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 Bit.ly.

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 Scoop.it 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?


Making sense of MOOC conversations: Part 2 – #edcmooc

So I had thought that one of the solutions to focussing and managing the mass of input in a MOOC was to create more manageable sub groups.  After sorting and reading through a number of posts and conversations, I’m now thinking that providing or making available a really helpful guidebook for those who are new travelers in the MOOC universe.  A guide for thoese who don’t want to go to a new place without some sort of preparation. What would go insuch a guidebook?  My previous post point to helpful starts and since then I was directed to a a guide for participants at ETMOOC.

I also was reading a post by a colleague of mine, Peter Taylor, today on how to make space for relationships which also seems part of the solution and shares some elements in common with Cormier, Ilzel and Chan’s recommendations. Taylor speaks to links between focused conversations as related to the ladder of influence.  While these are envisioned as face-to-face conversations the steps also apply within a virtual ecology.  The steps include:

  1. Objective (getting the concrete facts, things observable by all)
  2. Reflective (eliciting feelings and associations)
  3. Interpretive (considering the meaning and significance)
  4. Decisional (formulating a decision or an action)

Finally, Andrea Carrasco shared a Disney videon called Paperman on the EDCMOOC Facebook group page.  The animations definitely echos Inbox from the Week 1 clips.  But it also speaks to the larger experience of communicating in the MOOC.  You put your communications (paper airplanes) out there.  They don’t seem to reach an audience.  But through the force of a massive communication network the ideas and concepts find a away to aggregate and bring people and ideas together.  So perhaps trusting in the openness of such a large learning experience and resisting the urge to control is really what is necessary.


Shifting Metaphors from Classroom to Journey – #edcmooc

David Cormier has created a nice little video animation that quickly and clearly describes 5 simple steps to learning in a MOOC.  They are:

  1. Orient — find out where everything is, what are the key deadlines, etc
  2. Declare — put your ideas out there in some place — discussion list, blog, tweet, FB post, etc
  3. Network — find people who you find to be of interest, reply, retweet, and comment on what they have said
  4. Cluster — pull together or join a group of folks who you will share the learning experience with.
  5. Focus — remain clear on what you want to get out of the experience and try to remain true to that without getting distracted.

While Cormier doesn’t say it, it seems that these steps do not necessarily have to happen in a linear order and that they could be shuffled around.  I would put them in a networked pattern, much like the one Cormier draws for the network concept.

For instance, it might help to start with focus and learning goals and actually come back to them regularly to reassess or revisit them. Likewise, you might network and seek out individuals and ideas before declaring your own.  You might do this with more than one concept and group.  Also the idea of cluster might equally apply to concepts and themes as they do to people and groups.

A couple of other folks I’ve come across have also shared tips for success in a MOOC.  Ilzele at Random Ramblings has her own 5 steps to MOOC success:

  1. Prioritze
  2. Skim
  3. Group-Up
  4. Organize
  5. Have Fun!!!.

Brittnay Chan at MOOC Nook shares her 4 steps for not being overwhelmed

  1. Pick your favorite
  2. Start slowly – listening is great
  3. Don’t feel you have to do everything
  4. Have fun!!

So clearly there is overlap here.  Echos of Cormier’s “focus” are in Ilzele’s “priortize” and Chan’s “pick your favorite.”  Orienting (Cormier) and starting slowly (Chan) seem compatible.   And Chan’s “listening is great” seems the perfect compliment to Cormier’s “declare.”   Skimming and networking share the features of exploring new content and new people.  Ilzele’s “group up” and “organize” seem to capture two different features of Cormier’s “cluster” — group up = clustering people and organize = clustering content.  Both Ilzele and Chan want us to “have fun” which also seems embodied in Chan’s  “Don’t feel you have to do everything.”

So it would seem that there are both content and interaction lessons.  And as I consider these bits of shared wisdom and insight, the metaphor that comes to mind is that of a journey rather than a classroom.  This is not a new nor original metaphor for learning, but it might help to have this metaphor rather than the mental model of a classroom.  If I am on a knowledge quest rather than fulfilling a requirement or an external expectation of achievement I might find more joy and excitement.

LIke any good journey, I would as Cormier suggests orient myself to the environment.  I would perhaps  prioritize, focus or map the key places I’d like to visit.  I would make time to explore interesting people, resources and content.  I would share my stories as well as listen to those of others.   I would collect and organize treasures found in a knapsack and capture my insights and reflections.  And at the end of the journey, I’d make time to take stock and assess where I had been and where I might go next.

So other things that come to mind with the metaphor of a journey — when and what role does a guide (in the person or information format) play in the journey?  Do you always need one?  How about a translator?  How do you know what to pack or prepare ahead of time? How do you find help when you are in trouble?  What are the other things required of a journey into learning?

Looks like Amy Burvall has some interesting things to say about exploring in asserting that  we should become digital Vikings.


Multiple entry points, individual agency, and connectivism – #edcmooc


The E-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC (#EDCMOOC) has taken the approach in design to make multiple platforms possible for engaging in the content of the course — many, many discussion lists and all manner of social media platforms.  Given the large number of students and personal technology preferences, this seems to be a strategy that allows for some management of how a student might engage with the course.

For instance, I am primarily checking the Twitter feed, Facebook Group, Mash-up EDC MOOC News which pulls in blog feeds, and tracking two discussion threads — one a Synchtube group of folks who are online educators and the other a discussion of one of the four videos assigned for week 1.

I also have some very specific learning goals for myself for this class.  Such as:

  1. experience how a discussion oriented MOOC runs
  2. experiment with technique and strategies for making the most of collective insights and knowledge
  3. explore individuals and concepts that focus on learning process and instructional design

With these in mind, I’m able to identify content from scanning quickly posts, titles, etc.  It makes me realize how critical it is to distill the essence of your ideas into a compact tweet, blog title, discussion title, Facebook post, etc.  That these can signal your interests to others and help you find individuals with whom you might enter into more in-depth conversation.

My previous thinking on self-organizing groups and organizations applies to this class.  Theories of connectivism are now on my list to explore a bit further.



Embodied Presence in a MOOC – #edcmooc

The five instructors of the e-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC (#edcmooc) held a live Google+ Hangout today.  Each instructor took themes and questions from various parts of the first week to amplify, discuss and present.  Part synthesis and part engagement in the dialogue, the group highlighted interesting contributions, answered questions, talked about course design intents, and may other elements.  The Hangout+ was incredibly helpful in providing some focus and energy to massive amount of content being produced by students.  Most importantly it provided an embodiment,connective thread, leadership or focus to the course.  Very powerful indeed.

Additionally simultaneous twitter and Google+ feeds allowed for students engaged in the Hangout to contribute the overall conversation.  In many ways this was one solution to the issue of my post two days ago “Making Sense of MOOC Conversations”.

In talking to my colleague Kei today about this course, I also wondered how might this role of “synthesizer” or “meaning maker” be codified.  Could it be something that students would be tasked with?  Could a small study group (in-person or not) provide similar meaning and focus as long as members of the group knew their role in synthesizing content?  Clearly this is a model used in Law School in the U.S. (and perhaps elsewhere) .

A new set of interesting possibilities are now swirling in my head to continue to be considered.


Making sense of MOOC conversations – #edcmooc

This word cloud was created out of the collective posts submitted to a discussion forum that is part of a new MOOC on E-Learning and Digital Cultures class that I started this week.

There are over 40K students engaged in this class.  Part of the week 1 materials was to watch 4 short videos that presented utopian and dystopian visions of technology.  Instructional staff jumpstarted discussion forums for each of these videos.  The above word clouds it related to a discussion on this particular video:

This particular discussion thread had over 100 messages in a little over a day.  How do you absorb the collective thoughts of so many?  What if there isn’t the ability to deeply engage and synthesize the conversation?  So I wondered could I extract the text of these messages and construct a word cloud out of them based on word counts?  Would that provide any insight?  Would it pull out some of the major themes from the discussion? Could it provide new insights or connections?  The image doesn’t capture the nuance of the conversation, but it does capture to big themes.

This image is for the discussion thread on Benito Machine III – http://youtu.be/xiXOigfDb0U.

This image is for the discussion thread on Inbox – http://youtu.be/75wNgCo-BQM

So I’m not sure what this boiled down graphics say or what new connections are made.  But some cross themes that emerge are the relationships between technology, nature and humans.  The role it plays in communications and what we think.  The quest for newness.

For those who might have other strategies to test out, here is the compiled messages in text format from Thursday discussion thread.  My next experiment is to see if I can enlist folks in a collaborative theme mapping / tagging activity to see how that might work.


My imagined artistic self

Felicia M. Sullivan

Felicia M. Sullivan (°1966, Malone, United States) is an artist who works in a variety of media. By rejecting an objective truth and global cultural narratives, Sullivan tries to approach a wide scale of subjects in a multi-layered way, likes to involve the viewer in a way that is sometimes physical and believes in the idea of function following form in a work.

Her work urge us to renegotiate art as being part of a reactive or – at times – autistic medium, commenting on oppressing themes in our contemporary society. With a conceptual approach, she creates with daily, recognizable elements, an unprecedented situation in which the viewer is confronted with the conditioning of his own perception and has to reconsider his biased position.

Her works demonstrate how life extends beyond its own subjective limits and often tells a story about the effects of global cultural interaction over the latter half of the twentieth century. It challenges the binaries we continually reconstruct between Self and Other, between our own ‘cannibal’ and ‘civilized’ selves. By demonstrating the omnipresent lingering of a ‘corporate world’, she investigates the dynamics of landscape, including the manipulation of its effects and the limits of spectacle based on our assumptions of what landscape means to us. Rather than presenting a factual reality, an illusion is fabricated to conjure the realms of our imagination.

Her works establish a link between the landscape’s reality and that imagined by its conceiver. These works focus on concrete questions that determine our existence. By exploring the concept of landscape in a nostalgic way, her works references post-colonial theory as well as the avant-garde or the post-modern and the left-wing democratic movement as a form of resistance against the logic of the capitalist market system.

Her works directly respond to the surrounding environment and uses everyday experiences from the artist as a starting point. Often these are framed instances that would go unnoticed in their original context. Felicia M. Sullivan currently lives and works in Lowell, MA.

Created in less than a minute using – http://www.500letters.org/form_15.php