The Online Teacher


Through the Noise: Balance in a Digital World


Photo Credit: giulia.forsythe via Compfight cc

When thinking about balance in a digital world, three questions come to mind: why is balance necessary; how do we demonstrate or measure it; are educators modelling, achieving, and accepting it? These questions, I believe, are vital in determining how successful we will be in navigating the digital world – educationally, socially, and emotionally.

Why is balance necessary?

Digital technology is a growing part of how young people define themselves, but we need to provide them the freedom to enjoy the vast benefits of technology, while ensuring the health and development of the whole being. Balance is necessary, I believe, to be a productive, happy and healthy citizen, particularly today with the array of challenges the digital world presents. As echoed in many #ETMOOC sessions, we need to model how to use technology and how to be a good digital citizen; one that nurtures and gives back to our digital world. Jeff Merrell (#ETMOOC Facilitator and Lecturer of learning and organizational change) in an #ETMOOC Twitter chat noted, “Citizenship has embedded in it the idea of being part of a larger community. It’s not just about us.” Through giving back to our digital world, we can hopefully effect change both on and offline.

*Some #ETMOOC resources on Digital Citizenship may be found here. The #ETMOOC archives are also rich with valuable insight and information.

How do we demonstrate or measure balance?  

How Life is Like Dinner Theatre: On Embracing Participatory Culture, by Amy Burvell (#ETMOOCer, history teacher, progressive thinker and visionary), has caused me to think about how society has become accustomed to and dependent on social media connections. We rely on soundbites, or short bursts of information, and we seek a back channel to formulate thoughts and questions. Ultimately, we want to participate and be connected. I for one have learned how powerful a Personal Learning Network can be, and I appreciate my Twitter PLN and the 140 character (maximum) tweets, which often reference more helpful links to articles, videos, and the like. Recently, I have also experienced the benefit of back channel chats, noticing that chats help to process and clarify thoughts, information, and questions on a topic being presented. Yet, how much is this participatory culture changing our learning style and balance?

Amy Burvell‘s blog, Soundbitification, brings up an interesting observation, and that is, are we becoming less able to read lengthier articles without losing our focus and getting bored? Furthermore, could it be that society is becoming less able to communicate face to face when the conversation is at a slower pace or less concise? As noted in The Elevator Speech, Social-Media Style, tweeted by Glenn Hervieux (#ETMOOCer, Technology Coordinator, and E-Rate Consultant), businesses are beginning to change their hiring practices based on digital trends and social media. For example, Pizza Hut’s new direction in hiring will require employees to communicate in a social media manner that gets straight to the point. Yet, what does this mean for us as a society?

Is society becoming less able to demonstrate lifelong skills such as:                     photo (2)

  • patience while listening to someone (for example, a senior) struggle to formulate a concise statement or a thoughtful argument (I’ve noticed some ‘power tweeters’ almost vibrate while listening to a lengthy conversation, perhaps from their seemingly addicted need to get back to the Twitter stream)
  • tolerance for a different style or custom, whether it be communication, learning, teaching, etc. (i.e., in some societies, snippets of information may not be desirable or accepted)
  • face to face social skills, etiquette, and personal lasting relationships – many feel these skills require the ability to turn off the ‘noise’ in order to listen (as suggested by a recent blog in HuffPost: Social Media, Mobile Devices and the Demise of Social Skills)

If this is the case, what is the cost that we as a society will pay?

Photo Credit: University of Maryland Press Releases via Compfight cc


Or, perhaps a better question might be, is society becoming better able to:

  • multitask (one can find research to both support and dispute this)
  • get our point across and ‘cut to the chase’ – using Twitter certainly necessitates the need to be succinct!
  • seek knowledge and participate in self-directed study and independent learning
  • openly ask for help and find solutions –  forums and chats seem to indicate this (whether it be at the individual or corporate level, or science research that is moving into ‘the cloud’)
  • make connections and develop relationships in a more interconnected and rhizomatic way, thus tearing down cultural and social walls and boundaries.

I wonder, are the benefits of these digital skills always visible and thereby measurable? Could balance be a term that is continually redefining itself, therefore, impossible to measure?

Are educators modelling, achieving, and accepting balance?

As an educator, I truly believe we can only achieve balance if we demonstrate balance, and to demonstrate balance, I feel we need to let go of the ‘only this or only that‘ ideology and come to recognise that variety is the spice of life. Alternatives are necessary, and there are many ways to achieve a desired result. I appreciate differing points of view, even when I don’t always understand them, and I feel that tolerance and respect can lead to an appreciation of other perspectives. So, for example, although I would find it extremely challenging to teach without a plethora of technology, I believe that teachers who currently choose a different approach always manage to offer students something special and unique. By accepting difference, we can open the doors to collaboratively help each other learn. Maybe by offering a balanced and varied perspective to students, we strengthen their ability to adapt and change, and hence survive, in an ever-changing world.

Unfortunately, the rapidly changing face of the digital world does not always afford us the luxury to know how our actions today will impact life tomorrow, so it is crucial for educators to promote digital citizenship (and citizenship, in general). As stated by Alec Couros (#ETMOOC Facilitator, Edtech and Media Professor and Keynote Speaker), “We talk about having students adjust to our world or the world ahead, but I’m not sure if we’ve adjusted to their current reality.” I feel this is a significant statement that needs further discussion in educational forums, and I wonder, do educators really know what the current reality is? As Tom Whitby comments in The Business of Education, “If educators are to be effective they must be relevant.” Is it easier to be relevant as a collaborative whole? I think so. Do we need to include the students in this discussion? Most definitely.

As educators, we need to teach about digital footprints and how they can impact our lives, both online and offline. Yet, can we sometimes inadvertently condone or not condone online attitudes? For example, it  can be difficult to avoid playing into the culture of public shaming that often occurs in social media. Perhaps the public shaming of individuals who have made poor online presence choices, generating “digital tattoos” as some have coined it (prints you are stuck with), is not the best way to instill an attitude of thoughtful dialogue and respect with regard to digital citizenship. After all, if public shaming becomes the norm, will society become immune to social consequences? Additionally, some may view a tattoo as a work of art or a sign of creativity. Instead, a willingness to listen, understand, help and support may set a better example. Through listening, we can create opportunities to help each other navigate this difficult digital world (a world that will undoubtedly see us make many more mistakes). Let’s listen; together we might just find balance!

A Haiku Deck: Through the Noise


Thank you to Susan Spellman Cann (@SSpellmanCann) for inspiring this attempt at creativity. Susan is a Counsellor extraordinaire, #ETMOOCer, and Haiku Deck Guru! 

Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle.
Helen Keller 



MOOCing My Way in 2013: My #ETMOOC Anniversary Blog

Photo Credit: penbentley via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: penbentley via Compfightcc

Reading Rhonda Jessen’s wonderfully reflective anniversary blog has spurred me on to write a final #etmooc blog; one that is long overdue. At the very time #etmooc ended, my mother ended up critically ill, and my priorities changed. Consequently, I am now thrilled I can officially thank those ‘conspirators’ that changed my life in a multitude of ways.

Knowledge, Tools and Advocacy

Thanks to #etmooc, I now have enough knowledge on some of the wonderful things happening in education, with respect to technology and social media, that I can truly ruffle feathers in the workplace, or more specifically, at the school board level. 🙂 For example, after being encouraged to blog for #etmooc (thanks Sue Waters for the great blogging sessions and tips), I promoted the idea of using WordPress for our school newsletter. The new format is extremely user friendly, allows for videos and a personal touch, and promotes interaction and collaboration on many levels. Way better! The only downside is that the district still PDFs our school newsletters for the district web page, due to policy regarding Facebook – Facebook is not fully supported, and our newsletter links to the Facebook page (yes, guess who’s partly responsible for that too). My hope is that 2014 will see our newsletters go live at the district level… yes, another side effect of #etmooc is advocating for change (or perhaps annoying others enough so that it will eventually happen). I must say that Alec Couros and George Couros keep me hopeful. Advocating for change seems to be their mission.

Connections and Learning: My Amazing PLN

Thanks to #etmooc, professional development has become a daily activity that I no longer ‘plan’ to do. Instead, it has become an ingrained daily ritual that I do without even realizing it (I sure notice its absence during those rare times when it’s not possible). My amazing Twitter PLN that resulted from #etmooc – I was a Twitter newbie at the beginning of the MOOC – keeps me inspired, interested and intrigued about what is possible in education. As far as I’m concerned, Twitter, or Pro-D that teachers can actually do in PJs, is an opportunity for connecting and learning that I hugely underestimated until I participated in #etmooc. Thank you Alison Seaman and Jeff Merrill, two of the most encouraging, genuine, and thoughtful #etmooc ‘conspirators,’ for your continued support, and especially for your tips with managing the chats (or what seems like Twitter on fast forward some nights)! Also, I truly appreciate the many #etmooc participants who have been so supportive and encouraging. You all rock!

A Change in Attitude and Thinking

Probably the biggest change I have experienced as a result of #etmooc is a change in attitude. I am now much less concerned about rigidly protecting my privacy (something that held me back from fully engaging on the Web and using the multitude of tools, apps, forums, etc.), but instead I choose to have the go forth, try and explore (wisely, of course) attitude. This attitude allows me to participate and engage, learn, and be a maker and creator, and this is evident in my teaching and workplace. However, I’m still procrastinating on my Vlog for Al Levine. Sorry Al, I truly enjoyed your Digital Storytelling session – nobody can tell a story quite like you! I must add that Alec CourosAudrey WattersVerena Roberts and Bonnie Stewart helped me to better understand digital citizenship, digital literacy and open education. Furthermore, Catherine Cronin has been a tremendous role model and advocate for women in the field of science and technology. Thank you, Catherine, for reminding us all to do our part in promoting the fact that everybody can, and should, learn about computer science and coding.

Thank you, Alec and ‘conspirators’! Do you see what you’ve done to me? This is just a brief glimpse at a few areas of growth in my life over the past year. Imagine the infographic that would be generated if I identified everybody with whom I’ve interacted in an educationally significant way, with respect to technology and media; interactions that would not have been possible prior to #etmooc! It has been an honour to be able to walk through the doors of the Internet and learn together in this very special #etmooc community.

Thank you #ETMOOC!


Thank you to Susan Spellman Cann and Rhonda Jessen for organizing the events for this One Year #ETMOOC Anniversary. Your efforts have been integral to keeping this community alive.


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Quiet Thinkers

Introversion or a Need for a Frame?

Since my last blog post, I have reflected on what it is that holds me back from being a fully engaged blogger. I certainly like the clarity that writing brings; however, something still feels awkward when it comes to publishing a blog. At first, I thought this awkwardness was due to being an introverted blogger, or someone who is uncomfortable with thinking and writing in the open, and perhaps initially this was the case. Then, I thought maybe it was the fear of my blog not being polished, insightful, or worthy enough. However, I am beginning to realize there is something much more fundamental; something that perhaps applies to every so-called introvert, and a reason why it is hard for me to think out loud. I believe I need a frame … and I need to understand how the frame is organized.

I feel an inherent need for my thinking to have order, and only when this exists do I feel safe enough to explore within the frame and, in turn, push the boundaries of my comfort levels.

By definition, a frame would be some sort of structure in which I could organize my thinking. After all, I grew up colouring within the lines, working with organizers and schedules, diligently following the rules, etc. Now, with blogging and the Internet, the boundaries are illusive, or often self-imposed, and the possibilities are seemingly endless. Ironically, despite my comfort with structure, I have always encouraged students to think outside the box and take risks. I recognize that frames can inhibit creativity, while also being problematic and limiting (whether it is colouring or building web pages).

Should order and structure necessarily be important in navigating the online environment? As we explore and learn in this environment, it seems that chaos often prevails. But, is it chaos, or do we have so many options and directional choices these days that it seems to be chaotic? Could it be that instead of welcoming and learning to filter and explore the variety of options, we label this online experience as chaotic and approach it with unease? Instead, as I am learning, we need  to embrace this new reality and accept that the framework is not always clear. We need to  learn how to navigate within this fluid and constantly changing environment. Every step we take provides us with a bank of experiences which become invaluable as we continue to charter into the unknown. If we don’t change our approach, we will miss out on so many wonderful opportunities to learn, connect, and grow!

The Power of Quiet

A Blog Worth Reading:

Via Elena Aguilar and

The Power of Introverts: An Essential Understanding for Teachers


Staying the Course: Connections, Reciprocity, and the Web

Trying to sum up my experience in #ETMOOC is an impossible task. Impossible, because how does one begin to put into words that which is felt by the heart? Furthermore, how can a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) bring about such a feeling? As Alec Couros (course visionary and facilitator, professor of educational technology and media, researcher and keynote speaker) stated, “We all decided to walk through the same door on the internet so we could think together.” Catherine Cronin echoed this and reflected on the power of open and connected learning in her blog, MOOCs: Community as Curriculum. Yes, #ETMOOC was definitely more than a course; it was also, and I hope will continue to be, a community.

From Education to Advocacy: Thank you #ETMOOC! 

(Credit goes to Jeff Merrill for the Haiku Deck title remix.)

Photo credit: CC BY 2.0 Thomas Leuthard via CC BY NC SA 3.0 Catherine Cronin

(click photo or here to view Haiku Deck )

Many #ETMOOCers  have posted excellent blogs, vlogs, posters, etc., demonstrating their growth and reflecting on the multitude of things learned during their #ETMOOC journey. However, borrowing a favourite expression from  Jeff Merrell (#ETMOOC facilitator and lecturer of learning and organizational change), I would like to say “ditto” to the realizations of my fellow #ETMOOCers. I highly recommend the following vlogs and blogs that explain so well what a transformative experience #ETMOOC has been.

(Of course, there are so many other excellent blogs and reflections, and many yet to read! I apologize for not listing more.)

Yes, I have learned a number of the same skills, experimented with many of the same web tools and apps, embraced many of the same teaching and learning philosophies, and experienced many of the same feelings of self-awareness and self-doubt. However, I would like to focus on the connections and reasons I believe my learning experience has been so profound.

#ETMOOC Connections

My main goal when I enrolled in #ETMOOC was to learn more about educational technology and media. I admit that I didn’t for one moment consider the connections or friendships that might occur. I attended as many sessions as I could, given my limited knowledge of how to participate and engage. I was quite happy lurking and learning, although I had extreme difficulty synthesizing so much information while trying to filter and focus (there was an abundance of information flowing through the feeds, forums and sessions). After writing a blog to this effect (Could it be that sometimes a change of approach and a new perspective is what we really need?), I was quite surprised to find I was not alone in feeling so overwhelmed. Connections initiated from this, and slowly and surely, #ETMOOCers always managed to respond when I was feeling alone or uncertain.

Do connections just happen, or are they ‘beckoned’? (Credit goes to Gardner Campbell for the term ‘beckoned’.)

In retrospect, thanks to a wonderful session by Bonnie Stewart on Digital Identities, I now recognize that each time an #ETMOOC connection happened, it was because I was able to let my guard down and allow a bit of my personal self to seep into my networked self, thus broadening the affordances (action possibilities) of my networked self. This was certainly not easy, as I had spent many years trying to keep these two identities separate. Why? I’m not sure … perhaps fear of the unknown? I realize now that the times when I felt most alone in my online learning were times when I was unable to participate as fully as I would have liked (either because of lack of time or courage). During these periods, I sometimes felt it was easier to remove myself completely and put the barriers back up, rather than feel the guilt of partial commitment. However, I am so glad I hung in there and didn’t give up, because I learned the following about connections. We need to:

  • remove barriers and be vulnerable, at least partially (slowly, at first, is OK and probably wise)
  • learn to accept ourselves for who we are and not for what we know/don’t know
  • ask for help and be inviting (this is not always easy)
  • be open to listening about and trying new ideas
  • recognize that everybody has something valuable to offer
  • embrace risk-taking and accept ‘glorious failures’
  • exercise reciprocity

I am thankful for the dialogue and tweets (is the correct term a ‘Twitterlogue’?) with Alison Seaman (#ETMOOC facilitator extraordinaire) and Jeff Merrell that led me to understand the last point, which I feel is so significant. I feel the role of reciprocity in terms of social media connections and PLNs is not always realized and demonstrated.


Photo Credit: ryancr via Compfight cc

Connections and Reciprocity

One of the most poignant ‘Twitterlogues’ on this topic started like this:

We tweeted reflectively a few times presupposing what might be the case, and as Jeff insightfully blogged in Education to advocacy. Reflections on #etmooc, ” I do wonder if it is a philosophy forged in the practice of teaching.”

Then, a few days later the conversation continued, and this time Alison Seaman offered a wonderful new perspective (of course she did, she’s brilliant!).

Alison Seaman went on to discuss an article she had read that outlined how we are “wired to help” (I’m sure we’ve all felt compelled at some time to repay a favour or good deed), and she mentioned the importance of reciprocity when connecting with others (not a new concept, and something most of us were taught from young, but something that perhaps is easy to forget when people are not face-to-face). What a great dialogue spontaneously occurred through Twitter! I have continued to think about this dialogue, and the more I think about reciprocity, the more I am reminded that it needs to occur for the right reasons while learning and connecting online. For educators, it may accompany an innate desire to learn and understand, and perhaps a common philosophy, but ultimately, we need to connect for more than just the connections and self-interest in growing a PLN. We need to go one step further; we need to give  back more than we receive. We need to listen, ask questions, share, and yes, care.

Evidence of reciprocity

Once I started allowing my personal self to slowly creep into my networked self, I experienced the richness of a connectivist MOOC. I wish that those who found the massiveness of a MOOC overwhelming or lonely could have endured and learned as I did, as the benefits and personal growth have been immense, and the connections have become not just PLN connections, but true friends. I would like to thank my #ETMOOC friends for their support and encouragement along the way (you know who you are), and I would like to thank all facilitators for their time, energy, guidance, insight, and most of all, for caring and sharing (I can’t say enough to truly capture all they encompass). Special thanks to Alec Couros who never ceases to amaze me! Early in #ETMOOC, I sent Alec a message of thanks for a mention, and I noted an ironic situation that had happened at work. I did not expect a response. Exactly 4 seconds later, Alec responded with interest and asked to hear more. I was astounded that someone like Alec would take the time to communicate in such a human, caring way with a total stranger. This pattern continued to be evident with all facilitators and #ETMOOCers that I had the pleasure to connect with. There was a genuine feeling that the facilitators were also participants, and we were all learning and MOOCing together.

In closing, I’d like to thank Alison Seaman for her encouragement with blogging. This is an area I have found difficult, and Alison has patiently helped me progress from a ‘private’ to a ‘public’ blogger. This may be the first blog I actually announce. As Jeff Merrill states, my blogs have been of the “pop-up” variety (they just silently get published). Thanks #ETMOOC for the journey into the unknown (yes, my #ETMOOC introduction was late too). My heart is truly sad that this stage of #ETMOOC is over, but I am so thankful I stuck it out. It has been an amazing ride. Thank you!

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” 

 Carl Sagan

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Could the answer be in ‘The Cloud’?

My #ETMOOC reflections of the week

This week’s #ETMOOC discussion asked, “Who owns our student/education data” and what is happening to our personal data when we use apps, search engines, etc.?  Also, why does this matter, and what should we be doing to ‘protect’ our data? A live Collaborate session with Audrey Watters (@audreywatters) addressed these tough, important questions and offered some very insightful comments and dialogue on a few more specific questions from #ETMOOC-ers – i.e., on policy and privacy laws in specific regions such as BC, Canada (session archive). However, it was a video posted by Mary Jones(@Mj0401Mary) of Dr. Sugata Mitra (@sugatamitra), Professor of Educational Technology and TED Prize Winner, that prompted me to the following reflections and questions.

Self Organised Learning Environments

Dr. Mitra’s TED presentation, Build a School in The Cloud, is powerful and thought-provoking. The question, “Could we be heading toward a future where knowing is obsolete?,” supports the views of Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist, who emphasizes the need to teach students to actively seek knowledge and to question (Michael Wesch on Knowledgable vs Knowledgeable), rather than provide them with the answers. As the saying goes; “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime.”

Dr. Mitra suggests SOLE, or Self Organised Learning Environments – which include the need for broadband, collaboration and encouragement – could be the way to make learning and education accessible and meaningful to all. Dr. Mitra’s views remind me of my late grandfather, a principal for many years in Bangalore, India. During my grandfather’s years as a principal, I remember him speaking about the masses of children not receiving an education. He would have loved to have seen The Hole in The Wall Project, and more than likely, he would have supported the implementation of more than a few holes. However, at the very centre of this project is the need for technology, which leads me to reflect on the role of technology in collaboration and learning.

Children in IndiaPhoto Credit: Yorick_R via Compfight cc

Should there be a one to one technology ratio?

Watching video clips from The Hole in The Wall Project, one notices that children by nature want to learn. The new technology that Dr. Mitra places in the hole necessitates working as a team to problem solve. Therefore, is it a disservice to offer a one to one technology to student ratio (a ratio I advocate), thereby perhaps allowing less opportunity for collaboration? Or, can students collaborate as effectively using a one to one ratio and working with collaborative tools (using text, voice, real-time and threaded discussion, etc.)? Personally, I feel a one to one ratio can be just as collaborative, or more so. However, digital fluency, I believe, can optimise the collaborative outcome. Furthermore, are the sciences, or certain branches of science, more conducive to collaboration? For example, when I was at university, completing a six-hour physiology lab or a four-hour biochemistry lab (with meaningful results) meant working as a team, trusting your partners, and dividing and conquering to finish in a timely manner. Ironically, it was only when I entered the field of education that I realized that collaboration wasn’t always the rule. At this stage in my career, I firmly believe that any subject or lesson, given the right mindset and framework, can be collaborative. So, can we ensure a collaborative approach, by looking at how we use technology and building a learning environment like that found in the TED talk video or the science lab, or does this depend on other influences around us? Often there is the desire to keep classes and schools “quiet” – viewed by some as an indicator of good classroom management. However, by nature, collaboration often requires discussion, and hopefully excitement, thereby a lively yet contolled classroom, not a silent classroom (as Dave Cormier points out, Rhizomatic Learning can get ‘messy). As observed in Build a School in The Cloud, discussion and collaboration, and indeed a little ‘noise,’ equate to learning. So, perhaps the desired result can be achieved in more than one way (with a variety of technology ratios), as long as we implement the rules to ‘play nice’ (as Robert Fulghum states, “ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN“) and watch out for the ‘rules of the road’ (Internet safety). But what about privacy?

303619456_8a3be074fcPhoto Credit: via Compfight cc

Is privacy a concern for all?

The natural response to this question seems obvious, but is it? Watching the TED talk above, one realizes that protecting one’s data is only important if one has data to protect. If one’s main concern is getting a meal and education, privacy probably isn’t high on your priority list. It’s highly unlikely that the children in the video had any data at all. Documenting the birth of children in India is a feat in itself, let alone maintaining accurate records and stats. So, this leads me to ask, will the privacy and protection of one’s data be only for the educated or ‘privileged’? I feel, if we want change to occur on a global level, change needs to be implemented by governments and those providing the services, and not just by the classroom teachers and individuals accessing the services. Sure, the more we do to protect ourselves and our students the better off we are, and that means keeping track of what is happening to our data. However, as a society, I feel we have a responsibility to advocate for change and accountability by those in power, whether it be political or corporate. At this point, it seems like an impossible task because the field of technology is changing so quickly. I wonder, is it really possible to control one’s data, and to what degree?

The world will always need grannies!

Personally, I think the ‘granny approach’ to encouragement outlined by Dr. Mitra is brilliant. After all, wouldn’t we all like a granny in our corner cheering us on and encouraging us to take a risk and learn? Perhaps if we involve more grannies we might help to bring about change. Maybe the answer is in the cloud, and perhaps we need to be in the cloud, as are Dr. Mitra’s grannies, to arrive at a solution to protecting the privacy of our students’ data and educational information. Of course, the cloud is also at the root of the dilema we are facing.

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The GIF and Digital Storytelling: Look and look again!

In keeping with the #ETMOOC topic of Digital Storytelling, I have spent a few days experimenting with apps and programs that help to tell a story or share an experience. However, as I start this blog, I find myself lacking digital stories I am able or willing to share. Instead, I am going to share my experience and reflection on working with a few digital storytelling apps and programs.

After last week’s #ETMOOC videos and chat on learning to GIF, I can honestly say the technique did not immediately appeal to me, but I was able to see how a moving section of an image could bring about a deeper level of interpretation, and in fact some very thought-provoking discussion. For example, a GIF by fellow #ETMOOC-ER Margaret Powers (Giving GIFs a Try), of swings moving in an otherwise perfectly still picture, elicited a range of comments and interpretations. One comment by Glenn Hervieux suggested the scene was reminiscent of an earthquake (very relatable to me, living in B.C.), and another comment by Jim Groom suggested the creepy similarity to the aftermath of a nuclear bomb. The GIF certainly caused me to think!

Setting out to experiment and create my own stories, I tried a few ways to make GIFs, including Cinemagram, Moquu, and Picasion. The end result for each was quite different yet very satisfactory. I liked the way I could easily ‘colour’ out the section I wanted to animate using Cinemagram, while the Moquu app allowed me to easily drag and rearrange a series of photos to set up a photo sequence for the GIF, and Picasion allowed for the ability to fine tune work and specify the speed of animation. My one rookie realization was that it is always better to upload photos from your photo library to the app (rather than using the app camera directly). You then have the photos in your photo library in case you delete your project!

Other apps I experimented with (i.e., Animoto, Go Animate, Fotobabble, etc.) were impressively easy to use to create digital stories  (the only app I found frustrating was Visual Poet, as it kept shutting down on me). However, the bigger question I was left wondering was: How many #ETMOOC-ers feel they need ‘more’ after trying out an app? I certainly found myself wishing I had the ‘upgraded’ version for a few apps so I could make my presentations longer or more personalized. I also wonder, how often are students left feeling like they need more?

Ultimately, my take-away from the week was … experiment, get messy, make mistakes, look and re-look, and through it all, make some wonderful digital stories, even if they only get shared with a small audience. With time, this may change. Just like working with technology, sometimes learning in the open takes repeated attempts!

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Digital Storytelling

Five Card Story: The Threads of Our Life

a Five Card Flickr story created by The Online Teacher

The light at the end of the tunnel can sometimes seem distant.

flickr photo by bionicteaching

However, if we build connections,

flickr photo by Serenae

The seeds of hope may flourish,

flickr photo by Serenae

And we may be nourished and enriched,

flickr photo by bionicteaching

Thereby finding the support to get back in the game.

flickr photo by bionicteaching


A Web of #ETMOOC Connectedness

ragno_the_spider_with_a_simple_web_clip_art_20169#ETMOOC reflections on Rhizomatic Learning

Although I have to confess I haven’t had time to attend any #ETMOOC Webinars this week, my filters have enabled me to siphon off enough information to feel like I was actually present (thanks to recordings, blogs, Twitter, Google+, etc.). My RSS feed has directed me to some great readings, and more importantly, to some thought-provoking questions. I have witnessed the self-doubt of seasoned university educators (in no way indicative of weakness, but instead an attribute to their ability to self-evaluate in the desire to grow and pursue better learning experiences for their students), and the frustrations of others who are seemingly stuck in a workplace not keeping up with the integration that technology allows. However, here I sit in a web of #ETMOOC connectedness, learning through others.

What should we know about rhizomes and rhizomatic learning?

Rhizome: The plant 

  • A rhizome is a plant stem that grows horizontally under or along the ground and can produce new plants when it sends out roots and shoots from its nodes (i.e., ginger, irises).
  • If a rhizome is broken into pieces, each piece may generate a new plant.
  • As opposed to the organization of the root-tree system, a rhizome is a sprawling connectedness, with no beginning or end. Do you see the analogy?

The philosophical concept and rhizomatic learning

  • The philosophical term “rhizome”/“rhizomatic” was originally developed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in their Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1972–1980) project.
  • Dave Cormier points out (Dave’s Educational Blog: Rhizomatic Learning – Why we teach?), “Rhizomatic Learning is a way of thinking about learning.” The rhizome is a kind of network that is “messy, unpredictable … and grows and spreads in strange ways.” The community is the curriculum and the syllabus the garden space in which the curriculum grows.
  • April Hayman states in #etmooc Rhizomatic Learning: “A community is a living breathing thing and so is learning (particularly in the sense of rhizomatic learning). You cannot force it, but if you do, like putting bamboo in a pot, you stunt its growth.”
  • Rosemary Powers states in Machines, revolutions and uncertainty: “Importantly, the conversation we had this week with Dave Cormmier about rhizomatic learning confirms for me that the real transformation in education isn’t about the technology, but the shared construction of knowledge and action that new technologies can facilitate.”

Making the connections

Just as rhizomes can spread and grow in unpredictable ways, we too can develop through reaching out and interacting with our community. We need to establish and grow trust, and through this, we can construct knowledge. By nurturing and expanding our personal learning networks and environments, and by allowing ourselves the freedom to ‘get messy,’ we will open ourselves up to learn and grow in a web of connectedness. However, will everybody’s experience be the same? My educated guess is no, because everybody learns in their own unique way, and the needs of individuals vary. Michelle Franz shared The Challenges to Connectivist Learning on Open Online Networks: Learning Experiences during a Massive Open Online Course. This article addresses the challenges to connectivist learning, including levels of learner autonomy, presence, and critical literacies required in active connectivist learning. However, these are discussions that warrant more time and depth, and MOOCs, like individuals, have their own unique set of characteristics. From my personal experience, since joining #ETMOOC, I have learned a considerable amount through a web of connections. This experience is beginning to translate to my workplace, thereby adding ‘action’ to the cycle of connectedness. As Glenn Hervieux has mentioned in his blog, in order for true change to occur, we need to effect a change in three dimensions; how we see, speak, and behave (Which came first, the chicken or the egg?). I look forward to continuing the ‘action’ and, indeed, learning from a steady stream (and sometimes flood) of information and discussion that now comes my way. Thank you #ETMOOC community for all the connections!


Could it be that sometimes a change of approach and a new perspective is what we really need?


The #ETMOOC topic this week has been Connected/Networked Learning, and I find myself on the verge of info/sensory-overload … not because I’ve had difficulty filtering and focusing on topics of interest or relevance (OK, maybe I have), but because I’ve participated in a variety of information-rich sessions, and now I find myself needing ‘quiet-time’ to process and synthesize all the garnered information. For me, this time is necessary to assimilate ideas and put my learning into practice. Could it be that my learning style is not well-suited to MOOCs, including the inevitable rapid speed chat and the massive number of participants? Or, since I’m new to MOOC-ing, perhaps I need more time to process my thoughts, or … the list goes on. Whatever it is, I find myself needing a ‘reading break’ –  ironic, because I consider myself good at multi-tasking (although research tends to substantiate that this is an illusion for most people), and I’m used to implementing change at a rapid pace (there’s nothing like having Moodle upgrades, course updates/changes, etc., while teaching a large number of students). However, this educational experience is different. There is a smorgasbord of material being offered free of charge, and I’m trying to discover the best way to digest the material.

My experience has taught me that stepping back from a situation or problem sometimes brings clarity, and yet this appears to be contradictory to the approach of Connected/Networked Learning. So, taking a break from pondering the “to MOOC or not to MOOC” question, I find myself looking at an #ETMOOC orientation message from Alec Couros, and as usual I am re-inspired by reading the following advice:

  • MOOCs are overwhelming, for everyone, no matter what your experience is with networked learning.
  • There are processes and tools that you can use to filter and curate the vast amounts of information being created and shared, but that’s not the only approach or focus for sense and meaning-making.
  • Connecting with even a few other participants in a MOOC while creating deeper relationships – relationships that last beyond the experience itself – are successes often associated with MOOCs and other forms of networked learning.

Finally, I catch the tweet of Glenn Hervieux ‏@SISQITMAN in the Twitter feed beside the orientation message. Glenn has shared an ‪#Educon slide presentation by ‪@joycevalenza on Digital Curation; a topic I am trying to learn more about. Ironic, isn’t it? Suddenly it dawns on me … this is what Connected/Networked Learning is all about – learning with others through the sharing of ideas, information, and resources, and information finding you when you least expect it! Could it be that sometimes a change of approach and a new perspective is what we really need? Perhaps … to MOOC is the answer!