Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Global Education E-Conference Nov.12th-17th

Join me on Friday, November 16th, 2012 at 10 AM EST in the Global Education Virtual Conference for a conversation on designing Problem Based Learning Projects using international sources, such as blogs, world newspapers, non-print texts and world literature. I will share lots of ideas, tips and resources for grades K-12 Here's a playlist of worldwide sites which will help students gain global awareness and competence of social, political, economic and environmental issues they may otherwise never know about. These print and non-print sources, initiatives, and PBL guides for teachers will enable students to identify and analyze global issues, motivating them to take action on a local, state, national or global level.

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

MOOCs Boldly Go Where We've Never Gone Before!

Credit: Photo by Giulia Forsythe under a 
CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 License
The internet sustains an educator's need to be a life-long learner, to create, share, network and collaborate with others. MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses can provide educators with the means to boldly create and engage with one another for professional and personal development like they've never done before. MOOCs are FREE online courses offered by reputable universities around the world. Anyone can sign up and pay nothing. As a matter of fact, I signed up for a course on E-learning and Digital Cultures taught by the University of Edinburgh that begins January 28th, 2013...paid nothing! (If you want to join me, please sign up. I would love to engage more personally with my followers.)

I can't wait to create my own content, and also interact with my teachers and peers globally to see how they will influence the content and products I will create. MOOCs are different than traditional courses, many following the connectivist learning model, where the learner is in control, and many still being more teacher-centered. In the connectivist MOOCs, or cMOOC, the instructor acts as a facilitator, a coach who models proper online communication, helps learners identify credible content among other roles, but does not "pave the path" for what or how students will learn. Yes, the instructor sets learning goals for students to meet at the end of the course, but it's up to the student to decide if and how those goals are met. For students who enroll in a MOOC for credit, the instructor will be the assessor, as in a traditional class, but for non paying, not for credit participants, the learner both self-assesses and is peer assessed.  The instructor provides specific readings and other content, but this teacher selected content is meant to spark conversations among learners, prompting learners to take charge of their own learning. Learners set out to build their own personal learning networks searching for credible content via various credible sources to share with other learners.  Learners organize the variety of credible content found and prove they've made sense of it all by  creating original digital content in the form of learning spaces, such as a blog, wiki, video, social media, etc. showing what they have learned so everyone can then learn from it.

Although it may sound like learning is haphazard, it's not because the theory behind learning in a connectivist MOOC, or cMOOC, contends there is always chaos in learning, and part of the learning process is for the learner to find effective ways to make sense of that chaos. Learning should be an ongoing process that never ends the way it does now in traditional courses; learning never stops if we continue to have conversations by blogging, tweeting, emailing, videocasting, and creating digital content about the topics and subtopics we set out to learn in the first place (Watch George Siemens, cMOOC pioneer explain.)

It may sound a bit confusing, but just think how learning takes place now. Let's say we're taking a class about incorporating problem based learning in our curriculums. In a traditional course, the teacher selects the content, students read, discuss, and may even create a product, but the learning stops once the course objectives chosen by the school or teacher have been met.  The interaction with fellow students is finite, and the teacher and the texts he/she select are the only sources for learners to acquire knowledge.  

In a cMOOC, knowledge comes from many credible sources, and learning about the original subject becomes infinite since students create their own original space to learn, whether it be wikis, Twitter hashtags, blogs, videos, FaceBook group pages, Google Hangouts, etc. The interaction about and around the original topics never ends because the students create content in these learning spaces based on the knowledge they gain from the networking experience. Isn't this what life long learning is all about? Passionately pursuing a subject in as much depth as possible and learning not just from one source or from one person, but from a MASSIVE group of people's sources and perspectives?  Connectivist MOOCs use aggregation tools to organize participants' individual learning spaces so that students can make sense of it all and then create their own valid digital interpretation.   

George Siemens, cMOOCs pioneer explains, "The content isn't what you're supposed to master at the starting point; the content we provide you with at the start should be the catalyst for you to converse to form connections with other learners in the course, with other academics around the world. To essentially use the content as a conduit for connections." 

Now, as excited as I am about taking my first Massive Open Online Course, I understand from my research that MOOCs aren't perfect, nothing ever is, and I accept that. From what I've read online, it appears that the Coursera course I'm enrolled in will be more teacher centered, or xMOOC, following a more traditional approach where the learners consume the information from   several sources, but don't necessarily get to create an original product. However, whatever my MOOC turns out to be, connectivist or traditional, I think what's perfect about any type of MOOC, for now, is the fact that learning is open and free, monetarily (also, at least for now) and intellectually. I hope I get to choose how I synthesize what I learn, and how I network with participants through a blog, wiki, videocasts, social media or whatever digital format I want. Dave Cormier, another MOOC pioneer who coined the term MOOC, says, "In a MOOC, YOU can choose what you do, how YOU participate, and only YOU can tell, in the end, if you've been successful, just like real life."

What I don't get about MOOCs is why educators haven't leveraged the power of this technology to improve the quality of professional development. I guess the answer to my question is the same as why so many still don't incorporate tech in their classrooms. We really have no excuse now, the power to improve our content knowledge and even our teaching methods is instantly available at no cost.

Whether connectivist or not, I would also love to see MOOCs disrupt the status quo in higher education, so once and for all we realize a test score doesn't determine a student's intellectual worth; there are a gazillion and one ways of learning something, as much as there are a gazillion different sources and presentation formats for the same topic; above all, MOOCs prove every student is worthy of the opportunity for global-networking, problem-solving, and creation to make a valuable contribution in a medium of choice to further his/her learning and the world's.  

Check out the video with Dave Cormier explaining how MOOCs work:


Here are some MOOCs you may want to explore for yourself or to recommend to older students:
Venture-lab-Learn from Standford Professors, for FREE
  • Some MOOCs have prerequisites; some don't.
  • MOOCs may use both synchronous and asynchronous tools.
  • cMOOCs encourage students to engage with both teacher and student selected materials throughout the course. The teacher and student select digital content, such videos, guest speakers, blogs, tweets, articles, FB discussions, emails, etc. are meant to spark conversations and interactions so learners can in turn create original content.  The content is aggregated so "the massive" group can then "re-mix" the information, creating a solution, product, or outcome.  
  • When participants pay for the MOOC since some students do sign up for college credit, then the learning outcomes are set by the instructor, but when you enroll in a MOOC for no credit, you determine your own learning outcomes. You assess if you met your learning goals, and your peers in the class evaluate you through the level of engagement you receive on your culminating or ongoing digital product.
As a teacher there are learning management systems allowing you to create your own MOOC like courses. Visit Canvas-Instructure.  I'm working on creating a course now for sharing my ideas on problem/passion based learning. Look for a future blog post about this.

Success in a MOOC Requires YOU to:
Watch Dave Cormier explain how:

The Networked Student In a MOOC

Learning Spaces: Teacher Centered VS. Student Centered Instruction in MOOCs

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Experiencing Museums and Historic Sites Via Interactive Technology

I recently moved to upstate New York, near Fort Ticonderoga, a historic gem which I am embarrassed to admit neither my children, nor I ever had a chance to learn about in history books or visit in person until a few months ago. Although, my family and I have been lucky enough to do some extensive traveling in and out of the United States, after visiting the Fort, I began to think about so many places, museums, and historic sites, I will never have the opportunity of visiting and learning about in person, whatever the logistical reasons may be. 

However, I have realized interactive technology can make travel around the world possible for students of all ages. I started thinking about how web 2.0 encourages virtual travel when I learned about, a tool that lets you upload images and make them interactive by adding links to any site be it music, video, text, or another image to enhance the original uploaded image. For example, view a picture of the Eiffel Tower on Thinglink with links to its sights, sounds and history. got me thinking how traveling to exotic places, meeting new people and learning a new language or culture need no longer be hampered by logistics. and other web 2.0 lets students become armchair travelers, well traveled curators of information from around the world.

Exploring the features and possibilities for learning with, I also got to thinking:
  • How are museums and historic sites around the world using web 2.0 and social media to make their sites more accessible for a virtual experience? 
  • How are museums and historic sites distributing their exhibits, history and instruction to reach visitors far beyond their physical walls? 
  • How are educational programs in these organizations leveraging the power of free web 2.0 tools, social media and MOOCS to expand learning on a global scale for students of all ages and means? 
  • How globally participatory and networked are the current program in museums and famous sites around the world? 
Seeking answers for my questions, what I discovered available in terms of virtual tours of natural landmarks, historic sites and museums left me as amazed as if I were visiting the places themselves. First, let me tell you about the Google Art project and Google World Wonders Project. With Google Art, I didn't have to drive four hours to visit The Museum of Modern Art in New York city. I took an up, close and personal tour, observing every brushstroke of Van Gogh's Starry Night without ever leaving my home thanks to the same technology Google uses when we zoom in and out of Google Maps.  


The Google Art Project works in conjunction with 17 museums worldwide which integrate web 2.0 tools and social media to increase virtual and physical visitor accessibility, engagement, connection and learning to create a global community.  Virtual visitors can sign into their Google accounts to curate their favorite pieces from different galleries, post comments and then share via social media. How cool is that!    

Second, Google World Wonders took my breath away! Using the Street View technology of Google Earth and Google Maps, aptly named Google World Wonders gives virtual visitors a 360 degree view of 132 historic natural and man made sites in 18 countries, including StonehengeYosemite and Yellowstone! And, just when I thought it couldn't get better than this, the site also provides educators with free primary and secondary sources, presentations and lesson plans! Teaching history, geography or any subject really takes on a novel approach because students can now virtually visit world sites and not just imagine what they look like from looking at a 2-D picture in a book. 

With MentorMob another free web 2.0 that lets you curate what you want to learn about, making virtual travel possible as well by creating or visiting playlists of favorite audio, video, text, or image links, I have created a playlist of Virtual Field Trips available for students. 

Free web tools like and MentorMob allow students to travel around the country, let's say from Crater Lake, Oregon to Mount Rushmore, or basically anywhere you can think of, seeing, hearing and experiencing the sites through audio, and video links that take people there virtually. Now, for the purposes of this post, I explored MentorMob and Thinglink, but imagine the myriad of free web 2.0 tools historic sites and museums can use to make learning accessible not just for K-12 schools in a particular region, but for K-12 schools around the world.  Imagine the partnerships schools can form with these organizations to hold virtual field trips and chats using social media engaging in a learning experience that may not otherwise happen in the physical world due to costs.  Through an endless array of interactive tech including, blogs, wikis, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, ScoopIt, etc., museums and historic sites can extend their experience well before and after a physical or virtual visit through forums, message boards,image, video and audio sharing. The possibilities for engagement are never ending!     

Here is a playlist of museums that are already taking advantage of offering a virtual experience, and sites which offer videoconferencing for virtual field trips to other places of interest. Also be sure to visit, an online directory of virtual field trips and distance learning opportunities. From an interactive tour of the White House, to the inside of the Sistine Chapel, the opportunities for virtual learning through virtual tours are limitless! 

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

I also want to include information about an interesting article I read on MOOCS. Again, I think about the power of open source education, and its future use by historical sites like Fort Ticonderoga near my home, and thousands of other museums and historical sites around the world where the possibilities for teaching and learning for students of all ages are endless.  What if museums and historic sites began offering their workshops via MOOCS?
  • How are historic places and museums beginning to use web 2.0 tools so that students don't have to just dream of ever visiting these notable sites? 
  • Will there ever be a time when anyone can visit a noteworthy site and learn virtually regardless of logistical issues?  
In an ideal world, no one should ever be denied the opportunity travel the world to learn because they don't have the means to do it; interactive technology opens up opportunities for virtual travel  because we all deserve the experience to discover our shared human history. If museums, and historic sites exist to remind us of our past, present and future and inspire wonder about our existence...if we want to learn, evolve so we are more globally connected and tolerant, then we should all have access to experience these sites, whether physically or virtually. Interactive technology invites us to explore the world together! 

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