The last round of this year’s Writing Our Civic Futures from Educator Innovator and Marginal Syllabus is a chance to engage with the first part of writer/educator Steve Zemelman’s new book From Inquiry to Action: Civic Engagement with Project-Based Learning in All Content Areas.
You can access the chapter via Hypothesis (free and powerful open source annotation platform) and Steve is right in the mix, too, interacting with readers in the margins of the text. In his book, Steve lays out the rationale for student engagement that moves into social and political and community action. His emphasis is on impact in the local communities.
I am very fortunate in having connected with so many educators around the globe for the ways their thinking keeps my thinking moving forward. Here’s the perfect example. Last November, I co-facilitated Digital Writing Month with Sarah Honeychurch (Scotland) and Maya Bali (Egypt).
Sarah’s slides about Inclusion and Exclusion (who gets invited and who gets left out), often articulated beautifully when working with Maha, remains one of those tricky topics that we must keep asking ourselves about. This is also Connected Educator Month (in the US) — this issue of equity and access has to always be front and center. Not just for students (which is always a critical conversation) but also about educators.
Avoid the echo chamber. This slide is from Sarah’s presentation:
Often, this is easier said than done, I think. It’s easier to reach out to your existing networks, which may grow … but only incrementally, for the most part. And often, they grow with like-minded people. You speak the same “language” and articulate similar views. There is research that shows that many people remain in their social networking comfort zone.
Maha Bali, who is insightful in her observations of the US-dominated connected education conversations, wisely guided the activities in the invitations for Digital Writing Month. Sarah and I helped Maha to reach out to writers and educators from various places in the world and cultures and backgrounds. What I didn’t realize at the time is that for every invite that fell into the traditional invite (white, male, American, etc.), Maha and Sarah reached out even further for someone else, to balance out the community.
To be honest, it took a lot of time and a lot of effort on the part of us, the facilitators, to make that happen. I’m not sure we were completely successful, but we were successful enough for me to appreciate Maha’s and Sarah’s insistence on the task. The new voices and the new ideas, and the new perspectives and lens on the world, enriched the experience.
I’m not sure we do that enough with CLMOOC, particularly this year when it was a crowdsourced affair. When National Writing Project folks were overseeing CLMOOC, there was more planned intention, I think. This summer, as a crowd of us sought to run CLMOOC, there was probably not enough purposeful invite.
We didn’t do demographic studies, but a casual observation would be that we are mostly white, middle-class, American educators. This is not bad, but it doesn’t reflect the kind of diverse thinking that one would hope for (or at least, what I would hope for) in an open learning environment. We think of open learning as open doors, but some doors remain shut to people for all sorts of reasons.
In the open learning networks that I am part of, none of this exclusion is ever intentional, as far as I can tell. If it was, I would push back or leave. That doesn’t mean the exclusion doesn’t happen, however. It does. And if we want the places where we learn together, and explore ideas together and collaboratively, to be truly “open,” then the issue of inclusion/exclusion has to be on the minds of any facilitator planning such a space.
Yesterday morning, I had the good fortune to hang with out with friends from Egypt and Scotland. At 6 a.m. my time — but later in the day for them, of course — Maha B., Sarah H., Maha A. and I held a discussion on Blab (a new platform to me but reminds me a bit of The Brady Bunch opening sequence .. it’s still in Beta, and there were some minor technical difficulties) about Digital Writing Month reflections. Maha B. and Sarah are presenting to a TESOL conference soon, and they hope to use parts of the video chat in their presentation. The video eventually will be live on Youtube, I believe.
For me, the conversation brought home yet again the concepts of connections. Yes, we were reflecting on the experiences of facilitating Digital Writing Month back in November and yes, it was recorded for a presentation to other educators, but here I was, at the break of day, chatting it up with some friends from other parts of the world on issues important to me, and all from the dining room table as my kids were getting up and getting ready for school.
Pretty amazing — this small world.
I am fortunate to have connected friends like these three, and many others, and I am fortunate to be living in a time when connections can be made and nurtured and extended time and time again. Now, how to help my students see those kinds of connections and extend their own views of the world ….
The other day, I shared out my tribute song to my various communities, in the form of an animated music video of sorts. It is my way of saying thanks to people who inspire me all year in various online homes.
I decided to show a bit of where the song writing came from, and used my comic app to annotate the original piece of paper. My songwriting process is very messy, musically and physically. I am constantly scratching on and scratching out words, drawing lines to show movement of phrases and verse/chorus, and yet, I often take photos of the paper later, to keep a trail of the song.
So, if you are interested, I tried to reconstruct the writing of the song with annotated notes before I forget it all (which I am bound to do). Thanks for being part of my network as a visitor here. This song is for you.
Here is the audio-only version, too. Feel free to remix.
As the last official phase of the Connected Courses comes to an end, there is ample discussion among participants on the question of: Why does a connected community end just because a course ends? (And why does an online course end when a traditional semester ends?) The #notover hashtag is being used, which I used for the comic above.
I’m reminded a bit of another comic I made for Alan Levine earlier in the Connected Courses, as he mulled over this same topic, and I reflected on an LMS I am in right now that I don’t care more than a whit about. He put forth the idea of “keeping the lights on” and not using language about anything ending.
And I agree.
So many folks are plotting ways to keep people connected. There was even talk of a task force. Made a comic. (Surprised? I doubt it). I was thinking of superheroes. Personally, I like the Mad Hacker.
Just like anything of this nature, it will depend on the participants now, not the facilitators (although facilitators should now have permission to become participants) as to whether sharing, connecting and exploring continues under the #ccourses banner.
For my part, I will try to share out on a regular basis ideas from the collaborative Daily Connector site that (digi) Simon, Maha (B.) and Laura and I worked on. I’ve been doing random Daily Connects throughout December (after we originally posted them each day as new ideas back in October), and the ideas there have value beyond Connected Courses, for sure. The random generator is such a cool function of that site. (Thanks, Alan!)
To be honest, the Connected Courses has been intriguing and I have enjoyed the discussions and hangouts and meeting people (I mean, I’ve been “hanging out” in spaces with Howard Rheingold and Mimi Ito and others … how cool is that? It’s a thrill). But as a K-12 teacher, much of the discussion about designing open education courses for the University level has been intriguing on a thinking level, but not all that practical on the day-to-day level.
But you know, I am still in the rather vibrant #rhizo14 network (coming towards #rhizo15), and I connect with DS106 via the Daily Creates (our model for the Daily Connects), and the #clmooc community is still sharing in various spaces. A different, more relaxed energy comes when the planned world falls away, and the unknown maps of what is ahead takes place. Sometimes, it sustains itself. Sometimes, not.
We’ll see where the #ccourses goes and time will tell if it is really #notover … but I do know that the people I have connected with there have greatly expanded my own online networks of friends I can turn to with questions and advice and projects, and ideas. And, of course, comics. I made a ton of comics for Connected Courses, in hopes of infecting a little fun into the conversations.
My friend, Karen, has been tweeting out “Make Bank” opportunities all month for Connected Educator Month. What’s the Make Bank? It’s a legacy resource created by the Making Learning Connected MOOC over the past two summers, with rich ideas around making, learning, creating and writing.
The Make Bank never closes down, but as Karen wrote in her post for Digital Is, sometimes, it helps to be reminded. I decided to whip up a short flowchart about using the Make Bank. I might make it more interactive, using ThingLink, in the next iteration.
I “made” the flowchart with an app called Lucidchart, which I think is free for the basics. I like making flowcharts but I realize that I am still learning the lexicon of symbols. That’s another post for another day.
Today’s Daily Create is to find a blog post or tweet or some writing of someone else in your network, and use that post for creating a Word Cloud. This kind of visual sifting through someone else’s words to find an idea is intriguing, and different word cloud generators give you different ways to filtering the text. I used a basic one called Word It Out and put in a post about Network Fluency from @koutropoulos on Twitter that I really enjoyed reading.
As I look at the word cloud, I notice ideas like “nodes” and “network” and “connected” all rising to the top of the cloud. And “learning,” too, the post dives into a variety of interesting tangents around navigating networks for learning. I won’t say I learned anything new from this word cloud conversion, but it reinforced the message of the post in a visual way.
On Tuesday night, the collaborative radio show venture that I was part of — The Merry Hacksters — had a premiere on DS106 Radio. I represented our group during the chat with Alan Levine and Christina Hendricks. The collaborative experience was interesting, to say the least, as we worked almost exclusively off Google Docs, Twitter and Dropbox to gather ideas, share audio files and make suggestions for the show’s sequence. We never “talked” to one another, as some other groups did with Google Hangouts, etc. This project evolved over about four weeks of time, starting with an idea I had during the initial brainstorming of building off my summer experiences in Teach the Web and the Making Learning Connected MOOC, both of which honored the ethos of the hack.
It was an honor and a pleasure to work with Sally, Stefani and Lara on our Headless DS106 radio program, which we call Hack the World. My colleagues allowed me the privilege to edit the show together, stitching our voices and files into one program. I hope I did them all justice. Our theme was to explore the concept of hacking as a positive tool for change, and so, the segments include:
An interview collage with Chris Lawrence and Laura Hillinger from the Mozilla Foundation on their Webmaker tools;
An interview with young students on using Minecraft and perceptions of hacking and remixing;
A piece about toy hacking, tinkering and ways to rediscover childhood curiosity with Stephanie West-Puckett;
A feature on a German archivist discovering materials from the past and rethinking their importance;
A listen into my classroom as my sixth graders hack the game of chess to create something new;
We will also be making most of the individual audio files available for folks, too, if you just want to hear a piece or want to remix the entire show in your own way. We hope that sharing will be in the spirit of our own work. Go forth and hack the world!
If you have not had the free and wonderful K12 Online Conference, you should. It kicks off today and runs for the next two weeks or so, but it doesn’t matter if you miss a day or a presentation since everything is archived online and readily available. You can even go back to the last few years of presentations via the archives. The K12 Online Conference is a powerful example of teachers sharing expertise and exploring the intersections of teaching, learning and technology, and more.
There are themes of open learning and outside learning spaces, and more.