Panic, disorientation, risk, trust, self-efficacy and transformative learning

image by Charity Johansson

As part of a Creative Exploration (CE) on cMOOCs, Rhoda Mauer at Cornell has been posting comments and resources related to concepts of panic, trust and storytelling.  At the same time, Peter Taylor, who is also part of the CE, is talking about a possible new collaboration on transformative education. These conversations intersect with my attempts to understand the power of shifting perspective and building confidence and competence (self-efficacy) that may result from being in a new or unique learning environment.

A brief Google search on the terms “disorientation learning trust” got me to a piece on transformative learning.  So my exploration is turning to learning more about “transformative learning”.

In a Journal of Environmental Education piece, D’Amato and Krasny (2011) write:

Transformative learning is often precipitated by a “disorienting dilemma,” which is followed by critical self-re?ection, social interactions, planning for action, and building competence and self-con?dence in new roles and relationships as a result of taking action (Mezirow, 2000). Such learning could result in personal growth as well as in questioning and changing one’s behaviors toward the environment (instrumental learning). (p.239)

Kucukaydin and Cranton (Adult EducationQuarterly, 2013) also reference Mezirow as four distinct types of transformative learning:

  •  developmental (Daloz, 1999)
  • emancipatory (Freire, 1972)
  • extrarational (Boyd,1989)
  • rational (Mezirow, 1991)

Keegan (Asian Social Science, 2011) also speaks to four processes in transformative learning (critical reflection or feedback,  reflective discourse or evaluation, and action related to learning and teaching quality).  that resonate with the 4 Rs  and Probe-Create-Change-Reflect modes that Peter Taylor talks about as well as the experience I had during the EDCMOOC offered Coursera by U of Edinburgh.

Let’s see where this creative exploration path takes me.



Civics, digital badges and alternative assessment: Preparing students to be engaged citizens

I have a new working paper on digital badge and civics released today as part of CIRCLE’s working paper series.  The paper explores digital badges and alternative assessments for civic skills, knowledge, and dispositions and is entitled “New and Alternative Assessments, Digital Badges, and Civics: An Overview of Emerging Themes and Promising Directions.” It also considers digital badges as well as ePortfolios, rubrics, games, simulations, and other assessment and learning tools that might expand options for those committed to improving civic education. The working paper is also summarized in an online presentation.


Self-Organization in the #EDCMOOC

Keeley Sorokti just wrote up some really excellent thinking on the ideas of scaffolding as it relates to the recent eLearning and Digital Cultures MOOC offered up by the University of Edinburgh on Coursera.  Given that my background isn’t in education, I tend to think of these things in relation to engagement, participation and community building.  Opportunities, access, motivation, connection, belonging and collective action are often the terms that guide my thinking about how environments, both virtual and real, make for a successful public sphere.

For a couple of years I’ve been thinking about self-organizing systems as they apply to community-based organizations.  Recently ideas such as connectivism and networked learning environments have entered into my thinking.  So, I thought it might help for me to pull out the features of self-organizing projects and map them against the EDCMOOC.

Feature Description / Importance / Role
Plateaus / Frameworks / Boundaries Organizing spaces or defined scope that shapes the problem space.   Can be a physical, virtual or conceptual space or goal.  Keeps the actors in a focused area.

The EDCMOOC did this through the construct of a class with defined content blocks and activities.  The MOOC was the container for this system.

Heterogeneity / Differentiation Variance in the systems of actors, ideas, roles.  Too much similarity will not create the tension or conflict necessary to move the system forward.

The EDCMOOC provided multiple platforms for communication and engagement (e.g. Coursera forums, Google G+ community, Twitter, Facebook) and presented content in a broad and open enough manner to appeal to a variety of interests.  By reaching a global community and engaging thousands of individuals there was more diversity than in a traditional class, although there were gaps or lack of certain perspectives (e.g. those without access, those in more disenfranchised settings, etc).

Ambiguity Some amount of non-definition that leaves room for questions, exploration and introduction of new ideas or pathways that were not planned for or expected.

Content in the EDCMOOC was presented in thematic blocks.  There were choices and avenues for exploration.  The main assignment was intentionally vague to invite a myriad of interpretations.

Boundary Objects A set of tools or concepts that are “plastic” enough to be bent and used by different actors in different ways, but still can act as a “glue” of sorts.

The EDCMOOC boundary objects were the electronic communications — emails, tweets, fb posts,  blog entries and collection of additional creative tools that allowed for a range of expressions.

Connections / Mulit-level / Polycentric Importance of many connections between actors both vertical and horizontal as well as multiple actions and centers of activity.  Lends to robustness and resilience.

The EDCMOOC probably succeeded most in this arena.  By de-centering the instructors, creating relatively open thematic blocks and proposing multiple communication blocks, the MOOC was able to allow for leaders and passionate users to emerge and connect across multiple platforms.  Many of the participants mapped these interactions to demonstrate the broad network.

Feedback / Learning / Adaptation The system should allow for new information and lessons learned to move throughout the system and adapt accordingly.

The EDCMOOC had enough structured interactions (e.g. Google Hangout, Twitter Chats, defined meeting spaces) that individuals interested in engaging could collective share and discuss.  The open, self-directed nature of the environment also allowed for individuals to find new pathways and thinking on new resources in relation to the proposed themes and ongoing discussion of participatns.

Coordination / Influence / Control Not a command and control style, but rather will maintain the system by which information gets integrated and moved throughout the system.  May play a categorization or prioritization role or facilitate such processes happening.

Clearly the instructional team for the EDCMOOC at the University of Edinburgh played a critical role in defining the  the content, orchestrating the release of that content, and providing top level information and communication.  Addiitonally, multiple node of coordination emerged throughout from participants themselves from the core group who created resources prior to the start of class, to organizers of the Twitter chats, to folks like Keeley who scheduled real-time gatherings and interactions.

New Additions to My Learning Ecosystem

Keeley Sokoti has been engaging in a number of conversations with myself and others in the MOOC about ways to support and extend learning within MOOCs and other online environments.  A number of these folks have been engaged in an asynchronous VoiceThread discussion over the last couple of weeks.   Keeley orchestrated the convening of a group of us in a Google+ Hangout earlier today and now these individuals are part of my learning ecosystem in an even stronger way.  Most of them have blogs where they capture their thoughts.  Check them out:

Keeley’s Blog: 
Rick’s Blog:
Beth D.’s Blog:
Fran’s Blog:
Henry’s Blog –

Virginia, I am sure, will in the not too distant future be publishing her thoughts on line as well.

Expanding Our Mental Models of MOOCs – #edcmooc

As I’m exploring the contours and shape of MOOCs through the eLearning and Digital Cultures MOOC, I am confronted by a whole set of acronyms — xMOOC, cMOOC, mobiMOOC, moocl, SOOC, modMOOC.  At the same time I’m thinking through the critiques of MOOC including who they do and don’t serve or what is an isn’t possible within these environments.

Like many things, early movers in new technology realms, like Coursera and Udacity, which also have the ability to leverage resources — human, financial, technical — get to define and build the landscape.  They become our de facto understanding of what a MOOC is or what is possible in the framing of “open education.”

Yet there are other models possible and other endeavors underway.  Peer-2-Peer University allows anyone to create a course while providing a portal for reaching larger audiences than any individual effort could on their own.  The Online University of the Left askew the capital market place rationale of the early movers.  The University of the People tries to combine online learning but modeling ways to increase access and prevent cost from being a barrier.  Mobile technologies, which more individuals globally have access to, are also being leveraged for MOOC-type learning with a development bent.

Now there will be those who say these are not MOOCs, but they definitely are in the OOC vien.  Do we even know all o the multiple ways in which content on those platforms we identify with MOOCs are used?  It seems that we need all the models we can get.  Experimentation, innovation, working things out.  Surely some will fail which is far preferable to having one set idea of what it is to expand learning online in the vien of open education.

Experimenting with Asynchronous Embodied Discussion – #edcmooc

A couple of years ago I was looking for a way to bring a sense of embodied-ness to an online class where students simply couldn’t be together synchronously.  The traditional discussion board was good, but had limits.  So in seeking tools that might help with this snag, I came across VoiceThread.  Since then, I’ve used this tool quite a lot to allow for project presentations and peer feedback.  Students have loved it.

So, I thought I would test out the possibility of having  an asynchronous, voice discussion with individuals participating in the e-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC.  Herre are the steps:

  1. Click on the image above and it will take you to the VoiceThread for this discussion.
  2.  Hit play and listen to what has been contributed thus far to the discussion.
  3.  If you want to add your own thoughts, press “comment” (you will have to sign in or register – sorry).
  4. Choose the “record” option and record your voiced contribution to the discussion.(try not to use “text” it defeats the embodied purpose and unfortunately I don’t have an account level that would accommodate video).
  5. Click “stop” and then “save.”

I am likely to provide some sort of synthesis of what folks share for those who don’t want to  take the time to listen to the whole discussion (if one ends up happening).  Mostly, I’m interested to see if folks have ideas on how else to created embodied presence asynchronously.  I’m also interested to hear how others might use a tool like this as well.

UPDATE:  The original VoiceThread for the eLearning and Digital Cultures now has over 50 voice comments and a small group has now progressed to scheduling a real-time Google Hangout.  I am now drying to jumpstart a VoiceThread for the MIT Learning Creative Learning MOOC.  That VoiceThread can be found here –

Who are the MOOCers?: A Collaborative Brainstorm Activity – #edcmooc

Word cloud courtesy of Letty Mills Barnes

So the various metaphors to replace the digital native / digital immigrant concepts got me thinking, “How do I think of the folks in this MOOC?”  Then I started to think, “How do others think about them?” I know what some folks think, but are there more metaphors and adjectives out there?

At the same time, I’ve been working out concepts of sense-making within the context of a MOOC.  Then I thought about a tool Peter Taylor in the Critical and Creative Thinking Program at UMass Boston uses a lot in his classes related to brainstorming and sense-making.  So I decided to experiment with it for the #EDCMOOC.

So here is the process:

  1. Figure out a question or bit of information you’d like collective brainstorm on.
  2. Create an input form using Google Docs – There are lots of online tutorials on how to do this especially this one from Google Help. – My Example
  3. The form feeds into a Google Spreadsheet like this (image courtesy of Dick Vestdijk):
  4. If you want others to see the results you can share the spreadsheet by clicking on the share button and making sure that the “Public” option is chosen.  You can make the spreadsheet “viewable’ or “editable”.   I wanted folks to see what others had entered so they could do what they wanted with it.
  5. You can also share the results via the editing function of the form.  One of the “More Actions” on this form is to “Edit the confirmation” and you can check off “Publish response summary”
  6. Once these form is created, promote via outlets.  I posted to the EDCMOOC Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ communities.  I shortened the Google link to the form using

So the tool is actually quit simple.  I think the more challenging part is thinking about the process of bringing the collective ideas and thoughts of so many into some useable form.  Letty created the world cloud above, perhaps with a tool like Wordle.  I’m going to try to do a conceptual sort to see if certain types of MOOCers appear. UPDATE:  My first and second level sort can be found at this Google doc.

There is also a second attempt at this activity seeing what folks sharing their impression on “What is a MOOC?”. 

So these are my questions:

  • What would you do with this information on who are the MOOCers?
  • How would you use a system / process like this?

A proposed process for small group, synchronous dialogue in a MOOC environment – #edcmooc

So I’m thinking about ways in which small group dialogue might happen within the context of MOOCs like the e-Learning and Digital Cultures class.  The trick would be to create a process that would be easily replicable, not require centralized management, and could accommodate use by a diversity of learners found within MOOCs.  It would seem that this process is best be implemented after folks have settled into the MOOC and have had some time to start interacting with others.

I am wondering if a format developed by Peter Taylor in the Critical and Creative Thinking Program at UMass Boston and published in the book Taking Yourself Seriously might work.  It is a 5-phase dialogue format for synchronous groups with minimal facilitation via VOIP (e.g. Skype), video chat (e.g. Goolge Hangout) or face-2-face.  Accommodations would need to be made for those with hearing barriers.

Dialogue hours are usually limited to 1 hour, but can be shorter or longer.  A limit of 10 persons is ideal so everyone has a chance to participate and technical snafus are minimized.  For Internet-based dialogue hours, each participant should have adequate bandwidth to engage in the dialogue.  With that said, services like Skype and Google Hangout still experience traffic problems and technical difficulties.

So here is the proposed process:

  1. Create a sign-up registration form using the form feature in Google Docs (or any other online form generator)
  2. Invite people to join the dialogue and send them the link to the registration form.
  3. Set a day and time for the dialogue hour.  The organizer could just set a time and date when putting out the invite or could work to find an agreeable time using a tool like Doodle.
  4. Send a confirmation email to participants and share the 5-phase format link with them along with the time, date and technical requirements.
  5.  Send a reminder to folks 12 to 24 hours before the dialogue hour.
  6. Start the dialogue hour making sure to leave enough time to allow folks to understand the process — determine whether or not you are going to record the dialogue to share with others outside the group, the default is to not record.
  7. Follow the 5 phase dialogue format (use the link to read about this in greater detail) — for Internet-based dialogue hours it helps to have a facilitator who basically keeps track of the time and moving folks through each phase and a person to monitor turn taking.
  8. Use a form to gather collective thoughts to share back out to group — determine whether or not you want to share with others outside the group, the default is to not share.

I think this process could also work in a more self organizing way, but I need some time to think on it and would welcome input on how that might get structured.

So would this work?   What is unclear?  Is it worth experimenting with?  What are the potential stumbling blocks?

How do we crowdsource sense-making? – #edcmooc

image courtesy Harold Jarche

The e-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC (#edcmooc) has me contemplating the need for tools and a processes to help crowdsource user blogs as well as the synthesis of material.

Right now one of the things I wish I had access to is an RSS feed aggregator that can be contributed to by collaborative groups. For instance, a bunch of people want to share their blogs with each other, but no one person wants to curate the process.  It would be great if something seamless and easy to use like a or Storify for group curation. I’d also love to have the capability of something like a Reddit or Diig that could be used for groups so good ideas and resources could float to the top through recommendations or votes. If a developing folksonomy for the group could be displayed and somehow voted on that would be a great added feature. Basically, how do you crowdsource the synthesis and highlighting of collective ideas?

The Stories We Tell Ourselves – #edcmooc

So this week we are exploring metaphors.  Metaphors of technology and its use have an immense power to shape our eventual understanding and sense of possibility.  We can tell stories of fear or wonder and perhaps the reality is somewhere in between.

I had been contemplating how our mental models of what is a class and what it is to learn are based on our previous experiences.  These experiences in turn shape our expectations for MOOCs.  We have a certain idea of what it means to take a class.  What the structure is.  What is expected of us.  But what happens when those expectations are disrupted?  Like Clay Shirky describes in his essay on Napster, Udacity and the Academy, we may be so preoccupied with how we think learning is supposed to happen or is suppose to be, the we don’t see the new possibilities presented to us within a context of change.

Does learning have to happen in the way we currently construct it?  What would learning look like if each person mapped out their own personal learning plan or goals? Do we, as potential learners, even know how to create these or what they are?  What would our own Personal Learning Networks look like if we had no barriers?  Should our current educational systems be more about learning the skills and confidence to learn rather than focus on content?  What are the possibilities presented by a global knowledge network fueled by the Internet, that operates more like an ecosystem than a discrete classroom?  The theory of connectivism keeps poppiong up.

Shirky tells us that that “new technologies allow us to tell new stories.”  The e-Learning and Digital Cultures (#edcmooc) course along with my experiences with the teaching methods in the Critical and Creative Thinking Program at UMass Boston show that we can rethink and recreate the processes by which we engage learning — both with and without technology enhancements.  We can find ways to increase individual motivation and passion for learning while building the confidence and agency for the learner. It’s just that we have for too long been conditioned to expect that learning happens in prescribed ways.  How do we create the places for students to develop “curiosity and a questioning disposition, what we’ve called in the past a gaming disposition?”

This seems related to Bateson’s Levels of Learning described by Gardner Campbell in is keynote at the Open Ed 2012.   We think of learning often within the context of a formal or institutional setting.  We take a class. A class has a set format, defined goals and roles, activities set forth with a set duration.  The learning is contained within the class with some structured amount of outside work which is structured and tied back to the class.  Admittedly there is a certain amount of variety within this format.  Yet, we are often motivated by external demands such as grades, tests, and degrees that we forget or ignore our own curiosity and passion for learning.

But what happens when the ways learning is suppose to happen gets disrupted?  What if learning can happen any where?  What if everyone is a potential teacher?  What if the content has substance but no specific format or set boundaries? What if the learner is in charge?  As Shirky says “[t]he possibility MOOCs hold out is that the educational parts of education can be unbundled.”  But do these possibilities present a vaste array of possibiliteis or do they threaten to homogenize knowledge as Depedeva posits on her blog?

So the one area I keep coming back to and is the basis of some writing I’m doing on digital badging, where do credentials and accreditation fit into all of this?  Clearly many who engage in a MOOC are doing so for their own professional and personal development.  But if we are proposing MOOCs as alternatives to our current systems of education, how do we help students demonstrate their mastery and competence?   Do we decouple the learning from the certification?  Ifs so, what are the new systems of credentialing needed for this new environment?