The leaves are changing and I’m reflecting

Sometimes I find it really hard to think about blogging. My husband is a heck of a blogger who feels like the universe is totally out of order if more than four days go by without posting a blog. He knocks them out, very useful links to books, articles, interviews with authors, lots of quick info for the field of study in which we have worked most of our adult lives. I envy that energy, and while I vlog more than I blog, there’s always something distracting me as I finalize plans to do either. I almost always let many more than four days go by.

I think that’s why I like teaching. When you’re teaching, whether you’re teaching one student at a time, or a whole Moodle or WizIQ classroom full, or a one-day face-to-face seminar in a beautiful old library, there’s a schedule to it that has to be met. Distractions have to be ignored, other projects postponed. The mind focuses and the fingers fly over the keyboard, or the little grey cells light up all over your brain, and off you go, trying to ladder up from the basics to the top of the pile, from the simpler foundations to the more complex thoughts that occur as the fundamentals fill in and pile up.

When you’re blogging, if you really have a plan, then you can impose that internal time-table and keep to it. If you can toss out that blog on schedule, you’re golden. And being able to just “say it” — in a couple of words, a quick sentence. That’s a huge plus.

Sigh … that kind of thing is not so possible for me. I think and re-think. I read and re-read. I agonize over what I’ve included and what I’ve left out. I obsess over the placement of the commas. I delete whole paragraphs and then “undo” them back. I remember I was going to bake biscuits, or make peach and pecan bread, or watch the latest Vlogbrothers, go see that WizIQ lecture about retention in online courses, or head out to see what my friends and relatives on Pinterest are uploading. Scattershot. All over the place. But if it’s ADD I don’t want to be medicated out of it. I like to pretend it’s multitasking because sometimes it is, and sometimes I get stuff done.

Where I’ve been blogging mostly (although not as regularly as some) has been on the WizIQ Teach Blog. I love WizIQ, I have to confess. It has been my favorite webinar system since I started. A clean white interface, easily branded, tools that encourage interaction and communication, totally affordable (free accounts for students and teachers), and a customer service staff that blows every other customer service staff on the planet right out of the water.

WizIQ Blogs

It occurred to me this morning that to re-boot this blog and my commitment to it, I could make a list of what I’ve written for WizIQ. By listing the accomplishments that got past my anxiety, my comma-fixing, my grammatical reworking, my running off in thirty other directions while working on a blog, I might be able to get back to not only blogging for them, but also to blogging for me. It’s a plan anyhow.

So here goes:

May 7, 2013, Filling Up the Course Feed

May 22, 2013, 10 Ways in which Online Students are Being Engaged Right Now

June 7th, 2013, WizIQ Teachers Love Technology!

June 25th, 2013, 10 Virtual Classroom Tools that Connect You To Online Education

July 2nd, 2013, 5 Useful Tips for Good Time Management for Online Teachers

July 30th, 2013, Do Universities Think Online Education is the Future?

August 23rd, 2013, 12 Things You Should Never Do When You Teach Online

September 6th, 2013, 5 Ways to Market Your Online Courses

October 21st, 2013, What Do Online Teachers and Online Students Really Want?

November 14th, 2013. Learning from Veteran Teachers: Some Things Never Change

January 2nd, 2014, How to Search Better: Tips for Dealing with the Oceans of Information on the Internet

April 21st, 2014, The Ultimate Moodle and WizIQ Mash-up

April 23rd, 2014, 5 Must-Use Features of Moodle Every Online Teacher Should Know

June 21st, 2014, “To Be a Mentor You Must Care”: Maya Angelou, The Legacy of a Teacher

So, I’ve published 14 blogs on the WizIQ blog site, and I’m hoping to do some more, but that’s where I’ve been, that and on YouTube (I’ll do a blog about that here in the future).  While I filmed a few tutorials for the WizIQ blogs I wrote, and contributed a couple of pictures of teaching friends of mine, the amazing illustrations in my blogs on that site were chosen by Navleen Kaur, who has written some really wonderful blogs of her own for the WizIQ blog site as well.

So, see, I can get stuff done. And that means, I can get more stuff done, right?

So as the leaves change, and the 2014/2015 academic year in the US gains speed, I’m thinking about how to contribute a bit more to the conversation about what it means to teach in general, and what it means to teach online in particular. I’m still listening, still learning. And, of course, hoping to figure out how I can live up to that other blogger in the house. Wish me luck!

Posted in General statements | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

On Teaching from Your Past

It’s been a long time since I’ve written on this blog, so here I am.

This morning I was in the Cousera course run by Prof. Cathy Davidson from Duke University, History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education. I’m not taking the course to completion but rather lurking in the Coursera classroom and participating in a study group based on the course in Second Life. Today’s topic—the first video of Week 3—had to do with teaching as if we were still in 1992. I haven’t finished watching yet, but wanted to write a quick note about the thoughts that came to me as I was listening to the beginning of the video.

Cathy was making the point that education seems to be stuck in 1992. Why 1992? That was the year before the internet became public, back when some of us who were online were getting chastised by the fledgling (and now defunct) for engaging in “overuse” (as in “you’re talking to too many people”), filling up our phone bill with $3.00 an hour charges to connect to Bulletin Board Services and download clip art we didn’t actually need (which also filled up our maybe 40 meg hard drives), not to mention waiting endlessly for even the smallest download to finish up.

As I was listening I was thinking that as teachers we are, in some sense, immigrants to the land of the newest generation. We bring a layered and mostly unconscious historical culture to our teaching. We walk into the classroom with a multitude of images and feelings about education in both the near and distant past. Within us we are a mosaic made up of shards of our own experience and the stories about education we have heard from our teachers, parents, grandparents and others. Interspersed among those images are even more from art, books, television, movies, and the internet depicting teachers and learners from a multitude of centuries, cultures and countries.

I carry images of Mrs. Desmond from her active 2nd grade small town classroom of 1958,  Mr. Bisaha from his big city Intro Psych classroom of 1971, and Professor Morris in 1995 from the post-graduate consultations he held in his book-lined office at the University of Edinburgh, among many, many others. Buried deep beneath my surface memories are the powdered-wig-wearing, well-heeled tutor from a novel of the 17th century, Socrates in his long flowing robes with his hand in the air and his followers arrayed at his feet from a great work of art, the young and beautiful but oh-so-proper School Marm of many movies about the 19th-century American west, and that stern lady in a cotton dress and sturdy shoes who taught the Our Gang kids back in the 1930s. No matter what era of education is our own, we all carry bits and pieces of the history of education in our heads.

The classroom is a meeting of generations, in effect, and as students we shouldn’t be surprised that our teachers bring their own generation with them. That’s not a bad thing: We live in a multi-cultural, multi-generational world. It’s good for us to get experience with folks who are different than us, whose values were forged in a different context. Immersing ourselves in difference is how we find and appreciate our commonalities.

On the other hand, I suspect what I’m going to be learning today from Cathy Davidson is that we are all living within this technology-enriched modern milieu with the folks we teach and we need to adapt. As older people—whether we are fresh out of undergrad or grad school, or tottering on the edge of retirement or anywhere in between—we are immigrants in the present. Just like moving to a new town or a new country, we need to learn the ropes, understand the talk, and immerse ourselves in our new lives. The challenge is—for both teachers and learners—our new lives start fresh almost every day, with new technologies, new challenges, new needs.

Today’s culture requires a sea change from us: The emphasis in many quarters is on meaningful, immediate, self-constructed, creative, effective, connected learning. Teaching and learning is morphing into a life-long, ever alternating set of practices. That’s a tad scary for those of us from the everyone-in-a-row past; but it’s also energizing. I can listen to Cathy Davidson while I’m eating breakfast. I can sit in a virtual valley around a virtual campfire on the Tufts University campus in Second Life and chat away with fellow travelers in her MOOC from all over the world. I can learn art, history, literature and science from gaming, not to mention hand-eye coordination, scripting, coding, and virtual-world building skills. I can watch and re-watch a higher education lecture on science from a faculty member at the Autonomous National University in Mexico on Coursera until the experience embeds itself fully both in my understanding of science practice and my quest for fluency in Spanish.

Education today is the ancient Athenaeum, the one room school house in the rural backwaters of all our countries, and colleges and universities big and small, all with the walls blown off. We’re still together as a group of learners and yet now we can look around us and see not only into the distance but also into the future. Scary as hell. And liberating, enlightening, breath-taking.

Here’s me headed back to class.

Posted in Appreciating Technology in Education, The Future of Education, What makes a Good Teacher? | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Rafe Esquith and WizIQ Conversations with Incredible Teachers

I’ve been blogging for WizIQ on and off for a few months now. It’s a privilege. I don’t think I’ve ever in my life been around a group of people with more passion for education, with more expertise, and with more enthusiasm and heart. That’s saying a lot, because I have been blessed to have worked with a number of groups of people who are great people, giving of themselves, understanding, and full of fun. But this group — well, just amazing.

One of the bloggers on WizIQ who is also an evangelist for the system, and a Moodle trainer and master teacher of English as a Second Language (and just a master teacher of teaching), Dr. Nellie Deutsch, conducts occasional live webinars in which she interviews incredible teachers on their approach to their profession. In the past, she has interviewed Dr. Michael Wesch, an innovative anthropology professor who has focused on the impact of the internet on students’ lives, among many other things, and Dr. Sugata Mitra, whose “Hole in the Wall” experiment proved that children, left to their own devices, will build on their innate curiosity to teach themselves. I won’t be surprised if one day I hear that she’s got Sir Ken Robinson, an articulate and insightful advocate of creativity in education, to come round to WizIQ and talk.

This time, at 7pm Eastern on Thursday, September 5th, Dr. Nellie will be interviewing Rafe Esquith, an award-winning, highly successful elementary school teacher from Los Angeles. Her blog on Rafe, available now on the WizIQ blog site, highlights this incredible teacher in advance of Thursday night’s conversation. She includes a YouTube video of Esquith’s interview on Tavis Smiley’s very smart PBS cable show that gives you a character of Esquith’s approach to learning and the classroom. So many great teachers share his approach: creative and happy chaos that includes belief in the kids in the classroom, belief that they can all reach beyond themselves to learn more, and to develop life long skills to keep learning in the foreground of those activities that make them happy and successful.

Signing up for the conversation on WizIQ will mean that if you can’t make it to watch it in real time, you’ll be able to loop back to WizIQ and watch it later. Enjoy!

Posted in What makes a Good Teacher? | Leave a comment

The Joy of Learning from Other Teachers: Sylvia Guinan’s Blog on Online Teaching

I haven’t been around this blog much since the end of May. Partly this is because I have been blogging for my favorite online teaching site,, where I started out as a student of online teaching/presentation skills in 2009 and ended up a premium teacher. I fell in love with the site not only because of the Virtual Classroom and its onboard teaching tools — there’s also a social media toolbox that includes a Courseware page for an interactive syllabus, a Coursefeed page with threaded discussions, and easy student contact tools; not to mention the best customer service group I’ve ever run across — but also because of the welcoming community of teachers from all over the world who populate its pages with free open access courses, affordable courses, friendly MOOCs on great topics, and more recently a series of truly terrific blogs.

A full-featured webinar teaching and learning platform that connects teachers and learners from all over the world.

A full-featured webinar teaching and learning platform that connects teachers and learners from all over the world.

My online teaching mentor on WizIQ, Dr. Nellie Deutsch — now a friend and colleague — recommended me for a part-time job blogging with WizIQ not too long ago. I couldn’t be more grateful. Among the blogs I’ve written for WizIQ, my two favorite ones are the one on time management and the one on the Babson Survey Research Group/Pearson/Sloan Consortium report, Changing Course, which covers the last ten years of online education adoption by universities and colleges.

Nellie Deutsch

Dr. Nellie Deutsch

My all-time favorite WizIQ blog is one I didn’t write, though. Written by Sylvia Guinan, an ESL teacher from Ireland living with her husband and children in Greece, the blog is called “Ten Things You Should Unlearn Before Starting to Teach Online.”

Sylvia Guinan

Sylvia Guinan

Saying this is my favorite blog on WizIQ is saying a lot because all of the blogs are really good, whether written by WizIQ staff, or by the dozen or so online teachers who round out our group of bloggers. Everybody is articulate, passionate about teaching, learning and online education. The staff at WizIQ who edit and help illustrate the blogs are also creative and a joy to work with. But Sylvia’s blog is my absolute favorite because it shows us what we have to shake off in order to become truly effective, productive online teachers.

The overall message of “Ten Things” is that to be an effective online teacher with sufficient skills to set up the kind of learning community that will most benefit our students, we need to embrace the creative chaos that personalized online learning requires. We can’t be afraid of mobile devices, a wild and wooly chat box, or letting the learners under our care take the lead, Guinan says. That tendency we all have to be wary of leaving our comfort zone needs to be unlearned, as well as our dependency on textbooks and other static forms of the printed word, not to mention our dependence on the bureacracy that can surround us in bricks-and-mortar schools. As online teachers, we need to let go of the beliefs and preconceptions that hold us back. We need to be willing to take that leap of faith that allows us to revel in the joys of “individual and collaborative success.”

Sylvia Guinan's Blog on WizIQ

Sylvia Guinan’s Blog on WizIQ

There’s more in the blog, and with great click-throughs to other blogs and lists of tools and techniques for teaching online. I recommend it highly: Sylvia’s blog is full of insightful enthusiasm for a type of teaching that has so many benefits for all of us! Enjoy!

Posted in General statements | Leave a comment

What makes a Great Online Course?

Recently I’ve been reading Karen Head‘s guest blogs for Wired.Campus, part of The Chronicle of Higher Education. She’s a faculty member at Georgia Institute of Technology. I like her blogs. She’s a good writer and she provides an interesting picture of the struggles Georgia Tech has gone through as they set up courses for their partnership with Coursera. But she brings up — and many of her commentators bring up — the pressure teachers of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) feel to have TV quality lectures superimposed on absolutely gorgeous illustrations or amplified PowerPoint slides that look like they were put together for NBC Nightly News. I resonate to the word “pressure.” Some of the best online courses I’ve ever taken didn’t have TV quality production values. Instead, they’ve been decidedly homemade.

So Coursera is a couple of steps above the kind of courses I usually take and at first I was intimidated. Then I decided to lurk in four Coursera courses as a way to see what constituted online teaching best practice for Coursera. The courses were: Duke Professor Dan Ariely’s “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior,” University of Maryland Professor Hank Lucas’s “Surviving Disruptive Technologies,” University of Michigan Professor Chuck Severance’s “Internet History, Technology and Security,” and Georgia Institute of Technology Professor Anderson Smith’s “Introduction to Psychology as a Science.” I liked them all, but I had the most trouble sticking with the last one. In fact it’s still going on and I’m seriously behind.

I never meant to “take” the courses actually. My plan was to sample some things on Cousera that seemed interesting and watch how each of the universities/professors handled the online teaching environment. If you think Coursera imposes a cookie cutter sameness on its university partners, this is a great way to find out that no, that isn’t happening. There are a lot of different ways to handle content, and each of the four schools I sampled did “the online thing” quite differently.

For example: Georgia Tech and Duke were committed to high production values in the recorded lectures and other materials that were presented on screen. In fact Dan Ariely’s wonderful course was so high quality, my aging Gateway laptop faltered under the strain. I had to give up before the course finished although now that I’m writing this, I’m thinking I might borrow my husband’s computer in the morning before he wakes up and take a stab at the last couple of weeks’ worth of videos.

What’s interesting about these two courses is that while both Duke and Georgia Tech went for the “standing in front of the camera” video lecture model, the outcome was very different. Dan Ariely has a fantastic personality and his course design exuded whimsy and enthusiasm not just because of the various visual elements chosen to  present what would otherwise have been PowerPoint-esque — I’m betting the deft hand of Duke University’s Center for Instructional Technology was behind a lot of that — but also because of the active presence of his Teaching Assistants and students in the visual materials. On the other hand, Anderson Smith does a great job of presenting his material clearly and seems like the kind of guy you would most definitely want supervising your doctoral dissertation. It’s just that he doesn’t come across as if he’s enjoying the process.

Dan Ariely’s boundless energy was clearly captured in his lectures. But it wasn’t just the force of his personality that made the difference. There was also something infinitely less stilted about the way he was filmed. In contrast, the oh-so-formal “stand still and deliver” Georgia Tech filming style seemed to squash Anderson Smith’s personality and diminish the force of his knowledge as well. I’m determined to finish his lectures, but I just know it’s going to be more of a chore than a joy. There’s warmth and knowledge in Anderson Smith’s teaching style that’s buried by the filming. That’s unfortunate.

Then there’s the other two courses I signed up for: I really loved the courses by Drs. Lucas and Severance.  I confess I had a personal reason to lurk in Hank Lucas’s course — my family’s business succumbed in the 1990s to the impact of the digital imaging revolution on X-ray technology like a small business shadow cast by the dark-dark-darker experience of our once X-ray film supplier Kodak. I found Chuck Severance’s romp through the history of the internet endlessly fascinating because I’m old enough to remember a working life before that revolution changed everything. But I’m a research psychologist so I loved the content of the two high production value courses as well. It just surprised me how eager I was to check in with Dr. Chuck and Professor Hank as soon as I saw the video lectures were up. The content of both courses was great, of course, but there was something else that was drawing me back to class.

Finally I put my finger on it: I didn’t expect to be so appreciative of the relatively low-tech non-TV quality aspect of their lecturing. Both of these Professors chose the “sit-at-the-computer-talk-into-the-webcam” variety of course delivery. And whatever software Coursera uses, it had the happy feature of allowing both Lucas and Severance to scribble endless enthusiastic doodles all over their slides.

Course extras, readings, projects, vibrant and well-tended discussions, Google hangouts, virtual office hours and course wikis enhanced all four of these courses. But it was the intimacy of the Lucas and Severance broadcasts that kept me coming back for more. And I realized there was a parallel to smaller online courses I’d taken in the past. There’s nothing like getting a glimpse of the Profs’ working environments, with clocks, calendars, pictures on the walls, coffee cups, and even pets. (In Lucas’ case, it was his dog Frankie who was clearly taking the course with us.) This glimpse of home and office combined with the close face in the camera and the doodling on the slides made the courses more sticky, more inviting, more likely to be the first ones I hit in the morning.

I was surprised to realize it was the community building teaching style so typical of the courses I’ve taken over the years on and elsewhere that made the difference in how I felt about the Coursera offerings. The feeling of person-to-person interaction could in fact be maintained even when 100,000 other people were taking the course with you. I’ve seen that person-to-person connection in the much smaller Moodle training courses I’ve taken that are taught by Dr. Nellie Deutsch and her volunteer facilitators on IT4ALL. And I didn’t expect to find it in a Coursera MOOC.

So now I know that best practices in a fancy MOOC are the same as best practices in small online courses: What makes a course worth taking is the feeling of real connection to the Prof and through him or her to the course material, even if you don’t have the time to interact with the other students in a big way. Whether a course is offered by grass root organizers or by big concerns like Coursera or by major universities like Duke, Michigan, Maryland or Georgia Tech, connection is the key. Nellie Deutsch says it better in her introductory playlist for the new Moodle MOOC that starts on WizIQ on June 1st. Click through and then roll up to the third offering on the playlist and you’ll see what I mean.

So okay I’m as hooked on Coursera as I am on grass roots MOOCs like the ones on WizIQ. The Coursera experience has reinforced my conviction that whether massive, or just big, or mid-sized, or really small, the most important production values in an online classroom are those that provide the best space for the people-to-people connection.

Posted in What Makes a Good Online Course | 5 Comments

Why Teachers Love Technology

A while back I got an email from a new friend who had built a really gorgeous graphic for a blog on It’s just an amazing visual commentary on the growth of technology use among teachers, including the growth of social media use.

I must say I resonate to everything. I have a laptop and yesterday I was telling another new friend that I never thought I would want an iPad, and then my husband won an iPad in a raffle and handed it over to me and it’s been welded to my hip ever since. Like the teachers in the graphic, I’m surfing educational websites through my iPad, watching lectures from the Virtual Classroom on WizIQ, reading past issues of the Chronicle of Higher Education and even downloading apps that help me practice Spanish.

Well, let me not spare you the experience of enjoying this wonderful graphic. Thanks Allison Morris for creating such a great graphic and sharing it with me! And even though you enjoy it here, go check out, read the blog, and share the graphic for yourself.

Retrieved from What do we Know Infographic

Posted in Appreciating Technology in Education | Leave a comment

Join the Introduction to Parapsychology course at the Rhine Education Center!

Just wanted to let folks know that I’m teaching an “Introduction to Parapsychology” course for the Rhine Research Center’s Education program. The course is eight weeks and starts next Monday evening with the first live class. The deadline for applying for the course, which will be taught at the level of professional education for individuals who are interested in psi research (research into seemingly psychic phenomena), is Friday, April 26th. I’ve recorded a video tour of the syllabus and application form, and what the classroom will look like. If you’re at all interested, there are some seats left in the classroom and we’d love to have you join us! The course is totally online, so there’s no need to be here in Durham, and if the live classes aren’t quite at the right time for you, no need to worry, because the recordings of the live classes will be available soon after.

Here’s the video introduction:

I’m delighted to have this opportunity to teach a topic I love. Come join us! The link to the Rhine Education Center home page can be found here.

Posted in My Online Courses | Leave a comment

No really I’m loving Coursera …

I’ve spent a lot of time taking courses over the last 4 years in small online environments (less than a few hundred folk), nurtured by facilitators and colleagues taking a journey through the same type of materials as me (Moodle training, how to teach online, connectivism). I’ve heard all the worries of the folks who built these courses and taught them. I felt all the worries too. As in: Commercial massively open online courses aren’t going to be as personal as the smaller courses that have been around forever. They’ll be isolating, unhappy, loveless, without a sense of community, or worse yet they’ll just be traditional sage-on-the-stage teaching writ large.

Here’s the New York Times perspective on Massively Open Online Courses or MOOCs.

Before I decided to take the plunge with Coursera, I experienced a couple of MOOCs. The one that Dave Cormier was involved with — he wrote and narrated the video below — was aimed at understanding the current state and future of higher education. The video presentations were fantastic, but I found the materials hard to find, or, once found, hard to find again. I wrote endless notes to folk on discussion boards and nobody ever wrote me back. I finally dropped out, not caring as much about the future of higher ed as when I started the course. Dave’s view of what MOOCs can be is certainly much better than what I experienced. But maybe it was me, and not the MOOC.

More recently I ran across Dave’s video on how to succeed in a MOOC. He advocates a five-point method to be really successful in a MOOC.

It’s good advice and you can tell he’s really focused on developing learning networks and working towards a goal. So I started to think about what my goal might be, and there it was: what I really wanted was to watch other teachers teaching online, compare their strategies and think about how I want to teach.

I started to think about Coursera. I had attended one of the great webinars that the special interest groups of the International Society for Technology in Education put on. In that webinar I heard Lynne O’Brien of Duke University’s Center for Instructional Technology talk about Duke’s journey towards MOOCs. It sounded wonderful, like a whirlwind, passionate effort to put together some of Duke’s best classes for a global audience. A few weeks later, I attended another great webinar put on by Steven Gilbert’s TLT Group in which Amy Woodgate of the University of Edinburgh (my alma mater) talked about the “E-Learning and Digital Cultures” Coursera class.  University of Edinburgh had hit the ground running too. That was fascinating: what was it about MOOCs that made big universities find a way to turn on a dime? Universities usually move at a glacial pace.

Some my friends who are teachers of smaller online courses are not at all happy about huge potentially commercial MOOC providers like Coursera. They worry about the type of teaching that might be done. They worry about how authentic the experience might be. I used to feel that way too. I had, after all, when I was influential at a small online graduate school, set a policy for very small and slightly more selective online courses on the academic side of the house. How could a methodology that would seem to be more in keeping with a dumbed-down avocational adult ed kind of model really deliver high end university goods to any and all comers?

I think what finally made me take the plunge was Daphne Koller. I think I found the link to her Ted talk through a blogger I follow. She didn’t have to talk very long to convince me that she belongs most authentically to that group of passionate, globally and yet individually focused educators who want everybody to have access to learning, people I admire, people like Nellie Deutsch whose “Integrating Technology for Active Lifelong Learning” I’ve talked about before, and like Dave Cormier.

See what I mean?

Not ten minutes after her talk was finished I had signed up at Coursera and was trolling for a course. The next day I signed up for another, and the next day another, and the next day another. Okay so I’m lurking: I’m watching the videos and taking the quizzes but I’m not engaging in the courses completely. Later on, when Amy Woodgate’s course comes up again, I plan on following Dave Cormier’s advice and plunging in, goals at the ready, committing and declaring in all directions.

For now, I’m happy to watch the way my four Coursera courses are playing out. They’re all different, in scope, in tone, in subject matter, in production values, in earthiness, in connectedness, in extra goodies to peruse. The whole experience is fascinating. I recommend the exercise highly! In a future blog I’ll write more about the courses themselves and what I’m learning about teaching online.

Posted in The Future of Education | 1 Comment

Owning Your Own Learning

This morning I had the pleasure of attending quite a wonderful conversation on the teaching/learning/social site WizIQ. Nellie Deutsch, a nimble Ed.D. from the University of Phoenix, now a faculty member at Atlantic University, started a series of conversations with game-changers in education some time back. This morning’s iteration of the conversation series focused on the work of an extraordinary 17-year-old Nikhil Goyal who spoke about his passion: fomenting a revolution in education. This young man has written a blog, a book, One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School, and a series of articles that are insightful, articulate and profound in so many ways. One of the things he talked about was “curating his own learning.”

Conversation with Nikhil Goyal

Conversation with Nikhil Goyal

I love that metaphor. It brings up an image of a beautiful old ivy-covered building with imposing architecture, wide open doors, full of endless rooms, shelves, display cases, open galleries, long dark hallways, bright atria with fountains and, better still, laboratories, unlimited storage in the attic and the basement — basically any possible architectural expression of the acquiring and sharing of the fruits of discovery.

If you think about it, whenever we’re passionate about what we want to learn or use, that’s when we all start curating our own learning, looking around for mentors, for websites with info, for YouTube videos, for articles and blogs, for groups in the real world who can teach us, who share our passions, who are a little farther down the road than we are. The process we use to discover knowledge we need, gather our information, learn our skills, is the same whether we are learning to cook, knit, weave, conduct experiments, write books, build a better garden, or become an online teacher. There’s a breathless joy when you look up and find yourself immersed in that process. It’s as if we were building our own interactive museum, filling up our galleries and display cases, getting hands on, trying things out, and then opening the doors to let others in to learn what we’ve learned. Sigh …

So here’s a link to the conversation on WizIQ: Conversation with Nikhil Goyal. I’m going to watch it again.

Posted in The Future of Education | Tagged | Leave a comment

Creating Community One Class at a Time

Last Saturday morning I was reminded of what a joy it is be involved with an international group of people who are intent on learning similar things together.

We’re packing to move from Virginia to North Carolina on Thursday, so taking “study” breaks has been a much needed, much appreciated form of punctuation for days filled with odd sized boxes and packing tape. For about 90 minutes Saturday my “study” break consisted of a welcome webinar for a Moodle training course for teachers of English for speakers of other languages from all over the world.

Front page of IT4ALL's M4T Course for EVO2013

Front page of IT4ALL’s M4T Course for EVO2013

For six weeks now, I’ve been helping the incomparable Dr. Nellie Deutsch and her colleagues, Drs. Ludmilla Smirnova and Barbara Yaloff, and doctoral student/long-time teacher and fellow M4T (Moodle for Teachers) graduate, Judi Behrens facilitate a Moodle training course for TESOL folks in collaboration with the Electronic Village Online annual meet-up (EVO2013).

One of Nellie’s many projects in online education, IT4ALL  stands for Integrating Technology for Active Lifelong Learning, to be found the website IT4ALL provides courses primarily in training to use the open source online classroom delivery system, Moodle, an incredibly flexible learning management system that improves with every iteration.

IT4ALL also provides courses on teaching with the WizIQ social media/webinar teaching system (more on that later), on academic writing, vlogging, starting your own online business, learning English online and so on. This is not to mention the annual conferences that take on WizIQ twice a year: Nellie develops and facilitates Connecting Online Conferences offered every February and the Virtual Moodlemoot she coordinates every August. Past years are available for free viewing on WizIQ.

To give you a good idea of how unique WizIQ is in the webinar world — Nellie has a knack for finding some of the best resources for teachers out there — and how valuable it is as a platform for both teachers and learners (a significant number of the classes on the public stream are free), I’ve inserted one of WizIQ’s commercials for its system. It provides a great overview and guess who their example teacher is …

Nellie’s courses on IT4ALL are low cost or free (scholarships are available) and bring in students from all over the world, and they are always supported by materials lodged in various other online spaces, such Google documents, Mahara, YouTube, various blogs, and of course, the weekly webinar on WizIQ. (I’ll be blogging about Nellie’s activities as well as the various bits and bobs of technology she uses as I go along — one of my plans for this blog is to highlight the amazing projects of the people from whom I’ve been learning about online education.)

Like all of Nellie’s training courses we were from everywhere on the planet.  In M4TEVO2013 there were over one hundred registrants from 43 countries, spread out across the globe, from Southeast Asia and Australia to Eastern, Central and Northern Europe from the UK to such North and South American countries as Canada and Paraguay and lots of countries in between. Folks were from elementary, middle and high schools, language schools for adults, colleges and universities, and online teaching businesses, big and small. We all came together with the same focus: learning how to use Moodle to enhance our face to face teaching and/or extend our teaching/learning skills online, or both.

M4TEVO2013 was comprised of six weeks of active learning: teachers who were learners were expected to explore the Moodle framework for themselves albeit with guidance from our little band of facilitators. There was a curriculum, of course, that was built around basic Moodle elements, resources and activities. The goal was — as it always is with Nellie — for students to become proficient not only in using the basic elements of Moodle but also in learning their new Moodle skills well enough to teach others.

Active learning can be frustrating at first but is oh-so-rewarding later. Learners need to be able to ask questions of each other. They have to enjoy mucking in, working “hands on” with others. It is important to want to own the process and to expect to and enjoy having fun while learning. And the payoff is not only proficiency that does not fade away, but new friends, new colleagues, potential collaborators, and an expanded understanding of how much we all have in common in our classrooms and in our daily lives.

The learners in M4TEVO2013 dove into the materials, learned, shared, set up lessons, filmed tutorials of their skills to teach others, helped each other along, and an intrepid subset of our group appeared every Saturday morning — well it was Saturday morning for me: folks logged on from yesterday and tomorrow when you consider the spread of time zones — for the WizIQ webinars, many letting themselves be seen on video, heard on audio, and in the last class, last Saturday morning, animatedly chatting in the break-out rooms WizIQ provides. In my breakout room, after all the questions and answers and testimonials were finished, that meant playing on the Whiteboard together, uploading clapping hands, drawing happy faces, trying to sign our names or wish each other good fortune in the future in freehand, just enjoying ourselves like the friends we had all become. Not so long ago Nellie admitted that she is creating peace one teacher at a time. For all of us who have learned from her and collaborated with her, it feels like that, absolutely.

If you’re interested in Moodle, or WizIQ, or teaching online I recommend that you head over to YouTube and subscribe to Nellie’s channel. Here’s the link. And then wander over to WizIQ to take a look at what’s on offer. Nellie’s teacher’s page is here. Mine is here (I’m only an “egg” as you can see). And finally, to IT4ALL to explore the opportunities for learning there.  As for me, I’m headed back to the boxes and the packing tape! See you on the other side of the move.

Posted in Resources for Moodle Training | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments