Amazing Story of Openness – 2010ED366 a story.

Below is a collaborative piece written by the group in ‘almost’ 20 minutes (we ran a little over) at the end of a two week course entitled “educational technology and the adult learner”. I’ll let them tell you what it’s about. I’ve not read it over… just copy and paste from the googledoc they wrote it in. I hope they say nice things 🙂

Group of Openness

Our Ed366 class began on July 12, 2010. We were a group learners of diverse backgrounds and experiences. Some of us had a little Internet experience, some of us had very strong views, none of us knew what to expect. What have we learned and how far have we come in two weeks?

We came to to class on a Monday morning to learn about technology and were thrown into the deep end of chaos. Planned chaos, but chaos nonetheless. We were shown what a social network was and what it could be capable of buy experiencing it first hand, seeing the good, the bad and the ugly about social media.

We used a number of new medias, new technologies and new methods of thinking to create our social network for both a local and an online community. We explored and connected, many of us for the first time through:

  • Twitter – We were a bunch of naysayers at first. Now we might have addictions.
  • Slideshare – We stepped out of our comfort zones and made slides public. Adding a bit of voice over, no problem!
  • Prezi – Maybe a little overkill? Impressive at first. Nice to switch it up from regular old PowerPoint.
  • Ustream and Youtube – We created videos to share our work and posted them publicly as well as within class.
  • PbWorks – Great for individual or asynchronous work. Conflict resolution is problematic.
  • Wikispaces – very user-friendly.
  • Camtasia – One of our classmates in a new expert.
  • F2F/Local networks – We built our own community, lots of help from our classmates in the classroom and during breaks (informal learning)
  • WordPress – Daily blog reflections to showcase what we learned and to reflect on what others learned.
  • GOOGLE (doc, forms, accounts, calendars, sites, etc…) – Google rules the world but most of us are convinced at this point that Google really knows what they are doing so that is ok with us. Google docs has amazing conflict resolution capabilities.

Here are some of the learning experiences that we have shared.

  • We learned how to network amongst ourselves and to problem solve rather than look to the “expert” (instructor)
  • Sharing through blogs and twitter allowed us to not only communicate freely, but learn and associate from other people’s experiences, expertise personalities and the interconnectivity to the community on many different levels.
  • Our blogs were put on twitter (through URL) and open to comments and feedback.
  • We were linked to a group in Maine that were doing a similar course and encouraged to communicate with them on our experience with our course in exchange for info with their experiences.
  • We skyped and google shared internationally which is open communication. This allowed us to talk openly to “experts” in the field of social networking in a give and take situation as opposed to ONE WAY communication! Helped each other with support before and after our presentations with technological aspects. This created a safe learning environment.
  • Our instructor was open to trying new things, and gave us credit for at least trying regardless if we were “successful” as in other courses.This stress was alleviated or at least lessened by the fact that we stressed together! We shared our experiences and did not feel alone in the fact that we were “drowning” and completely out of our safety zone.

We experienced “cranky pant syndrome” and encouraged to network with other people in our professional fields. Our families are happy that we are finished this two week “adventure”!Oh by the way, we were lied to….speaking of being OPEN…..This course took way more than 10 minutes a day! Mainly due to the fact that once you get online it is difficult not to let yourself get sidetracked on all the other information out there. Uncertain of evaluation process regardless of questions that have been asked, and a rubric exercise that still did not come up with any solutions or recommendations.

So how did this all relate to our openness in this course and in a wider context?

  • Had we not had our work in the open for people to see we would have never received the feedback that we did. Collaboratively, if we build it they will come.
  • It increased the network opportunities.
  • Great public relations and media coverage.
  • Openness, we will see many things coming down the tubes.
  • Contacts became personal and approachable.
  • Social networks are just that – Social.
  • This course prepared us for the journey as we leave the doors at UPEI. Everyone is leaving with not only technology skills but networking connections.
  • We saw when using the resources and opportunities which are available to you and you have self direct learning skills things can work for you.
  • You can utilize the technology not let the technology utilize you.
  • Content relationship building. This course would be valuable to so many professions.
  • Use what you have, where you are, in your own context.

We started two weeks ago, not knowing each other and over the last two weeks we learned a lot about our society, community, our co-learners and ourselves. We started on Prince Edward Island, took our learning around the world and brought it back home again. We have been lucky to be a part of this experience. Thanks to Dave for bringing us over to the Dark Side. Thanks for the cookies.

ED366 – reflection on the first four days

I must say I’m feeling pretty good about the first four days of the course that I’m teaching at UPEI. It’s very refreshing to be teaching a small group of people (15) and getting a chance to get to know my students. They are quite an excellent group, with varied experiences, varied educational backgrounds and differing goals and objectives. With the exception of the student who bowed out after day 2 (I’ve never taught one of these crazy intensive, two week, 35 hour courses without losing at least one) we’ve had no MAJOR issues.

On tossing adult learners into the deep end
Common practice (and some might ad common sense) dictates that we are supposed to introduce topics and particularly technologies gradually to adult learners. After this course i am now convinced that at least in a f2f environment (where trust can be established without the technology blowing up or while it is) it’s much more effective to throw students straight into the deep end. I’ll leave it to my students to jump in and disagree… but while it creates a definite amount of confusion i think it creates the right amount of instability to support the learning process.

It also saves time. And gives people an early victory.

Technology, particularly in the first two days
The backbone of the communications in the course are being done on googledocs, twitter and The students were quite willing to go out and start blogging, working on their googledoc assignments and tweeting to each other. That’s not to say that we didn’t have a big session on why twitter was such a waste of time, but allowing them to all follow each other and using it as a slackers blog reader (tweeting nightly reflections) has given them the control over their home bases that I was hoping for. If the balance of having to record their own learning in their network learning plan and communications records balance it out and the early results look like they might, then I’ll have to consider this syllabus a marked improvement over the one from two years ago.

On immigrant/native resident/visitor
Mucho thanks to @daveowhite for visiting our class near the end of day three. I started day three in an attempt to frame a day of talking about learning with tech through the lens of a debate between the two views of resistance. One age based and out of a person’s control, the other more nuanced and responsibility oriented. If you’ve not read of dave’s resident/visitor continuum, you might find it interesting. I think it was the critical moment for my student’s understanding why they themselves felt resistance to the process and the resistance they’ve seen in their own students.

Grading into week two
This otherwise very entertaining course has the terrible bad form to require me to give my students a percentage grade. The plan has been and remains to give students basically ‘participation’ grades for their work the first week, that is, grading on effort, and then creating a more specific rubric for week two. They’ve done nightly reflections, some class work, have been responsible to comment on other people’s blog posts and also keep track of their learning network plan. We’ll need to develop something with a gradation like “shows clear plans towards integrating concepts into own context” and “demonstrates next level thinking in application of technologies” into this plan for next week. I hate setting things up that way, but at the same time I can’t expect them to get a numbered grade without trying to describe what i’m thinking clearly

Advice much appreciated on this.

Syllabus – Educational Technology and the Adult Learner ed366

The term ‘educational technology’ is a difficult one to pin down. There are some who would argue that every tool we use, from a ballpoint pen to an electronic whiteboard, is an educational technology. Others strive to pin down best practices with choice technologies and advocate for this or that brand of technology enhanced pedagogy as scientifically proven to better the learning process in some way. Some people think that social networking is faddish, or, worse, a sign of the decline of our civilization. Others will argue that if we do not bring it into our classrooms we are doing our students a disservice and becoming increasingly out of date.

As an educator working on such slippery foundations, I have taken the position that all these things are true. Social networking is both faddish and dangerous as well as critical to moving forward. Our tools are both simply a reflection of the same tools and methods of millennia and complex mechanisms fraught with implicit pedagogy. This course takes all opinions on education and technology as valid and mixes them together, to be interpreted by our own class as well as being validated by a wider network of educators.

This method, of taking all ideas and having them peer reviewed by a wide network of peers, is hardly revolutionary. The big difference in how it is approached in this course, is how quickly that reviewing is done, the degree to which certainty is required (or even desired) and the degree to which a given perspective can be personalized. The curriculum of this course will be made by, and I would say the curriculum of this course IS the people that will be engaged in it. That will include me as the facilitator, the learners who have chosen to take it, as well as a wider network of educators drawn from my own community and hopefully found and added by the students over the two weeks of the course.

Students taking this course come from a wide variety of contexts. Some will be classroom teachers from the k-12 system, some trainers in the corporate world or faculty members at a university. The needs and requirements of different participants will not be the same and learners in the course will not be required to come out of the course with the same thing.

Student success in this course will be measured by how well a student has planned for their own context. Students will be assessed on three specific ‘projects’ (for lack of a better word), each reflecting the work that they have done in trying to take the concepts, the examples, the activities and the reflections of this course.

30% – Learning network plan
Throughout the course students will be expected to gather people, tools and approaches that will help support them in integrating educational technology into their own context. Students will be responsible for handing in a draft learning network plan by the halfway mark of the course and a final version on the last day. These should be between 500 and 1000 words and, ideally, be full of links, commentary and ideas for how they can continue to learn, network and use technologies after the course has ended.

30% – Classroom project
The majority of the second week of the course will be taken up by class projects developed and taught by the learners. These projects should involve the integration of a technology into their contexts that had not occurred to the students when the course began. The idea is to workshop an idea with the whole class while introducing an approach to using a technology. Students will be graded less on the ‘success’ of their classroom project, but to the degree in which it demonstrates an effort to integrate the models of the course into their own context.

40% Reflections and collaboration
Students will be expected to maintain a personal log of their reflections on each day of the course. Ten days. Ten reflections. They will also be responsible for engaging with other people’s reflections. Half of this grade will be the students ‘pitch’ for how they were effective members of the learning network that we tried to create in the class. The ‘pitch’ will be 300-500 words and should contain the same type of ‘links’ and ‘commentaries’ as the learning networks plan.

Notes (you should still probably read these)
No significant prior knowledge of technology is expected for this course. Students with broad technological backgrounds often find this type of course more challenging than students who come with less pre-described standpoints with regards to technology.

This course will also involve the use of a large number of technologies. We will try them out, do projects with them, hopefully have fun with some of them, and learn together. The course will happen (almost) entirely out in the ‘open’. While you may choose to use a pseudonym for the course, all students in the course will know the identity of other students, and work will be (almost always) done in the open. We will be using the googledoc suite for some of our work, which will allow for a backup communication system as well and semi-private space when necessary.

We’re going to be using twitter. Alot.

This course is based on my own research in the field of open education, the nature of knowledge and the intersection of education and technology. This research is ongoing, and critiques of the approach are not only welcome they are encouraged.

I can’t wait to get started.

ED366 – Conceptual discussions for my course that starts next week

ED366 is the second shot that I have at running a ‘community as curriculum’ style course face 2 face at UPEI. It has some lovely qualities about it (has no follow up course, had no set curriculum when i took it over) and the response from the last one was positive enough to give me the freedom to take another shot at it.

I’ve tried to ignore the old syllabus while i’ve been thinking my way through what i want to do this time. I’ve had a number of really interesting educational experiences, talked to some very smart and experienced people and had some time to think about stuff in the last two years. I’d like to make three broad comparitive reflections, try and blend that into some of the things i’ve done in the last couple years and hope for some feedback from folks.

It’s about the technology. No it isn’t.
I wrote a little blog post a couple of months ago having finally framed what i think the position of technology is in what, lets face it, is a course entitled “educational technology and the adult learner”.

We can look at the methods and methodologies (and epistemic foundation) implicit in the machine and recreate those in our classrooms without the purchasing the brand [or the technology for that matter]. A wireless keyboard available in a classroom can work just as well [as a smartboard], as can simply having people talk to each other and write down the upshot of their conversation. The thing that makes the smartboard a challenging (if not a bad purchase) is that it suggests that that collaborative spirit, that idea of sharing is ONLY available with a smartboard.

My last course was naively trying to address the technologies in the local surrounding and ignoring the core beliefs that underwrite the course. Yes, there are technologies that allow us to leverage connective possibilities that would be very difficult if not impossible f2f. There are other things (graphics, archiving) that are undeniable… but. And this is the but that doesn’t show up in the original syllabus, it’s not about any specific technology, but rather, understanding the pedagogies implicit in them, the things that can be leveraged from them, and the ways in which we can be successful in using them.

So. Focus on the things that are important… let the technologies come naturally when they’re needed.

The network vs. the community
I am very sad to report that I now believe the community approach is a bit of windmill tilting. While the last course was very successful in creating community like feelings among the students (combination of good students, some lucky events and many of them knowing each other already) but that sort of thing is not likely to last. There are exceptions of course… but for a regular course it’s just not likely.

My focus this time, rather, is going to be about connecting students with their own possible networks. Rather than thinking about the course as an attempt to create a community, I’m thinking rather about giving people some experience with working in online networks, creating a simulated community, and to connect people with some possible actual peers that they may have out there who do what they do.

So. Networks good… communities still good, just illusory as an intercontextual goal.

The archival space
I still keep beating myself over how to balance respecting the work students do enough not to create a system where their work just gets thrown in the bin (digital or tin) and not wanting the be the ‘owner’ of the repository as I was on the last version of the course. I want students to be able to control their own work… and yet i want them to be able to work together.

This time, we’re going to live in the cloud. I want to open the whole process up and not have a centralized location for the course itself. I mean… i need a place to put a syllabus. I need a place to blog (oh wait… that’s here). But i want to give the students a network presence that they can continue to work with as they leave the course. I want to try and negotiate the course curriculum out in the open. We’ll see 🙂 I’ve got googledocs accounts setup for all my students as a backup (in case they don’t want to live in the open) but i really want to see how far i can push this idea of jointly creating a curriculum but still leaving the content in the hands of the students.

On Bonnie’s advice, I’m going to rely on twitter. I think its a good idea, and i’ll take a run at it. It’ll have to be the glue that holds the ship together.

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