Monday, January 28, 2013

What should a connectivist Web site look like?

The Google site template discussed in the following video is designed to support honors thesis writers throughout the 18 months they conduct a research project in the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

We've asked for suggestions from students over the last year and the template in the video is the latest iteration of the Web content and functionality for the site based on their responses. I'm hoping participants in #etmooc and other interested viewers will weigh in with suggestions for making such site more truly connectivist in design and content.

Friday, January 18, 2013 turns minutes into seconds

As a participant in #etmooc I was introduced to the writing tool on BlackBoard Collaborate that enables dozens of participants to type responses to questions on a virtual white board. It's fun to watch the page populate with ideas (silently). 

I was hoping to find something similar to use without having to use BB and now I find, referenced in The Cultivating Change blog

I’ll use to give more students a chance to make their ideas visible. Instead of taking minutes to learn what a few students think about a topic, I can take seconds to find out what they all think.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

How to plan eventually

While building a Google sites template for 18 honors thesis writers, I was careful to ensure all the Web content was in order before I started making copies from the template. Once all 18 sites were created from the template, errors or omissions from the template would have to be corrected on all 18 sites.

Why create a customizable web site for each student in an honors thesis-writing course? I and colleague Colleen Manchester are using Google docs and charts to track her students' progress on their honors theses and on the Genius Points they've earned along the way. We're using gamification (Genius Points) as an incentive for students to complete steps in the thesis-writing process on time.

My institution uses Google Apps for email, G+ social networking, and Moodle for CMS; making them work together has been worth the effort. Moodle users know what a swamp of administrative detail it demands while being seductively powerful at the same time. Google has sooooooo many great tools that it's a waste to focus only on Moodle when Google is right there.

Creating individual sites for students gives us a way to embed Google docs and charts in iframes on student pages and then publish an aggregate of everyone's scores in an iframe on the class's Moodle course site (students compete to be among the top five Genius-Point earners) .

The Moodle site and Google template were ready to go, so I created all 18 Google sites and asked Colleen to test them to death. She obliged. The site design was fine. Navigation--no problems. Just a few notes:

  1. The Moodle site is still a developmental site. Needs to be an academic site. 
  2. Right. That's 18 links to change.
  3. A formula in the project tracking spreadsheet is wrong: 
  4. Right. That's 180 spreadsheet cells to update.
  5. Can students share pages with their thesis supervisors? 
  6. Sure. That's 18 sharing settings to change.
You get the idea. 

I'm not complaining. I'm saying the first time you do any ed tech project, keep notes about the dozens of things you didn't (couldn't possibly) think of the first time. The notes will help make the extra hours of work worth the cost and contribute to an impressive planning document the next time around. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ways to connect with others via Twitter

#etmooc Intro to Twitter

In addition to delivering a helpful intro, Michelle Franz asks, "How do your build your networks via Twitter?"

Answers from the group:

  • By following people I'm likely to meet face to face at conferences.
  • By following people who are in my area of expertise. 
    • And some people who are outside of that area but within my zone of proximal development
  • As a participant, by sharing ideas via posts...try to give people a reasons to pay attention to me. 
    • Being involved in conversations
  • Follow people your friends/colleagues are following.

I especially found the last idea helpful. I'm now following 24 additional people, including several thought leaders in ed tech.

Class participation redefined

Yesterday's BB session changed my expectations for discussions--in class or online. When the BB screen was populated with dozens of responses to Alec's questions, it was clear how little I learn about what my students think when conversations take place one at a time. Dyads aren't useless, but there's no need to be limited by them.

In the following example Alec asked about what digital literacy means to us (65 or so participants in the session).

62% participation
Over 40 responses, posted within seconds of each other, disclose to individual viewers a range of perspectives, anonymously. We can draw from a group of students to similarly make visible this variety of perspectives but not in so little time. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Wonder what happens in a MOOC?

Here's an outline.

Alec Couros introduces the cMOOC called etMOOC in a BB session with about 65 of the 1500 participants worldwide, raising the question of what we do now that we have connected.

We step forward first thinking about that most fragile of human currency--trust.  Let's work to maintain it by making contributions and responding thoughtfully to them.

Then choice. Participate as you see fit.
Recognition: Earn badges if you want.
Co-creation: create knowledge.
What can we do with our digital citizenship:
These are our topics: (visit the mooc to see the schedule)
Topics are two weeks long.

We're all sharing a whiteboard. Alec asks a question and dozens of replies appear. Ever asked a question in class and get nothing but stares? This whiteboard technology kills that problem.

We'll be working on digital storytelling---by creating digital stories.

What's digital literacy: the responses pop up on the whiteboard. Writer writes, "I can't keep up." A recurring theme in any MOOC.

Seeing all these responses on the whiteboard changes what I think about classroom discussion. Traditional discussion is sooooo limited. Only a few people talk in class and we all hear just a few short comments. On the whiteboard dozens of ideas appear simultaneously. In traditional class, what's going on in students' minds is mostly withheld, invisible, unheard.

What does the open movement mean to you?
PLNs enable longer-term, ongoing learning as opposed to abrupt end of access to tools, people, content once CMS course is over.

Value of participant-controlled space. Building a personal cyber infrastructure.
Where can people connect? #etmooc
Google+ etmooc community
Three Twitter lists--go to the etmooc site.

1. How are you making your learning visible? [key to digital literacy]
2. How are you contributing to the learning of others?

Makes sense that if we believe connecting is valuable we would ask questions about contributions and visibility. These sessions are also discursive so we're not limited to the visual.

He stresses the value of giving the gift of knowledge--we're engaged in a knowledge exchange.

Interesting that he says not to worry about redundancy with so many people posting. But we all have our own filters and don't see the same redundancies that others see. I suppose that's true--and it's easy to skip remarks in which we're not interested.

Couros offers this metaphor for the class (I just returned from a trip to NYC where every Broadway show is billed as a triumph. This video shows a real one):

Joe Moses etMOOC introduction