal crowdsourcing story here is the one about Francis Galton going to a county fair in 1906, watching people try to guess the weight of an ox, combining the nearly 800 different guesses submitted, and documenting that the mean of all those guesses was far more accurate than any individual’s guess had been—just one pound away from the actual weight of 1,198 pounds.

If we continue down this exploration of why these broad collaborative gatherings are so effective, we find ourselves in Clay Skirky’s Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, which builds upon The Wisdom of Crowds by exploring how collaboration produces magnificent—and highly accurate—resources like Wikipedia. And that, of course, brings us nearly full circle back to the wikis that are an integral part of the Horizon process.

Jonah Lehrer’s recently-released book Imagine: How Creativity Works adds a final dimension to our exploration of the creative process that produces Horizon reports and other worthwhile and inspirational results. Lehrer, among other things, documents how creativity is fostered by online projects such as InnoCentive, where experts apply their expertise to areas in which they don’t normally work and, by bringing an outsider’s point of view, solve problems that don’t come from those well-versed in the field in which the problem is embedded. It’s exactly the same sort of process that supports the work of communities of practice and allows Horizon Report Advisory Board members to come together in an intensively creative way to see elements of the world of training-teaching-learning that few of us would ever notice if we weren’t immersed in this collaborative endeavor.

There’s a deliberate attempt to avoid inbred thinking in the sort of collaboration fostered through the Horizon process: our New Media Consortium colleagues attempt to replace at least a third of the composition of the Horizon Report Advisory Board each year so a new flow of ideas is an integral part of the process. And in providing that model, they leave us with a thought-provoking and effective approach that we can and should easily be incorporating into our workplace learning and performance (staff training) efforts: one that mixes experience with infusions of fresh ideas. Takes advantage of our resources. And engages the wisdom of the crowd to help us better serve as the effective facilitators of learning that so many of us strive to be.


Creativity, Innovation, and Evolution in Publications

July 8, 2010

I’m not among those who feels compelled to worry about the future of magazines and newspapers. The way we share information in print and online is evolving so quickly that discussions of the future can’t possibly keep up with the reality of current innovations.

Attending the semi-annual meeting of the American Libraries magazine Advisory Committee while I was in Washington, D.C. for the 2010 American Library Association (ALA) Conference last week helped bring a lot of the picture into focus for me. Editor and Publisher Leonard Kniffel and his colleagues provided an intriguing summary of what they’ve been sharing with the magazine’s readers over the past year: a print publication which has been seamlessly interwoven with an online presence including featured videos, a photo gallery, and archives of the print editions and digital supplements; a readership that is responding well to a variety of information resources including the print and online versions of American Libraries; a weekly online publication—American Libraries (AL) Direct—which provides dozens of summaries and links to articles of interest to the more than 60,000 members of the American Library Association; an editor’s blog that is an integral part of the mix; and a growing appreciation for print articles which tackle larger themes rather than focusing on the sort of breaking news items which are more effectively disseminated via the online resources.

The result is a family—in the best sense of the word—of offerings that serve as a focal point for Association members and others interested in the state of libraries. It’s an early 21st-century version of the old local newspaper as center of a community, but serving a much larger and geography dispersed population than small-town papers ever imagined reaching.

I think Kniffel and his colleagues are doing a great job of drawing from the publication’s best traditions while taking advantage of opportunities offered by online resources. Articles which begin online can find their way—in revised versions—onto the pages of the print publication which, in turn, is posted online to reach an even larger audience than would have been possible a few years ago. Thematic publications, in the form of magazine-length digital supplements, give readers even more opportunities to explore issues of interest to them. And the creative use of eye-catching and easy-to-read design makes the offerings visually as well as intellectually appealing—an aspect of publication that is all too often ignored in a world where thoughts and imagery are extremely ephemeral.

While members of the American Libraries Advisory Committee spent little time during their meeting discussing articles and presentations on the state of magazines and publishing, their conversations implicitly acknowledged many of the innovations receiving attention in a variety of venues. The 2009 TED talk about a Polish newspaper designer’s innovative efforts to make each issue of his publication an event for readers is not far from what American Libraries accomplishes through its digital supplements and its annual print edition dedicated to innovations and achievements in library architecture. James Fallow’s article in the June 2010 issue of The Atlantic magazine“How to Save the News”—about how Google is supporting the evolution of newspapers is consistent with the moves American Libraries has already made to be present where readers are congregating rather than bemoaning the loss of print-publication readers to online sources. And Clay Shirky’s thoughtful presentation and discussion on “Internet Issues Facing Newspapers” explores new models for publications which American Libraries appears to be embracing.

Because our newspapers and magazines have—far longer than any of us have been alive—served as centers of the communities they serve, we have a vested interest in being sure that they continue to meet our needs and that we continue to support them through our patronage. It’s clear to me that their evolving onsite-online formats connected to print counterparts are continuing to reflect, support, nourish, and even help create new communities of interest, and those who are mourning their loss are simply not paying attention to the underlying health that print and online entities like American Libraries are displaying as they continue to evolve to meet their readers’ needs.


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