Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Knowledge is Better than FUD (not just in the online world)

Kevin has a post up about trust and openness online for students. I've left a comment awaiting moderation; my comment below — and here is Kevin's post, very much worth reading:
When Trust Gets Breached, Repairs May Be Impossible

An important issue, and the biggest problem I see is the way Fear-Uncertainty-Doubt keeps people from even exploring solutions at my school. The way I address this important issue is to use tools that the students control, making sure they know how to choose the options they want. Do they want their name, or a pseudonym, or no name at all to appear on their blog and on their project website? Do they want to use a personal photo or some kind of other image instead? (I always use an animal avatar so they know it is totally fine with me not to use a personal photo.) Do they want to leave their work online after the class is over or delete it? By using tools where the students are in control of all those important decisions, and by knowing how how to use those tools (I make sure to provide tutorials on all these options), it's not so much about trusting me or not (I want them to trust me but, hey, they only know me insofar as I am their teacher for one class) ... instead, I want them to understand how to use the tools they have, making good choices and also thinking about the choices they make for tools that have nothing to do with class.

Choosing the right tools.
Teaching how to use the tools.
Encouraging the students to trust themselves.
Spreading knowledge, not FUD.

That's how I see my role.

Since my only teaching experience in the Internet age is with college students, I don't know how far that can generalize in K-12.

And... I am pleased to note... well over 95% of my students choose to leave their class project online after the class is over (sometimes with their name on it, sometimes not), for which I am very grateful!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Unit 2: Free readings online... my suggestions... looking for more!

So since next week is crazy-busy for me, I'm trying to do a lot of Unit 2 today, but I was so bummed out that the reading recommended for Unit 2 consists of BOOKS. Eeek. Not free. Not online.

Oh, wait, aha: one PDF I can nab for free: The Network Society: From Knowledge to Policy (Manuel Castell & Gustavo Cardoso, 2005). Kind of dated but I will see what I can find there.

Meanwhile, I've listed below more or less at random some articles and blog posts and one (free!) book I have enjoyed about networking and also about fear, privacy, and related topics. Seven is a lucky number, so I'll stop here at seven. Maybe others can recommend some more good reads...? That would be great!!!

~ ~ ~

UPDATE: See comments below for great things from Vanessa and I am THRILLED by these two posts from Mariana Funes: wow!!!

Of monsters, contemplation and information by Mariana Funes
The psychology of open: On wrestling your inner MOOC by Mariana Funes
These two are going to give me links to follow and explore to keep me busy for all of Unit 2, and they address exactly the questions I really wanted to ponder for this unit. Thank you, Mariana, for sharing those links!!!

~ ~ ~

How to Overcome What Scares Us About Our Online Identities by Brian Croxall
More about this very useful and thought-provoking article in my earlier post.

Death to the Digital Dropbox: Rethinking Student Privacy and Public Performance by Patrick Lowenthal and David Thomas.
So, I've shared this with a LOT of faculty, thinking that it would provoke an "aha" moment for them since it is written specifically to calm a wide range of fears (much like Brian's Chronicle piece above), but no such luck. I've found it's either "preaching to the choir" (when faculty have already reached these conclusions on their own already) or else it just provokes resistance, even fierce resistance, from faculty who are not willing to go public even in a limited sense.

Dancing with Professors: The Trouble with Academic Prose by Patricia Nelson Limerick
Not about online but instead about academic writing in general. This fabulous piece has I think some great insight into perfectionism and fear: "Professors are often shy, timid and fearful people, and under those circumstances, dull, difficult prose can function as a kind of protective camouflage."

The Cluetrain Manifesto by Rick Levine, Christopher Locker, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger.
Yes, it is a CLASSIC. You can read the whole thing online. This book was THE lightbulb moment for me. I read it in a single sitting in what must have been Fall of 2001. There was no going back.

Reflections on Becoming a Connected Educator by Michelle Pacansky Brock.
Inspiring thoughts from one of the most inspirational people I know online! See esp. her notes on being childlike: fearless and powerful and willing to fail.

Commitment by Mike Caulfield.
This is just a short blog post, but it really resonated with me. As an antidote to failure and fear of failure, making a strong commitment is essential. I admittedly say no to a lot of things (lack of time rather than fear being my usual reason), but when I do say yes to something, I do so with a strong sense of commitment that is able to carry me through a lot of setbacks.

Social Network Decision Tree by Guy Kawasaki.
It's from 2011... but still fun! I ended up INSTANTLY at Google+. Both on the chart and in real life. :-)

Unit 2: Online Motivators... and Demotivators

I very much enjoyed reading through Jonathan's Trust and Network Fluency page.  This is a topic of great interest to me as someone who is SO GRATEFUL to have an online network... but also SO BAFFLED as to why very few of my colleagues seem to be interested in online networking. So, my own personal goal for this unit would be to try to gain some greater insight into that conundrum: how is it that faculty can be very much in touch with their "nerd-selves" (as Jonthan puts it so nicely!) yet at the same time be apparently so uninterested in participating in online networks...?

Don't get me wrong: of course there are thousands and thousands and thousands of academics who are out there blogging, tweeting, networking in all kinds of ways. I participate in a very active network of what must be a hundred or so people that I interact with on a very regular basis (Google+ is my main hangout), and the people I feel connected to in my network are almost always, in turn, participating in networks of their own, so I get the benefit of what they share that I would not see otherwise, etc. etc. It's wonderful!

At the same time, there are 1500 full-time faculty members (I think that is the right number) at the public university where I teach, but very few of them have any public online presence at all. Indeed, for many of them the top search result for their name turns out to be their page at Ouch. That is surely not a good thing. Yet at the same time, the tools for getting online and connecting with others have never been more abundant or easier to use, just as Jonathan points out in his overview for Unit 2 here.

Likewise, there was a great piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education (the CHRONICLE for crying out loud: about as mainstream and middle-of-the-road as it gets for academia) that took up this same idea that there's never been a better time to get online: Brian Croxall's How to Overcome What Scares Us About Our Online Identities. Yet Brian does not really answer the question as promised in that title. His answer is that there is nothing to fear (which is true), but if people's fears are largely irrational (as they are), simply telling them that there is nothing to fear is not going to be enough.

Here is the comment I left at the time (I don't often comment at Chronicle articles anymore, but this is a topic I really care about... so I left a comment there at what was a strangely lackluster discussion, even by Chronicle standards):

The thing I don't understand is that this is pretty obvious stuff, right? I think the resistance to online goes deeper than the fears listed here. In particular, I think it is PERFECTIONISM and the intense fear of making mistakes that permeates academia. Making a mistake ONLINE where anyone can see it... end of the world. So, it's not really a fear that someone will steal your ideas... rather, it is the fear that you will make a mistake and others will see it. That's my guess anyway. And that is a fear you cannot even admit publicly because, in addition to being perfectionists, we have to pretend that we are perfect already, so why would we ever fear making a mistake...? We never make mistakes.

Now, some months later, this is still my best guess as to the inhibiting factor that is the biggest barrier to faculty participating in online networks. But honestly, I'm really not sure. As a recovering perfectionist myself, I know that it can be a very powerful fear. But perhaps there are other irrational fears just as powerful or even more so. Jonathan emphasizes the idea of motivators ("love your nerd" - agree! that sounds great!), but I think we have to also tackle, somehow, the DE-motivators that keep faculty offline, and I still think that the fear of making mistakes and being shown publicly as less than perfect is one of the biggest demotivators.

My students, thankfully, do not have this same kind of inhibition at all, so I can really let the motivators be the driving force, emphasizing all the good reasons for them to put their work online and learn to "love their nerd." Without exception, students do a fantastic job in my classes of learning how to use new media (blogs, websites, etc.) to express themselves and share online. Admittedly, they are rarely as nerdy as I am.... but that's fine. A little nerdiness goes a long way!

With other faculty, though, it seems so hard to get any real forward momentum. I'm dreaming of a blog hub for my school (hub dream notes here), but of course I realize that it is just a dream, one which is probably doomed, UNLESS I can gain some real insight into how one helps faculty make that crucial first step to shedding their fears and getting online.

Since that happened to me so effortlessly (my own online saga here), I have ZERO insight. Maybe others can help! Is there anyone reading this who did overcome fears to become the online person they are today...? I would love to know how/why that happened for you! :-)

And on the subject of fear, I offer two very different Latin LOLCats:

Ignorance is the cause of fear.

I fear nothing.

Unit 2: Access, literacy, sustainability on my mind... Privacy, not so much

I'm not going to do the Make for this week, although I read Jonathan's piece on Is My Data Showing?

I have to just admit right off that I'm not someone who is motivated strongly by the trust/security issues that Jonathan raises here, although I know others are. That is because when I think about "data," I don't just think about digital data, but all the traces — the memory of ourselves — that we leave behind as we interact with people. Society has, since forever I guess, proceeded with a real anarchy of memory. Memory that is highly selective, deceptive, unreliable... untrustworthy. In large part untrustworthy because it is private. But at the same time, memory is very real; it is what powers the connection between past, present, and future, making it possible for us to be humans and to have the human cultures that we do.

So, while I understand that some people are highly motivated to work on trust and security issues that surround digital data, it's not how I choose to spend my time. Instead, I am much more interested in working (and working and working) on the non-digital-data questions of language and memory and tradition. Admittedly, I use the great technology of WRITING (the greatest technology ever invented) to do that, and I appreciate immensely the convenience of digital forms of writing to let me do my work in all kinds of new ways that profoundly extend the reach and depth of language.

Likewise with my students. Insofar as they are doing work online on the open Internet in my class, I explain the options for using their name (or not) at their blog  and at their project website, and I also have a "Google Yourself" activity, and it's intriguing to read their comments about that.  I'm cool with whatever kind of avatar they want to use; in order to make sure people realize it's fine with me to use a non-personal-photo, I use two different foxes.

At the same time, I don't make a big deal about this because I make a big deal about other things instead. In a world of limited time, energy, and attention, data privacy is just not something that has captured a lot of my own personal time, energy, and attention. Perhaps something will happen that will change my mind about that (?), but in my past 15 years of being online, issues of access, literacy and sustainability have just always outweighed my concerns (or lack thereof) about data privacy. But I did enjoy reading Jonathan's thoughts and observations, will skip the Make, and am on to see what might come next for Week 2!

~ ~ ~

Proverbial privacy... pre-digital-data. Yes, privacy was a problem even BEFORE the Internet was invented, as this old proverb attests: Hedges have eyes and walls have ears.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Karen LaBonte's Quest in the Quest-ions + David Kolb graphic! :-)

A wonderful post from Karen LaBonte: The Quest in the Quest-ions - please do read!!! I especially loved the graphic from David Kolb re: experiential learning which I've copied the graphic here; my comment below. :-)

Here's my comment:

Oh wow, Karen, I love (LOVE) this chart from David Kolb. My immediate sense is: that is my life!!! And of course I would love to make that dynamic sense of growth through experience a part of my students' lives also (as opposed to just doing the minimum to get the grade to get the degree, etc.). So, I'm bookmarking that image to put in my class announcements for sure.

I don't know what you think about the question of TIME, but I am more and more convinced that this is one of the essentials. That kind of process (experiencing, reflecting, applying, generalizing) is something that benefits from more time rather than less time. Your  backpacking trips with the students, for example, sound like a very precious gift of both time and focus, so different from the hurried and hectic way of life we take for granted in schooling.

Again and again it seems to me that LACK OF TIME is what is holding us back. Teachers don't have enough time to devise and experiment, not enough time for their own processes of experience-reflect-apply-generalize, and also, of course, not enough time for one-on-one engagement with students. And so too with students: not enough time to just explore and think, not enough time for their own experience-reflect-apply-generalize, and not enough time to really benefit from what school can offer.

So when an experiment goes awry, when a class does not go well, when a student has not learned something... it can be so hard to disentangle the factors: is the problem with the "thing" itself (the experiment, the class, whatever)... or is just an accursed lack of time that is the problem...?

And if the answer is that we need more time, I think we have to be prepared to STOP doing some of the things we are doing now that we judge as less valuable. But it was only when I resigned my job as a tenure-track faculty member and became an instructor that I finally gained CONTROL of my time. For many college instructor, it feels (and probably rightly so) that they don't really have a lot of choice...

How does time work for you? For your students? I feel pretty good about my time situation. My students, though, I suspect are pretty frantic...

Enoch Hale's Future of Faculty Development blog post: WOW

I just read a FABULOUS blog post: Future of Faculty Development: Cultivating Meaningful Experiences by Enoch Hale... WOW. As always when I leave a long comment that is awaiting moderation, I like to post it somewhere, just in case it gets lost in the moderation shuffle (see below) — and I would urge everybody to go read this post if you are interested in faculty development. He describes a great experiment about transforming student and teacher roles, with very different results (although not really surprising) when conducting the experiment with students on the one hand and with faculty on the other. Here's the specific quote in his post that I was responding to in my comment: The instructors, however, immediately began vocally providing numerous reasons why such a shift is impossible; not improbable, but impossible. Their comments were full of emotion, which I interpreted as ranging from anger to dismissal. My goal, then, was to make shift happen.

And here's an "image quote" from the blog:

I am SO GLAD for the people I am connecting with thanks to Connected Courses and the blog hub. Whoo-hoo! Now I am going to go explore some more!


My comment:

WOW, this is absolutely fascinating! I am so glad I found this post thanks to Connected Courses, and I will be reading your blog. Your contrasting experiments with students and faculty confirms something that has been my impression for many years, but which I have never been able to pinpoint so precisely. I just know that in my classes, the more and more control and responsibility I give to the students, the happier we all are: they are learning more, I enjoy my job more, everybody benefits. Decentering the class has been especially easy (and important!) for me, because I teach online... I no longer have to be the center of attention at the front of the room, all eyes staring at me. The students respond so positively to this new way of learning; it takes a week or two before they really see how different it is, but then it's just lots of learning and lots of fun for the rest of the semester. With my colleagues, though, I have gotten nowhere. Naively, back around 2002, when I first started teaching online and finding these great gains when I redesigned my classes, I eagerly offered workshops to anyone who asked, and I was so surprised at the total pushback from faculty who said what I was doing was impossible, couldn't work, etc. ... even though I obviously knew that it was possible and I could see that it was working! Here we are over ten years later, and I've pretty much given up hope when it comes to colleagues, although my hopes for my students are bigger than ever. I try to document everything I do, and I share online abundantly (I'm documenting my online classes in a new project this semester: Anatomy of an Online Course), but I no longer expect to make any impact on all but a few colleagues, the ones who have already opened up their minds to a student-centered way of thinking. As for the rest, I haven't the time or energy or skill to work through their anger and dismissal, just as you describe here. So, I repeat: What an absolutely fascinating post! I look forward to exploring other posts in your blog here. Thank you!!!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Connecting with Students via Creative Writing

What a week! I had such a great week... but I really ran out of time (everybody knows that feeling I think!), and so I did not get to do as much Connected Courses stuff as I wanted to. Alas! But at least I thought I would wrap up the week with some thoughts about connecting with students via creative writing — since that is how I spent almost all my time this week!

Some context: I teach two fully online courses — Mythology & Folklore and Indian Epics — and in both classes, the students do a lot of creative writing, retelling traditional stories (some of them literally thousands of years old!), finding new ways to bring the stories life in their own words. This type of writing is new to many of the students, but it works wonderfully: the forces of individuality and creativity are strong! Even when students might be writing about the same story and even using the same style, the stories still come out differently because the magical force of the imagination means that each student "sees" the story in their own way.

Blog stories. In their blogs, the students tell a story each week that is based on the week's reading from class, and they also read each other's stories in the blogs and leave comments there. You can get a sense of what stories are like by looking at the HTML clippings stream from those blog posts: Myth & Folklore Stories and Indian Epic Stories. Isn't the variety wonderful? And that variety is simply the natural reflection — through the prism of storytelling — of the variety of the students themselves.

Storybook stories. Meanwhile, as the students are all sharing those stories and getting to know each other through their blogs week by week by week, there is another, more formal writing process that is taking place, as student create their semester-long Storybook projects. That is where I spend my time, working with the students each week as they brainstorm their project, write up the Introduction, and then start adding stories, which will be three or four stories total by semester's end. Every semester, the collection of Storybooks has a personality of its own, thanks to the new directions and ideas that each semester's students bring to the class. It is through these Storybooks that I get to know the students, and we connect through their Storybooks every week this way.

Getting to know you... This is admittedly an odd way to get to know someone, but a good way. Think about how you can feel close to an author of a book, even if you know nothing about that author's personal life — it's something like that! Or the way you can relate to an actor's character in a movie or television show, even if you know nothing about the actor as a person. You feel connected... even if you don't know the personal life details. Weird, but true. That's how it is with the students and the Storybooks. I know a little bit about their personal lives from their Introduction posts in their blogs, but what I really remember about them is the "person" I get to know through the Storybook that they create, and I remember them for years and years afterwards because the Storybooks always make such a big impression on me.

This semester's Storybooks. So, in closing, let me share some of the Storybooks that allowed me to connect with the students this week. I'll just choose a few to give a sense of the wonderful variety that they express:
  • Tales of Aesop: City of Animals. Just listen to the voice of the narrator in this Introduction! What a voice! Now, I don't know just how this voice is part of the student's own personality as it were — but somehow or other this voice "came" from this student. Isn't it great? And this is such a good example of the endless power of creativity: there must have been easily 50 or more Aesop Storybooks in the 10+ years that I have taught this course . . . but no two the same!
  • Cupid on Trial. Not only is this a completely charming premise for a Storybook, it has an extra layer of meaning for me because this is a project from a student who was in Indian Epics last semester, and his two Storybooks are so different! Here is the one from Indian Epics: Vishnu's Favorite Avatars. By getting to read a second project for this student, I am able to connect with him in a new way. What fun!
  • Sigurd the Sailor. Take a look at this Storybook Introduction and be prepared to swept away, right from the very first sentence. This student is helping me here not just by sharing such great writing but also by covering a topic that is not part of the class UnTextbook: I tried so hard this summer to find a Sigurd source to include, but I finally gave up. Now this student has come to the rescue by making Sigurd part of the class in his Storybook project!
  • Alexander the Great in India. This is another Storybook where I am so grateful for the new content that the student is bringing to the class. Thanks to this Storybook, the students are going to get a lesson in Indian history, connecting it up with a familiar historical figure: Alexander the Great. The Introduction is brilliant, and I am not surprised; I know this student's work already from Myth-Folklore last year: Monstrous Beings of Greek Mythology. As you can see, this student is fascinated by ancient Greece, and the other students are getting the benefit of his enthusiasm.
  • Janaki's Journal: Sita's Story. I'll close this list with the Storybook that was the last one I read this week, a beautiful interweaving of the stories of Kusa and Lava, twin sons of Rama and Sita, and what happens when they read their mother's journal after her departure from this world, a departure which is for many readers the moral crisis point of the whole Ramayana. No one has done a project quite like this before, and I think the other students in the class will enjoy it so much! I know I am enjoying it tremendously. Reading the first story in this project ended my week on such a high note.
I could go on, of course: there are a total of 80 students in my classes, and I have spent the week interacting with each of them about their writing, and they are interacting with each other like this too. In a separate post I'll have more to say about all this (there's always more to say, ha ha) . . . but while I was on such a happy high from this week of Storybooks, I wanted to be sure to share something now. Just in case the weekend runs away from me, as it sometimes does.  :-)

Here are screenshots of the Pinterest Boards which are another way to browse the projects! If you have a few minutes, take a look. There is so much good stuff going on already, and it is just Week 6 of the semester!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hub Dreams...

Well, the complete delight of the syndicated Connected Courses blog hub has really got me thinking how great it would be to have a blog hub at my school too for university-related blogs (faculty, staff, programs). This is probably just me banging my head against the wall ... again ... but gosh, it would be so cool to have a blog hub! By a blog hub I am thinking of something like this:
I've been so impressed at how the blog hub works at Connected Courses, and browsing through the blogs of the 200+ people who are part of the hub has been, for me, the most valuable part of the experience thus far. Of course, a hub can work at any scale... from just 2 blogs, to 20, to 200, to 2000!

I'll be using this blog post to brainstorm out loud about this for a few days and then see what I can cook up this weekend. Any and all feedback would be welcome, especially if anybody is at a school that DOES have some kind of blogging hub for faculty and staff to connect via blogs.

Updated Wed. morning: Thanks to folks at Twitter and G+ for feedback and questions! I've added some more information as a result.
Updated Sun. morning: Thanks again to folks at Twitter, G+, and in comments here for feedback. I've expanded on these ideas some more!

Here are some of the thoughts that I have in mind:

1. Class hubs at the Domains pilot. We've got a Domain of One's Own pilot going at OU, with students blogging like crazy at Each class functions as a "hub" by default because the student blogs are all tagged by the class the students are in, so you can browse by classes in the directory and you can also get an RSS feed for each class. So, I've been watching the different classes by subscribing to the class RSS feeds in my feed reader.

2. The power of blogging. Watching the classes that are part of the Domains pilot is one of the most exciting experiences I have had at OU. Even though I am not present for the actual classes, the flow of the blog posts — day by day, week by week — gives me the sense of really being there in the class, "hearing" the discussion as each student explores in their detailed, individual posts the topic at hand. For a specific example, see Adam Croom's post about the Journalism class and how they are sharing videos via their blogs: Scaling Creativity. It's fabulous!

3. A hub can include existing blogs, too. Hopefully many faculty and staff will take advantage of the Domains pilot (how to request an account), but of course there are existing blogs, too. If we had a hub like the Connected Courses hub, people with existing OU blogs could join in too. We don't have very many active blogs at OU (at least... not that I know of... yet!), but we do have a few really great ones. The College of Liberal Studies Insights blog is a favorite of mine, and that is just one example. Who knows what other great blogs there might be out there now or could be in the future... with just a little encouragement?

4. Help bloggers find readers. People who blog can get discouraged if they feel they do not have readers. Now speaking for myself personally, that's not a worry to me; I am a blogoholic, and I blog in the same way that other people might takes notes in a document — my blogs ARE my notebooks. But I've known plenty of people who get discouraged about their blogging because they feel like they don't have a readership. If we had a blog hub for faculty and staff my school, that could help people find a mutually supportive audience.

5. Blogs, not discussion boards. OU really does not have a viable discussion forum online anywhere (the Chatter experiment lasted a good long while, but it's no longer very active). My guess is that blogs, which people can configure and control themselves, are more likely to promote good communication than a discussion forum. Discussion forums belong to everybody/nobody, especially when there is not a strong pre-existing sense of online community and online engagement. Blogs, on the other hand, are personal spaces which individuals can manage in the way that they feel most comfortable with. They can moderate comments if they want, or they can even turn off comments; blogs still fulfill an important public communication function even without comments. Plus, for academics, blogs have this advantage: they easily allow for tl;dr thinking-out-loud. My blogs are proof of that! :-)

6. Distributed syndication, not a group blog. The idea here is that these blogs are independent blogs, running on any blog software that has full-feed RSS (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, other blog platforms). People publish what they want to publish; people read what they want to read. It's a very a laissez-faire approach powered by inclusiveness, without all the editorial complications that an actual group blog poses.

7. More efficient than individual lists. For several years, I've been trying to subscribe to any University-of-Oklahoma-related blogs I can find, but that is inefficient in all kinds of ways. For one thing, it depends on me finding the blogs, which is very haphazard! And it's also really too personal; a hub for university blogs should not be bound up in one individual's maintenance of a blog list. For my own classes, running a syndicated blog hub with Inoreader makes sense (here's how I do that), but a university blog hub deserves better.

Okay, that is three six seven thoughts to start with. Thanks to everybody for helping me to clarify these thoughts so far!

Big oaks from little acorns grow.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Growing Learners, Not Disrupting Learning: A plea for both faculty and students

Below is my thinking out loud through Randy Bass's Disrupting Ourselves: The Problem of Learning in Higher Education from the Week 1 reading list for Connected Courses. Conclusion: I wish that instead of disrupting the students' curriculum, we could instead address how teachers ARE LEARNERS, making sure that we give teachers the opportunity to be connected learners, creative learners, experimental learners, with all the support and encouragement and feedback that learners deserve. Let the teachers be free to learn, and the curriculum will GROW.

We don't need to disrupt the curriculum; instead, we need to make sure teachers at all levels (K-12 and higher ed) have the freedom and support AND TIME they need to learn, to grow, to create... and that is how we will get a better curriculum. So, my main takeaway is that I just wanted to go through the article replace the word "student" with the phrase "students and faculty" instead.  If you want to find out why that was my main takeaway from the article, read on. But yeah, it is definitely tl;dr down there. :-)

Some examples of the substitutition, so that we might think about universities are failing their faculty as much as they are failing their students in terms of faculty-as-learners:
How many students AND FACULTY feel a sense of community, a sense of mentorship, a sense of collective investment, a sense that what is being created matters?
How can students AND FACULTY “learn to be,” through both the formal and the experiential curriculum?
Designing backward from those kinds of outcomes, we are compelled to imagine ways to ask students AND FACULTY, early and often, to engage in the practice of thinking in a given domain, often in the context of messy problems.
As tools of integration, eportfolios also help students AND FACULTY make connections and think about how to present themselves, their work, and their learning to an audience.etc.


Well, I've had this Educause article by Randy Bass on my "must-read" list for a while, and #ccourses has bumped it up to the top of that list... but I hasten to add, I am going against my own rule of thumb which says to avoid anything with "disrupt" in the title as this article has: Disrupting Ourselves: The Problem of Learning in Higher Education.

The use of the word "disrupting" plays right into the hands of Clayton Christensen's "disruptive innovation" which has brought nothing good to higher ed from what I can tell, and has instead afflicted us with Coursera and its ilk. If we have to use Christensen's vocabulary, why not sustaining innovations instead of disruptive ones? Sustaining innovations come in both evolutionary and revolutionary forms in his model, and those both seem to me far preferable to the self-aggrandizing rhetoric of disruption. But setting that aside, I'll see what this article has in store...

And sure enough, the rhetoric of disruption that Bass is using here to analyze the formal curriculum is really worrisome to me: if you push at the usage (i.e. if it is not just a loose metaphor but really and truly Christensen's non-sustaining disruption), then it would mean we are talking about getting RID of the formal curriculum, rather than finding creative ways to make connections between the formal curriculum and formal learning with other content and other modes of learning. Me, I'm all for new connections; that is, for extending, not displacing. Is it really so inconceivable that we could IMPROVE the courses that we have now? Or is the design so bad and the teaching so uncreative that we really envision that many (most?) of the courses would be jettisoned...?

In particular, here's my worried assessment: unless we figure out the CAUSES of the poor design and poor teaching we have now, a superficial structural change will not make a real difference; the same problems will undermine the new structure just as it has undermined the old one. So, as I read on through the article I will see just what Bass invokes as the causes of the problems we now face, and whether his "post-course era" would actually address those underlying causes.

Setting that crucial question of "how we got here" aside, I have to say that the high-impact practices, on the other hand, seem to me EXCELLENT examples of what Christensen would call sustaining rather than disruptive innovations, and the behaviors those practices promote are EXACTLY what I would like to see us discussing:
Investing time and effort
Interacting with faculty and peers about substantive matters
Experiencing diversity
Responding to more frequent feedback
Reflecting and integrating learning
Discovering relevance of learning through real-world application

My course is very much part of the formal curriculum (Gen. Ed. required for graduation), but I have designed my courses so that they feature high-impact practices and my goals are exactly the student behaviors listed there. I didn't need, and don't need, to "be disrupted" in order to do this; I just needed to want to offer a more meaningful learning experience to my students! I agree with the question posed here — "If most of the formal curriculum is not where the high‑impact experiences are located, what are our possible responses?" — and that seems to urgently call for us to look at the ways in which high-impact practices can, and should, transform the formal curriculum.

I also agree that technology has enormous potential here; much of the transformation of my courses has been enabled by technology. But it was not driven by technology and, indeed, the technology I use in my classes is the technology that had already transformed me as a learner; based on the transformation (NOT disruption) of my own learning by the Internet, I was able to design courses where I hope to catalyze a similar transformation for my students — as learners, as readers, and as writers. And I do all of that within the context of a course; indeed, I am grateful for the fact that I have such a sustained period of time to work with the students. These kinds of transformations do not happen overnight, but over the space of a few months of persistent work every week, I do feel like it is possible for my students to experience real change as a result of my courses, and it is certainly my goal for that to happen. Not disruption. GROWTH.

I also really liked the list of "participatory culture" characteristics since that could stand in perfectly as a list of characteristic features of my own courses too!
Low barriers to entry
Strong support for sharing one’s contributions
Informal mentorship, from experienced to novice
A sense of connection to each other
A sense of ownership in what is being created
A strong collective sense that something is at stake

Teaching at a public university, I am especially proud of the low barriers to entry. It means I have a very wide range of student abilities and interests in every class, but I welcome that as it makes for a better class for everyone involved.

So the next question in my mind is why don't we just DO IT? Why don't we just all decide to design our classes this way and help others to do so? Bass realizes that one problem is that we are not even ready to ask that question: "Some might question whether most courses in the formal curriculum need to be designed for this kind of learning and intellectual community."

I think there are a lot of institutional reasons why not just some but MANY people question the need for transformation of the formal curriculum... but the rhetoric of disruption is one of the reasons that the discussion is getting stifled. Nobody wants to be disrupted. Criminy, I don't want to be disrupted. SPLAT. I don't want to invaded, replaced, etc., and all the other disruptionisms you will find in Christensen.

Instead of being disrupted, I want to GROW. And I think we are far more likely to succeed by talking about how we can grow a new curriculum, rather than disrupting the one we have got... because if we disrupt just for the sake of disruption, I suspect we will end up with something even worse, especially if we have not understood the environmental factors that have constrained our growth thus far.

So, let's talk about the faculty as people who are growing and learning, just as we hope the students are growing and learning. The FACULTY need to have the same opportunity as students deserve: to be first “presented with a challenge and then learn what they need to know to address the challenge” (John Seely Brown).

LEARNING. Not disruption. Instead of talking about how to change the curriculum for students, let's talk about changing the working/learning conditions FOR THE FACULTY. That, to me, needs to be the real question here. We need to talk about time... about technology... about salaries... about work load. Just talking about changing the curriculum without talking about the when and where and why and how, etc. of what faculty do (and what they think they are supposed to do) on the job, I'm not sure we will really see any change.

It's easy to brainstorm about a GAZILLION ways to design courses that embody these high-impact practices. Sit me down for an hour and I will design 20 courses for you. Give me a weekend, and I'll come back with 100 courses. Coming up with totally cool courses is easy. Bass has all kinds of ideas that fill up the rest of this article. Great. All good; I'm not going to comment — he proposes all kinds of nifty ideas. But that's easy. Anybody who has learned to embrace creativity in teaching can do this.

Figuring out why the faculty have not embraced creativity in teaching is the REAL question.

And I would suggest that we start with the obvious: LET'S ASK THE FACULTY. I know that I learn a lot from asking the students to see what they are thinking and feeling about something.

But does anybody at my school ask those of us who are teaching to share our thoughts and ideas? Nope.

THAT to me is the problem. It's clear that my students benefit enormously from working together, sharing their progress, giving each other feedback ALL THE TIME. Every week. All semester.

Where is that sustained support for faculty who want to embark on creative projects and grow their teaching?

Bass then provides a list of four things that we need to do in "connecting ourselves" ... but none of those things involves just asking people simply to share and work together, which is what I think of when I see the phrase "connecting ourselves." His list of four things is about disrupting, not connecting. They sound a lot like "Moses come down from the mountain" pronouncements that simply tell people that they must change now, without understanding just how they got to be the way they are to start with. It seems to me that Bass's four reforms do not themselves embody the participatory culture that he claims to be embracing for student growth and learning.

So, yes, I too am a big believer in Johnson's motto of “Chance favors the connected mind,” which is why I believe in learning networks for students AND learning networks for faculty. Don't decide in advance what the faculty will embrace as a result of that process! Instead, just give them a process to embrace; encourage learning networks among the faculty and see what happens. My school, sadly, is not doing a very good job of that. We have 1500 full-time faculty (I think that is the right number), and no online network that they share. We have email and face to face which means that it fails to sustain real conversations beyond just immediate circles of acquaintance. We don't need a post-course LMS for students so much as we need a Learning Commons FOR FACULTY.

Once faculty become connected learners, I believe they will naturally transform their teaching... and they will probably do so in ways none of us have ever dreamed of, each bringing their own creativity to bear, just as my own students surprise me every semester with their creative projects.

But as long as faculty are just working in isolation and being dictated to from on high (by administrators or by visionaries or by visionary administrators), I don't think we will make any real, lasting progress. I am committed to what Bass lists here in the final sentence — "integrative thinking, or experiential learning, and the social network, or participatory culture" — and I am committed to that for BOTH students AND faculty. And I think if we embrace those values and make them the foundation for faculty working conditions, the curriculum will indeed be transformed as a result.

If we try to "disrupt" the curriculum from on high, it's going to be the worst kind of disruption imaginable. Think: Humpty Dumpty. That kind of disruption. Not good.

HUMPTY DUMPTY sate on a wall;
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
Three score men and three score more
Cannot place Humpty Dumpty as he was before.

Source: The Nursery Rhyme Book edited by Andrew Lang and illustrated by L. Leslie Brooke (1897).

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Rigor: scrupulous or inflexible accuracy or adherence

I saw a blog post in the #ccourses feed about rigor and wanted to comment; DOH - I did not even notice that the blog was restricted to "team members" before I had typed out my comment. 

So.... here is the comment I was going to leave. This is a topic on which I have much more to say, but just the dictionary definition of RIGOR says a lot! :-)

~ ~ ~

I really agree with these goals, but rigor just is not the right word, is it? "Rigor means well-designed and meaningful experience in courses that connect students with their colleagues, with the instructor and with the content, as well as the things that actually matter are the critical thinking and the literacy skills"
That simply is not what rigor means in any common usage. Just to confirm my own very negative impression of the word rigor, I looked it up, and the dictionary definition was even WORSE than I expected!
So, I'm all for meaningful experiences. Rigor does not seem like the right banner to wave for that though...
Rigor defined.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Making a Simple Animated gif with GIMP

Since I just made a bilingual LatinLOLCat for my Connected Courses make post, I thought I would quickly explain here just how I made the animation with the GIMP (fabulous free image editing software; find out more at It's so easy!

1. I start with the two images which are already the same size. I happened to create these images with Cheezburger, but any images will work — just make sure they are the same height and width.

2. I start the GIMP and then to create the new file I choose the File-OpenAsLayers option. You can open multiple files at once, so I choose my two files and open both as layers. With just two images in the gif, it doesn't matter what order they are in, but for a more complex animation, you can arrange the order of the layers with the GIMP as needed.

3. Then I just do File-SaveAs and choose gif as the option. In the dialogue box that pops up about what to do with the layers, I choose "animation" and I usually set my animations to 2 seconds per frame (2000 milliseconds). That's it!

4. Click Export... and that's all! Isn't that simple??? I LOVE SIMPLE.

Writing up this tutorial has inspired me to go back through my GrammarCatz blog and turn them into animated gifs. I created the GrammarCatz as my own contribution to Common Core (mwahahaha), and I already have two cats for each graphic: one cat who meets Common Core English Language Arts Standards, and one cat who does not. Having the two graphics already done means it should be easy to make a new animated gif every day just for fun. Here is the Dude Cat:

Connected Courses - Week 1, Make 1: Why? Writing!

The "why" of my courses is really about WRITING. I teach two courses — Mythology & Folklore and Indian Epics — and at the heart of both courses is something called a Storybook, a semester-long student project in which students choose a topic, read and research traditional stories related to that topic, and then retell those traditional stories in their own way. I've been teaching these courses for over ten years, and there are lots of student Storybooks here in the archive: eStorybook Central. The best way I can think of to learn about the students and their writing is to browse through those past Storybooks!

Aren't they fabulous? The reason why I switched from the traditional analytical or expository paper to this type of project is that it brings out an amazing creativity in the students. Semester after semester, year after year, each student is doing something that is truly new, something that only that student could do, with everyone's individuality contributing to the experience of the class.

As a result, I absolutely love teaching these classes because of the Storybooks: the projects are an endless source of ideas and inspiration, and I remember the projects for years and years, long after the class is over. When I taught with traditional paper-writing assignments, sometimes I could barely remember a paper even just a few minutes after reading it... and I am sure those papers were just as unmemorable for the students, too.

Every semester, we spend the first few weeks brainstorming topics, styles, learning about websites... and then, after five weeks, it all starts to come together: the Storybooks are HAPPENING right now! You can see the class lists here  — Mythology & Folklore Storybooks and Indian Epics Storybooks — and this weekend I will be adding more and more websites to those lists!

To explain how the students will be changed by this experience, I am pleased to say that the Storybooks from my classes were chosen as "Meaningful Writing Experiences" by the students at my school. Finding out about that is the proudest moment of my whole life as a teacher! The Director of our Writing Center, Michele Eodice, is participating in a multi-campus student about "Meaningful Writing Experiences" in which graduating seniors filled out an open-ended survey about the most meaningful writing experience they had in college. The Storybooks from these classes were nominated by multiple students at my school! Given that I teach Gen. Ed. courses which are not really even supposed to be writing courses at all, with students who don't necessarily see themselves as writers at all, I was thrilled that the students valued the writing experience of the Storybook that way. You can read more about the Meaningful Writing Project here, and I am really looking forward to reading more about the results of their work, both the student surveys, along with the interviews they conducted with students and writing teachers based on those surveys: The Meaningful Writing Project.

When I think about my goal for the Storybooks, it really is very simple: I want the students to BE WRITERS. This wonderful graphic (which I found via Larry Ferlazzo) explains the distinction very clearly: it's not about assigning writing or even teaching writing... but about teaching writers!

I should note here that I never intended to teach writing courses. These are Gen. Ed. courses which are normally supposed to consist of lots of content with exams over that content; it was entirely my own choice to turn them into writing classes . . . but now I cannot imagine teaching the classes in any other way.

What happened was very simple: my first semester of college teaching was a disaster. I assumed (wrongly) that all I had to do was assign the usual sort of analytical paper topic, students would then write the usual sort of analytical papers, I would grade them, and so on ad infinitum. What I discovered, however, is that my students really had trouble writing. And the biggest trouble of all was that there were clearly bored out of their minds by their own writing! And I was bored too. Eeeek!

In a sense, I feel really lucky that it was so immediately obvious to me that traditional paper-writing was not going to work, and I also feel very lucky that my decision to switch to semester-long creative Storybooks worked wonderfully the first time I tried it. The students were delighted, and I was too: we had such a good time! In the ten+ years that I've been using the Storybook approach, I've tinkered with the assignment in all kinds of ways but the core idea is still the same: students choose their topic and style, write creatively, and share their work with others so that the entire semester can be something like a writing workshop, so that we are sharing ideas and inspiration all semester long!

And, back to the question in this make assignment: the digital sharing and networking is essential to the success of the project! At the beginning of the semester, the new students browse through the old projects to get inspired, and the archive of past projects is the single most valuable asset in the course. Then, as the semester goes on, they build their websites page by page, sharing them with the other students and getting feedback every week. The website presentation also allows students to work with both text and images, expanding their range of expressiveness far beyond the confines of a traditional 8 1/2 x 11 double-spaced paper product.

And speaking of expressiveness beyond the confines of a traditional paper, here is a LatinLOLCat. I've animated the cat so that she is bilingual now. :-)

Why writing? Because a zeal for writing grows by writing!

Crescit scribendo scribendi studium.
A zeal for writing grows by writing.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I Need Windows (no, NOT the Microsoft kind ha ha ha)

I always worry about "awaiting moderation" comments vanishing into the ether (by accident if for no other reason), so I'm crossposting my comment here. Terry's thought-provoking post is here: very much worth reading!
Iconoclasty 101: Outsiders in Academe

My comment:

In total agreement about A spaces! In the same way that my brain would shut down when I had to teach in classrooms without windows (OMG nightmare!), I feel my brain shutting down in certain kinds of online spaces, most notably the D2L BS course management system used at my school, and also the insanely expensive boondoggle we have built, our very own LMS called Janux. I am so aware of the constraints of those systems and the way they are closed off from everything I love about the Internet that I just cannot function. Just as I was never a very good teacher in classrooms without windows.

Now, for some people, that is not such a big deal, which is what makes human diversity so weird and exciting. I have to believe teachers if they tell me that they don't care one way or another about windows in a physical classroom. And when people tell me they like using D2L, I have to take that at face value.

I don't like it. They do.

So too with other spaces. I really love Google+, but I am well aware that others feel differently.

It took me forever to figure out how to make Twitter work for me - how to find the windows as it were. Now, though, it works. I use Twitter in very limited ways, but I use it every day and, much to my own surprise, I have to say I would miss it if it were gone.

And again to my own surprise, I am delighted by Pinterest and finding all kinds of ways to use it for my classes.

Other people, however, have a visceral reaction to these hosted services, the same as I have a visceral reaction to classrooms without windows. It just feels WRONG to them to have your stuff inside someone else's software.

So, I don't feel that way myself, but I get it.

End result is that I think the best thing we can do is be aware of all the options and share our experiences widely, learning from each other.

So, thank you for this post!!! And I'm looking forward to learning more.

P.S. About agriculture: if they could, plants would run away screaming when I approach. I do not have a green thumb. :-)


I need my windows! :-)

Blessed is he who lives as he wants.

#whyIteach - a post for #ccourses

Why I teach:

... to keep on learning ...

... to help other people learning ...

... and because it is fun!

In the spirit of teaching and learning ... and fun ... here are some LatinLOLCats with advice about learning (long ago I was a Latin teacher):

The mind is nourished by learning and thinking.

Let him learn who does not know,
for ever thus does wisdom grow.

There is never enough learning.

One learns by making mistakes.

More LatinLOLCats at the Proverb Lab
and at the Bestiaria blog too!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

News Round-Up: September 17

Becky's posted her news round-up which is my reminder to do the same! Here are some items that really got me thinking in the past week or so (and here are the previous round-ups):

Downvoting Considered Harmful by Cory Doctorow.
I was very curious to read this write-up since my own experience with down-voting in the Coursera discussion boards was terrible. Down-voting, anonymous posting, and malicious tagging were all serious problems in the Coursera course that I completed. Ugh.
quote: "This goes beyond the simple adage that you shouldn’t feed the trolls by giving them attention. The evidence suggests that negative feedback can perhaps actually create trolls. It also suggests that people getting negative feedback are more likely to give others negative feedback, too, spreading the infection." 

Why Should I Blog While Learning? by Aparna Nagaraj
A great post about blogging from Aparna Nagaraj, someone whom I met as part of the Connected Courses experience. I agree with all her reasons, especially this one she cites as the most important: "By blogging I get to record and thereby not forget what I think at the moment  - triggered by various stuff I read, listen, see, and discuss."

The End of Higher Education (video) with Mike Wesch, Cathy Davidson, Randy Bass.
This was also part of the Connected Courses experience, and I especially appreciated the commentary by Michael Wesch: "the most beautiful things happen when the center loses its hold."

We Are The Experts by John Spencer.
I can really relate to what John Spencer is saying here (he is always one of my favorite education commentators). Often people with the least experience teaching will make the most extravagant claims, while those of us who have lots of teaching experience are more cautious (too cautious?) since we are so aware of how our experiences are changing from day to day, that we are always learning. But we can still be experts! It's about EXPERIENCE after all!

Submitting Essays: The jeopardy of just-in-time reported in The Economist
If anything, I am surprised that they did not find stronger differences here. In any case, working close to the deadline surely cannot be a good thing... yet it is the default mode for many students, especially students who may be struggling in other ways too. Time scarcity has many ripple effects!

Schools, housing, & poverty: Thoughts on segregation in Tulsa from OKPolicy Institute
A detailed, depressing but very thoughtful analysis of Tulsa's history which has much to teach us about America at large too of course.
quote "You cannot explain why the median White household in this country has 18 to 20 times more accumulated wealth than the median Black household without looking at decades and centuries of public policies and private practices that helped one group of citizens accumulate wealth while preventing and destroying the wealth of another group of citizens. The history has involved everything from poll taxes and voter disenfranchisement laws to discriminatory job hiring and college admissions policies, to outright violence and destruction, such as the Tulsa Race Riot, which burned to the ground the businesses and homes of thousands of African-Americans."

Growth Mindset: Personal Accountability and Reflection by Jackie Gerstein.
And of course I have to include Jackie Gerstein's latest post on growth mindset with a wonderful graphic as always:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Connected Learning: Grading (bad!) v. Feedback (good!)

I just posted a new item in my Anatomy of an Online Course blog, and it's an important one: Grading. It explains how I have removed myself from the grading equation, and why I consider that to be essential to the success of my classes. I feel very lucky that I can construct a student-driven grading system so that I can meet my university's requirement that I give grades while being able to turn that process over to the students. See that blog posts for more details.

What I want to do here is reflect on the fabulous Connected Learning infographic in regards to grading... starting with the obvious fact that this rich, abundant, wide-ranging infographic is all about learning, and it says nothing at all about grading! Glory hallelujah!

FEEDBACK, however, is essential, so of course the word "feedback" appears in the infographic, and one of the main reasons why I do no grading in my classes is so that I can provide feedback — abundant feedback — that has nothing to do with grades. Abundant feedback from me AND abundant feedback from other students in the class is one of the fuels that keeps the whole class moving forward: as we give feedback to one another, we are having learning experiences of our own, so everybody benefits.

Grading, by contrast, is a dead end. Stifling. Private. And, for many, it is also scary and shaming. I believe we have to get rid of it if we really want to move forward.

As for the excitement that feedback can provide, the energizing sense of sharing and learning together, here are some comments from my students' "famous last words" blog posts over the past few weeks of the semester:

"Reading classmates blog’s is probably one of the most helpful things we do in this class. There are so many new ideas that are discovered every time I read someone else’s storytelling, or essay, or last words. Everyone has such great ideas and concepts, which pushes me to do better and be more creative."

"I enjoy reading classmate's versions of their reading Unit's, since it gives me views on different aspects of writing.  I have read many pieces that are great at grabbing audiences attention, and retaining it.  I only hope that if I have not been able to do that before, that I am able to achieve this with my future blogs/writings."

"It is helpful though to have classmates comment on my posts, especially when it is criticism. For the most part, it brings things in my writing to my attention that I may have not noticed before."

"I have noticed recently, since I have been making myself be particularly creative for my storytelling posts, I have been doing a lot better in my anatomy class. I think it is because I have been having to take an idea or a story and retell it in a way that everyone can understand. If everyone else can understand it, it will be easier for me to process and manipulate. If I take a concept in anatomy and think of it in several different ways, it makes it easier to apply to many different situations, which is what I normally have a really hard time doing. I am really hoping that this will continue because I really need to pass anatomy this semester."

"Every week when I read other people's posts, it inspires me to improve my writing. I am constantly impressed with the creativity they find in each and every assignment."

"This week I realized that people are starting to get the hang of the storytelling assignments. Some people are getting really creative and changing a lot about their chosen stories. There also has not been a story that I have not liked yet so I am thankful for that!  I personally think that I could use some more practice because I would like to get really creative with them, but sometimes it it hard for me to think of different ideas."

"Well this week has come with a lot of experimentation for this class. Different writing styles, different way of doing things, different format, just really different overall. Every time we comment on each other’s blogs I always have some sort of new idea or validation for myself. For example, I was worried all week about my storytelling and whether or not it was too long or choppy, but after reading other peoples stories I realize that I am somewhat in sync with everyone else."

"Oh looking at other peoples writing when commenting, it really makes me think wow! What great writers are in this class and if anyone is actually going to pursue this as a profession? Week four here I come!"

"I also really liked reading others' work. Some of the Storytelling posts blew me away with their creativity and also the style of writing. It made me eager to try out some different styles of writing in my own future posts."

.... I could go on and on. But you get the idea.


Credit: Connected Learning Research Network and Digital Media & Learning Research Hub
This Connected Learning Infographic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. You may Share and Adapt it, but you must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Connected Learning Infographic

Thanks to Karen LaBonte, I learned about this amazing infographic about Connected Learning (see full image at bottom of post). I find it wonderful but overwhelming, so I decided to break it up into piece that I can cope with! These infographic snippets will give me plenty to reflect on in the days to come. :-)

Connected Learning. Equitable, Social, and Participatory. Connected learning is a model of learning that holds out the possibility of reimagining the experience of education in the information age. It draws on the power of today's technology to fuse young people's interests, friendships, and academic achievement through experiences laced with hands-on production, shared purpose, and open networks.

Peer Culture. Connected learning thrives in a socially meaningful and knowledge-rich ecology of ongoing participation, self-expression, and recognition. In their everyday exchanges with peers and friends, young people fluidly contribute, share, and give feedback. Powered with possibilities made available by today's social media, this peer culture can produce learning that's engaging and powerful.
Openly Networked. Connected learning environments link learning in school, home, and community, because learners achieve best when their learning is reinforced and supported in multiple settings. Online platforms can make learning resources abundant, accessible, and visible across all learner settings.

Academic. Connected learning recognizes the importance of academic success for intellectual growth and as an avenue towards economic and political opportunity. When academic studies and institutions draw from and connect to young people's peer culture, communities, and interest-driven pursuits, learners flourish and realize their true potential.

Active Relevant Real-World Effective Hands-On
Networked Innovative Personal Transformative

Shared Purpose. Today's social media and web-based communities provide unprecedented opportunities for caring adults, teachers, parents, learners, and their peers to share interests and contribute to a common purpose. The potential of cross-generational learning and connection unfolds when centered on common goals.

Interests. Interests foster the drive to gain knowledge and expertise. Research has repeatedly shown that when the topic is personally interesting and relevant, learners achieve much higher-order learning outcomes. Connected learning views interests and passions that are developed in a social context as essential elements.

Production-Centered. Connected learning prizes the learning that comes from actively producing, creating, experimenting, and designing, because it promotes skills and dispositions for lifelong learning, and for making meaningful contributions to today's rapidly changing work and social conditions.

Collaborate Share Empowered Supported Space

Knowledge Achieve Recognition
Cross-Generational Expertise Diverse Mobilize 

Credit: Connected Learning Research Network and Digital Media & Learning Research Hub
This Connected Learning Infographic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. You may Share and Adapt it, but you must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.

Connected Reading: Culture and Tools

I just finished posting a note at Anatomy of an Online Course about the Google Form I am using to gather student feedback about the UnTextbook. That process is going great, but I thought I would say something here for Connected Courses about the need for more/better ways to create social reading experiences. As often with education, it's a question both of culture and technology — and probably much more a question of culture! People are just used to reading privately, even if that culture of private reading was technologically determined by the limited writing technologies at our disposal. For the most part, people read in silence, in physical isolation from one another, consuming an individual copy of a text that is likewise physically separated from all other copies of the text.

Technology, of course, is now poised to change that all of that, but we need to imagine that change; we need a vision of what this new kind of reading will be like. I was thinking about that as I created my weekly UnTextbook report, gathering up the ratings and the feedback that my students provided about what they read. They provided that feedback via a tool (Google Form) that is completely separate from the reading tool (Blogger), and it was up to me, the Queen of Kludge, to make these two tools work in tandem — awkwardly, but good enough for my purposes. There are some rating and feedback options in Blogger, but they are very primitive and are definitely not good for aggregating the ratings and feedback over time, which is what I need to do.

But here's the thing: ratings and feedback are the easy part, a problem we should be able to solve more or less easily — and as Amazon and Netflix have shown, there are big advantages to gathering ratings and feedback. The real question is this: what will it mean to share reading experiences in the future? That is a question I am so curious about, and I am hoping to meet people here at Connected Courses who are working on social reading experiences and the tools that can support them. That is something I would very much like to learn more about!