Category Archives: etmooc

Posts relating to the educational technology mooc

A new open, online, edtech professional development opportunity for educators (modelled on ETMOOC)

OOE13 image, by Glenn Hervieux. Check out the OOE13 site at

In a few short weeks, a new open online course will begin, called #OOE13, Open Online Experience 2013(-2014). It is designed as a profession development experience in educational technology for educators, but it is open to anyone who would like to participate. It starts September 4, 2013.

I am one of the many, many people who have helped to shape this course, and who will be helping to run it. And I mean many! There are probably 50 or 60 people who have contributed in one way or another! It has been (and I expect will continue to be) a great experience in collaboration.

I’m writing this post, though, to encourage others to join #OOE13, by noting its similarity to a course I did in January-March 2013, and which had a profound impact on me professionally and personally. It’s not exaggerating to say it changed my life in many ways. Those of us who are working together to make #OOE13 happen are hoping that will be the case for many of the participants as well.

I’ll first describe a bit about ETMOOC and why I found this experience so valuable–the point here is that we have designed #OOE13 similarly, hoping that others will also have a great experience. So in describing ETMOOC, I’m also giving you a flavour of #OOE13.

So please read on and see if this sparks your interest, and if so, you can register for #OOE13 here!


What I took in Jan-March 2013 was ETMOOC (Educational Technology and Media MOOC):

This was a connectivist-style MOOC (massively open online course) (see my post on what I think a “connectivist MOOC” means), run by a large group of people from many different professions and educational institutions. It lasted for ten weeks or so, and every two weeks there was a new theme relating to educational technology (Connected Learning, Digital Storytelling, Digital Literacy, The Open Movement, and Digital Citizenship). You can see more about each of these topics at the ETMOOC main site, which has posts explaining some aspects of each topic and giving resources, on the front page (just scroll down).

To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure about joining this course, because I wasn’t terribly interested in educational technology. But I had heard of “connected learning” and the “open” movement, and wanted to learn a bit more about those; plus, the structure of the course seemed interesting.  So I tried it.


Each week there would be one or more presentations on BlackBoard Collaborate that you could join live from anywhere in the world, or watch the recording later. We had guest speakers from various parts of the world on these topics (though all English-speaking). Then we had suggested other things to read/watch/do each week. We were highly encouraged to reflect on what we were seeing/reading/doing in our blogs, which were connected to a blog hub–so you could easily find blog posts from each person in the course. We also were encouraged to comment on each others’ blogs during the course, to get conversations going that way.

In addition, we had a one-hour chat on Twitter each week, on the #etmchat hashtag. I hadn’t used Twitter much before that, and didn’t realize how effective Twitter chats can actually be. You may think you can’t get much done in bursts of 140 characters, but I was surprised at how rich and effective the discussion was at times. Here is a record of our chat on digital literacies, and here is one on open education (best to scroll all the way down to the very beginning and start there, b/c it’s in backwards chronological order).

Freedom to participate how and when you want/can

One very nice thing about ETMOOC was that there was no pressure to continue through the whole course, or to do all the activities. It was clear there was an open door to come in and go out when you wanted, and to do as much as you wanted. This felt freeing, for the times when I just got too busy. And since the topics changed every two weeks, new people could start with a new topic and there wasn’t a sense that they needed to go back and “catch up” on anything.

What I did in ETMOOC

I’ve got a couple of records of what I did in ETMOOC, in case anyone is interested. First, I’ve got quite a few blog posts I wrote during ETMOOC, which can all be found by clicking on the “Etmooc” category on the right menu.

I also put together a more connected narrative of what I did in ETMOOC, which can be found here on my blog.

Why I found ETMOOC so valuable

[Update Aug. 22: Of course, I should say that I got quite a lot out of ETMOOC in terms of learning things about educational technology, connected learning, digital literacy, digital storytelling, and more, but honestly, the things that really struck me, that are most meaningful for me, are those mentioned below.]

1. Making Connections –that’s the best way for me to think of putting it, but it can sound more crassly self-interested than I mean. By making connections I mean that I found many people in different parts of the world who are interested in similar things as I am in terms of teaching and learning, and whom I can now talk to long after the course is done. This is great, because it means having a group of people you can engage in discussions with about, not just educational technology, but pedagogy generally.

For me, it’s like when I go to a teaching/learning professional development workshop and meet interesting people and talk to them about pedagogy and get great ideas…except when that happens it all ends when the workshop ends. Sure, we could meet up again, but we’re all busy and usually that doesn’t happen. But with an online course like this, the connections and discussions seem easier to keep up. I’m not sure why, but that’s been my experience. I can do it from home, on my own time, talking to people on Twitter, on blogs, on Google+, or other social networking sites. We don’t have to schedule a meeting to be somewhere face to face at the same time (though sometimes we try to schedule video or audio chats on Skype or Google Hangouts, because we do want to talk in real time; even then, it’s easier because we don’t have to get to the same location).

A number of us found these connections so valuable we started a “post-etmooc” group on Google+, in which we read blogs or online journals and discuss them. We also have Twitter chats. And this is all after the course is long finished!

Beyond that, I’ve “met” (through online means such as blogs, Twitter, Google+, Google Hangouts) many, many people whose work I continue to read on their blogs, who I continue to talk with on Twitter, and who share helpful links with me about pedagogical topics we’re interested in (and vice versa!).

What this means is I’ve developed an online Personal Learning Networka network of people from whom I learn and who learn from me (here’s a nice, in-depth video explaining PLNs, and here’s a shorter one with people’s views of why they find them valuable). It’s a group that talks about things related to teaching and learning generally, and includes K-12 teachers, higher ed faculty, educational technology specialists, businesspeople, and more. We not only share links of interest, but we ask questions of each other, support each other when there difficulties, offer advice/suggestions, and more.  I have found this of immense value professionally–and personally! Over time some of these connections have developed into friendships, even before we have ever met in person.

And several of these connections have turned into professional collaborations on other projects, such as #OOE13 itself. A number of ETMOOC participants have gotten together to plan #OOE13, modeling it in large part on ETMOOC, and hoping to share what has been a great experience for us, with others.

2. Changing my professional activities

Since doing ETMOOC I’ve begun to focus my professional research and activities much more on things I had never even heard of before, such as open education, connectivist MOOCs, blending on-campus courses with an open online component, making digital audio and visual media for courses and having students make them as well, and more.

I decided a couple of months ago to create a mind map to show all the things I’ve begun to do as a result of ETMOOC, just to try to explain how much it has affected my professional life.  You can see it here. It’s pretty self-explanatory!


We’ve designed OOE13 with the same basic structure as ETMOOC, and, as you can see from the list of topics (scroll down on this page), a similar content focus. We’ll have guest speakers doing synchronous presentations (which will be recorded for later viewing), Twitter chats, a Google+ group, and we’ll encourage people to post on their blogs and comment on those of others.

Time: September to May

The main difference is that we’ve designed #OOE13 so that teachers and faculty could participate more easily during busy teaching terms. This means spreading the course out over an entire academic year (September to May) rather than having it be 10-12 weeks.

The reason we did this is so that people have more time to watch recorded presentations if they couldn’t be there live, and to write blog posts/comment on posts from others. If there is a lot to do from week to week and people feel like they can’t keep up because they are busy, they may be less motivated to continue–even though we will stress, like ETMOOC did, that you don’t have to do everything, and it’s fine to move in and out! So instead of new topics every two weeks, we’ll have new topics each month.


You can join in anytime and leave anytime, whatever suits you. I found I got a lot out of ETMOOC by being pretty active for most of the time, but that may not suit your schedule. If you want to just watch some presentations, that’s fine! If you want to blog about them too and comment on others’ blogs, that’s great–and you may make connections in the process! If you want to join in the Tweet chats, go ahead…even if you’re not doing anything else in the course.

Drop in to the topics that interest you…leave for awhile and come back…it’s up to you.


Some schools connected to #OOE13 have programs where they will earn professional development credit for doing the course, but for others who don’t have that option (and for any participant, actually), we’re creating badges you could earn. We’ve got a few already, but will be adding to this set as the course goes along.


There really is little to lose and potentially a lot to be gained, so why not give #OOE13 a try? Take another look at the website, and if you’re interested, sign up here!

Hope to see you there…




An embed of my ETMOOC Storify story

I tried to put this story into my blog without having it linked so intimately with Storify, here, and explained here. But that one is annoying at the moment because it opens up the post starting at the end and I don’t know why. Until I can fix it, here’s an embedded version.

click “more” to see it! It’s very long, so I don’t want people to have to scroll through this on the front page.

Continue reading

Getting my ETMOOC Storify story into WordPress

Update, hours later: see below for what happened after I posted this…and do NOT do what I did, below, unless you know a lot more about html and css than I do (which doesn’t take much, b/c I know so little)


I participated in ETMOOC, Educational Technology and Media MOOC ( from January to April 2013. During that time I decided to keep a record of things that stood out for me in the course–tweets, videos, blog posts–and reflect on them in one space (rather than spread out across blog posts).

I used Storify for this, as it was a really easy tool to pull all these different things together in, and to write text between the elements to tell a story. Here’s how it looks on Storify.

The problem was that I figured Storify wouldn’t last forever (these sorts of things come and go), and I didn’t want my reflections to get lost. You can export them as a PDF if you get a paid account, but I didn’t want to have to pay just for this.

Here’s what I did instead: went to my story page in Storify, clicked on “Distribute,” then on “Export” (rather than embed). Embed basically puts an active link in your blog back to the Storify site, like embedding a YouTube or Vimeo video–you can watch it in the blog, but it’s still hosted elsewhere. That wasn’t good enough for what I wanted; what if Storify goes away? Then the embed is useless.

But if you export the file into some other format, that seems to me like it will be more permanent. I tried exporting it to WordPress, but that didn’t work with this blog. I thought about exporting it to my Tumblr, but that’s only for ds106. I could have created a new tumblr just for this, but that doesn’t make sense.

Instead, I exported as html, which gave me the story on a webpage. Then, in Firefox, I right-clicked (or control-click, on a mac) on the page and got a dialogue that let me view page source. That opened up a new window with html code for the page. I copied all of that and opened up a new WP post (this one), went to “text” instead of “visual,” and pasted the code in there. Voila!

Here’s the html-export of the story in a WordPress post. Problem: it jumps to the end of the post when you open it! Why? No clue. So until I figure that out, I also created an embedded version, which works fine.

I think that the html-exported version doesn’t rely on Storify existing–even if Storify went away, I might still have my info. Which, I think, is not true of the embedded version.

Maybe I’m deluded about that, as the code in the html exported version still refers quite a bit to Storify. Hmmmm. If not, then maybe there’s little point to exporting in hmtl vs. embedding. 

Can anyone answer the question of whether what I’ve done by exporting to html is different in the sense of it possibly relying less on the existence of Storify than embedding?

One of the main reasons I did this, though, was because the story is quite long, and I want to be able to break it up into a few pieces. I couldn’t do that easily with Storify itself, but I thought I could do it with the html, maybe. Maybe not, though…I think I can’t just take half of it and cut and paste, because I think it relies a lot on some stuff in the beginning of the code that I don’t understand. So that may be moot as well.

I also wanted to do this so you don’t get that annoying “read next page” bar when you reach a certain point in the embedded version. I realize this makes the post really long, but it bugs me somehow.

Lesson learned: If you don’t want your Storify to be really, really long, break it up while you’re doing it, rather than trying to do it later. Or, if someone knows how to do this that I am not seeing, please let me know!

I tried my hand at messing with the html to get rid of the annoying social share buttons that often pop up (I left a few in at the html-exported story so you see what I’m talking about; they’re all over the embedded story). Seemed to work, though I messed up the formatting of the first text box. Just deleted this from html wherever I found it:

<div class=”s-share-dropdown”>
<ul class=”s-actions-share” data-url=””>
<li><a title=”Share on Facebook” href=”#” rel=”facebook”>Share on Facebook</a></li>
<li><a title=”Share on Twitter” href=”#” rel=”twitter”>Share on Twitter</a></li>
<li><a title=”Share on Google+” href=”#” rel=”googleplus”>Share on Google+</a></li>
<li><a title=”Share on Linkedin” href=”#” rel=”linkedin”>Share on Linkedin</a></li>
<li><a title=”Share by email” href=”#” rel=”email”>Share by email</a></li>

Note: a mind-numbing task that I thought would never end: “find,” delete, “find next,” delete, and over and over and over and over…

But hey, it worked! For the most part. There’s still some weirdness in the code in some places that leads to funky formatting, but I’ve reached the limit of how much I’m willing to mess around with html when I really don’t know what I’m doing.


Update, hours laterWell, all this seemed to work okay, except for two things:

1. When I opened the html export post, it would always open at the very bottom of the post rather than the top

2. That post also broke the ETMOOC blog hub. Okay, well, not “broke,” but made it look very weird. I went to that blog hub while preparing another post and saw that it looked very strange–all the content was squished up into one column on the far right of the page. I tweeted to Alan Levine asking him if he could (at some point) find out what was wrong (no rush), and he wrote back that my last post messed it up–the html export one. Oops. Lots of strange code at the beginning of it messed with the formatting.

Long story short, I asked a friend who knows a heck of a lot more than I do about coding and html and css to help, and he fixed the code for me pretty darn quickly. Stripped off the weird stuff at the beginning and added a css line to make the formatting look right (b/c when I took that weird stuff off, the formatting got all nasty). THANK YOU PAT LOCKLEY!

So don’t try this at home, unless you know what you’re doing. Or have a very nice friend who does know, and who is willing to help you with a project that probably isn’t even entirely necessary.

A map of influence of #etmooc

I’m marginally participating, here and there, in #clmooc: Making Learning Connected MOOC. I would participate more, but for the past few weeks I’ve been: (1) finishing up ds106 (and yes, I know it’s never really finished! Most of my ds106 projects are posted on a tumblr, here), (2) moving out of my apartment in Melbourne, Australia where I’ve lived for a year on sabbatical, (3) travelling, (4) making the journey home to Vancouver (I’m still on #4 right now, waiting in an airport with a delayed flight).

At any rate, one of the projects in #clmooc for this week is to make a map–a map of anything you want. I chose to make a mind map of what I’ve been doing over the past few months, as a result of my participation in #etmooc, the Educational Technology and Media MOOC that took place Jan-March 2013. #etmooc had a profound impact on me and my work, which I wanted to capture in a mind map.

After doing a search for free mind mapping software, and finding ,this Wikipedia page I decided to give Mindmup a try. I liked that it is open source and free, and that it seems pretty easy to start using. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it’s quick to learn how to use and to make a map. You can include links just by typing in the URL, and it automatically turns it into a link. Apparently you can add attachments too, though I didn’t try that.

The one thing I wanted to do but couldn’t was to add a “parent” to the main parent in the middle, which is #etmooc itself. I wanted to just say that I heard about #etmooc through Twitter, through my PLN. But I couldn’t figure out how to do that. Oh well; I’m happy with it otherwise.

You don’t have to create an account to create a map, though I don’t know how you can save it on their site w/o an account. I saved it to Google Drive, but you can also save it to GitHub if you want.

You can get an embed code for your site if you save it on Mindmup (which you can ALSO do after saving it on Google Drive or GitHub). That’s what I used below. I like how it works on the blog–you can resize it and move around it…nice!

#ETMOOC: Educational Technology and Media MOOC, Jan-March 2013 on MindMup

MOOC engagement and disengagement

Recently I contrasted ds106 with a course in statistics from Udacity, as part of my participation in a course on Open Education from the Open University. I got very frustrated writing that post because I felt constrained by the script, by the instructions. It wasn’t that I had other things to say that didn’t fit the script; it was more that following the explicit instructions seemed to keep me from thinking of other things to say. I was busy saying what I was supposed to, and therefore didn’t leave myself mental space to consider much of anything else.

Usually I only write blog posts when I have something I want to reflect on, to share with others, to get feedback about. It’s self-generated, and I care about what I’m doing. That hasn’t been the case for many of the posts I’ve done for the Open Education course, and it has just felt far too forced and unmeaningful.

I decided to stop.

Apparently the post was actually useful to some, as some Twitter conversations & retweets indicated, but it still felt dull to me because I wasn’t the one deciding what to write, or whether to write at all. Okay, yes, ultimately I was the one, of course, since I didn’t need to (a) do this particular activity for the course, or (b) do it in the scripted way, or (c) join the course at all in the first place. So yes, I decided. But my point is more subtle. And it affects how I approach face-to-face teaching as well. 

In my previous post, I listed some of the major differences between ETMOOC and the OU course, and talked a bit about why I preferred the former. Here I want to focus on one particular downside to the OU course.

The directed assignment

There is probably a better word or phrase for this–I just mean an assignment or activity in which one is told exactly what to do. This is what we had, each week, several times a week, in the OU course. It is not what we had in ETMOOC.

In ETMOOC we had a few suggestions here and there for blog topics, things one could write about if one wanted. During some of the bimonthly topics there were lists of activities we might do if we wished, including reading/watching outside materials and writing about them. But there was a strong emphasis that one should choose one or just a few of these, or none at all (see, e.g., the post for the digital storytelling topic in ETMOOC). The activities were clearly suggestions, and participants could (and many did) blog about anything that caught their attention and interest in relation to the topics at hand, whether from the suggested activities, the presentations, the Twitter chats, or others’ blog posts.

My experience with the OU course was much different. The activities were written as directives rather than suggestions. Here, for example, is an activity about “connectivism” that I decided not to do (other examples of directions can be found by clicking on the #h817open tag to the right). I am going to blog about connectivism and how it informs the structure of cMOOCs, as it’s something I’m interested in, but that’s just the point. The way the activities in the course are written, one gets the strong message that directions should be followed. The rhetoric is clear. You may be interested in writing about something else, but then you’re not participating in the course.

Sometimes I followed the instructions; sometimes not. My choice, yes, but something else happens too.

Follow the path

Follow the path, CC-BY licensed flickr photo shared by Miguel Mendez

There could easily be, and for me at times there was, a strong enough feeling that I ought to follow directions that, well, I did. It’s just a sense that that’s what you do in a “course.” And the fact that this was an “open boundary” course–meaning it had students officially registered for credit as well as outside participants–probably contributed to it having a more traditional structure. But that structure suggested, implicitly, that one should do what the instructor says.

Incidentally, this was another difference from ETMOOC–in the OU course, there was clearly one instructor in the “expert” or “authority” role. In ETMOOC there were many people involved in both planning and facilitating, and unless they were giving one of the synchronous presentations, they acted just like every other participant in the course. The information about each week’s topic seemed to come from some anonymous source, without a clear authorial voice, even though it had a list of people at the end who were involved in working on that topic. It felt less hierarchical, more like a collective group of people learning together than a set of instructors vs. learners.

I’m not concerned about having specific, assigned readings, videos, or other materials; some of those for the OU course I found very helpful, and when one is faced with something unfamiliar, having a few common guideposts on the way is helpful when learning with others. What led me to disengage was being explicitly directed as to what to do with those materials, exactly what to write about. And even though I knew that was optional, the rhetorical  thrust of both the wording and the structure of the course indicated otherwise. 

I had a bit of a discussion with Inger-Marie Christensen in comments on one of her blog posts, here, about this issue. She rightly pointed out the danger of just skipping things in a MOOC that don’t seem immediately interesting to you, and I agree. I also see that by following directions I might end up finding new things that I’m interested in, engaged with, that I might not otherwise.

Still, I think that a balance can be struck: encouragement to at least engage with most or all of the topics, read or watch at least one or two things, and then choose from a variety of suggested topics to write about or activities to do (while also providing freedom to do something else related if one chooses). I think the value of greater engagement and more meaningful work by participants by offering such flexibility can outweigh the loss of perhaps missing some aspects of a topic.

Face-to-face courses

I felt this way earlier in the OU course, but continued on for awhile anyway:

And another implication struck me then, too:

But in Uni the students either just do what you ask or drop the course. And suddenly it’s hitting me that when I provide clear, detailed instructions on what to write for essays, my students may respond the way I did. How did I not see this before?

I often give very detailed essay assignments, saying exactly what should be written about. I have thought I’m doing students a favour by providing clear directives. And for some, that’s probably the case. But I’m also:

  • doing the hard work for them–wouldn’t it be better to ask them to find the important aspects of texts and arguments for themselves, based on what they want to talk about? 
  • leading their essays to be as rigid as my instructions, and so
  • likely preventing the excitement that comes when you really want to figure something out and work with a text (or something else) to do so, as well as
  • discouraging deep creativity in responding to the texts and issues we’re discussing.

Now, I actually do give students in third- and fourth-year courses more freedom, but I tend to be more directive in first- and second-year courses. And I’m wondering if I can strike more of a balance between specificity and flexibility. I realize that people new to philosophy can use clear guidance on how to write philosophy essays well, and sometimes that could mean telling them exactly what to write about. But does it have to? At the very least, I could make it clearer that the provided essay topics are suggestions rather than directives, and emphasize that there is room to experiment.

I could, thereby, open up students to the significant possibility of writing essays that are deeply problematic because I gave them the freedom to fail. But if I also give them detailed feedback and the chance to revise without penalty, then, well, that seems to me a good way to learn. And maybe they’ll be excited to do so in the process. Okay, at least some of them.

The bigger issue

But this doesn’t address the problem noted above: even if one says, explicitly, that directives are optional, one’s other words and course structure may indicate that, after all, they really should be followed. And/or, the learning experience for many has for so long been such that when the instructor gives suggestions for what to do, many students may do that rather than come up with something on their own, because after all, the instructor is in the position of authority/expertise.

Even in ETMOOC, I recall several participants expressing how they felt “behind,” and needed to “catch up”; some even said they dropped out because they felt so behind. The message of flexibility may not have gotten through.

So I am left with two problems for my face-to-face teaching:

1. How to balance promoting flexibility and creativity, and thereby hopefully greater engagement, with the danger of learners only focusing on what they want and not going beyond their comfort zones (hmmm…seems to me I’ve visited this issue before).

2. Once I solve problem number 1, how to communicate that flexibility really means…flexibility?


MOOCs I have known

So far in 2013, while on sabbatical, I’ve actively participated in two MOOCs (Massive, Open, Online Courses): the OU course on Open Education, and ETMOOC (Educational Technology and Media MOOC). The latter was one of the best educational and professional development experiences I have ever had. The former…well…was just okay. Not bad, but not transformative like ETMOOC was.

I want to use this blog post to try to figure out why this might have been the case, and in the next one I’ll focus in on one particular difference and discuss it in more depth. 

I don’t think it was just the most obvious difference, that the OU course was an “open boundary” course, meaning it was a face-to-face course that invited outside participants as well, and ETMOOC was not–though ultimately, this may have been an important part of why the two differed so much.

A heated discussion

A heated discussion, CC-BY licensed flickr photo shared by ktylerconk

1. Synchronous presentations/discussions

ETMOOC had 1-2 synchronous presentations weekly, some by the “co-conspirators” (the group that planned and facilitated the course), and some by people outside the course. These were mostly held on a platform that allowed interactivity between the presenter and participants, including a whiteboard that participants could write on synchronously, and a backchannel chat that presenters often watched and responded to.

Instead of synchronous presentations, the OU course had assigned readings and/or videos for each week. ETMOOC had no such assigned materials, just the synchronous sessions. These are somewhat similar, though of course the presentations get you a sense of being more connected to the presenter than does reading a static text or video from them. There is at least the chance of asking live questions.

The OU course had one synchronous presentation and two synchronous discussions–the last one a discussion of how the course went & thoughts for the future. I could only attend one of these because of time zone issues, and there was much less interactivity–the chat was much less active, e.g.

2. Twitter

ETMOOC had a weekly Twitter chat that was, most weeks, very lively. I met numerous people through these chats that I followed/got followers from, and I still interact with them after the course. The Twitter stream for the #etmooc hashtag was quite busy most of the time, and still has a good number of posts on it. The OU course had no synchronous Twitter chat, and most days saw maybe 2-3 tweets on the #h817open hashtag. Few participants used Twitter, and those that did, didn’t use it very much. Mostly they announced their own blog posts/activities for the course, though some shared some outside resources that were relevant.

3. Discussion boards vs. Google + groups

OU had discussion boards where, I imagine, much of the discussion took place (instead, e.g., of being on Twitter). ETMOOC had no discussion boards, only blogs, Twitter, and a Google+ group.

Iwent to the OU boards a couple of times, and remembered that I really don’t like discussion boards. I am still not sure why. Partly because they feel closed even if they are available for anyone to view, and partly because I don’t feel like I’m really connecting to people when all I’m getting are their discussion board posts. Unlike Twitter or Google+, I can’t look at their other posts, their other interests and concerns. I stopped looking at the boards after the first week or so.

Fortunately, some of the members of the OU group set up their own Google+ group, so I did most of my discussion on there (and on others’ blogs). There was a small group of active participants on G+ that frequently commented on each others’ blogs, much smaller than the ETMOOC Google + group.


Linked, CC-BY licensed flickr photo shared by cali4beach

4. Building connections

ETMOOC started off with some presentations and discussions on the sorts of activities needed to become a more connected learner (unsurprisingly, as this was a connectivist MOOC), such as introductions to Twitter, to social curation, and to blogging (one of the two blogging sessions stressed the importance of commenting on others’ blogs, how to do it well, etc.)  (see the archive of presentations here). Many of us are still connecting after the course has finished–through a blog reading group, through Twitter and G+, and through collaborative projects we developed later.

OU had no such introduction to things that might help us connect with each other–again, unsurprisingly, as it wasn’t really designed as a cMOOC, it seems. There was a blog hub, and there were suggestions in the weekly emails to read some of the blog posts and comment on them, but it wasn’t emphasized nearly as much as in ETMOOC.

I don’t see myself continuing to connect with any people from the OU course; or maybe I will with just a couple. I didn’t really feel linked to them, even though we read and commented on each others’ blogs a bit. I think the lack of synchronous sessions, including Twitter chats, contributed to this–even in the ETMOOC presentations we talked with each other over the backchannel chat. Of course, things might have been different if I had participated in the online discussion forums in the OU course; but I still think those are not a very good method for connecting with others, for reasons noted above.

5. Learning objectives

The OU course had explicit learning objectives/outcomes for the course as a whole, and for each topic in the course. ETMOOC, by contrast, explicitly did not–see this set of Tweets for a discussion about why. The quick answer is that ETMOOC was designed to be a space in which participants could formulate their own goals and do what they felt necessary to meet them.

6. Dipping vs. completing

ETMOOC had about five topics, each of which ran for two weeks. They were more or less separate in that you didn’t have to have gone through the earlier ones to participate in the later ones. There was an explicit message being given out by the co-conspirators, picked up and resent by participants, that it was perfectly fine to start anytime and drop out whenever one needed/wanted, coming back later if desired. There was no “getting behind” in ETMOOC–that was the message we kept hearing and telling to each other. And after awhile, it worked, at least for me; I missed a few synchronous sessions and didn’t feel pressure to go back and watch them. I just moved on to things I was more interested in.

The OU course seemed more a “course” in the sense of suggesting, implicitly, through its structure, that it was something one should “complete–one should start at the beginning and go through all the sections, in order. Some of the later activities built directly on the earlier ones. Now, clearly, this makes sense in the context of having a set of course objectives that are the same for all–participants can’t meet those if there isn’t a series of things to read/watch/do to get to the point where they can fulfill them.


So, clearly, two very different MOOCs, doing different things, for different purposes. Obviously, for some people in some contexts and for some purposes, each one is going to have upsides and downsides. In the next post I focus on one particular downside, for me, of the OU course (though, as you can tell from my tone in the above list, I found ETMOOC more engaging). I also appreciated the flexibility, which the next post addresses.



Goodbye, #etmooc

ETMOOC is finishing up next week, and I’m about to leave town and be very sleep deprived for the next 3-4 days or so, so this is kind of my last hurrah for ETMOOC. I was trying to think about how/why my experience in it has been so important, so much so that I’m very sad it’s nearly over.

Instead of writing my response to that, I decided to try my first vlog–as a final project for ETMOOC, something else I’ve never done before (though I did do a “true story of openness” for Alan Levine).

Not surprisingly, it’s probably too long–just like my blog posts, my articles, and my plans for class meetings.

And I had only a couple of hours today to get it done, so it’s not terribly polished. I have a lot to learn about video editing, such as how to not only edit out portions of the video but also the audio that went with them (I tried to get rid of some “ummm’s” and “so’s,” and the video got deleted but not the audio. Hmph.). And that handmade heart at the beginning and end? Yeah, that should have been a nice title for the video…didn’t have time to do anything but cut one out and write on it.

So this is my love letter to ETMOOC. So sad to see you go.

[P.S. Is it possible to change the “still” shots from videos (such as the one below) so they aren’t those horribly strange facial expressions that come up when you’re in the middle of saying something?]

Why do I care if I’m attributed?

During one of the Twitter chats for the ETMOOC topic on “The Open Movement – Open Access, OERs & Future of Ed,” Pat Lockley Tweeted this:


We were talking about sharing our educational or other work, why some people find this difficult, the difference between “open access” and things being open in a wider sense, and more.

During the chat Pat’s Tweet kind of just went past me, but as I went back to the #etmchat Tweets for that day to add some to my Storify board on my ETMOOC experience, I came across it again and became curious as to what he meant. Thus started a fairly long conversation about copyright, licenses, public domain, and more. You can see it all here.

There’s a lot I’d like to think about further in this conversation, but what is really standing out for me at the moment is this:



Why am I using a CC-BY license on my work? Why do I care if I’m attributed when someone uses something from my blog, or some “open educational resource” I create? Pat brought up an important point:



Why not make one’s work public domain instead of using something like CC-BY? In the current legal climate, apparently it’s rather complicated: some places, like Canada and the U.S. (and probably other places too–I haven’t done enough research to list them), grant copyright simply through creating a work, and this may not actually be easy (or possible?) to give up (see, e.g., re: the U.S., Wikipedia on granting work into the public domain, and this post from the Public Domain Sherpa, and the last section of this page from Copyfree). One can, though, try to state as clearly as possible that one gives up all copyright and related rights to whatever extent allowed by law, and if not allowed, to give a license to anyone to use the work however they wish, without requirement of attribution. That’s what Creative Commons CC0 is meant to do. Copyfree has a list of various licenses that conform to their standard of “free use,” “free distribution,” free modification and derivation,” “free combination” and “universal application,” and CC0 is one of them (as is the Nietzsche public license, which is rather a personal favourite).

So, getting back to the original question and modifying it a bit: why not just use CC0 or something similar, thus releasing one’s work for any use by anyone, without attribution? Why care about attribution?

As Pat Lockley noted, it would be good to know that others find my work useful and that they reuse, repurpose and/or rework it. This would be helpful, if for no other reason than to validate for yourself what you’re doing. It could help you do more of it, perhaps. Knowing this would probably also be a way to improve one’s work through finding out what others have done with it. Not to mention it could be a way to potentially connect with others, which might even lead to collaborations.

In my own situation, on a pragmatic level, if I could discover and document how others have used my work, this could provide evidence that what I am doing has influence in the wider educational community, which might be one of several ways to support a claim of “educational leadership” or “distinction in the field of teaching and learning” for the new Professor of Teaching rank at UBC.

So yes, there are plenty of good reasons to be able to know what others are doing with your work.

But all of this requires what is NOT happening with CC-BY (and possibly not with other licenses…I haven’t done enough research to specify): notifying the attributed person that their work is being reused. If another blog links to your blog, you may get a pingback (maybe not; depends on the settings of your blog and the other blog, I think). And it’s a good practice to let other people know when you’ve used their work, if there’s an easy way to do it (such as leaving a comment on a photo posted on Flickr). I try to do that, but too often I forget (I’m working on this).

As noted towards the end of the Storified conversation with Pat, what’s missing, in order to get the benefits noted above, is some systematic way to notify people as to how you’ve used their work. I don’t even know how such a thing could work–the technological hurdles seem huge–but theoretically, it seems a good idea. Now, like any such things, one wouldn’t have to choose such a license (an attribution + notification license?), but for some it would provide a useful way to not just be attributed, but to know what uses their work is being put to. Perhaps it is too difficult/too much of a hassle to bother with. But it’s an intriguing idea.

“Attribution,” by fotogail (see below)

Of course, there are good arguments for making work as free as possible, without restrictions on what you have to do once you’ve accessed it–like attributing the author/creator, or telling him/her what you’re doing with it. So I’m undecided whether I, personally, would want to require more of the people using my work than just attribution. I might not even recommend this to others. But some might want to do it, and it could be useful.

But until and unless something like this happens, I’m back to my original question: Why do I care about attribution? If, for the most part, I won’t get the above benefits, what am I getting out of knowing that perhaps, somewhere out there, is a piece of work with my name attached?

One might think that it’s kind of like citation in academia; except again, citations are tracked whereas use of my CC-BY work (unless it’s a publication) is not. So really, it’s just a sense that other people know I created something. Why should I care about this?

Add to this the point that much of my work is not, perhaps, really “mine” in a deep sense because it is a culmination of so many other influences, work by so many other people that I have read or otherwise interacted with, and the question becomes even more pressing.

Okay, maybe it will come back to me at some point; maybe I’ll discover my work being used somewhere with my name, and then I can realize some of the good things noted previously. But maybe not (and perhaps most likely not). Or perhaps someone will find something with my name on it and decide to connect with me–thus leading to a connection through effort on someone else’s part rather than mine. These things might happen, but is that enough to require attribution for my work? I’m not yet sure.

I don’t have an answer, and you can’t answer for me of course, but maybe you have some ideas on why asking others to attribute one’s work might be a good idea, rather than just letting it go free into the wild. I’m thinking not so much for people who have to rely on their work to make a living, to make money off of it, but for people like me who are getting a salary from a university and could just share their blog writings, their photos, their OERs for free and without restrictions.

Help me out here?

Image credit: “Attribution,”  flickr photo (CC-BY) shared by fotogail

(etmooc) On openness and panopticism

“Panopticon,” cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by chad_k

A year or two ago a student came into my office and told me about some podcasts he had been listening to, which consisted of some lectures by a well-known philosopher as part of one of his university courses. The student then asked me why I didn’t put my lectures out on podcasts, or make them public in some other way.

I don’t remember what I said. But I do remember what I felt: apprehension. And some fear. I couldn’t imagine, at the time, doing such a thing.

Now I can, and largely through my experience in ETMOOC I’ve become very interested in the idea of “openness” in education and want to start doing some of this myself. Of course, “open” means different things in different contexts (here’s a nice post explaining some of them, and here’s an even larger list of various “opens”) , but I’m considering things such as posting and licensing many of my course materials for re-use, as well as possibly opening up a course to outside participants the way Bryan Jackson did with his high school Philosophy course.

The value of open education

There are plenty of good things about opening up your teaching and learning materials, space, interactions, etc. Bryan Jackson explains something good that happened as a result of having an open Philosophy course, in this video. Barbara Ganley had an interesting experience from a writing assignment in her class posted publicly on a blog (see “A Writing Assignment Gets Personal,” on this site).

David Wiley, in a presentation on open education called “Openness, Disaggregation, and the Future of Education” (the keynote for the 2009 Penn State Symposium for Teaching and Learning) gave several examples of things he had done recently in his courses to make them more open. Among them:

  • He required that all students’ written work must be made public on the course blog. One result of this was that Stephen Downesa prominent Canadian researcher, blogger, cMOOC facilitator, and editor the popular newsletter OLDaily (online learning daily)–had read some of the work and highlighted a few posts, sending them out to thousands of his followers in the OLDaily newsletter. Wiley noted that the following week, much of the students’ writing got longer, better, and more thoughtful. Such improvement came much better this way than just encouraging students to write more carefully and address issues more deeply through the instructor’s comments.
  • He wrote up a script for a fake sitcom (situation comedy) tv show, to show differing viewpoints on opening up “learning objects” (what are now called open educational resources, I think). He put this up on a course wiki, and some of the graduate students in the course started writing in new characters in order to give even more perspectives. They hadn’t asked or said they were going to do it, but just did. This was, he stated in the talk, a great way to get students involved in creating learning materials for the course itself.

My experiences in ETMOOC are good evidence as well: I now have a much wider network of people to talk to about teaching and learning, and educational technology, because this course is open to anyone who wants to join and participate. I have more comments on my blog, many more twitter interactions, more people to help answer questions (I just ask the Twittersphere and answers come quickly), more links to helpful resources for my own thinking and teaching and learning, and more.

These are just a few examples of good things that can come from opening up education. I’m certain there are many more. 

In addition, ETMOOC-ers said some good things about the value of openness in a recent Twitter chat:

I can see many benefits to opening up my teaching and learning more than I’m already doing, and I expect there are more that I can’t even currently imagine.

So was I reticent before, when my student asked about podcasting my classes, only because I didn’t see these benefits then? I don’t think so.

Fear and Openness

There are many ways of making one’s courses more “open,” including just posting one’s course materials for others to see (e.g., written materials, digital presentations, video or audio of lectures); giving the materials a Creative Commons license that allows others to reuse, repurpose, and build on them; live streaming your class meetings publicly; all the way to opening out the course to any participants who want to join (see Alec Couros Social Media & Open Education course as an example, as well as Bryan Jackson’s high school philosophy course noted above). The concerns I bring up below apply to all of these, but mostly to the last two.

The apprehension I felt at the idea of podcasting my lectures wasn’t just the usual fear of being in front of a camera or having one’s voice go out into the wider world; I was a college radio DJ in university and grad school, and am don’t mind speaking into the void with the knowledge that many people (or none) might be listening. Video is still a little tough for me, but I’m quickly getting over that.

It wasn’t just a lack of confidence, a sense that no one would want to listen to my lectures when they have access to those of people who are much more expert than me on the topics they’re discussing (though there was some of that too).

There was something about potentially being watched, being observed, at any time, by anyone; but mostly, by those who could have significant influence over my future. It’s not that I worry my teaching isn’t very good, or that I think bad things would happen if those who can affect my employment see most or all of what I do in class. I actually have (and have had) fantastic colleagues, and every time I’ve had a peer visit a class it has ended up being a very positive experience, complete with helpful advice–much of which I still vividly remember and use.

I think it was partly that in having my courses be “open” it’s as if I could be undergoing a peer review of teaching at any time, all the time. 

Which means, of course, (being a Foucault scholar) that I thought of Foucault.



Panopticon, Jeremy Bentham [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In Discipline and Punish (1975), Foucault wrote a great deal about the “disciplinary society” being a “panoptic” one, referring to Jeremy Bentham’s idea for a panoptic design for a prison. Section 3.3 (“History of the Prison”) of the
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on Foucault is a nice, concise explanation of Foucault’s discussion of panopticism and discipline. And here is a post that connects panopticism to social media, and starts to get to the concern I’m working towards here.

It’s not just a concern about possibly being observed at any given moment. Nor is it only that there could be a potential danger to this vis-à-vis power relations in one’s place of employment. It’s also that this situation of potentially being observed at any given moment can pressure one to change one’s own behaviour in order to bring it more in line with dominant norms. We police ourselves, rather than having to be policed. There doesn’t even have to be anyone watching for this to happen.

Now, this isn’t always necessarily bad. I agree with Alec Couros’s tweet, above, that knowing others might see my work would spur me to make it as good as possible. Plus, of course, if others saw it and commented, this could help me improve it even more.

But the potential downside is that one might be less likely to try radically new things, to experiment, to risk doing things that don’t fit with dominant views of how education is “done.” Clearly this isn’t true for everyone; there are people doing innovative things openly (e.g., many of the conspirators in ETMOOC)–though even then one usually has a community with its own norms that one is part of.

The issue would be prominent especially for those who don’t have tenured or otherwise semi-permanent positions–it’s often (though not always) in their best pragmatic interest to police themselves not to take too many risks if their work is open, though some risk-taking might be seen as positive.

So one reason some people might not be willing to be more open in their teaching and learning might be because of vulnerability. They could be vulnerable in the sense of not having a stable position, or in the sense of having a particular department or school climate that makes it such that opening their teaching could be dangerous to their position (because their colleagues may not agree with what they’re doing, e.g.).

I am fortunate in that neither of these situations applies to me, but that’s a bit of a luxury, and there are many people who don’t have it.

One more thing

I wonder if making my courses more open, in the sense of recording the sessions, would change how I conduct some of my class meetings. A fair number of them are unscripted, experimental forays into topics through (sometimes haphazard) discussion that may or may not come to a clear end point (usually not). I think of these as part of a work-in-progress, a long-term work in which I and the students are moving towards better understanding of certain issues, questions, arguments, texts. Or at least, different understanding that brings up fruitful, new ways of thinking about and approaching these things, showing further dimensions that were hidden before. This work-in-progress may last for a few weeks or months, a few years, or a lifetime. The courses, for me, are just a very small part of this process. In some ways I like that the class meetings are evanescent, short-lived; they aren’t final products in any sense and aren’t meant to be. I wouldn’t want anyone to watch one or two such meetings and get the sense that what I or anyone else says there represents anything more than a provisional test of a thought or argument. It will always change later.

Somehow, recording one’s course sessions seems to me to be making them more permanent, which goes against the way I think of the meetings. I want them to be memories only, things that change when you revisit them, just as the ideas do.

Of course, these issues exist with writing and publishing too–writing is never permanent, and one’s arguments can change radically over the course of a few years. But writing already seems more stable than a class discussion that takes place orally.


I don’t have one. I just wanted to explore why I might have been reticent to be open, and why others might be. These thoughts on panopticism and sharing things publicly are anything but new, but they may be factors for some.

As with anything, there are benefits and drawbacks to being open in teaching and learning. I think the benefits, in my own personal situation, outweigh the risks of being open (as well as the concern about “permanency” noted above). But that may not be true for everyone, and it may for reasons other than a desire to keep one’s work to oneself, or out of a lack of confidence.