Using the tools of the web

I am continuing to reflect on my learning within the clmooc environment. The learning curve in clmooc has not been as steep as either MoocMooc or ETMOOC as indicated by my Prezi contribution of a few weeks ago. I’m not feeling guilty anymore because I don’t post on everyone’s contribution, I don’t always do all the work, and I am more forgiving of my mistakes. I used to feel guilty though.  It’s hard to break old ways of thinking and doing.

2013 has been a year of tremendous growth for me. I`m much more comfortable in the socially networked communication environment and more willing to take the risks of creating and sharing. I want to connect and I am willing to make those connections. As George Siemens says “Our connections are now global,” (Thanks Diane Samson for sharing this video.) I don’t think it is because I have removed my super-ego from the equation, but that I realize that much of the negative views I have of my work are my own. So while I am still very critical of what I make, being in this environment gives me the push I need to produce work that is NOT perfect. In this environment it is not expected. And that is so freeing.

I’m more willing to try a variety of tools that the web has to offer now. Since starting clmooc I’ve used Animoto, Prezi, and Infinite Monkeys for the first time, gone back and used Popcorn Maker again (which has already been updated since I used it last! That was only four months ago!), tried my hand at Thimble again (baby steps, baby steps), and attempted to attach my blog RSS, which I have 50/50 chance of doing successfully- who knew this would continue to plague me after all these months! Perhaps it is because I don’t want to create a new blog just for clmooc. But that’s ok too. I’ll get it eventually. And when I get my new computer, I will make a stop action film!

I love learning the new ways of making, but that is because I enjoy the process of learning how to use a tool as much as I love the creation that results from the use of the tool. It melds both my analytical nature of “How does this work?” with my creative side of “What can I make?” And what finer type of learning is there? Thanks clmooc for giving me a summer of makes!

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Maps! I have a lot of maps in my car, stuck into the pockets of the door. Maps of states and provinces, maps of attractions, museums, historic sites, maps of army bases. Some of the maps are in map books, some on the large sheets of paper that you try to fold back into the proper shape after using but never quite succeed. Indeed, in the trunk of the car is a plastic tub with all of the extra maps that we’ve picked up and may need again. In fact, the first thing I do when I move into a new area is buy a map. I have my husband drive me around the area for the first month we move to a new community so I can get the routes into my brain and off the paper. I don’t like GP systems, often because I get lost using them and I don’t have a cellphone either. When I drive, I drive and I really don’t like being distracted.

I’ve moved a lot as my husband’s job requires it. We’ll be moving again this year but this time I’ve moved to the community ahead of time. We’ve moved to a place where we’ve lived before, which means I already know where I am going. I don’t need to rely on a map as much. Not that there isn’t anything new in the community since the last time I’ve lived here. Things do change. So there are still places to explore and see. But there is also a great deal of comfort in coming back to a place that you’re familiar with and to not have to constantly rely on a map for the first few months after moving.

So, because I do know where I am going in this community I’ve made a video and a Google map of my visit to the library. What’s great is I’ve learned to do two new things this week. Splice a video and to use Google maps to trace my movements. Thanks clmooc!

Off to the train for my weekly trip home to Montreal.

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Connected Learning Mooc

So I’ve joined clmooc and I’m a little late to the party. But that’s ok because this is a “participate when you want, where you can, do what you want to do” mooc. A “choose your own adventure” mooc. Similar to Teachtheweb, which I didn’t do as much in as I should have….code avoidance?! Plus I got distracted by a pottery project (that originated from a response to a remix of my introductory web page in Thimble by Margaret Powers in our Mini Maker sub group. How cool it that!  But pottery takes so much longer than writing something online. I’ve made the plates, done the pencil sketches for the designs, decided on the technique (Black slip on greenware, then painted the design on in underglaze, then bisque fired, then colour correct (wouldn’t you know it, Spectrum Bright Orange peeled from the black slip during bisquing!), then it’s back to the kiln for the glaze fire. So I’m waiting for the first to plates to come out of the kiln. Throw in some serious family issues and you’ve got decreased participation in everything. I’m still working through Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence (Coursera) and I have an assignment due on June 25th I’d like to finish for that (it actually was inspiring-imagine that!) Best Coursera course I’ve taken so far (would actually think about enrolling at that school just to hang with the professor!) so I need to keep plugging away at that. Interestingly, students created a Google+ group for that course on our own. You’d think with all the social media tools out there Coursera could make their forum a little more interactive. I’ve been continuing to participate in Open Spokes ( and we need new people if you’d like to join) as well as continuing with the postETMOOC reading blog. This month, we’ve been looking at Hybrid Pedagogy. If you  haven’t had a look at the site, it’s got some great stuff on it. They really want to get the K-12 set contributing to their thinking, so think of stepping up to the plate.


I’d like to thank Sheri Edwards (as usual- a most awesome woman and teacher) for tweeting me and sending me her blog link to this week’s clmooc activities so I am back on track. What would I do without my PLN? Thanks to Vanessa Vaile for sharing her Visify project as well.


So now I have to do the dreaded task of attaching my blog to the RSS feed. As usual, there’s been enough time between the last time I did this that I have to look it up again. Then’s it off to explore the clmooc Google + community blog and contact five new people that catch my eye. With over 400 people in this group I know I won’t be able to talk to everyone. But I am going to try.



Here is my Picassohead (thanks for the idea Sheri!)



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Failure and failing

So this week’s topic in our Openspokes fellowship is failure, something we are all intimately acquainted with, for who has not failed at a task, at a crucial moment, sometimes with serious consequences? Who ends up a goat and goes to hell? Failure has been the gristmill for religion, literature, history, science, psychology and philosophy for eons. We all know who arrived at the North Pole but rarely do we find out about who didn’t. Fail and failure have always been negative words so it is interesting to see so many people trying to turn it into a positive just lately. I have failed spectacularly in the educational setting,more than once.

Since beginning my exploratory journey of online educational communities, failure has been a constant thread running throughout the discussions.   Brendan Murphy and I discussed failure in April, Kirsten and Erin have already posted this week about failure and what it might mean in regards to learning and students. I like Erin’s belief that what we are attempting to do is teach resiliency and I think that Kirsten is spot on when writing about learning as a cyclical process, that failure has no part in since it is seen as an end and not a beginning. And yet, we use the term fail/ failure constantly in education, particularly in summative evaluation/assessment. In fact, we’re addicted to it.

As we move to change our curriculum to reflect the circular nature of learning, perhaps we may also finally let go of the idea of summative assessment and banish failure from the classroom and from the educational discussion. After all, who is the summative assessment for? The student? Not at all. They know where they are from personal experience and the formative evaluation they have been receiving during the year. Parents? I used to dread report card time, when it seemed to be a litany of what my child needed to do to improve and having to argue with my husband about the value of the report card. (Sadly my children told me this was how they viewed report card grades: A-could have done better, B-bad, C-death.) Teachers? Do we crave designing multiple choice tests? Close sentences?  Having students study for provincial standardized test? How do we feel about the cookie cutter remarks we have to use in report cards where we’ve had to tell a seven year old they are limited in their ability? What kind of accounting system are we using to evaluate our students when you’re a failure at seven? Where does our belief in allowing children to develop at their own pace, to explore and play as they learn and grow fit in with our bureaucratic school system and its need to be validated through summative assessment? So who’s to blame for the word failure being bandied about?

We all are.

This is a world wide problem tied to long standing ingrained cultural practice. Parents and students expect grades, teachers comply as part of their job, the school system and governments use grades and pass rates to be accountable to the public for their spending on education. We have to re-frame the discussion, not only within our own practice as teachers (how much summative assessment can we strip out of our teaching particularly as we move to allowing students the ability to govern their own education and develop skills of self-regulation) but also with students, parents, our school boards and our governments. Until we all begin to question the role of failure in our system, we’ll continue to talk about what to do about failure instead of looking at the education of a student as a continuum, where students meet challenges, work to overcome them and move on to the next challenge at their own pace so they can be successful.

P.S. I am fascinated with what happened to our good old fashioned English words that meant failure before the use of failure became widespread in English. There are multiple words that mean something similar to fail/failure in Old English: dwelain- to deceive, mislead, lead into sin or error (this one is closest to the original Latin meaning), aleogan- to fail to fulfill, misbeodan- injure, do wrong to, gedreosan- fall, perish, fail and abreoðan- fail, perish, be destroyed. All of these were replaced with the single word fail which is why there are so many definitions.

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Being Open and the Open Web

Well, currently I am enrolled in Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence (Coursera) and Teachtheweb through Mozilla, plus being a member of several communities so I am feeling a little s t r e t c h e d. Both physically and mentally, so the power outage last night that shut the computer off and sent me to bed early was probably a good thing.

Synchronicity often happens in our lives and right now in the multiple groups I belong to we are discussing what is openness and what is the open web, so I thought I would throw in a few ideas into the pot.

Teachtheweb is about making content for the web and sharing that content. Funny how my mind works because I started thinking of Western history. Once upon a time, we were all makers. We had to grow, harvest, hunt, butcher, spin, weave, pot, bake, make our own ale, make our own tools, collect our own water, start a fire, etc. We went to bed when it was dark and rose when it was light. And we had to share with our community to survive. As our communities got larger, we began to specialize into guilds and start to communicate within and with other communities through verbal messengers and written messages. Society was no longer based on strictly face to face communication with those you knew intimately. Our standard of living began to increase the more we interacted with our groups and societies, as we traded ideas and discoveries, but we also began to consume more and make less. As the industrial revolution occurred, our making became further removed from the larger community. How many of us could or would be willing to do any of the tasks listed above? How many of us grow, harvest, collect water, spin or weave? Instead of a society of mainly makers we’ve became a society of mainly consumers. People who make or do physical tasks today are called “tradesmen” or “factory workers” and are often derided within Western society. Perhaps that’s why we’ve sent those jobs to other countries.

What Teachtheweb is attempting to do is return us to the time when we consciously made things of value for the community, except that it is made digitally. This is a paradigm shift in our thinking, from consuming the web to creating the web. The web no longer just the purview of Silicon Valley but open to all. Are we all of the same skill level? No, but that is okay. Making the rounds right now is a stop action movie created by Kindergarten students. The teacher has asked us to remix it and share. And we are. So what is our community now? It is anyone who has access to the internet, the tools to create content and the willingness to share their knowledge. Does that mean everyone? No it does not. Access, tools and sharing are the prerequisites of this community.So this is not yet a global movement. But it will be. So in twenty or thirty years we will be working in a fully networked world.

Ah but then comes the dreaded word…copyright. Think Creative Commons everyone. It is no use sharing our work if others can’t use it. Why create if you’re not willing to share your ideas? As so many have said, openness is a state of mind. It is about being willing to share, to collaborate, to be willing to look at a different perspective, to remix, reuse and recycle. To be willing to say, “I don’t know, does someone else?” or “Take this idea and make it better.” Being human means we’re programmed to share and grow together. We’re hardwired to be a group, but also to be kind to each other. So be open and think about what you can do to help spread access, tools and a sharing mentality on the web, globally. That’s why you’re on the web, isn’t it?

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Teach the web, Postetmooc and other activities

So I am about to embark on another mooc type endeavour, with Mozilla’s Teach the Web. I’ll see how it turns out. I am already feeling a little anxious because of course I’ve forgotten how to connect my blog to an aggregator (and the assumption that it is easy is to figure out ticks me off! and is one of my pet peeves about Mozilla.) But given that I start most moocs feeling a little anxious I expect that I’ll enjoy the learning once I cross all of my little Rubicons.

Postetmooc is turning out to be a great extension of ETMOOC and I am so glad. I was missing my Wednesday twitterchat, and the Google + coffee group meeting every second Tuesday has been great for sparking new ideas and discussing topics that we were introduced to in ETMOOC. I am particularly interested in our current topic, branding and digital identities. Will Richardson and others have written recently on this topic so it should be a great discussion. Primarily though, we’re going to be reading the blogs of Seth Godin over the next week or so simply because we find references to his ideas in everyone’s blog. Why not just go to the source!

I’ve also been lucky enough to join a few other communities with similar interests such as OOE (open online education) and Open Spokes (vlogging). I am so glad I am making the effort of maintaining my PLN!

One of the things I love about the web is that I can find out what other people are thinking and talking about. In the last six months I’ve taken the bold leap (at least for me) of being on Twitter and blogging/vlogging. However, like many newbies to the social media verse I was afraid of what this might do to my sense of privacy/identity. In looking for information about branding/digital identities I found this gem of a video that reflects my justifiable fears of big data and the companies that use our data to generate wealth. This has nothing to do with education and everything to do with becoming a continuous target for advertisers.

Lo and behold, I hadn’t realised I had given up all rights to privacy when I signed up for Facebook which is how I keep up with friends and family spread all over the world. So, I am going to consider giving Facebook the boot. I may have to resort to more traditional forms of communication. Ah well, at least I will end up supporting Canada Post!

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So I promised a more analytical response of why etmooc was so valuable as a learning process and here it is. What is interesting is that even though I am no longer in the weekly/biweekly task mode for etmooc, as a post etmooc blog group member our group has maintained that biweekly format, I expect for continuity’s sake. Even though I am a member of different groups now, I miss that etmooc feeling. I expect it is because etmooc made sure to expose us to different thought leaders every week and kept our brain humming at peak intensity. (So am I a knowledge/new experience junkie?) I often wonder how many weeks/months/years of planning and knowledge went into the creation of etmooc. 

So a few reasons why etmooc worked: 

  • Emphasis on exposure to new ideas/technologies and thought leaders
  • Discussion of new ideas in multiple formats with multiple avenues for exploration
  • Creation and expansion of PLN encouraged and facilitated
  • Creation of content by the learner (us) for consumption by fellow learners using both old and new technological tools in creative ways (I still feel Haiku Deck deprived as a pc user)
  • Comment on content by peers encouraged
  • No assessment except through voluntary peer to peer assessment
  • Learner control of knowledge accessed, consumed and conveyed
  • Positive reinforcement of any knowledge acquired by peers and moderators

So I would be interested in how many etmoocers actively participated in the journey, was there a difference in the level of engagement between those who started in the beginning vs. those who started later, and what was the overall retention rate for the program?

There are other questions of course. How do we import this model of engagement into the classroom (both K-12, higher ed and training of adults)? Could/should we use this as a model for the future in education? How would the majority of teachers react to giving up control? How would governments react to this type of approach? How does this approach challenge current practices in the field of assessment which is really government’s way of maintaining control of what is taught? 

Personally, will I be able to maintain this level of engagement post-etmooc? Can I continue to nurture and expand my PLN without it becoming an enormous responsibility both professionally and personally? Do I have the technological skills I need to support my connections?  If I feel overwhelmed and need to disengage are my multiple PLNs supportive enough to let me exit and enter at will? What are the social connections of these networks and my responsibilities to the multiple networks? How much do my own personal beliefs about social interactions govern my sense of responsibility to the networks?

Continuing the journey……

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