Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wave of Innovation

This week is finals week, and I presented to our college board of trustees about my experience with professional development that I did this summer. It was called the Innovations Academy (IA), and this presentation was part of my commitment to help see this become a permanent offering on campus. As usual, I didn't say what I planned to say, and what I did say was not as eloquent as what I planned to say. Geez. Luckily the history, art, and math teachers who followed me were amazing. As we spoke, one board member took out a calculator for a quick calculation about the cost of the training and what that amounts to per student. Genius! Note to self: remember that calculation.

Since then, I've been thinking a lot about the return on investment that institutions get when there is an innovation that works for faculty. Ideas spread. Practice changes. Students learn. I can cite research, examine statics, write papers, and present my ideas, but it really comes down to what I see in the classroom from my students. As a result of my work with the IA, I tried a lot of new things. Some worked really well, and others fell flat. I was constantly trying to keep up with the course creation, and I was always behind on grading. This quarter is going to go down in the books as one of the most demanding and rewarding.

Today, I read this lovely short post by Diego Rodriguez. He says:
In doing, there is knowing. Doing is the resolution of knowing. We learn via our mistakes, and we can make many more valuable mistakes when we take action. Innovating is about doing, not talking.

What are you doing today to get started?

Turns out, I'm not doing much today to get started. It's about finishing the grading. I've got some big plans for spring break. Spring quarter and beyond--all very exciting.

Returning the etmooc topic, I can honestly say that this MOOC experience has been worth the time. I'll follow these conspirators wherever they go next. Will there be such a thing as an ETMOOC groupie?

The first thing I thought about when I saw the topic on Digital Citizenship for this week was my experience going to a town hall meeting in Bellingham about the future of Galbraith Mountain. There were emails and postings about the major changes happening to this area where I love to mountain bike. By clicking on the various posts and educating myself about the situation, I felt pretty connected. Luckily, several hundred people felt the same way, and although our mountain is still not safe from logging, it was nice to see those "Likes" on Facebook and all of those posts mean something when it counted. People showed up. And on my birthday, March 12, the city council voted for "9,000 acres around Lake Whatcom [to] be converted into a county park for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding."

Did my email help? Maybe. Will I remember the two council members who voted no the next time there is an election? You betcha. Thanks to other digital citizens, I was able to articulate why I live here, and why this land should be preserved for future generations. Not only is this lake a beautiful daily sight for me, it's also our town's drinking water source. How did I feel when I read the paper about the positive decision? See photo to the right.

Next up: Summary of Learning. I'm drafting my answers in my head while I walk the dogs tomorrow. 

I'm going to complete this assignment before I take a few days off the computer to get to know my snowboard, mountain bike, and road bike again. There's a lovely winter storm hanging around the Cascades right now. I'm pretty sure I smell wax wafting from the garage. It's the first day of spring, but winter is still glorious in the hills! 

Read more here:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Open Journey

From the start of this blog for the ETMOOC, I've been torn about what to write about at times. Am I writing about my job? This class? How they both connect? I thought from the start that I would try out blogging, and then see if it's something that I want to continue. Turns out, I like it. I've made some new connections, and I've been able to share my ideas with colleagues who care. I've made a built-in time stamp with the title: EdTechBlog2013. It was unclear at the start if I would want to blog. Do I continue with this blog through 2013 or do I start something else? Not sure. 

The ETMOOC moves on to the next topic, and now it's Topic 5 (Mar 17-30): Digital Citizenship – Identity, Footprint, & Social Activism. I didn't get much done with Topic 4, but I have material to work with later--like next quarter when I am not teaching three composition courses. The first link shared by Alec Couros is the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship. I haven't seen this before as a complete list, so I'm glad to have it. This is a nice way to start when you are discussing netiquette. When we talk about "appropriate, responsible behavior" online, this is a definition that we may see evolve. For now, I like how the ETMOOC has taken us from the Open Access policies to what our responsibilities are as digital citizens.

As I have mentioned before, so much of what I have done as an online teacher has been in the password protected learning management system of my college teacher. My digital footprint is really small. I haven't blogged, tweeted, LinkedIn, or anything else that gave me public exposure until this year. Have I been a responsible digital citizen? Yes. I just haven't made the time, nor have I seen the point in some cases (like Facebook).

I really like blogging to work out ideas and share my experience as a teacher. Teaching, despite being surrounded by people constantly, is a lonely enterprise. Online teaching is even worse, and it wasn't until this year that I realized that other online teachers felt the same isolation. Yes, I know. Other blogs have existed for years, and I'm behind the curve. Behind on getting to know what's out there: I'm not alone.

This morning I read Millennial Students and Middle-aged Faculty: A Learner-centered Approach to Bridging the Gap by

She points out some really great ideas that I identified with as a teacher. The feeling of getting older while your students do not, the challenges of connecting with people much younger than you, the frustration of dealing with people who think they multi-task well (the student who text while you are talking and then ask you to repeat what you just said), etc. 

What I disagree with is her suggestion that there is no longer a journey. No matter what your generation, there is a common bond of wanting a journey in life. Whether it's the classroom or your job, there's a journey. Whether it's in 15 minute chunks or hour-long lectures, a quarter is a journey. Flaherty has twice the experience than I do as a teacher, but I've been a student for a long time now. Being a student while being a teacher has given me some perspective that I'm still working out.
There is still a "journey" only it has changed. It's still there, teachers just have to do things differently. Perhaps the journey has changed, because although Flaherty mentions a by-gone time when students could sustain an hour-long discussion of a reading, I don't remember it that way. Granted I was an undergrad almost 15 years ago, but I remember being one of the handful of students who did the reading and tried to engage with my teacher and my fellow students. Cell phones were not as common (nor as small and connected as they are now) but my lazy comrades wrote notes, slept, or stared off into space. They weren't any more engaged as the Millennials whom we worry about engaging. They had no gadgets to distract them, and they were just plain bored.

Here is what I am trying to work out: I don't think that technology is necessary in all teaching situations. It can't hide bad teaching. I don't think backward design helps bad teaching. I don't think student-centered teaching cancels out bad teaching. Bad teaching, by my definition, is done by a teacher that doesn't care either way. The job gets done. A "bad teacher" has stopped caring about his or her learning by no longer taking risks. Bad teaching, in the era of open access digital footprints, is up for debate. I'm not so interested in the debate as I am about what to do about it. What I can do about my own bad teaching.

I'm working on the idea that I plan to present on in the spring at a conference--teachers can create their own networks to create small changes in their teaching that will be both self-serving and fruitful for student engagement. Generational differences exist. They are a reality. Our attention spans are different. Flaherty, by posting her work to build on her digital footprint, gave me something to think about on a morning when I'm struggling to get started with the day. How do we engage faculty who feel intimated by the digital gap? Why do we embrace technology in our personal lives but fear it in our classrooms? Are those in Generation X any different from the Baby Boomers? Forgive the generation digression. I live with somebody who has been working on a book on this very topic for the last ten years.

I'll leave this post today with a quote from an inspirational educator and colleague, Dr. Craig Lewis. At the close of his emails, he includes epigraphs. He makes a practice of changing the quotes, and I always look forward to what he will choose next. Here is my favorite that I wrote in my notebook, and for this and many other things, I thank him. It's the thoughts of others that often propel us onto new journeys.

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper. 
― William Butler Yeats


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Open Vision

What did I see today?

From the blog that I accessed the following quote thanks to a neighbor to the north from British Columbia. 

"I think it is safe to say that the expectation is that teachers should provide what is needed. Consequently, teachers must be more things to more people than maybe ever before. The complexity of the job has multiplied.

As result, the relationships between teachers, students, and technologies they share have grown more complex. The roles that were believed to be settled are all again subject to interrogation.

For me, an educator or teacher must be a master student or learner. One who walks the walk, always learning, always curious, always chasing mastery, and leads by example. Truth be told, that is the only way I know, at the moment, how to maintain any kind of anchor in these evolving relationships."

Is it enough to say that this is exactly what I was thinking about today? 
"Always chasing mastery" really sums up where I am right now as a teacher, student, and learner. It's nice to know I'm not alone. And although sometimes the Internet can feel like one big echo chamber to me, I do appreciate learning from people that I would have not otherwise connected with in life.

Today as I crossed the finish line of my local St. Patty's run, I connected with two people that I kept passing and getting passed by throughout the 8k. I passed them a few blocks to the end, and they chased me down. I was most concerned with beating my time from last year, but their extra push put me in a great mood when we hit the finish line together. I realized that's why I love racing. There is a finish line (unlike learning) and there is always somebody to chase. Lucky me.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Open Notebook

I'm getting a slow start to the day. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays are a bit intense this quarter, and I needed some time to do something else other than work. Dogs needed longer walks, clothes needed washing, crossword puzzles needed solving, coffee needed to be sipped slowly, and the trails around Lake Padden needed me to run around them twice. So, I'm getting a late start to work, but I'll get everything done on my list. The rain will fall while I finish the day.

I got caught up with some reading, and it made me think of ETMOOC's current topic on The Open Movement. I haven't attended any talks, read any Slideshares, but I have checked in on the Diigo group. That's the easiest connection for me because they send me updates via email. I have, however, been thinking about the Open Movement. On the one hand, it's amazing how much I can access about my various interests with just a few clicks. I can browse reading for later on my phone while I wait for the mister to go into a bike shop. Amazing.

On the other hand, it's amazing how much disappears. We've all been there as a teacher. You find something that's perfect for your class. You give your students the link. You build content in your OL class about that link. You embed the link into an announcement that you send a face-to-face class. The link is there for years.

And then it's gone. Panicked emails from students ensue. Annoyed "Me too" posts on the discussion board. Just like that, it's gone.
This brings me back to the Open Movement. Sure, things are getting better, but we still have a long way to go. I can't take the chance on content that might disappear. A student of mine said he liked paper textbooks because he never "has to wait for the page to download." I laughed, but his comment made me think about my paper-free classroom. A slow internet connection can really slow down your reading. Waiting for a file to open can delay a thought. 

 Will I ever get away from the notebooks?  Do I want to?

A colleague blogged about Oliver Jeffers, and he delighted me with his short film. His words rang true about why we need to write things down. He reminds us to always carry a pencil and paper. Even better, I discovered this video through a blog after reading "On Keeping a Notebook in the Digital Age" by Elizabeth Spiers.

All of the reading listed above: Free. Open. A good thing for the movement of my pen, for sure.

Spiers' best quote: "Writing things down enforces slowness, and by extension, thoughtfulness."

I've given up my paper calendar this quarter, but I'm on my third notebook since December.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Open Door Policy

Yes, we have an open door policy at the community college. Come one, come all, and yet when you get here, everything costs money. One way I've been trying to ease the financial burden for my students has been to use online textbooks. I'm collecting data from the students using anonymous polls about their experiences. Almost of all them like not having to pay for their books. Why bother writing a research question when you know the answer? In other words, I knew that's what they would say. I'm digging deeper, and there is still much to learn. More on that later.
Okay, readers from the ETMOOC community, I've been away for awhile. I didn't get to spend the time that I wanted to on last topic, but that's fine. I'm thinking of this blog as a way to record and share what my current thoughts are about all things connected to educational technology.
In the last two weeks, along with teaching my normal load, I've been doing the Quality Matters (QM) certification. And that, my friends, leaves little time for anything else. I'd like to focus more the QM in later blog posts, but I can say that I've learned a lot about course design, delivery, and alignment. Their focus on interaction--student-teacher, student-student, and student-content--is a move towards on-going professional development for higher education. A move, quite frankly, I'd like to see more of with regards to teaching. Subject matter training and development matters, but quality teaching is another facet of pedagogy that often goes ignored. 

So? Where did we leave off, ETMOOC? Well, first of all, I have to admit that I'm going to start to cheat on you. That's right. I've been telling my research students to "marry" their topics, and here I am cheating on my first MOOC.

I'm mostly just delighted that I can make that analogy in class and it includes all students in my class. Marriage equality allows me to use really bad metaphors about relationships when I teach research. I'm sure my students make fun of me. I would! I've joined "Introduction to Social Media" offered by Dr. Maria Andersen and Canvas Network. I logged on, but I haven't done anything yet. Since it's offer through Canvas, I want to see as many course designs as I can since my campus is moving to this LMS. Don't worry, ETMOOC. You've been my first love, and I'm going to see it through.

Here is latest ETMOOC the message posted last week:

Welcome to topic #4!

Over the next two weeks we hope to support your thinking and creativity around the very BIG and nebulous topic of ‘The Open Movement’. So what exactly is the Open Movement? Well, it’s not one thing. Rather, the Open Movement is an umbrella term that describes a number of overlapping and interrelated movements that, collectively, support the idea of a free and open society in the Arts, Education, government, computing/code, research, technology, medicine, copyright/copyleft, and other key areas. Over the next two weeks, we will  focus (mostly) on the Open Education piece of this movement but, as always, feel free to move well beyond what we provide.

My goal for this week will be to check out some of the sources and blog about them when I have the time. Time is tight. It is the last week of the quarter after all, and spring break is very close. Any idea that I can study where I'm promised "it's not one thing" and it's "an umbrella term" is something I know I'm going to love. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Big Ideas for Learning

 Sugata Mitra made my Friday. 

Who do I thank? The chemistry teacher who sent a link to an English teacher who then emailed me? Or do I thank Chris Kluwe, a professional foot player who tweeted the link that the chemistry teacher read? Is it even necessary to cite the origin of the thing itself? Well, either way, maybe I've shared the link with somebody new. And I cited my source, thank you very much!
In Mitra's "Build A School in the Cloud," he has several "Big Ideas" that connect directly to my own research and interests. His SOLE=Self-Organized-Learning-Environment resonates with the ETMOOC question I'd like to take up today. He speaks directly to the potential for cloud-based learning for children. That's his passion, and his challenge is inspiring.

My passion is to take the same idea, but connect it to teacher training. I've got to make these Big Ideas and do something local. Will this happen as a result of working with other teachers I know? Maybe. Can I do something as part of a committee who is looking to research online textbooks? Yes. Perhaps the SOLE idea could work for the small network of teachers that I know on my campus. Brick by brick maybe we can build something new.

What struck me about this video was the photos of children teaching one another around his "hole in the wall computers." There was never an image of one student with one computer. Yet, that's very much the way online learning--and teaching--works right now. One teacher. One computer. Alone. 

Don't get me wrong. I love solitude. It's very much a part of who I am to desire long stretches of time alone. But I learn best with other people. I need to teach other people to fully understand what I am trying to work out. I realized I need that "encouragement" that Mitra mentions. His "method of the grandmother" or the person who simply says, "Wow" holds great potential in the way that teachers learn from one another. It's how good ideas become big ideas. 

What digital competencies and skills do your learners demonstrate through their daily use of technology?

The tweet that becomes an email that becomes a blog post that might become the next Big Idea. Who knew? The "daily use" of technology holds great potential. What that means, I'm not sure quite sure, but I'm going to think about it. The next topic for the ETMOOC community sounds really interesting. 

For now, I'll leave you with a play on the word SOLE. Here's a song I can't get out of my head since I first saw this acronym.