Wednesday, December 30, 2015

FERPA doesn't mean we can't have a social LMS

Update: Be sure to see Jared Stein's comments on the post that started this convo, and KUDOS to Instructure for being the kind of company that participates in public discussions. That is something I do think is awesome!

* * *

Okay, I'm going to set a 15-minute timer on this one because writing up ideas on how to improve an LMS is not my favorite thing to do, but I feel obliged to respond to Matt's invocation of FERPA as a reason why the Canvas notifications have to be so terrible.

Ironically, just this week Jim Groom wrote something about The Schizophrenia of Outsourcing EdTech (and "all the energy expended conjuring the evil spirits of FERPA to prevent anything interesting from happening on campus when it comes to edtech and the web"), and he's written about it before, years ago in fact: You can't spell FERPA without FEAR.  I did a stint working for my campus IT, so I know something about FERPA, and I also know that compliance with FERPA is not the reason why we can't have nice things in online learning.

Keeping in mind institutional constraints (FERPA being one, and there are others of course), plus instructor agency and student agency, it seems to me quite possible to design a flexible system for social notifications that would be customizable to fit any situation, while trying to maximize the usefulness within those parameters. Here are some quick thoughts (and yes, the clock is ticking...):

1. The institution needs to be able to constrain whether students can or cannot use multiple email addresses. Within that constraint, the instructor might have a preference about that also. If there are not institutional or instructor constraints, students should be able to choose from different email options (school address only, school address plus another address, multiple other addresses, etc.). [Strangely enough at my school, students can use an alternate address in the SIS but not in the LMS... go figure!]

2. Again, within institutional and instructor constraints, students should be able to choose additional notification channels, such as SMS and Twitter, etc. They should be able to turn channels on and off, and configure the channels for different granularity (i.e. notification if new post to discussion board, notification if new reply to me at discussion board, etc. etc.).

3. Again, within institutional and instructor constraints, students should be able to choose a display name within the system (which might be their real name, or a nickname, or it might be a pseudonym) and, if there are communications going outside the system which will contain their name, they should be able to choose a display name for external communications (which, again, might be a nickname, or pseudonym). If they want; my guess is most students will opt for same internal and external. And most students will opt for real name (or real nickname). But that should definitely be their choice.

4. Again, within institutional and instructor constraints, students should be able to choose a display avatar for within the system (which might be a personal photo or some other graphic image) and, if there are communications going outside the system which will display the avatar, they should be able to choose a different avatar for external communcations. If they want; my guess is most students will opt for same internal and external. As for using a personal photo or not, with my students most seem to prefer a personal photo but lots choose some other image (as I do, just to make sure they realize that not using a personal photo is a perfectly fine option at least in my classes).

5. Insofar as there are going to be external communications, they should be as useful as possible, containing designated name and designated avatar of the contributor, as much of the content as is practical, with a link that goes directly to that item in the system (not just to the top of that discussion board). The option to reply via the channel used would be a big plus!

6. Notifications should be mirrored internally when there are external communications (go to a page with all notifications, much like at Twitter, G+ etc.), and when there are (for institutional or instructor constraints) no external communications, that internal notifications page is even more essential.

Okay, time's up. That is my 15-minute contribution to the world of Canvas today. For other thoughts (esp. about the static profile pages), see the post that started this discussion: Thoughts about Choosing, Change, and the 800-Pound LMS Gorilla.

We need to learn to look at things from different angles. Otherwise, we are going to continue to have LMSes that everybody uses ... but which are far less useful than they could be.

Learn to look at things from different angles.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Harkness Tables: Face to Face Net-Working

I kept thinking about Aras's sociograms from the hangout today, and I realized that I had seen something similar, but done manually, for face-to-face classes: it's something called a Harkness table. So I'm writing this up to share with Aras in case it is new to him, and also just to share because it is pretty cool. I don't teach in a classroom anymore, but I think this would be a great experiment.

I learned about this because a friend of mine from graduate school, Julie Anderson, teaches at a school that uses Harkness tables, and she was in a video about that; it's from an Edutopia profile of the school: Collaborative Learning Leads to Student Success. Julie starts talking about the meaning of the Harkness table around 3:50 into the video:

Here's what one of the charts that shows the interactions around the table. It's a "discussion tracker," and there is more information about that here: Collaborative Learning Resources. One of the students has the task of making the map as their contribution to the discussion:

Isn't that cool? There is a Wikipedia article about Harkness tables too!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Thoughts about Choosing, Change, and the 800-Pound LMS Gorilla

Matt just shared some more detailed reflections about this dual layer approach in #HumanMOOC where the LMS is an instructivist model as opposed to the more constructivist or connectivist model outside the LMS. You can see his post here: Every Choice is Awesome. Every Path is Cool When You’re in #HumanMOOC

I understand the abstract idea, and I am certainly an advocate of choice as a good design principle, but it seems to me that this "duality" is really a false choice, given the way the LMS component of the class is set up. If the instructivist pathway consisted of people just consuming content and taking quizzes, then sure, having that happen in the LMS would probably a good choice (I balk at using the word awesome for that type of learning... but whatever: cuique suum). If students are not creating anything to share but are just consuming content and being tested, the Internet at large is not losing out when that activity takes place inside an LMS silo, and the students likewise are not missing out on anything since all the content they need and the follow-up quiz questions are accessible there in the LMS.

But it's clear from the way Canvas is being used in #HumanMOOC that the "stream" pathway is not just based on students consuming content and being tested. People inside the LMS are being asked to create content and share it inside the LMS. There is also a sense that there could be discussion since "discussion boards" are the tool being used. There are no quizzes.

And that is what has me puzzled: I do not understand how it can be a good thing to encourage learners to engage in social learning activities (creating and sharing, discussing) inside a space that hampers connections between learners rather than energetically fostering them. By trying to engage in connectivist activities inside a silo that is not very social, it seems to me there are real losses as a result: there is a loss of connection among the learners (because of the clunkiness of Canvas when it comes to constructivist and connectivist learning; see below) and also a loss to the larger learning community of the class when there are creating and sharing activities that are walled off from one another.

If a course is going to be more than consuming content and taking quizzes (as it is), then the environment really does matter; there is no neutral space (as Matt acknowledges), and not all environments are awesome. Here are just a few ways in which it seems to me that Canvas fails to provide a less-than-awesome environment for creating, sharing, and discussing:

1. There is no person-centered stream. What I mean by that is there is no way to see each learner's contributions in the context of that person's larger learning (as happens in a blog or portfolio). When I click to go to the Profile page at Canvas, it is a static page; I do not see people's contributions being reflected there, not even by way of links. This is really surprising to me: the raw data is there in Canvas; it would not be rocket science to make the profile page dynamic so that in addition to learner work showing up in discussion forums, it could also show up in the Profile. That would benefit the learners themselves, giving them a chance to see their work over the duration of the course (which might or might not be instructivism; I'm not sure how self-reflection fits in there), and it would also benefit other learners in their efforts to learn one from another (as the use of the discussion board at least implies).

2. The discussion boards are poorly designed. By now, you'd think the LMS designers would have figured out some of the features that really make discussion boards useful: being able to filter the board based on number of replies (so that I could focus on replying to the folks who don't have replies yet), being able to see the board posts ordered at random in addition to date-based presentation (randomization is a great way to surface content, especially in a busy board), etc. I always feel so badly about discussion board posts without replies. Blog posts without replies are fine (you can write a blog as much for yourself as for others)... but a discussion board where many or even most contributions go by without replies? Ouch. It hurts. It's called a "discussion" board for a reason, right?

3. The notifications are very poor. If you do want people to return repeatedly to the closed environment of the LMS, you need really excellent notifications to let them know why they need to go back in there. Yet the notification options in Canvas are surprisingly primitive, not really letting you know what you are being notified about. Ideally, you would know specifically when someone replied to you (as opposed to all the replies at a discussion board), or, even better, a set of mention-triggered notifications like at Twitter and other social networks. I get email and Twitter DM notifications from Canvas, but I end up ignoring them because they do not tell me what I really need to know in order to choose (i.e. choose based on real information) whether I want/need to leave the Internet where I spend my time to go into the walled space.

I could go on... but you get the idea.

So, like I said, I'm sure Canvas would be great for a truly instructivist model where learners just consume content and take quizzes as presented by the instructor, oblivious to other learners. If, however, the supposedly instructivist pathway in #HumanMOOC involves students creating, sharing, and discussing (as it does), then it seems to me that Canvas suffers from serious limitations that inherently limit what can happen there. For consume-and-quiz courses, no problem, but #HumanMOOC aspires to more than that, both in the "stream" and in the "garden" pathway.

Thus, rather than a truly instructivist stream versus a connectivist or constructivist garden, it seems to me that the dual design here is an opposition we have all seen before, not "stream" versus "garden" but instead garden v. garden: the walled garden inside the LMS and the many different kinds of gardens that can grow outside those walls. And for a really stimulating and in-depth discussion about what we lose by trying to build any kind of garden inside the LMS, I'll defer to Brian Lamb and Jim Groom: Reclaiming Innovation.

The problem of the LMS is a huge question, admittedly, and one that people are maybe even tired of discussing... but I think we need to keep on discussing it at every opportunity; otherwise, the LMSes will win out by sheer inertia since they are the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the digital room. So, if people have not read Brian and Jim's Educause piece from 2014, take a look if you have a chance: it still rings true now in 2015-going-into-2016!

Just speaking for myself, I am hoping that 2016 might surprise us all by being a year of real change and innovation... maybe... maybe... :-)

But at the same time, I keep in mind this lightbulb joke which a History professor at my school told me during my first week on the faculty, way back in 1999. And this, too, still rings true all these years later:

Update: I just got my email notification for today from Canvas, and I'm including a screenshot here. Especially for "HumanMOOC," this is such a letdown: there are no avatars, no names, no nothing to let me know just who the "humans" are who were active in the Canvas space. The data is in the Canvas database, and it's not complicated data; I'm baffled that Canvas thinks it is not worthwhile to share that with users in truly useful notifications. From other interactions, I know that "" is Andy Nobes... but surely it would be possible for Canvas to use the name and include an avatar...?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Twitter Bootcamp: Resource for #HumanMOOC

The Week 2 topic for #HumanMOOC is social presence and community building. There's been some great social present via the #HumanMOOC hashtag at Twitter, so I wanted to offer as a resource to share for Week 2 the TWITTER BOOTCAMP that I am working on right now for a January Academic Technology Expo at my school. I hope the materials and activities can be useful to people who have never used Twitter before and even for people who use it a lot. I use Twitter a lot, and I am also learning new things all the time from other users.

So... if you have never used Twitter or have a dormant Twitter account, you might find the Bootcamp useful in developing a fun and productive Twitter presence in conjunction with #HumanMOOC. The materials go step by step, starting with the basics of Twitter (Stage 1 and Stage 2), some recommended tools and add-ons (Stage 3), and then a Twitter project — building a Twitter widget for your LMS or blog (Stage 4). You can contact me with any questions you have (@OnlineCrsLady), and you can also ask your #HumanMOOC Twitter Buddies (see below for more information about that Twitter list).

And... if you are a regular user of Twitter, you might find some new tips and tools in the Bootcamp materials. Even better, you could help me out by sharing YOUR favorite tips and tools, the key ingredients that have made Twitter a useful social learning space for you. Please comment anywhere with your input — the Bootcamp takes the form of a blog so you can comment on the posts there, or you can comment at this blog post, or at Twitter!

#OUTechExpo AND #HumanMOOC. The materials have a University-of-Oklahoma focus (that's where I work), and they are designed for our Technology Expo in January, so that's the #OUTechExpo hashtag that you will see mentioned.  Yet I am sure we could make good use of these materials for #HumanMOOC also — just jiggle the instructions in your mind, substituting #HumanMOOC for #OUTechExpo.

WILL YOU BE A BUDDY? If you are already using Twitter, you could help others in #HumanMOOC to get started in using Twitter and building their personal learning network. I'm making a list of Twitter Buddies for #HumanMOOC, and if you would like me to add your name to that list, that would be super! Being a "Twitter buddy" should not be much work; it's really just about being willing to follow people while they are getting started, replying to their tweets, sharing ideas, and answering questions. You can see the growing list of HumanMOOC Twitter Buddies below.

And THANKS in advance for any feedback people might have about the Bootcamp materials. All 40 posts are done, more or less (I just finished a couple of days ago on the first drafts for them all), and I am working hard on polishing them in time for my school's Expo in January. Some of the posts are in pretty good shape, and some still have gaps. Let me know if there is anything at all that is not clear or not working, and I'll try to be quick to fix it!

Meanwhile, I use Twitter every day and it's an invaluable tool for my own learning and also for my teaching. I hope it's something that can be useful for you too!

(see full-sized graphic at TeachThought)

BUDDIES WIDGET. Below is a widget with the #HumanMOOC Twitter Buddies list. The widget shows their most recent tweets; here is the Members list. Want to be a Twitter Buddy? Just let me know (@OnlineCrsLady).

Notice that this list is not just people's #HumanMOOC tweets; instead, the widget displays all their tweets (except for replies). That way you can see how people are using Twitter not just for the course experience, but in other ways too!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Cuique Suum: Responsibility, Diversity, Motivation ... all in two little words

Matt Crosslin left some really detailed comments on an earlier post that I need to ponder before responding because they are about pedagogical theory and such, not the stuff I usually write about so I will have to time some time to respond. But there was a final comment he made about the Latin cuique suum, and I am really glad he brought up. Since that proverb is a personal motto for me, one that I invoke often (as I did in the blog post to which Matt was responding), it's about time that I wrote up something about it. I've meant to do this for literally years, and Matt has finally given me a perfect occasion: thank you, Matt! I'm not sure this will be of interest to Matt in all its extravagant detail, but it's something I have wanted/needed to do for ages.

CUIQUE SUUM, a saying expressed in just two little words, is actually a powerful cultural lens we can use to look at the concept of individualism and the different ways that individualism plays out in different contexts.

Plus, I should note that this is also very relevant for the current tidal wave of hype sweeping through the ed-tech world: personalization. So, if you would like to add some Latin to your rhetorical resources for talking about personalization, read on!

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Back to Matt's comment — here's what he said: A better translation of suum cuique is "may all get their due" - often used by enforcement divisions in a punishment mindset. 

Matt is not right about mistranslation because the translation is unambiguous (see below), but there is a wide range of interpretation and context, as often the case with proverbs, especially syncopated ones like this. What's really cool is that from ancient times up through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, many people restated the Latin proverb in a fuller form in order to emphasize their own interpretation. That reformulation strategy is itself another example of the "cuique suum" phenomenon, which makes for a very cool meta-moment: each person gives their own interpretation of "to each his own." Matt's interpretation falls into what I would call the "retributive" type, but there are other important types of interpretation. In this post, I'll explain the literal translation and then survey the different general interpretations you can find in Latin.

TRANSLATION. So, the literal translation is very simple: "to each, his own," or "to each, her own," or "to each, their own" — for this particular pronoun, the Latin does not make any gender or number distinction:
suum: own (thing - neuter singular)
cuique: to each

There's no verb in that statement, which is common in Latin proverbs. Latin is a synthetic language, with lots of meaning synthesized into an individual word; it has "more morphemes per word" as it were. So, you can tell that "cuique" is the indirect object of a verb even though there is no verb, and that means the verb can be left out while the sentence is still complete in a grammatical sense. English, on the other hand, is an "analytic" language (and it has become more and more analytic over time), which means that contextual elements like word order are essential to understanding the meaning and function of words in a statement. (This is a really fascinating topic if you want to learn more at Wikipedia: synthetic languages and analytic languages.)

So, cuique suum is a very elegant example of Latin synthesis. That statement can stand on its own grammatically, and it even conveys a powerful meaning on its own, but that meaning is not highly specified. As a result, people might feel compelled to make the statement more specific by adding words. Every single variation on the proverb has its own charm and its own special purposes (cuique suum once again!), but it is possible to group them into three main types: RETRIBUTIVE (reward and punishment), INDIVIDUAL (each person's special qualities), and PSYCHOLOGICAL (we each like what we like).

RETRIBUTIVE. These retributive interpretations emphasize reward and punishment. You might call it justice, or you might call it karma. Note that in this category, the emphasis can be on how you, the actor, should weigh your actions in light of their consequences, but the emphasis can also be on you, the arbiter, deciding how to weight other people's actions. In these examples, the verbal activity involves giving and getting:

Sua cuique nocet stultitia. Each person's foolishness does him harm.

Sui cuique mores fingunt fortunam. Each person's habits are what make his luck. [I really like this one, as it is a protest against "good luck" or "bad luck" that instead puts the responsibility on a person's own actions.]

Unicuique iuxta opera sua. To every single person according to their works. [The word unicuique is a compound: uni-cuique.]

Suum cuique tribue. Give to each his own.

Ius suum unicuique tribue. Give their right due to every single person.

Suum cuique reddere decet. It is fitting to give back to each person their own.

Redde cuique quod suum est. Give back to each what is his.

Redde unicuique secundum vias suas. Give back to every single person according to their ways.

Deus reddet unicuique secundum opera eius. God will give back to every single person according to his works. [In the holiday season right now, Santa Claus is the one who is carrying out that retributive role!]

INDIVIDUAL. In other cases, cuique suum is more about each person having their own distinct qualities, rather than karmic rewards and punishments. It means that each person has their own distinctive qualities, which are not the same as the qualities of others. In these examples, the verbal activity involves being and existing:

Gloria cuique sua. Each person has their own renown. [One of the most common implications of the Latin dative is possession: for something to be cuique means someone "has" something.]

Sua cuique utilitas. Each person has their own usefulness.

Suus cuique genti mos. Each nation has its own custom. [This is a great one: not just individual diversity, but cultural diversity!]

Sua cuique sunt vitia. Each person has their own faults. [Note the emphasis on the plural: not just fault... but faults — plural. In a moralizing context, this could also be translated "vices" in English.]

Sua cuique hora. Each person has their own moment.

Stat sua cuique dies. There is for each person their own day. [Compare the English proverb, "Every dog has its day."]

Est locus unuscuique suus. Every single person has their own place.

Sors est sua cuique ferenda. Each person must endure his own fate. [The Latin word "sors," or "fate," can also be translated as "lot," as in your "lot in life, allotment" — and it is the origin of the common English word "sort." Note also how this interpretation about fate stands in direct opposition to the one above about individual responsibility rather than luck: the same cuique suum can be interpreted in outright opposite ways.]

PSYCHOLOGICAL. Finally, there is what we might call a psychological or even solipsistic inflection, where the emphasis is how each person sees the world through their own lens, different from how others experience the world. This is the more subtle and provocative interpretation in my opinion, and it is also the one that really informs my practice as a teacher. When we are talking about intrinsic motivation, we are talking about this variety of cuique suum. In these examples, the verbal activity involves cherishing and enjoying:

Cuique suum studium. Each person has their own passion.

Sua cuique voluptas. Each person has their own pleasure.

Suum cuique placet. Each person likes their own.

Suum cuique pulchrum. To each their own is beautiful.

Suum cuique pulchrum videtur. To each their own seems beautiful.

Sua cuique res est carissima. Each person's thing is the dearest to them.

Unicuique delectabile est quod amat. For every single person what they love is delightful.

Meum mihi, suum cuique carum. Mine is dear to me, each's own is dear to them.

Sua cuique cara patria. To each person, their fatherland is dear.

Patria sua cuique iucundissima. Each person's fatherland is most agreeable.

Patria est ubi bene sit cuique. Each person's fatherland is where it is good for him. [That's a cosmopolitan one; the idea is that your homeland is not necessarily where you were born, but where you thrive.]

Est avi cuique nidus formosus ubique. For each bird everywhere, their nest is beautiful. [That one has internal rhyme, cuique-ubique; the Romans did not like rhyme, but medieval Latin speakers loved rhyme and it's a hallmark of medieval Latin proverbs.]

Diversis diversa placent; sua cuique voluntas. Different things please different people; each person has their own impulse. [Compare the American saying, "Different strokes for different folks."]

This can take on a sharply satirical sting, as in these two hilarious inflections which point out that what is our own may not be so sweet to others:

Suus cuique crepitus bene olet. To each person, his own fart smells nice.

Stercus cuique suum bene olet. To each person, his own shit smells nice.

~ ~ ~

This post, of course, is a great example of solipsistic passion. I love Latin proverbs — well, I love all proverbs, but Latin proverbs are the ones I collect and study. It's my studium, my passion.

At the same time, I know that not everyone shares this passion... and that's okay too, as the proverb tells us.

So, in those two little words — cuique suum — Latin manages to encapsulate a lot of things that I believe: our acts have consequences, we are each going to act in our different ways based on our different preferences, and those preferences may be laudable or laughable; it's all a matter of perspective.

So, when I invoke "cuique suum" (as I often do), I'm trying to invoke all of those ideas at once. I'm very glad that the Romans rolled them up very nicely in two little words that are so quick to type and so worthy pondering. Or, at least, I like to ponder them. Cuique suum studium. :-)

Here are some of the illustrations I've made for cuique suum over the years:

(All the images above come from my Proverb Laboratory.)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Presence: Bring Your Creativity to Class

The discussions going on during Week 1 of #HumanMOOC were really stimulating for me; the idea of presence is one that I think about a lot since I teach fully online classes. What I'd like to share in this post is the way that CREATIVITY can create a strong presence, as strong as or even stronger than a video presence. When I share something with the class that I have made, I am sharing a part of "myself," something produced by my imagination and thus something uniquely my own, something that is "me" — not literally me, but intrinsically me!

Even better, when I share with the class something that I have created, that paves the way for what is the most important part of my classes: the creative work that the students share with the class, establishing their own "creative presence" in the class so that we are call co-creators. (That is very much a focus of my classes, where students are blogging, writing stories, making memes, etc.)

I was thinking about this evening as I updated my "Growth Mindset Cats" widget, adding to the widget the cats I created in November and December. You can see that whole project at the Growth Mindset Memes website, and you can see the widget here; it displays a growth mindset cat at random, and there are over 100 of them now since I have been making them pretty steadily since back in June. If you are looking at this via the blog hub, the widget may or may not be functioning, so I've also pasted in one of my favorite cats below.

If you'd like to use that widget in your own blog or website, it works wherever javascript is accepted, and you can get the script here. There's a 400-pixel wide version which is good for a blog post as you can see here, and I've also got a 200-pixel wide version which works nicely in a blog sidebar.

The tool I used to make the script is, and it was built by a fabulous student whom I met my very first semester of teaching: Randy Hoyt, now a game designers (talk about creative presence!). The way RotateContent works is that you create an HTML table with the content you want to randomize, and RotateContent turns the table into a javascript. No coding required!

And, since these cats have a growth mindset, they are in touch with their creative side, as you can see here. This cat is a great example of collaboration, in fact, because the words I used to create the cat meme came from a student's blog: one act of creativity leads to another!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

HumanMOOC: Learners are Free

So, the more I look at the dichotomy behind the dual-layer MOOC, the more puzzling (and offputting) I find it. Here's a quote from a post I found at EduGeek Journal that explains the idea in detail (there is no author byline, so I am not sure who wrote it): Words That Don’t Work: Courses as Neutral ZonesApparently, the idea behind the "stream" is that the stream is totally controlled by the instructor: "When a learner can look at two pathways, one that is controlled by the instructor and one that is controlled by themselves, they have to make a conscious choice between two different power dynamics. They may not be able to understand the nuances of instructivism and connectivism, but they can understand enough to choose between following the instructor’s prescribed pathway and creating their own pathway."

I am no doubt one of those people who doesn't understand the "nuances" of instructivism and connectivism ... but I can see that this design model assumes there are times when learners give up their natural freedom and cede it all to the instructor. And to that, I say: ouch. As I explained in a tweet in a convo about this topic yesterday: The space to make choices exists because LEARNERS ARE FREE, not because you "give" them space to choose.

Stream or garden, whatever metaphor you want and whatever course design you use, learners are free agents. They are going to do what they do because they choose to do so, not because you "tell" them to. And just like in life, all choices have consequences (a.k.a. karma). Some of those choices may play out in the design of the course (i.e. grading, if the course has grades), but the more important consequences of the choices play out in the learners' lives. Are they missing out on something that would be really valuable to them later? Or just choosing not to jump through a hoop for a grade? It's all choices all the time, and to create a model that seems to assume it's good for students to give up that freedom of choice at any time for any reason does not fit with my teaching philosophy. But cuique suum, to each his own. After reading the EduGeek article, I can see why the Canvas course is meant to be impervious to the outside, with a strictly top-down, instructor-driven design.

But setting aside the content side of the course, here's what makes me really sad about the Canvas space: the students' Profile Pages are not a way to see what people are doing and learning inside this "stream" experience. In the year 2015, I would have expected that Instructure had learned something from Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, etc. about creating dynamic content on those Profile Pages, showing all our contributions to the class across the different course areas, but zip zero nada. How can students get to know each other if when they click there is nothing but a few static links on the other person's Profile? How can they follow each other and be learning buddies together in a course? I want to go find people and see their contributions, and then go join in discussions with them, but those Canvas Profile pages don't show what people are doing in the course ... much less letting students design their own Profile pages with a look/feel that reflects the identity they want to create and share online.

So, I have to ask: where is my "student presence" at Canvas? It's definitely not being shared there on the Profile page, which means I cannot effectively connect with other students, not in a really useful way so that I am learning from others right there on the Profile page. As a result, I prefer not to participate in Canvas... but when I choose not to participate in the Canvas class, that choice does have consequences, and they are not good consequences: if the goal of a class is for people to learn and then share what they learn (and that, at least, is always my goal), by walling things off separately, we are losing out on many possible opportunities to be learning from each other. And, as I said: ouch.

Just based on the garden/stream metaphor, I had thought the dual-layer MOOC had more to do with Mike Caulfield's vision of both gardens and streams as highly dynamic spaces — The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral — with the stream being a user-centered series of events: "the Stream replaces topology with serialization. Rather than imagine a timeless world of connection and multiple paths, the Stream presents us with a single, time ordered path with our experience (and only our experience) at the center."

But students are definitely not at the center of Canvas, at least not in the so-called "stream" of the HumanMOOC course (maybe there are other design options; I wouldn't know). Mike rightly raises concerns about the strengths and weaknesses of content that takes shape in the context of a person-centered stream, but Canvas has no learner streams; this is NOT the stream of the technopastoral.

Just take a look at the "course stream" in Canvas (that is the label of the link on the course home page). Is there anything even remotely appealing about this? Anything especially human? Nope. It's not even an adequate serialization in Mike's concept of the dynamic stream:

Just labels, no content of any kind. Now, compare that sad screenshot to what the #HumanMOOC stream looks like at Twitter. I think you can see why I can learn much more there at Twitter ... and I'm here to learn, and share what I learn. When I retweet, I spread the learning through the network... including my own PLN beyond the MOOC. To me, that's where the power lies: multiply the learning, hoping it will go far. In Canvas, alas, there seems to be nowhere for the learning to go.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ritchie's Self-Efficacy: Chapter 2

As I explained in an earlier post, one of my projects for winter break is writing up a review of Laura Ritchie's new self-efficacy book: Fostering Self-Efficacy in Higher Education Students.

Moving on to Chapter 2! (Here's Chapter 1.) My comments are in italics.

Chapter 2: Whole Students

Microcosm: such a great metaphor! "Each student brings his or her own unique dynamic to a situation, with a microcosm of personal attributes, beliefs, and experiences the teacher may never see."

Privacy AND empathy: both important! "Allowing for individuals certainly does not mean probing students' personal lives to understand their perspectives. However, it is important to acknowledge that the student's decisions, thinking, motivation, and achievements are based on a multifaceted web of self-beliefs."

I really like how self-efficacy zooms in on specific tasks; mindset is more global. "Self-efficacy beliefs are, by definition, specific to a named task. [...] Moreover, these beliefs are malleable."

Self-efficacy and 'the self'

More on task-specificity: "A person's understanding of his or her value as an individual is separate from the self-efficacy beliefs based on capabilities to carry out named tasks. [...] A student's overall self-concept is a global trait and, as such, is less relevant to any specific teaching context."

The self-efficacy question: "How confident am I that I can do this?"

Ask yourself: How confident am I that I can do this?

Research into self-efficacy

Bandura's early self-efficacy work was in psychotherapy, overcoming fear of snakes; I really like that since I see fear as the most negative emotion students face: "Each person had a unique and personal belief about their capabilities to do the different tasks based on self-judgments made at that point in time."

The task-specificity makes this hard to research: "A generalized study tends to miss the mark and measure self-concept or a more generalized view rather than the very specific self-efficacy beliefs."

Sources and influences

Snapshots is a great metaphor for the specificity: "Looking at self-efficacy beliefs is like viewing snapshots of people's self-judgment of their confidence in capabilities at that moment."

Mastery experiences

This is the key element: "The most meaningful and lasting way to impact self-efficacy beliefs is through personal experiences. When someone takes on a task and completes it, they achieve what is called a mastery experience. [...] Each task, whether micro or macro, can represent a mastery experience."

Vicarious experiences

Vicarious experiences are HUGE for my classes (seeing other students' writing, blogs, websites): "A learner has a vicarious experience when observing others accomplish tasks."

I can do it too!

It's powerful: "Vicarious learning can be effective when introducing completely new material or when rebuilding students are less than successful experiences. [...] Watching others can communicate a sense that the task is possible."

Observe others: the task is possible!

Verbal persuasion and feedback

Like vicarious experience, this dimension is less powerful than mastery: "A mastery experience will supersede both observations and what other people say in encouragement. Verbal persuasion alone is not an effective way to form or influence self-efficacy beliefs, and the effects of verbal feedback tend to be temporary."

Very much growth mindset here: "Learning and feedback that treat ability as an acquirable skill use self-comparisons [...] and focus on the self and achieved progress has been recommended for building self-efficacy."

Physical signals

Lots of interesting stuff here, but not as relevant to me... and reassuringly: "This is the least influential factor on a person's self-efficacy beliefs."

Impacts and implications

More mindset talk here: "People who have high levels of self-efficacy also tend to exhibit a range of positive qualities. They are more likely to choose more challenging tasks, undertake strategic thinking, work harder, exhibit resilience, and attain higher outcomes. [...] Failure is less of a deterrent, and they use resources creatively and seek possible solutions before giving up. Overall they persist longer and achieve more."

I'm ready for a challenge.

I'm confident that I can go high.

Ability or capability

More mindset (esp. relevant to feedback): "It is possible to break through the mindset that someone can't learn by demonstrating to them that they have already learned."

Some students need that more than others: "The processes of reflecting and reassessing help self-efficacious people to take on more challenging tasks with continued confidence; they focus strategically on how to use their skills to achieve success."

Use your skills.

Impact on behavior

It's a cyclical process: "Committing to a goal is partly determined by self-efficacy, and the actions that follow are also sustained by these beleifs and lead to achievements, which are the basis for future judgments about self-efficacy."

Commit to a goal.

Within the learning process

I really like this ideal: "an ideal learning situation where students consciously take responsibility for the processes of monitoring, reflecting, and eventually achieving their potential."

Ponder your potential.

The need for specificity

Learning v. assessment (I am glad my focus is almost entirely on learning): "the need to distinguish self-efficacy for learning and performing in academic settings."

Self-efficacy for learning

Learning v. performing: "Making judgments about self-efficacy for learning requires the student to consider their capabilities for acquiring new skills [...] Self-efficacy for performing involves beliefs about executing a task successfully by using skills that have already been learned."

Consider what you are capable of.

Self-efficacy for performing

Instead of test-taking skills, self-efficacy! "Everyday materials and activities can help teachers shape students' practical understanding of how self-efficacy for performing beliefs can influence and impact achievement."

In the classroom

This reminds me of the "teaching writers" graphic! "The difference between a young violinist and a student in a lecture is that the violinist is viewed as a young performer from the outset, from first playing 'Twinkle Twinkle,' whereas the student sitting in the third row back might only be thought of as a student who is in the class for the semester."

Here is that Teaching Writers graphic:

So little time in the classroom! "The influences that build self-efficacy beliefs are in themselves simple, and to be effective, experience with them needs to be frequent, merited, and reinforced. This can be a challenge in a teaching setting when time and contact with students is limited."

Teaching self-efficacy for learning

It's not hard! "How often do teachers actually tell students that they believe they will succeed? This affirmation is important as a beginning point."

Focus on skills is also welcome! "Assignments do not need to be easy; however, the students need to either have a budding awareness of the necessary skills and methods, or understand how to source the skills they need."

Also: self-reflection. "Self-efficacy for learning can be developed through methods that encourage the student to observe their processes."

Self-awareness! "Teachers can iterate goals to students in a way that helps them to break down the ongoing process of learning and acknowledge that efficient use of time and capabilities is an achievement just like any other task."

Teaching self-efficacy for performing

Good points about how performance is a task of its own, with associated self-efficacy beliefs: "The skill of delivering information in this way, of 'performing' that task, may not have entered into the taught content of the course."

Performance without assessment — all writing can be considered performance (esp. when it's not about taught content): "Essay writing is perhaps the easiest to integrate as an assignment that has the scope for making students active participants in the reflection process." 

HumanMOOC Week 1: Instructor Presence

* Combined post for Week 1, Activity 1 (create intro presence) and Activity 2 (reflect), plus Activity 3 (learn a new tool) *

I just created something fun for my "Instructor Presence" activity; instead of doing an animated gif from a video (which was one of the options I saw in the Assignment Bank), I made an animated gif from some images, spelling out a message letter by letter. I've set it to just run once here so it doesn't drive people crazy; you can see the infinite looping version at the bottom of the page.

And no, that cat is not "me" and no, I have not created an instructor video. I take a different approach to the idea of "instructor presence" in my classes: my goal is not so much for the students to try to get to know me, the person, as a person; instead, my goal is to convey to them in every way how I can be their guide and helper on their learning adventure ... which might include making an animated GIF. :-)

I hope that the journey can be both fun and challenging, and as a result I hope that the students will like what they are doing and, therefore, like me too. But you know, it's actually okay if they don't like me as a person; the only thing that really matters is that they should like what they are doing in the class. So, if my admittedly weird and quirky personality is not what a student is looking for in an instructor, that's okay: I want to show the student at every step that I can still be a good helper in their learning journey even if I am not the instructor they expected.

And the same is true for me as a teacher in relation to the students: as a general rule, I have lots of positive affection for my students; I like them a lot. But if there are students who, for whatever reason, I do not really click with personally, that's okay too. I have to believe that I can still be a good teacher for every student. In fact, we would probably be in serious trouble if we all had to like each other personally for a class to succeed!

So, my goal is not so much about me-the-person and, even more precarious, about the students liking me. Instead, my focus is on what we can DO together as a class, and how we can help each other to learn new things and share them with each other to increase the learning. That's why, for my "instructor presence" activity here, I wanted to make a "hi there" cat animated GIF. It's fun and friendly, and it's also practical: when I made the GIF, I wrote out the step by step instructions for how I did that so that any student who wants to make something similar can do that: Animated Letter/Word GIFs. I am guessing quite a few of them will take me up on this challenge! (And there are lots of others to choose from too; this is just the newest one.)

Plus, I enjoyed this myself because I learned something new! Normally I use the GIMP to make animations, but for this purpose I found a super-simple browser-based tool that I could recommend to students. After trying a few, I decided that was the most clean and simple while still offering good configuration options.

Further thoughts about Introductions and "making" in general:

If you take a look at how the Introduction activity happens in my classes,
it doesn't come first in the Orientation week; instead, it comes near the end. First, the students DO things: they start a blog, they learn how to create blog posts with images and links, they tell a story and post it in their blog. And then... after all that doing and making, they write up an Introduction blog post, and I write up an Introduction post too in exactly the same way, using the same instructions as the students do.

Personally, I think that makes for a better Introduction than a talking head in a video. By sharing something like this with the students, it lets them know that I have an interest in words and images, and that I like to use digital tools to work with words and images. Most importantly of all: it shows the students that I really enjoy teaching other people how to use those tools! So, I could tell them those things... but why not show them instead?

It's a good writer's maxim: show, don't tell. :-)

And here again is my show-and-tell, this time on an infinite loop: HI THERE!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Ritchie's Self-Efficacy: Chapter 1

As I explained in an earlier post, one of my projects for winter break is writing up a review of Laura Ritchie's new self-efficacy book: Fostering Self-Efficacy in Higher Education Students.

As it turned out, there was so much good synergy between this book and my growth mindset project that I need to take copious notes! Here's why:

* There's no Kindle version, alas, so I cannot rely on highlight and search.
* There is so much good stuff here, I can't pick out the best without seeing it all laid out.
* I want to make cats! So I will need the quotes later for cats.

So, this week I'll be posting my highlighted notes chapter by chapter, and then I'll be able to write up a proper review next week. I'd like to put one up at Amazon, GoodReads, etc. The book is expensive (eeek!), so I'd like to provide information in a review that would encourage faculty to get their libraries to order a copy.

To start: the Preface and Chapter 1! My comments are in italics.


Just like with growth mindset, self-efficacy is something of importance for both teachers and students: "Self-efficacy beliefs are at the core of every action that we all, whether teacher or student, undertake."

I'm going to be esp. interested in Chapter 7: "Chapter 7 challenges all of us to continue to develop our self-efficacy through learning, teaching, and professional life."

Also this: "There is no one, single answer that provides a definitive guide for how to foster these beliefs in all situations. Teachers are challenged to be active, demonstrating learning by being learners themselves, and working to allow themselves to be seen by their students as positive examples, not only as teachers but also as learners."

Chapter 1 The teaching environment in higher education

I am really impressed by this performance metaphor: "Academic work, including teaching and assessment, is like a performance that requires preparation and rehearsal."

Critical distinctions: The push and pull of learning

I very much appreciate this warning about tests: I don't want to teach people to pass a writing test... I want to teach them to be writers! "The pattern of instructional teaching, imparting information and testing students on it, can create a culture where people learn to the test, and they also learn for the test. After the test, the students will feel accomplished, and wait for the next test. It can be like a dog that does tricks; it behaves well, but it needs to be led by the trainer. What happens when the trainer is gone? When the student leaves the institution? That halo effect from the leader will dissipate, and what is the student left with?"

Along with the idea of performance, LR emphasizes the idea of mastery: "When students achieve mastery, it must be something that they have done in their own right, with a sense of ownership and belief."

The goal is deep learning: "Deeper learning calls for something to come from the student: an impulse, or creativity of thought."

Deeper learning calls for an impulse from the student.

Image is from cheezburger.

Deeper learning calls for creativity of thought.

Image is from cheezburger.

Environments for learning

I also really like this idea of space, a metaphorical space: "For students to be in a position to engage with these key concepts in their learning, there needs to be space; space for them to respond to an impetus, to question, and to explore.

Students need space to question and to explore.

Image is from cheezburger.

Environments for "performing" assessments

LR compares a pianist's performance to an exam: "Considering academic work as a performance can encourage a shift in perspective. Once something is taken on board as a performance, it makes sense to prepare, and having a structure for building that confidence towards the achievement is likely to produce better results."

Principles of excellence

I really like the idea of open-endedness as a feature of excellence: "Excellence fosters the individual and allows for each to grow and develop their potential, as opposed to becoming a product of a predetermined process.

Excellent teaching

Again the idea of giving students space, room: "In the most stimulating settings, that encourage active, individual engagement, there is room for students to think, contribute to building content, and to have sense of personal agency in their learning."

Teaching excellence to students

Open-endedness, yes, but preparation is crucial too: "The expectation that goes with excellence, that students will create something surprising or of exceptional quality cannot be done without developing the required skills and demonstrating self-assuredness."

Our students

The perils of tests and quizzes: "When aiming for the right answers, some of the freedom, independence, and autonomy that comes with play is not taken, but is schooled out of them."

Passivity: one of the worst aspects of schooling IMO. "This can create a culture where students believe that they can and should be passive while their teachers deliver education to them."

An ideal situation

Oh, it does sound ideal: "In an ideal situation, students would have access to the raw materials that guide them to develop independence and become confident, autonomous thinkers."


Technology emerges in the discussion about facilities; I like looking at facilities in terms of student AGENCY: "By taking responsibility, having purpose, and believing in their actions, students ultimately will be in a position to shape the technologies they use, instead of allowing technology to shape them. Without this outlook, the empowerment of having information at students' fingertips is false, as they are not being empowered to creatively use their own agency."

I shape the technology; it does not shape me.

Image is at cheezburger.

Tailored programmes

Ideas about what I would call growth mindset are starting to emerge here — especially risk-aversion. "Students can be reluctant to engage with what is new if it is perceived to be overly difficult or if it threatens their sense of security."

LR describes Jonathon Worth's interest-driven photography course (I am such a fan of JW!): "The student who wanted to pursue wedding photography would have a different task to someone interested in becoming an archivist, and the photojournalist would have yet another task."

At the same time, a common goal: "With this level of diversity, there needed to be a common goal to unify the students. The photography class as a whole shared a vision that each person's pursuit was an "exit strategy;" their goal went beyond the physical assessment material and related to their lives."

The librarian metaphor suits me so perfectly! "The technologically connected classroom is information-rich, but information and meaning seldom come bundled together. The teacher's role becomes to curate and contextualize this information. Teachers are librarians."

And back to agency again: "When the student experience is at the center of the teaching, they can each personally develop a sense of agency and their capabilities in ways that empower them and reinforces their self-beliefs."

Mutual engagement

Not hierarchical, but mutual: "Fostering students' self-beliefs in their confidence and capabilities is built on an investment and connection with students' journeys as they explore and develop their learning and performing processes through skills, goals, and experiences."

OUTechExpo Twitter Bootcamp... Thinking about #HumanMOOC

So, here's some info about my "Twitter Bootcamp" project for those of you participating in #HumanMOOC. I would be really glad to hear from #HumanMOOC participants about this project (see requests below), and I would also be really happy if this could be a useful resource for anyone in #HumanMOOC who has not been using Twitter who would like to give it a try. The Bootcamp materials are designed with a focus for my school (University of Oklahoma) and our upcoming Academic Tech Expo on January 15 (#OUTechExpo), but just substitute #HumanMOOC where I've got our OU hashtag, and voila: it's a #HumanMOOC Twitter Bootcamp.

I'm putting the materials at the blog we already have for our #OpenTeachingOU chats: Twitter Bootcamp. The Bootcamp consists of four "days" of activities leading up to our Expo on January 15, but the activities can be completed by anyone at any time; there's nothing synchronous about it at all. That's why I'm actually calling it "steps" instead of "day" — I don't want anybody to think they have to wait until January 11, and you can spend as much or as little time on the activities as suits your needs. The references you will see there to January 11-12-13-14 are just as a lead-in to our Tech Expo which takes place on January 15

FOUR STEPS. The idea is to walk people through some Twitter basics (Step 1 is done; I'm working on Step 2 now), then some Twitter tools and add-ons (Step 3... I'd love to learn about other tools people use; still tentative list), and then a Twitter project (Step 4); since we use D2L at my school, the Twitter project I'm going to focus on there is adding a Twitter widget to a D2L course homepage, although Twitter widgets can be adapted to all kinds of other uses (in other LMS, in blogs, websites, etc.).

With BUDDIES! Hopefully, the people publicizing our Expo will be publicizing the Bootcamp also (it's different than anything we've done for the Expo before, since it's totally asynchronous and in the open), and I'm also going to try to run a "Buddy" system too. For the Buddy idea, during the week of January 4, I'm going to contact the serious users of Twitter at my school (there really are not that many), and urge them to find one other person in their workgroup who is not actively using Twitter right now and offer to be their "buddy" while they are doing the Bootcamp activities. Of course, I am going to be a "buddy" to anybody working through the materials also, but I was thinking it would be really good to have a buddy who actually knows you, who shares your specific professional interests, etc.

#HumanMOOC Buddies tooMeanwhile, for #HumanMOOC, I am glad to be a Twitter buddy to anyone who wants to work through these activities during the #HumanMOOC event; since I am spending this winter break at home, not traveling, I'll probably do a good job of keeping up with the #HumanMOOC hashtag at Twitter.

DIIGO. I'm also working on collecting Twitter sources in a Diigo. My use of Diigo is kind of chaotic, but for this I am trying to be super-organized, so I plan to tag everything carefully and add descriptions. You can see what I have collected so far here: Diigo - Twitter.

HELP WANTED. I would really appreciate people's feedback:
* If you are new to Twitter and want to give the Bootcamp activities a try, that would be great; let me know what you think! You can comment on any of the blog posts or tweet me @OnlineCrsLady (or send me an email if you prefer:
* If you are a Twitter pro, let me know what strategies have made Twitter a success for you! I'd also be really grateful for ideas about what tools and add-ons to focus on; I'm not really that adventurous myself, so I'm relying to some extent here on what I see my friends online using successfully; my own use of Twitter is pretty mainstream.
* If you have Twitter resources to recommend that I can add to my Diigo Library, that would be fabulous: if you tweet those with the #HumanMOOC hashtag, that would work. So far I've been doing pretty well at keeping up with #HumanMOOC hashtag.

Okay, now I'm going to get to work on the Step 2 materials: my goal is to finish those today! :-)

Winter Break Projects: Twitter, Self-Efficacy, HEART

I've got three big projects that I am working on during our (brief) winter break, and luckily they are all three related to the #HumanMOOC as well, so I will be using this blog to document those projects and share them out with the HumanMOOCers also. Here are the three projects:

* Twitter Bootcamp. This is something I am doing for the Academic Tech Expo at my school (University of Oklahoma) which takes place on January 15; since I am not there in person for the Expo (I like in NC), I'm creating this pre-Expo asynchronous experience, hoping to bring more people to Twitter and... ideally... foster a Twitter backchannel for the Expo. I'm putting the materials at the existing blog for our #OpenTeachingOU chats, and I'll write some more in a separate post about my hopes for this project... and perhaps the Bootcamp can even be useful to participants in HumanMOOC who would like to learn / learn more about Twitter.
I'll label posts about this project both HumanMOOC and Twitter Bootcamp.

* Laura Ritchie's new book: Self-Efficacy. I'm writing a review of Laura Ritchie's book, and I'm so excited about what I am learning there that I need to take some detailed notes before I write the actual review. I'll be sharing those notes here, and I think they will be of interest to other HumanMOOCers also. Laura is active at Twitter and other social media spaces, so I'm sure we can bring her in to answer questions, share ideas. I just finished the book; now I need to re-read and take notes (no Kindle, alas, so the note-taking is kind of time-consuming).
I'll label those posts both HumanMOOC and Self-Efficacy.

* Learn by HEART. In addition to lots of little changes to my classes for the new semester, I have one BIG change, which is building on the Growth Mindset project from my last semester (such a big success! best new component that I have added to my classes in many years) to add some additional types of challenges for students to do: HEART: Health/Happiness, Empathy, Attention, Reading, and Time. This will still be a work in progress when the semester gets started, but since I am feeling confident about this based on the students' reaction to Growth Mindset, I am not worried about building that with the students' help as the semester goes along.
I'll label those posts both HumanMOOC and Learn by HEART.

Today is the first Monday that I am not "at work" ... and instead just working on projects I am really excited about. School starts officially on January 18, and I am opening my classes one week early as usual on January 11 which is also the day Twitter Bootcamp "starts" (insofar as an asynchronous thing "starts") ... which gives me almost FOUR GLORIOUS WEEKS to work on this stuff.

And since last semester went really well, I don't even need a few days to recover. I had a totally fun weekend... and now I am ready to enjoy the break by learning all kinds of new things. Whoo-hoo!