While many of you who find yourselves here may already been in the loop on this, I wanted to take the opportunity to invite readers who may not be yet to participate, lurk, or test the digital waters of an open online learning experience being offered by some of my internet colleagues in the new year. Alec Couros is a professor of Educational Technology and Media at the University of Regina, and one of the pioneers in delivering online and blended courses in an open online format. He and the other course facilitators constitute a veritable constellation of educational innovators and are hoping to bring their shared expertise to the facilitation of an online learning community publicly on the open web, free of charge.
Think of #etmooc as an experience situated somewhere between a course and a community. While there will be scheduled webinars and information shared each week, we know that there is a lot more that we will collectively need to do if we want to create a truly collaborative and passionate community.
We’re aiming to carry on those important conversations in many different spaces – through the use of social networks, collaborative tools, shared hashtags, and in personalized spaces. What #etmooc eventually becomes, and what it will mean to you, will depend upon the ways in which you participate and the participation and activities of all of its members. Let’s see if we can create something that is not just another hashtag – and, not just another course.
Each of the topics will run for approximately two weeks, and class meetings and materials will be archived and posted to be digested on your own schedule if you like. In operating as an ‘open’ course, you can determine your own level of participation, and come and go as you please, truly. Stick around for the conversations, readings, viewings and/or assignments that are relevant to you, and don’t feel bad about tending to your ‘real life’ responsibilities as you must. What may be of perhaps greatest value in participating in the course is gaining personal experience and connections in an online learning environment, and gaining valuable experience with a community of passionate newbies, not to mention very generous experts within the field.
…a free form live streaming station that has been setup for this course, and it is being used as a platform to broadcast the work being created in the class, and a space for live broadcasts as well as for programming shows. The whole point of this experiment is to encourage any and all members of the course (as well as beyond it) to produce something real for anyone who wants to tune in. It’s also provides a global, 24 hour/7 day-a-week happening for the creations of the course and much, much more. And more than anything, ds106 radio is place where anyone can submit their work and help program the course radio station in order to commune and share around works and ideas while at the same time making the web safe for democracy.
And while it might have only actually landed at points across North America, the audience for last night’s show was made up of the 450 students, parents and teachers that packed into our theater, and these fine folks:
You can listen to the concert in its (near) entirety, below (use the comments in the blue bar to navigate between sets and interviews):
I know teachers tend to throw out mixed messages, “Be open, share. Be careful, be scared.” This could be an authentic real world experience to create something beautiful with a larger group of people than those within our immediate community. (I invite other teachers to share this Flickr setand this post to see where it can go. Ask your class to leave poems, stories, haikus, comments anything. Maybe we can write a book, record an album…)
There are many things we can do with the images, the words, the connection. I hope that at least a few of you will share a few ideas in the comments below. I don’t know who will respond, but that is the beauty of sharing in whim 1, if you throw enough out there, occasionally something beautiful will come floating back.
The above photos were shared on Jabiz Raisdana’s blog with an invitation to Zach Chase‘s students to join into the fun with the proposition that if enough comments, poems, phrases and inspiration and were left on the photos, Jabiz would write them into a song that he would share for future mashup, remixes, or…?
What will you do with it? Download it. Remix it. Add your voice to it. Set it to images. Create a video. Rap it. This version is only a draft and is not even close to being “done.” Tear it up!Stones by intrepidflame
And while I mightn’t have “tore it up,” or reinvented any of what had previously been created or recorded, I sat at my kitchen counter after work on Friday, donned a set of headphones, and spent the better part of an hour adding my own voice to a project spanning both North American coasts that had gained its initial motivation and impetus from an unmet friend in Jakarta, Indonesia. In kind I offer my own addition to the project in the hopes that it inspires others to lend their own creativity, perspective, and voice to collaborative expression that would have unthinkable even five years ago (to me, anyway), but is today the sort of thing that can be accomplished on a Friday afternoon, between work and dinner.
We’ve been talking about the benefits – personal and collective – that come with sharing a lot this week in the Talons class. Seeking an elusive objectivity in media and student reflections on the recent tumult in Egypt and across the Middle East, the class has moved past a definition of the (capital ‘T’) Truth which linearly separates Right & Wrong, or Truth & Lie, to an understanding that we can only know what we might collectively deign in shared exploration, conversation and reflection, and that this process must be ongoing.
Yesterday we distilled some of the more potent aspects of these expressions in a Typewith.me page that we hope to continue to shape, sculpt and share in the coming weeks, as a first experiment in working with the web as not only a research and publishing platform, but collaborative space wherein there are few, if any, limits.
Share, and be vulnerable: it may just be what we’re here for.
To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love ourselves with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee; to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this, just to be able to stop and instead of catastophizing what might happen just to say, ‘I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable is to feel alive?’”
If it is true, what Liam wrote yesterday, that, “Collective will is the most powerful force in the universe,” then we are truly onto something here. Let’s keep it going.
Today, Zach Chase writes, looking back on what a week it’s been, is the day you jump in and create something.
Bryan’s note: this is so the title of the book / album / movie. ↩
As even the devil might need an advocate from time to time, I thought I’d offer a few points in support of delaying the rounding up of the school’s cell phones and putting the kids who use them in camps where they might better concentrate. An unfortunate wordplay that evokes a similar (if heavy-handed) connotation of totalitarianism run amok as in the oft-cited observation, the only institutions who ban cellphones are the Taliban and highschools .
While they may present a different set of challenges for today’s educators, cell phones and mobile devices are a part of the world we live in, and should be a part of the education we provide today’s students.
Cell phones are distracting. They can isolate people, be used to bully, gossip, buy or sell drugs, commit other crimes, prorogue Parliament, call in bomb threats, cheat on tests, procrastinate, plan the next 9/11, etcetcetc. There are plenty of reasons for teachers to be leery of such technology coming through their doors, being used under their classroom desks, or being flipped open anytime one of their students is in “the bathroom.” As well, in training our students to enter the workforce we will do them many favours by instilling in them the ability to discern between times when it is appropriate to be engaged with personal technology, and when it is not. I certainly don’t want the fine people who pump my gas, serve my fries, and are otherwise working for (or with) me in the face-to-face capacity of many service sector jobs using a cellular or smart phone while they’re at work. If I ran a factory, hired manual labour, or even dealt in certain collaborative fields (business, creative arts, think tanks, etc), I might be so inclined as to institute a no-cell phone rule, as they would likely impede the nature of the work my colleagues or employees are engaged in.
TALONS consult with local blogger Amber StrocelBut even then, there would likely be exceptions, and if I wanted to be a co-operative boss rather than a prison warden, I probably wouldn’t make my employees empty their pockets before they came in to start the day, and it will be a while before I do the same to my students – TALONS, guitar, or otherwise. But that may be me; I realize that I might be in the minority. But I would also be interested in establishing a school learning community that values face-to-face dialogue, debate, and experiential, first-hand learning for students and teachers alike. If we are to ask that our students are committed to the present moment of their current learning, why shouldn’t we expect the same of one another?
In fact, I suggest that if we’re philosophically against the ills that our mobile devices provide the educational landscape, I would await the outcry that would ensue if our administrators collected our phones, laptops, tablets, and other technologies that distract us every morning, things that get in the way of our more personal human interactions, and that make “cheating” (emailing resources, helpful material and maybe even email threads like this one to one another) all too easy. If the school is a no cell phone zone, it should be a no cell phone zone for all; otherwise, the logic of a school wide ban for Students Only doesn’t add up for me.
If the ban is only going to apply to students, the more moderate approach of a classroom-by-classroom basis, allowing each teacher their own classroom management strategy, is far-better suited to the central beliefs of a profession based in the diverse subjectivity of human experience. Personally, I can say that banning cell phones at our school would unequivocally make me, my students, and my classroom(s) less productive.
By no stretch am I saying that this is how your classroom should look, feel, operate or anything else; how you teach your learning outcomes is your practice – this is mine (though granted, as a language arts and history teacher, the ability to communicate and decode text-based information is central to learning outcomes in both curricula and inherently involves more of the sorts of things PODs make possible). Ban cell phones, laptops, carrier pigeons, calculators, GPS, pens, smoke signals or anything else you think takes the focus away from your lessons. But my classroom would suffer if you would have your values imposed on it, just as yours would likely suffer if the reverse were true.
I am also, while I’m at it, not advocating for any sort of laissez-faire, anything goes policy toward my own or my students’ mobile devices in class. Q and I lectured and facilitated classroom discussions for more than two consecutive hours today, and only saw one cell phone the entire time. We don’t allow iPods, cell phones, watches or any digital technology other than cameras on our (single or multi-day) field trips. During these times when our priorities are to be engaged with one another and our environment, it is made clear that these devices serve no worthwhile purpose other than to detract from meaningful present experience. I think it is important to stress the value in “unplugging” to our students – and remember it ourselves – as a means of maintaining a sense of attention literacy in an increasingly busy information landscape.
A Talons Desk
But there are countless other times when cell phones are an invaluable, free resource in which our classrooms, offices and the rest of the developed world are suffused. When looked at as an opportunity, rather than a threat, modern mobile devices offer possibilities for student engagement, collaboration, and learning that are staggering.
Each of the classes we teach can reasonably expect to contain nearly a class-set of the following, at no cost to us, the school, district or Ministry of Education: video and still-cameras, mp3 recorders, internet browsers (that open, load and surf faster than many of our school computers), communicative networksthat involve 99% of our school community and well-beyond its walls, personal calendars, organizers, note-takers, tutors, tutorials, stopwatches, calculators, RSS readers, image and video-editors, as well as instantaneous communication (Facebook, Twitter, email) that is the hallmark of a burgeoning Information Age.
Being able to use these technologies may not be appreciated by service-oriented employers whose workers are paid by the hour, but they are already workplace essentials in many sectors, as it is seemingly impossible to find professions within an information-based economy where the leveraging of the internet, mobiles, laptops, and social networks is not a basic requirement.
To neglect this fact would be irresponsible if we believe our jobs hinge upon preparing tomorrow’s workforce.
Kids texting while a teacher is talking, or while the class is supposed to be working, is an issue of manners, or alternatively one of classroom management, and we are free to teach either of these in any number of ways that doesn’t involve our school making cell phones illegal (unless, like I say, we go full-bore – I’d be into that experiment).
I only offer my thoughts as respectful counterpoint to a wave of emails that seemed to slant toward a “Get rid of ‘em!” approach that would impede the great learning I see these devices enable every day. It’s not a matter of better or worse; the way each of us teaches with respect to these devices is merely different.
A final realtime example: I posted on Twitter (from my phone) that I had received emails from multiple colleagues cheering for the banning of mobiles at our school, and asked my assembled network for links to resources discussing the advent of hand held technologies in the modern classroom. Within a few hours, I had several responses (including a few from current or former students at our school) that shared insights like recent grad Kassie Wasstrom’s (and were likely typed out by thumb on a phone’s keypad or touchscreen):
“We need to focus on the positives. I have a couple of profs that encourage us to bring iPods, iPhones, etc, because they help stimulate conversation.”
“It is not a matter of banning cell phones, or even giving them a constant working purpose in our classrooms (such that they are not idle and hence a distraction, or even to meet students “on their turf”), but rather, a focus on raising learners – and to continue in Broadbent’s vain: citizens – that exist within the emerging fluidity of the 24/7 social media cycle, and yet are empowered by its capabilities to unite, and connect, rather than cowed by its vapid and addictive lesser qualities.”
The TALONS have spent the last year with students – and teachers – adopting the use of individual student blogs, publishing writing and other media for projects and self-initiated posts to the public web in growing leaps and bounds. What at first was not without its tough-sell moments – encouraging young learners over the barrier of putting their school work “out there” for all to see – quickly built momentum with few looking back.
This blog though….It’s going to be a journal in a very different way. It’s public, and not necessarily about me, but perhaps more about how I view things. I am curious to see how my blog turns out. I believe it will be a place to discover, but also create. So here goes….
Katie’s Walking on Sunshine
At the conclusion of their grade ten year in the program, a group of English enthusiasts even set up their own extra-curricular blog within WordPress and have published some twenty posts since school let out in June. Initially established for eight friends to stay in touch and preserve their summer memories, Frozen Tic Tacs has lived on into the new academic year.
This blog ended up even being discussed when the 8 friends were talking about their upcoming summer adventures sometime in March. That lead to a dream to do something like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Unfortunately, there were no jeans that could fit us all, and T-shirts were out of the question of the no washing rule. Plus, the mailing would be a difficult part too, so we came up with the idea of a blog. From that, it just stretched on until it became what it is today.
Why the Frozen Tic Tacs
Howe Sound by Voyager Canoe
Last year,my blog functioned as the hub for information about class activities, assignments, outings and highlighting exemplary student posts, a process that placed my writing and input much closer to the centre of the class’ learning than I often try to be in my general teaching. Though I relished the opportunity to highlight the class’ work, and present class assignments as model blog posts in terms of using hyperlinks, images and embedded media, I knew that a collective class blog would do a much better job at creating a learner-centred publishing process.
Not only would students be able to vet, edit and publish their opinions of the best of the class’ work on a variety of subjects, but my own blog would be left to take more the role of a mentor or model’s than that of a traditional teacher dispensing gold stars and patted heads.
The trial first year in the Great Blogging Experiment left me with an appreciation for two key elements in the blogging process:
the cultivation of an authentic, global audience
the drive to create ultimately student-owned learning.
And so a few weeks ago I approached this year’s grade ten TALONS to see if they would be interested in starting, from the ground up, a central class blog. The response was brisk and enthusiastic, and in the past two weeks, the grade tens have taken polls to name and design the blog, chosen WordPress as platform and even learned a few bits and pieces of CSS coding, sought out other blogging classes to establish a blogroll and community of like-minds, invited local blogging mavens into our midst, and published an introductory post and About Page.
This blog is a way for us to let you all know what we are up to, and it is a great way to connect with other student bloggers. We each individually have our own blogs, but this is more a way for us to collectively share our ideas with the world. You will see posts about anything under the sun, be it a bus ride or a novel reflection. Just like no two T.A.L.O.N.S. students are the same, no two styles of writing, or posts will be the same, so check back frequently to see what is new in the T.A.L.O.N.S. world.
On Tuesday afternoon, a group of TALONSstudentshad the opportunity to visit a classroom at the University of Regina. Professor of Educational TechnologyDr. Alec Couros extended an opportunity for classrooms to connect to his, via Skype, so that his class of student-teachers could gain first hand responses to their questions about the use of technology in working classrooms across the globe. Throughout the day classrooms from across Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia participated in video chats with Dr. Couros’ students in Saskatchewan, and at 2pm, a select group of TALONS – all of whom blog, Tweet, and live Facebook-savvy lives of “regular” teenagers beyond their academic use of the Internet and computers – contributed first hand knowledge of what works, what doesn’t, and what they would like to see when teachers set out to implement different technology into the classroom. Dr. Couros’ classroom was projected on the wall of Gleneagle‘s office conference room, and the TALONS were broadcast in real time halfway across the country, allowing for shared learning and collaboration newly available to today’s students.
A few weeks ago Jan Smith invited me to participate in Dr. Alec Couros‘ presentation to British Columbia School District #71′s pro-d session. Figuring a trip up island would be a long shot on the first weekend of a new semester, I told her I would surely join the proceedings however I might be able, either through Twitter, uStream, Moodle, Elluminate, or whatever means Alec chose to share his dialogue with our colleagues. I have ‘sat in’ quite a few different sessions and conversations of Alec’s before, and knew such things were possible, but with the access offered today, I feel compelled to share the experience (even though I was teaching class during its original airing).
A proponent of open, networked learning, Alec is a prominent Tweeter and maven for all things technologically educational who makes a great many excellent points during his hour long keynote, posted below, and shares a myriad resources on both his wiki and his blog.
Here are the two sessions presented via Alec’s uStream channel. The first hour covers the benefits of open and networked learning, and the second delves into how to make such a classroom possible.
At one point during the Q & A, Alec is asked how he has time to do all of the things he is describing alongside a full teaching load, and his answer proved a revelation for me, as well as an affirmation that there may be more power in a learning environment created, managed, and facilitated by many participants than one in which the teacher is constantly the main supplier of information, motivation and inspiration.
“How do you find time to blog \ tweet \ email \ uStream \ comment on blogs \ connect educators to students to educators to…?” Alec is asked.
“I stop doing the things I don’t need to do anymore,” he answers.
After a few days of waiting to see what all the fuss was about, I finally saw Google’s Superbowl commercial. I had read Ira’s account of the narrative based in a series of Google searches, and was intrigued by the charm of the commercial is in its brisk, simple rendering of narrative through the universal ‘lens’ of Google searches. And there is the connection to Michael Wesch – of The Machine is Changing Us fame – and Marshall McLuhan carried in the youthfully eclectic and seemingly unconscious use of Google to:
… fully explain the full reach of our contemporary information gathering tools, from the academic to the frivolous, from the mispellings (“louve”) to the mis-searched (needing to add “France” to Paris is one search), from the maps to the photos to the comments on a location. This, for all those wondering what “students need to know,” is what students need to know.
It would be great to see students use this method of “storytelling via screencasted Google search queries” to tell other stories. What story would you tell? If your Google history could talk, what stories would IT tell?
And I think that this could \ should only be the beginning of our use of digital forms and perspectives to tell our stories. As Wesch declares modern media and its mediums of Google, Twitter, Flickr and a host of other 2.0 tools capable of shaping “the possibilities for community, for identity construction, and ultimately for self-awareness,“ I can think of no more straightforward statement of education’s purpose than these three goals.
With the continuous advent of new communicative technologies becoming the norm, and mastery of an ongoing and fluid range of tools following suit, it is an exciting time to deal in exploring narratives and self-expression with young people (they’re the ones who know their way around the tools anyway).