Friday, August 31, 2012

Coursera #gamification12 course, week 1 recap

So this week Gamification, with Kevin Werbach of UPenn started! After close to two years of working on, what is now termed, cMOOCs (connectivist MOOCs), I decided to check out an "xMOOC" (institutional MOOC) to see what the learning experience is. I hope to be able to write a weekly recap about my coursera experiences :-)

So, the gamification course is a six-week course on gamification from a management background, which ties into my MBA background. The course isn't designed to teach game development, but rather give a broad overview of gamification, and gamification techniques as they apply to a management background.  Nice!

The course itself revolves around some mandatory videos of the instructor (in total Week 1 was about 2 hours worth of video, broken down in 10 minute segments). The videos themselves are quite doable, even when you are in the office. You can easily download them and put them on a mobile device to view during your commute (this is a nice example of mLearning!). Each week there are also additional reading materials that you have access to (and up to now, at least, everything seems to be centered around open resources, so I didn't have to buy anything).

It seems that at the end of each week there is a multiple choice quiz to test your comprehension (I got a 4.75 out of 5.00 on the first week, not bad!) and eventuatlly there will be 3 assignments, that will be peer reviewed; as well as a final exam (also machine gradable).  Do all these and pass them, and you get a certificate of completion.  Since I like the topic (and I am indulging my completionist gamer ethic) I am aiming for gaining that certificate.

There are also fora as part of the course, but these are highly recommended rather than required. While I do think that learning occurs from interaction with peers and with instructors, I have yet to really fully participate in the fora. Even on the first day there were 3 pages of open threads (many with duplicate topics) and it seemed like it required more time than I had available to really delve into them.  Since the fora aren't graded, I don't see myself going through them with as much regularity as I go through blog postings in cMOOCs; but it's only the end of first week so let's see where this journey takes us.

One recommendation I have for coursera is this: In your fora, it might be good to have some sort of intelligent fora-minder that looks at the topics and content of a new thread, and suggests existing threads that this content might be able to go in; this way we don't end up with 10 threads on "what is your favorite game?"

Week 1 take-away for further reading:  must read Huizinga's Homo Ludens.

side note: I chose Coursera over Udacity as my first xMOOC testing platform due to the liberal arts and management content. I would love to get back to my BA roots and learn to program again, but it's not something I have time for this year.  Maybe in 2013 I will test out Udacity more (which seems to have more technical content)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

OpenSyl - A badge for the OpenEd Assessment Designer challenge

With more than half of #ioe12 done, I decided to tackle the OpenEd Assessment designer badge. You can see my crude attempt at a badge on the right.  The background is taken from David Wiley's stock badges, with an overlay of the Open Access logo (I like the unlocked padlock) on a Syllabus that is on a scroll.  I was going for a Wax Tablet (going with my Greek roots), but I could not find any CC licensed Wax Tablet graphics (heck, I couldn't find many non CC wax tablet graphics that were usable).

In any case, for this challenge I had to:

  • Design a badge for the class, including a name, expertise level, and statement of work.
  • Complete the badge yourself.
  • Blog about your proposed badge. Include all the information necessary for someone to complete the badge. Also include your worked example and a description of how it meets the badge requirements.
  • Monitor the class hashtag for someone else who claims to have completed your badge. Judge their work and decide whether they meet your criteria or not. Award the badge as appropriate.
  • You earn the OpenEd Assessment Designer badge when you award your badge to someone other than yourself.
  • Write a final post linking to your previous posts related to this badge and announcing your intent to have completed the badge.

Badge Description:
The successful completer of the artefact that will gain him the Open Syllabus Designer badge will create a syllabus for their course (intended for grades 9-12, undergraduate, or graduate school; but feel free to surprise me!).  In addition to the traditional course description, pre-requisites and required texts for the course, the syllabus needs to contain:

  • Course-level learning objectives
  • Module-level learning objectives
  • Which program level objectives and/or Professional Competencies the course satisfies
  • A description of all assignments for the course, and how they relate to the program level competencies above.
  • Explicit course policies on grading, course etiquette, policies on late work, on group work, on contacting the instructor, and so on (include anything that makes sense for your own course and teaching environment)
  • A weekly breakdown  of activities, objectives, readings and assessments (if any)
  • Course Resources
  • Course Bibliography

Once your syllabus is completed, you should license it with an open license (my recommendation is BY-SA). Then, post your syllabus on an open sharing site such as scribd, and post a link in the comments. 

My own completed assignment to earn this badge can be seen (and downloaded for free) on Scribd: 

INSDSG Project Management for Instructional Designers

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Open Teaching - Expansion Pack 2

This is my second expansion post around the subject of open teaching; and it goes toward the fulfillment of my 3rd requirement for the Researcher badge of #ioe12!  I've been involved with MOOCs since early 2011.  OK, in the grand scheme of things I've been only at it for 18 months thus far, but I've have attended a wide variety of (what are now termed) "c-MOOC"s (or connectivist MOOCs).  One of the main things talked about around the topic of MOOCs are the "massive" number of participants, but what's not often talked about are the amounts of people that drop the course, or just lurk.

Drop outs you can't do much about, they are the same as window shoppers are to retail establishments. People come in for something specific and they don't find it; or they come in just to look and leave.  These people may not be in the right place, so retention of these individuals in the MOOC isn't a major issue.  Lurker on the other hand (coming from a constructivist point of view), could be an issue because we don't know if and how the MOOC is meeting their needs, and whether their participation would add something substantive to the group already participating (in some capacity) in the MOOC).

So, the idea behind this research project proposal is to examine a population of participants in a MOOC, preferably a 5-6 week MOOC (not too short and not too long) to see WHO remains (i.e. the non-drop outs), and what the lurker and participant behaviors are, how they compare and contrast, and what keeps a lurker a lurker. If lurkers, as a demographic, are explored and understood, perhaps a MOOC can be designed to elicit participation from such lurkers. I think that the research design would be more along the lines of an ethnographic study (with survey and focus group research added to get additional data from lurkers that do seem to log in and check the MOOC, but don't participate).

Monday, August 27, 2012

Open Teaching - the Expansion Pack

Welcome to the Expansion Pack for the Open Teaching week of #ioe12 :-)  Here are some additional resources for open teaching.

Peer Reviewed Articles
Koutropoulos, A., Gallagher, M.S., Abajian, S.C., deWaard, I., Hogue, R., Keskin, N., Rodriguez, O. Emotive Vocabulary in MOOCs: Context & Participant Retention. EuroDL: The European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning. 2012/I.

A little self-promotion here ;-)  This is a recent article that the MobiMOOC Research Team (or MRT for short) researched at the tail end of last year.  We wanted to see if language use of participants while interacting in a MOOC gave some indication as to whether participants would be more likely to participate in subsequent weeks of the MOOC or not.  We did not find any correlation, however we did have some interesting participation results (reported in the paper) and we propose some further research.  This paper would be in a Learning Analytics type of publication as well because we were looking (more broadly) to explore participation in MOOCs which influences how facilitators and designers of a MOOC design and run a MOOC.

deWaard, I., Koutropoulos, A., Keskin, N.O., Gallagher, M.S., Abajian, S.C., Hogue, R., Rodriguez, C.O. (2011) Exploring the MOOC format as a pedagogical approach for mLearning. mLearn 2011: 10th World Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning p. 138-148

Another small self-promotion spot here. This was our first MRT paper (which won an award at the conference, woohoo!). In this paper we were exploring the MOOC format as an approach to teaching about mLearning.  It was a pretty interesting MOOC, and a nice paper to write.  In this paper we also talked a bit about the demographic information of participants (which might be of interest to others who might want to run a MOOC).

Rodriguez, C. O. (2012). MOOCs and the AI-Stanford like Courses: Two Successful and Distinct Course Formats for Massive Open Online Courses. EuroDL: The European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning. 2012/II.

This is a paper by a fellow MRT member who is comparing and contrasting "c-MOOC"s (original MOOCs) and MOOCs that are under the Coursera/EDx/Udacity model.  It is pretty interesting to read considering that not all MOOCs are the same, and people thinking about Open Teaching might want to consider the different models out there.

Web Resources
What's Wrong with MOOCs (eLearnSpace)
This is an interesting blog post by George Siemens on his concerns about MOOCs.  It is a pretty interesting read (and it has a substantial amount of comments beneath it) because one of the originators of the MOOC format talks openly about his concerns about the format.  Who says that MOOC's can't evolve? ;-)

This was a pretty interesting post on the Chronicle on MOOCs (and quite a lively discussion afterwards!) and about teaching in MOOCs.  What seemed interesting to me is that this article tackles MOOCs from a traditional pedagogy stance, while, I think, we need to rethink pedagogy a bit because traditional pedagogy (even traditional online pedagogy) won't work in a MOOC environment.

MobiMOOC (upcoming MOOC)
A little more advertising for MobiMOOC. This is a MOOC around mLearning, and it's scheduled to run again in 2012 in September.  Have a look!  You may want to see how a MOOC that runs on Wikispaces and Google Groups compares to other MOOCs.

CHFE12 (upcoming MOOC)
This is a MOOC that will be hosted by George Siemens in October of 2012.  I do believe that this MOOC will run in some sort of traditional LMS. My first MOOC was in Moodle, and it was interesting to acclimate to the format in a familiar (LMS) environment.  This could be a good MOOC to take in the fall both for the content and the place it's offered.

Introduction to Games MOOC (video intro to a summer 2012 MOOC)
Finally, this is a MOOC on games and gamification that took place this summer.  It was both an interesting MOOC in terms of content, but also interesting because it used Shivtr, a platform used for gaming communities and guilds.  It was pretty interesting to be able to "gain" status by having certain titles (like the "Herald").  I suppose we will get more into this with Open Accreditation :-)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It's Open Teaching Time!

It's Open Teaching time on #ioe12!

Having been involved with MOOCs for close to a couple of years now (in the fringes early on, and on the main stage since January 2011), I thought I knew quite a lot about open teaching, but Wiley video presentation surprised me and I learned something new!  I had run across Wiley's syllabi on Open Content a while back, (before this course) but I wasn't aware that the goal was to also have students suggest topics as well!  When I heard that (in the presentation) I thought to myself " would be cool if learners actually did do this, but somehow I don't they will..." and lo and behold they did not!  I do agree that it's probably a perceived power dynamic between teacher and student. Students are not empowered to suggest topics in our culture, so it didn't surprise me that students did not contribute to the syllabus.  Maybe something to change, culturally, in the future.

Language in such open courses is something that interests me as well.  I've thought, off and on, over the past year or so, ever since I met the first non-native English speakers in a MOOC (might have been #CCK11) that it would be worthwhile to research and write about language issues in MOOCs, the dominance of English as the language of communication and so on.

Personally I think that Open Teaching is important.  At the institutional level it allows students to see what goes on in the course, and to decide whether they want to participate in this course for credit.  Students in the course can also be empowered to participate - education isn't just happening to them, but  rather students are active agents in their education.  From a more broad perspective open teaching allows diverse views to come into the course, and allows both other learners and other instructors to come in and participate.  If you're not open, and not a lot of people benefit, why would someone spend a week (or more) to come and be a guest host to your course?

Friday, August 17, 2012

MOOCMOOC (μMOOC) Day 5 Reflections

OK, It's Friday, one more day of  MOOCMOOC, and today's topic is about creating our own MOOCs.  I've written about my own MOOC creation plans (centering around teaching of language).  I had hoped that I would be able to do this as part of a dissertation, but since a potential dissertation is way way way out there in terms of timing, I think I may have to move on this sooner, rather than later.  I wonder if I start collecting data be my dissertation is approved, if I can use it ;-)

In any case, here are my responses to the questions at hand for today.

What are MOOCs about? What are appropriate subject matters, theories, ideas that they can explore, explain, or explode? 
Initially, for me anyway, MOOCs were a curiosity.  I was out of school, and wanted to learn more. A MOOC was something I could explore beyond the content.  That being said, like my colleague RJH, I've gotten used to the form factor of the MOOC and it's brought me back full circle to the days that I spend a lot of time on forums dealing with mobile telephony, MacOS and PDAs.  I think that MOOCs are many things to many people.  For seasoned MOOCers, like myself, they are about ways to learn more about the content we care to learn about, while being introduced to and interacting with interesting folks on the web (sounds like an online course, or a forum, does it not?).  For researchers (and I put myself in this category as well), they are still curiosities to be explored, researched, and further understood.  For learners who are new to MOOCs, they are still both curiosities and ways to learn content.

Are there appropriate subject matters?  I think it's too early to tell. Most MOOCs up to now (cMOOCs) have been about content that is important to people in academia, as such the subject matter was narrow.  Also, up to now, xMOOCs have been about things that are easily machine-gradeable, also a subject matter constrain.  As we learn more about MOOCs, and experiment more, I don't think that there will be a subject matter restriction on what can be taught using a MOOC....but of course we won't know until we try!

Who leads a MOOC? Is it a single instructor, a team of people? Or is it the participants themselves? What leadership roles are necessary when building a MOOC, and what leadership comes into play during the MOOC itself? 
I think that we are a little preoccupied with leadership in this question, as if we are worried about the sage on the stage model.  We shouldn't be. Think of corporations that went from totally hierarchical to flat distributed models. That worked out well, did it now? (sure there were organizational development, org sociology, and org psychology factors in play as well, but exploring those would make this post unnecessarily long).

Leadership should always come from the student. If the student does not take the reigns of his education, no education will come from sitting in a (real or virtual) classroom.  An instructor, or a team of tutors can facilitate the learning experience, and jump in the driver's seat when required, but if the learner doesn't do something, learning won't happen.  As the ancient Greek proverb goes, the drowning man can pray to Athena for salvation all he wants, but unless he moves his arms a bit to try and swim, he will drown.

Instructional designers, instructors and tutors are tasked with the design, facilitation, and overall direction of the course, but leadership comes from the learner.

What formats and delivery systems are available for MOOCs? The learning management system (LMS)? Blogs? Web sites? Could a MOOC take place on Twitter? 
Let me start with that last one: Could a MOOC take place on Twitter?  Well, yes, it could, but the better question is should it?  Would Twitter provide the appropriate platform for deep reflection?  Of course, twitter could be the aggregation platform (like gRSShopper) that allows for other services (blogs, wikis, youtube, soundcloud, etc.) to post announcements of new MOOC content.

I don't think that any one technology is superior to delivering MOOCs.  This is actually a false way of thinking about educational technology.  We should go back to the drawing board: what are our goals for the MOOC?  What will learners learn?  How will they achieve it?  What methods, materials, tools, technologies and pedagogies will facilitate this? By going back to these "basics" we can pick the appropriate tools for our course.

What exactly should “massive” mean? 
I don't have an answer for this :-)  I participated in GamesMOOC this summer.  It was pretty cool, but compared to other MOOCs there were a lower number of active participants. I would define massive NOT by the number of registered users, but by the number of content generating participants. If a seasoned learner comes into a "massive" OOC, he should be able to expect that there is enough content there to reach that point of happy saturation, where he is content with what he's learned and how much he's interacted, but there is still more if he wants to continue at a later point.

What are the essential components of a MOOC -- everything from lectures, videos, collaborative activities, discussion forums? Which of these is most important? 
The most essential component of a MOOC is participation, and that is something that the instructor and course designer doesn't bring to the table.  It's something that learners bring to the table, and it loops us back to that leadership that is important.  Everything else in a MOOC is negotiable.  Most successful MOOCs I've seen allow learners to determine which tools they will use beyond the basic tools that the MOOC facilitators have chosen to start off with.

How do we decide what outcomes to expect from a MOOC?
That's the easiest question of all: What outcomes do you expect from an on-campus course or a traditional online course?  The outcomes of the course don't change with the modality of the course (IMHO).


OK, I am a little behind on yesterday's questions at hand, but I am catching up today.  This one topic a day is a little too much ;-)

How might reimagining assessment prompt us to rethink not only our pedagogical processes, but also the law and policy that governs traditional academic environments? 
I must admit that I am having a hard time with this question. Assessment ought to be driving our pedagogy, since we are starting with our end-goals in mind.  Maybe this is my inner instructional designer speaking, but we don't just teach and then figure out what we are going to do.  We figure out what we want our learners to know or be able to do, and in what contexts, and then we teach with materials and methods that are appropriate to the goals at hand.

That being said, I am having a hard time with the "laws and policies" that govern traditional academic environments.  It is my understanding, that under academic freedom, the university cannot tell me how to teach my course, or even how to design my course.  So, what does assessment and pedagogy have to do with university policies?

What are some major chances and challenges of MOOC-style learning when it comes to traditional (as opposed to digital) humanities classes, specifically those that focus on such seemingly elusive, long-term outcomes as the honing of close reading and critical thinking skills, as well as sustained writing and research? 
These are good questions! I am thinking of "cMOOCs" when I answer this, and I think that when it comes to learning, and online learning more specifically (including MOOCs) the learner needs to be metacognitively aware to a degree where they have some tools to learn how to learn. If a learner is not prepared to learn how to learn, and to adjust their learning on the fly as circumstances change, they will not be a successful learner.

That being said, I don't know of any college where an instructor watches the learners like a hawk to determine close reading and critical thinking skills when they are undertaking a task that requires those skills. The challenge is not  at the course level, but at the program level.  These long term goals and skills aren't things that one course deals with, and only that one course deals with it.  With the appropriate scaffolding, preparation, and sequencing of courses, I think that these long term goals are achievable no matter what the modality of the course is.  That being said, the major hurdle, that I see, are departmental and academic politics.  No one likes sitting in curriculum committees and discussing the nitty gritty of program level outcomes and how everything fits in (well, I sort of do, but that's another story), so the main hurdle is competing goals and group dynamics - not course content and pedagogy.

How would you describe the desired learning outcomes for this course, the MOOC MOOC? How would you assess and document your own or your peers’ achievement of those outcomes?
I honestly have not had much time to spend on this course, with the exception of responding to these daily questions. It seems to me, at least from my participation, that the goal of this course is a philosophy of education around MOOCs.  It would be really nice if we had more time to read other people's contributions.  If I were to assess my own peer's achievements, I would assess them in relation to my own.  How much have this individual progressed my own thinking through the course? For the other person's learning, I would probably want to see a learning reflection to see how they've changed and assess that. Since, for me, this is a Philosophy of Education course, this seems like a good way to assess learning. Impact to self, impact to others.

Should our ability to assess certain kinds of student work in a MOOC environment determine whether or not we assign that sort of work? If we can’t assess it, can students get credit for it in other ways? 
We live in a culture of accountability, sometimes false accountability. If we cannot assess something, we need to investigate what exactly about it we cannot assess. It's hard to speak in vague terms here, since I do not have a concrete example, but it would suffice to say that just because we cannot think of a way of assessing certain kinds of work, that we should not just discount it.  We, as educational professionals and subject matter experts should be able to find ways of assessing these kinds of student work that at first glance elude us.

Who should be allowed to enter, observe, and participate in a MOOC? How does the kind of radical openness present in some MOOCs change our pedagogy? Should it change our pedagogy?
In my opinion MOOCs and permission are antithetical terms.  A MOOC requires (or at least should require) no pre-requisites for participation.  Learning should be based upon the skills and knowledge of the learner, NOT some sort of permission obtained by some authority.  If the learner is not at the skill and knowledge level required for participate in that MOOC, the learner can figure out what to take in conjunction with that given MOOC (co-requisite in academic parlance) to be successful, or they can drop the course without stigma and take a pre-requisite to be able to step up to that MOOC.

I don't think that permissions to participate in a MOOC ought to change the pedagogy.  In course design we have certain entry level behaviors (think: pre-requisites), if a learner does not possess those, it's not up to the instructor to tutor that learner up to that starting line.  If you are thinking of pedagogy and the masses (i.e. having a thousand students in class versus 15), then perhaps your pedagogy might need to change a little.  I hope it doesn't change to the "record a lecture and broadcast" model, but to something better.

The other thing that comes to mind is compensation, and mental saturation.  If you are paid to teach 15 credit-seeking students, but you are running a MOOC with 500 students, your attention as an instructor might include certain tutor-level or individual feedback for those 15 students, and not for the remaining 485. This is OK.  Even if you are doing this for free, for the love of teaching, you WILL get saturated, and you WON'T be able to read and respond to everything.  That's fine.

Anyway, that's all for this day :)  I have reached my saturation point :)

I'll skip the storify - too many other things to tackle today! :-)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

GameMOOC, final(isg) thoughts & distinctions

So, gamemooc is over!  Well, almost! It's on Hiatus!  We've completed 5 weeks (of the 6 in total) with Week 6 coming back on September 10th to wrap up.  I've noted it in my calendar, and hope to be able to come back and wrap up.

Coming into this MOOC I wasn't sure what to expect.  It was using a site meant for guild communications, which seemed apropos for the topic, but at the same time it was something new to me (schematically though, quite similar to google groups and ning so it wasn't too much of a shocker). The weekly themes that we tackled were quite interesting, ranging from why gaming to specifics of gamification, alternative credentialing, types of games, sharing of games in educational contexts, and when the rubber meets the road: hurdles toward implementing games in the classroom.

There were a lot of interesting participants in this MOOC, and quite a few interesting guests in the hangouts (that were recorded and posted later on to youtube).  In week 5 there were two interesting interviews; one a presentation on creating narrative, and a second one with two educators that used WoW and Minecraft in school.  I found the anecdote of the student who named his character "Mage theMage" pretty funny.  I don't see how this is problematic.  I think it's rather meta :-)  In any case, it's worthwhile catching those two presentations/interviews on the YouTube channel.  Each one is about an hour, so grab some popcorn ;-)

Finally, there were some badges (or rather medals of valor?) that I earned in this MOOC:

Bard: You watch, listen and write! You capture the actions of heroes! You shape history! You create the Legends! Singing is Optional! You are the Bard! A weekly award for submissions to the Journals area  (Awarded August 12)

Cataclysmic: Your performance during the MOOC was great! You melted the minds of the facilitators! You are pure Awesome Sauce! You are Cataclysmic! (Awarded August 12)

DPS: You apply your social network knowledge construction with deadly accuracy! Everyone is envious your your encyclopedic knowledge! You did not start it, but you will finish it! You are DPS! (Awarded August 1)

Herald: You announce the imminent arrival of greatness! You alert the masses! You stir passion and reverence! You talk really loud! You are the Herald! A weekly award for the Best Blog written outside the guild site. The link must be posted in the Games MOOC Forum. (Awarded for period of July 18 - July 25)

Also, congrats to  my fellow gameMOOCers grasshopper98, neemana, grannie_tech, christopher, lotus, grieve_physics, scott nicholson, murcha, hawkeye, amber, anciana, and mind erasure on their distinctions as well! :-)

Looking forward to seeing you in the gamification xMOOC which starts in 10 days :-)


We are not half way through our first μMOOC!

The topic of today is participation, deliberate participation, in education and learning. This is something near and dear to my own heart, and something I've commented on in at least one (if not more) MOOCs. Without participating, in my opinion, you can't really learn. Of course, there are degrees of participation, and even in online environments there is only a finite amount of participation possible.  In physical environments the limit is time-based, how much time you've got with your interlocutors.  In online environments, the limit is participation-saturation.

You can only participate so much before you start seeing stars and there is a point of diminishing returns. You can post something, but if no one reads it and comments back (or heck, even if they don't comment back, to see in your analytics that x-many people saw what you wrote), then the exercise doesn't have as much educational oomph as it would have had if you had an interlocutor.

As an aside note, I liked the cooking contest analogy for learning.  You get your ingredients, your space, and your tools and you have to make something.  No recipes!  It reminds me a lot of learning objectives:  Given x students will be able to demonstrate y, in z fashion.  When we give recipes for students to follow they tend to think inside the box, and they don't break out and use their skills and tools in new ways to solve ill formed problems. Some basic combinations may be good (i.e. here's a basic souffle) but no need to get a cookbook out.

Some questions for the day:

How does the rise of hybrid pedagogy, open education, and massive open online courses change the relationships between teachers, students and the technologies they share? 
In my opinion, we tend to put the teacher on a pedestal.  This is bad for teachers and learners.  From a learner's perspective once they graduate from whatever educational endeavor they are in currently, they will look for that authority figure.  Even worse, if they anti-authoritarian they might throw the baby out with the bathwater by dismissing teachers entirely, and this is something to be avoided.

From a teacher's perspective, the pedestal is also onerous because it prevents the teacher from failing.  By being placed on a pedestal, you have reached a pinnacle (which is impossible as we are all human and therefore not infallible). When a teacher is not allowed to publicly fail, own up to it, and save face, the teacher is constrained into existing models that may (and sometimes indeed are) ineffective.  By taking the teacher off the pedestal, putting him in a more knowledgeable other category and allowing him to publicly fail, publicly learn, and publicly save face, we will have a better educational experience, and I think, better educational outcomes. I think that technology can facilitate this.

What would happen if we extracted the teacher entirely from the classroom? Should we? 
Learners don't know what they don't know.  A teacher's value isn't in lecturing, or even assessing.  Sure, some lecture is fine, and someone needs to do the dirty work of assessing a learner's knowledge; but the teacher's forte is in being that more knowledgeable other, that person who is, for all intents and purposes a subject matter expert (not on a pedestal though!)  Without sounding disrespectful, no teacher means that we would have the inmates running the asylum.  This wouldn't be bad if we viewed it from a societal, tribe, context, where there is a balance of individuals and everyone learns from everyone else. In a classroom context however, there is little incentive for those more knowledgeable peers, who are not instructors, to go into a course that they have outgrown. A course doesn't lend itself to a teacher-less learning experience.

What is the role of collaboration among peers and between teachers and students? What forms might that collaboration take? What role do institutions play?
Let me start at the end, and say that institutions just (in my opinion) facilitate the places and spaces where learning takes place, makes sure that they are clean, have power, and aren't double-booked.  They play a necessary ancillary role in the learning process, but they are like the technicians that are in the background that make it all happen, but seldom get the credit ;-)

That being said, the collaboration in a course will be a 3-way collaboration among peer learners, tutors (more knowledgeable others) and teachers (SMEs, more knowledgeable than the "more knowledgeable others").  If this were a party, it would be a flat floor (or a beach, I am more partial to the beach party idea), so that everyone is on the same level.  People will collaborate with people that they are naturally inclined on interacting with, but you will have games and activities that will force you to play with others as well.  The SME can create some games, but everyone will be empowered to create activities that enhance learning...errr...I mean the beach party. At the end, people will be exhausted, but happy.  OK, beach party analogy is now over ;-)

Open Data (useful, but not useful?)

It's open data week on #ioe12! That being said, I am not sure that there is much to write about ;-)  I've heard of Open Data before, on the context of OpenStreetMap and  In principle I do agree that data should be open because this does enable people who want to use it in new and creative ways. It also allows for participation in creating better data.  For example, if you have census data you can (and should) open up the data to everyone via the web, so that people don't have to go to a stuffy room, in a specific village in the old country to work on their family tree.  This open data also allows crowd-sourcing of transcription and metadata generation.  This can be a time consuming, and expensive, task.  However, if you harness the power of volunteers all over the world who might be looking to piece together their family history, you can transcribe those sensur records that were done in hurried cursive writing, we all know how hard it can be to read cursive when someone wrote in a hurry ;-)

I don't foresee using open data any time soon, raw data that is; however I do foresee using open data soon in the form of OpenStreetMap or some other refined viewer and application for that data.  Thus, the title of my post, Useful, but not useful?

One thing I learned was that there are licensing options for data in the form of Open Data Commons.  I would have thought that one would just use Creative Commons Licensing as is, but it's good to know where to go if I have data that I would like to liberate ;-)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


It's day 2 of MOOC MOOC (sounds like something Zoidberg would say) and I was reading the intro for the day when I saw that a blog post of one of my colleagues (Pat Masson) was referenced. Pretty Cool!  I read it pretty quickly, to be responded to late. I must admit I don't subscribe to Pat's blog, but maybe it's time to do so :-)

Today's task is a video, but I don't have a ton of time to invest in it, so I will make due with text.  The questions at hand for today are:

Where does learning happen? 
Learning happens everywhere! Sure, it does happen in the classroom, but it happens when you're out in the market; when you're stuck in your car in traffic while commuting and you're listening to the radio (or some audiobook); when you go to the gym; when speaking to your friends; and of course in the classroom.  Human are learning machines, there is always something new, no matter how minute it may be, that we learn every day. We may not retain it for ever and ever, but we do learn.

Are connectivist and institutional pedagogies equally useful, but for different disciplines? 
 I should start by saying that it's not an either/or situation here. There are many more pedagogies than the two mentioned in this question; but to get to the heart of it, no one pedagogy works optimally for every learning situation and for every subject. It just does not work that way.  As soon as you start stereotyping and using a cookie cutter approach, you've lost the learning battle.  The unique combination of discipline, learner, learner background, instructor background, and materials available will ultimately determine how you teach

If so, what distinguishes the subjects, topics, or motivations that are apropos to each? 
Each discipline, in my opinion, has pedagogical baggage.  We have all probably heard the "we've always taught this way" line from someone we know.  It's how people are apprenticed into their discipline, and they in turn replicate it when they teach.  Some do innovate, while others merely repeat.  This pedagogical baggage is something to consider when thinking about teaching and designing instruction because  it does influence how we do things.  The blog isn't long enough to discuss what subjects, topics and motivations are apropos to each type of pedagogy; I also think that we need to flip that. We shouldn't think about "pedagogy buckets" and we shove disciplines into them.  We should be thinking about the discipline, the individual courses in the discipline, and the learners coming into those courses and then deciding how we teach them.  Of course previous experience might tell us, more or less, what we can expect to see from learners, but the actual implementation, at the end of the day, is always something that will be unique.

If not, where should online learning in general, and the MOOC specifically, locate itself?
 Question does not compute :-)

Let's see what Day 3 of μMOOC brings!

Monday, August 13, 2012

A MOOC by any other name (MOOCMOOC μMOOC day 1)

OK, so I did say that I would probably lurk in this MOOC, but I think I will upgrade my status to be that guy who yells from the stands at the people playing LOL :-)  If I have time, I will do my best to  come down to the green and kick the ball a bit myself ;-)

The readings for today (and the general intro and topic outline available here) are things that I've encountered before in my almost-two-year exploration of MOOCs.  The questions to spark conversation today are:

What are MOOCs? What do we think they are? What do we fear they may be? What potential lies under their surface? 
Personally I view the MOOC (or at least the "c" variety of MOOC) as another type of learning environment, along the same lines as a lecture, or a seminar, or an apprenticeship*. Just as there are many ways to teach in an on-campus classroom, there are many ways to teach online.  A cMOOC is just one of them.  Admittedly, they are more geared toward more knowledgeable learners, so a novice learner may have a harder time getting started with a MOOC because they don't generally have the pre-requisite knowledge capital to participate in that arena.

From watching in the sidelines, it seems to me that the accounting side of the academic house is potentially looking at these (as they did with online learning in the mid-90s) with dollar signs in their eyes (picture hungry cartoon wolf salivating at a juicy lamb), while  the academics fear that there will be  further erosion of the apprenticeship, individual attention, and care toward the learner.  Thirty students in the classroom are already hard enough to give as much attention to as some faculty would like, imagine potentially thousands of students in course.  Inconceivable! Of course, what lies under the surface is a potential for different pedagogies and "fast tracks," "slow tracks," and "carpool lanes" in terms of learning. We need to break out of the box in order to take stock of the field.  We need to go back to instructional design.

How do we approach the MOOC? If MOOCs render our previous pedagogies dull and ineffective, how do we innovate? What do we innovate? 
I think we need to start with "dull and ineffective pedagogies" here.  Pedagogies are not dull and ineffective (in my mind) when compared to other pedagogies.  They are dull and ineffective when they are on their own, in a vacuum, without comparison to other pedagogies.  When compared to other pedagogies then those flaws come out.  For example, a continuing fear of instructors is that students will dump the on-campus courses in favor of online (traditional).  My counter to their argument is why would they do that, if the on-campus course was engaging and pumped them up?  If a course is dull, but it's the only game in town, you have to sit through a dull lecture.  But when other options come up, you don't have to compromise.

MOOCs are the same way.  MOOCs are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and there is still much work to be done on a theoretical and a practical level.  However, MOOCs "pedagogy" (is there such a thing already?) will shine the light on other pedagogies, and vice versa.  Those wise among will will learn from what has been pointed out (and innovate); while others will continue to operate in a business as usual manner.  We innovate through constant critique and analysis of what we do.  As educators it is our duty to do this.

If MOOCs aren’t a replacement for the classroom in higher education, how else might they be employed in our teaching and learning? 
Well, MOOCs are not a replacement for the classroom (physical or virtual) in higher education, but they are another type of classroom whose strengths and weaknesses need to be assessed in order to best utilize the form. In all honesty, I think that one way universities can use MOOCs is in a way that can contribute to the education of the people. Learners could participate in a MOOC to see if they would be interested in learning about the topic.  If they get all the way through the MOOC, and have the necessary materials and artefacts to demonstrate mastery of the subject, they can do so in a way similar to that of Western Governor's University. It should no longer be about butts-in-seats but rather about show me what you can do, demonstrate a competency.

Does connectivism make more sense than broadcast-, auditorium-style online learning? Why or why not? What do each offer --- to students, teachers, administrators, institutions?
I like George and Steven a lot, but I don't see myself in the connectivism camp; at least as far as a learning theory.  As an educational philosophy I can see it!  Auditorium style teaching bores me as a learner. Even when I had auditorium style courses (CS110 back in 1999!) I sat in the front row so I can have more of a connection with the instructor.  I've learned more when there's been a give and take, a conversation of some sort, and then some practice to put what I learned in those back-and-forth into context. I am sure that I am not alone in my feelings. Auditorium style lectures were a necessity in the past, heck they may still be a necessity. This doesn't mean that they are a superior form of learning.

In addition to connecting with peers, instructors and tutors for learning, a connected (or social constructivist) approach to learning also serves as a method for developing a personal learning network, and a personal professional network, for the learner.  Something that will help and scaffold him not only while he is in the course, but also throughout his learning career, no matter how long or short that might happen to be.

That's all for now - back to work!

* please use the comment box bellow to include other models of teaching, those are what come to my mind and I would love to expand my repertoire of examples :-)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

MOOCMOOC: the micro-mooc

Well, MOOCMOOC starts today, and while #change11 was an experiment in the massiveness of a MOOC both in terms of registered users and in terms of length (36 weeks), MOOCMOOC seems to be an experiment in how small a MOOC can be.
I heard about the MOOC from the usual suspects, and while I do have my doubts about MOOCMOOC, I signed up (a glutton for punishment? Or curious soul? You decide). The point of MOOCMOOC is to explore what a MOOC is, in thir own words:

In this week-long experimental online course, we'll be investigating exactly what it means to participate in, create, and even envision a MOOC (massive open online course). We'll be questioning what a MOOC is, how useful this educational format can be, and the new and innovative opportunities toward which it points.

The daily topics include:

  • discussing/brainstorming about what a MOOC is ("a mooc by any other name" type of thing)

  • xMOOC, cMOOC an communities of learning

  • pedagogy, and pedagogy in MOOCs

  • learning outcomes and assessment in MOOCs

  • your plans for your own MOOC

  • reflections in learning

Don't get me wrong, I think that these are important topics to explore, theorize and test, but a micro-MOOC doesn't seem to be the right format. First, as Rebecca pointed out, you really need time to actually read, reflect and post (and have others read, reflect and post about what you posted). The time allowed for each topic is barely enough to read and reflect, much less have a meaningful conversation and debate about the topic.
It seem, to me, that this μMOOC (micro MOOC) is built around the workshop model, where there is a subject matter expert at th helm who directs and supervises a highly intensive learning experience (although very rarely have I gotten a ton out of highly compact workshops, personally speaking). This, to me anyway, seems fundamentally oppositional to what MOOCs are. We'll see!
The final fly in the ointment seems to be timing. Let's assume that we can get all these things done, it's almost th beginning of the semester (or the school year if you are in K-12). People who are the audience for this MOOC are busy and probably don't have the time to make this MOOC as successful as it could be.
I think this MOOC may be the first MOOC where is am going in as a lurker. :-)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Open Science? Open Research!

I must admit that my "science" days, at least as far as biology, chemistry and physics go, are far behind me.  Interesting topics, but I prefer thinking (and dabbling) in other topics; thus this week's topic on #ioe12 wasn't that interesting, at least as far as the video and the readings go. The presenter (Michael Nielsen, on the TED video)  did say something that I've often suspected about academia: people don't share their data, they treat it as "their data" because the name of the game is publish or perish.

It didn't surprise me that the core problem of the polymath project (was this a pun btw?) was solved by means of massive mathematical problem solving. We can indeed (as Michael says) use the internet to build tools that amplify our collective intelligence to solve problems. I think that this is an important undertaking, especially given how many smart people there are out there that solve problems every day, that could work together to thrust us (as a species) forward.

That said, what if you have competing interests.  For example, how does one tenure-track faculty member; or a new faculty member looking for a tenure-track job (or a secure job that pays more than the peanuts that adjuncts get) show that he has contributed to these massive projects and that this contribution has helped the project forward?  How does this person get credit on a resume or CV, and how does that help them get or retain a job?

A common mentre has been "wait until tenure to do the cool (or useful) things," but that is too long!  At our school (as far as I know) your tenure review is in 7 years after you get hired.  Seven years after that you can go up for a full Professor rank. Fourteen years is too long to wait to participate in open research.  Seven years is too long to participate in open research!  How will institutions reconcile the need to collaborate and augment our collective intelligence to solve problems and gain new understanding with the existing rubrics for what "faculty output" means?

Open Research (using this term more broadly since it can encompass other types of research) is important for all of our disciplines.  At the very least it means that we aren't in an echo chamber with others of similar mindset.  It allows for diverse views, knowledge and life experiences to come into the mix and provide fertile ground for new, previously unimagined, outcomes.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Join the dark side **Vader sound effect**

Well, I have signed up for the dark side (or is it???) After more than 18 months taking part in various "c" MOOCs such as LAK11, CCK11, MobiMOOC, #ioe12, and Change11 (and a few more that I can't remember off the top of my head), I decided to take the plunge and join the "dark side," or the "x" MOOC.  Last year, when the Stanford AI course was offered in a MOOC format, I opted to not participate since the topic of AI (Artificial Intelligence) didn't really appeal to me. My colleague, Osvaldo, participated, and from that came a paper on the comparison of cMOOCs and xMOOC.

Now that Coursera has a number of courses offered, from a variety of institutions, I decided to try out the platform, to both learn something new (content) and to also see what the xMOOC (at least the coursera variety) looks like.  So what did I sign up for? See the list bellow (I will probably be writing about the experience on here)

Gamification - with Kevin Werback from the University of Pennsylvania. (Starting end of August)
Gamification is the application of digital game design techniques to non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges. Video games are the dominant entertainment form of our time because they are powerful tools for motivating behavior. Effective games leverage both psychology and technology, in ways that can be applied outside the immersive environments of games themselves. Gamification as a business practice has exploded over the past two years. Organizations are applying it in areas such as marketing, human resources, productivity enhancement, sustainability, training, health and wellness, innovation, and customer engagement. Game thinking means more than just dropping in badges and leaderboards; it requires a thoughtful understanding of motivation and design techniques. This course examines the mechanisms of gamification and provides an understanding of its effective use.

Human-Computer Interaction - with Scott Klemmer from the Stanford University. (Starting end of September)
In this course, you will learn how to design technologies that bring people joy, rather than frustration. You'll learn several techniques for rapidly prototyping and evaluating multiple interface alternatives -- and why rapid prototyping and comparative evaluation are essential to excellent interaction design. You'll learn how to conduct fieldwork with people to help you get design ideas. How to make paper prototypes and low-fidelity mock-ups that are interactive -- and how to use these designs to get feedback from other stakeholders like your teammates, clients, and users. You'll learn principles of visual design so that you can effectively organize and present information with your interfaces. You'll learn principles of perception and cognition that inform effective interaction design. And you'll learn how to perform and analyze controlled experiments online. In many cases, we'll use Web design as the anchoring domain. A lot of the examples will come from the Web, and we'll talk just a bit about Web technologies in particular. When we do so, it will be to support the main goal of this course, which is helping you build human-centered design skills, so that you have the principles and methods to create excellent interfaces with any technology.

Programming Languages - with Dan Grossman from the  University of Washington . (Starting January 2013)
Learn many of the concepts that underlie all programming languages. Develop a programming style known as functional programming and contrast it with object-oriented programming. Through experience writing programs and studying three different languages, learn the key issues in designing and using programming languages, such as modularity and the complementary benefits of static and dynamic typing. This course is neither particularly theoretical nor just about programming specifics -- it will give you a framework for understanding how to use language constructs effectively and how to design correct and elegant programs. By using different languages, you learn to think more deeply than in terms of the particular syntax of one language. The emphasis on functional programming is essential for learning how to write robust, reusable, composable, and elegant programs – in any language.

E-Learning and Digital Cultures - with Jeremy Knox, Sian Bayne, Hamish Macleod, Jen Ross, Christine Sinclair from the University of Edinburgh . (Starting January 2013)
E-learning and Digital Cultures is aimed at teachers, learning technologists, and people with a general interest in education who want to deepen their understanding of what it means to teach and learn in the digital age. The course is about how digital cultures intersect with learning cultures online, and how our ideas about online education are shaped through “narratives”, or big stories, about the relationship between people and technology. We’ll explore some of the most engaging perspectives on digital culture in its popular and academic forms, and we’ll consider how our practices as teachers and learners are informed by the difference of the digital. We’ll look at how learning and literacy is represented in popular digital-, (or cyber-) culture. For example, how is ‘learning’ represented in the film The Matrix, and how does this representation influence our understanding of the nature of e-learning?

Aboriginal Worldviews & Education - with Jean-Paul Restoule from the University of Toronto. (Starting February 2013)
Jean-Paul Restoule is an associate professor of Aboriginal Education in the Department of Leadership, Higher, and Adult Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. He is a member of the Anishinaabek Nation (Dokis) in mid-northern Ontario. He co-chaired OISE’s Indigenous Education Network for 7 years and has been teaching Aboriginal issues at the post-secondary level for more than 12 years. Professor Restoule’s research and teaching investigate access to post-secondary education for Aboriginal people and the development of Aboriginal cultural identities in urban areas.

A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior - with Dan Ariely from the Duke University. (Starting February 2013)

Behavioral economics and the closely related field of behavioral finance couple scientific research on the psychology of decision making with economic theory to better understand what motivates investors, employees, and consumers. This course will be based heavily on my own research. We will examine topics such as how emotion rather than cognition determines economic decisions, “irrational” patterns of thinking about money and investments, how expectations shape perceptions, economic and psychological analyses of dishonesty by presumably honest people, and how social and financial incentives combine to motivate labor by everyday workers and CEOs alike. This highly interdisciplinary course will be relevant to students with interests in General Management, Behavioral Finance, Entrepreneurship, Social Entrepreneurship, and Marketing.
This class has two main goals:

  • To introduce you to the range of cases where people (consumers, investors, managers, and significant others) make decisions that are inconsistent with standard economic theory and the assumptions of rational decision making. This is the lens of behavioral economics.
  • To help you think creatively about the applications of behavioral economic principles for the development of new products, technology based products, public policies, and to understand how business and social policy strategies could be modified with a deeper understanding of the effects these principles have on employees and customers.

Know Thyself - with Mitchell Green from the University of Virginia. (Starting February 2013)
The Delphic Oracle is said to have had two premier injunctions: NOTHING IN EXCESS, and KNOW THYSELF. This course will be an examination of the latter injunction. Our central questions fall into two categories. First, What is it? We shall inquire into just what self-knowledge is: Is it a form of inner perception, somewhat like proprioception, by virtue of which our minds (and hearts) have internal scanners of their own states? Or should we construe self-knowledge in a way not crucially relying on a perceptual model? In that case, what other model might we use? Second, Why is it such a big deal? We shall inquire into the question why self-knowledge should be thought so important. Just what, if anything, is missing from a person lacking in self-knowledge that makes her significantly less wise, virtuous, or able than others who have this capacity? Our exploration will take us into research in Western philosophy, psychoanalysis, current experimental psychology, neuroscience, aesthetics, and Eastern philosophy as well. In aid of these investigation we will become students of our own dreams, and cultivate some meditative practices.

Monday, August 6, 2012

GameMOOC Weeks 3 & 4

We have now entered week 5 (of 6) of GameMOOC, and I completely forgot to add a quick synopsis of take-aways for the past couple of weeks (time flies!)  So here is a quick synopsis of notable things in these two weeks.

Week 3: Gamification
Week 3 was all about gamification. There were a number of interesting discussion thread this week, and one of them (which also produced an interesting blog post) on the risks of rewards!  This reminded me a lot of the literature review that I did while researching intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for an Academic Checkins article that I have now submitted to the international journal of instructional technology & distance learning (fingers crossed that it will get accepted!).  While doing my lit review, I looked at motivation in educational journals, psychology journals, and...even economics journals! What I found out is that external rewards aren't always bad.  It's not the external reward that is detrimental to internal motivation, but rather how that external reward is used, and what the conjunction is with the task at hand (how much does the learner like or not like the task he is asked to do?)

This week brought this issue back at the forefront, and I think that there is enough material there for a MOOC just on learner motivation. A  big thanks to Scott for bringing this up :-)

Week 4: Epistemic Games
Week 4 was all about games for learning in certain disciplines.  While I don't think we saw a lot of games (someone please correct me in the comments if I am wrong) there was an interesting discussion that brought in Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation.  I, as a matter of fact, started reading this book this past weekend (independent of the MOOC), and this MOOC discussion piqued my interest (and motivated me) to complete this rather dense book.  It's small and interesting, but dense (IMHO). Another interesting subject that was brought up was Ludic Falacy, which the discussion on Baudrillard wove pretty nicely with.  While I didn't get an opportunity to play with new games these two weeks, I manage to download Star Trek Online on a PC and I plan on giving that a try soon. Hopefully it won't be a time sink ;-)

Looking forward to weeks 5 and 6 of GameMOOC!