Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Why I am Headless this fall

Yesterday I posted about Design Thinking Action Lab on the last day of that particular course. I didn't get as much out of it as I had hoped. However, I have enormously high expectations of Headless DS106. Why? Because I've been mucking about on the sidelines of DS106 even before I took ETMOOC. I try to do the Daily Creates when I have the opportunity as it's fun, stimulates my creativity and I'm always amazed and delighted at the creativity of others. I do the writing assignments, I occasionally do the photo assignments and I rarely do the video assignments. This is a reflection of both my access to the tools for these various creates and my level of comfort with each of the methods of creation. And I have no clue about how to do radio but I will learn! (I'm still figuring how to take/make video with my new laptop for example and my desktop computer is still sitting in pieces. I don't even have my desk up yet let alone my clothes in my drawers. And please let's not talk about my kitchen and bathrooms-I'm still waiting for countertops!)

I've been dipping in and out of the DS106 daily creates and assignments off and on this year, flirting with making the commitment to an actual course, but after reading and watching Christina Hendricks have such a blast with DS106zone, I knew that I would sign up for the next offering of DS106. At this point, with my house still in shambles, I can't guarantee how much time I can put into the course but that's the beauty of open education- I won't have to feel guilty for not getting everything done, nor am I constrained by set deadlines. It's very liberating. And that makes learning much more pleasurable.

So here's to being headless for the next few months!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Design Thinking Action Lab

Well I enrolled in Design Thinking Action Lab offered by NovoEd (the new name for Stanford's Venture Lab) thinking it would be a similar experience to Designing in New Learning Environments (DNLE) which was the first MOOC I ever loved and led me to really immerse myself in the MOOC universe.

Well I don't love this one for a number of reasons. Some of it is the way it is organized, some of it is the number of technical glitches and some of it is attitude (mine and theirs.)

First, browser issues. If you're using Firefox as your browser (which I do), you can't do the assignments attached to the lectures. They just don't load. So you have to use Chrome. Not that they stated this upfront. No, I had to rely on fellow students for the answer. (Not that it's a problem to rely on fellow students but when this is still an issue for other students into the third week of the course, it's a problem.They finally have fixed this.) To me this is just arrogant. In the world of online learning, you need to state up front what you need to complete a course. If you want to see online learning done right, check out DS106. They explicitly state what  programs and interfaces you need upfront.

And I know this sounds ridiculous but for some reason, the spellchecker for part of the site was switched off. I know how to spell. But when you're typing quickly, that little red squiggle makes sure you find your errors fast. Instead, I was having to cut and paste (and it didn't like that too much when I tried to insert it into the frame.)

Second, organization. The first week was housekeeping tasks ( as usual.) And we needed to organize ourselves into groups as one of the tasks. After much rushing around (digitally) I joined a group. (Exactly like it was structured in DNLE.) Unlike DNLE, we never used our group for anything other than to share examples of our workspace. Excuse me? I didn't need to organize into a group to interact with other people, that's what the forum is for. There was an expectation of teamwork implicit in forming a group. When the design assignments came, we were expected to do them individually, not as a team. So why did we form a team? It felt like busy work, like an artificial expectation being met. People in teams, check.

Now let's talk about the assignments. The ones attached to the lectures were interesting and got you to think about design as a creative process, which was excellent. But the major assignments were poorly thought out which, when you think about it, is bizarre. The builders of this course were designers and they didn't create a very good template for learning about design! These major assignments were to help us understand the design process. This would have been a wonderful opportunity for us to choose a problem as a group and then work together to achieve a solution. Instead, we were told what the problem was (a single problem for all of us: Students are graduating from school without being able to find work) and we were told to go out and interview people about their views on the issue as the first part of the process.

I'm not sure how anyone else dealt with this issue, but I am at work all day and do not have access to the people I was expected to interview at night. (Thank goodness for previous conversations I have had about this issue with my son and for email.) So was this course only for those of us not chained to an office desk? For this portion of the task we had a week.

But, and this is a big but, they also included in the empathize portion of the assignment the define portion (Stanford uses empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test as their design template.) These are two separate stages, at least in my book. So in a week, we were to interview three or four people, write down all their ideas and then define the problem and submit.

In the next week, we were to peer review at least five assignments (not a problem, except many were in Spanish and I don't speak Spanish so it took a while to translate) but also complete the next assignment of ideate and come up with 50 ideas.

Now this is an online course. Why such a short timeline? DNLE was much better organized in regards to how time much time assignments might take.  We worked through all the lectures and small assignments first and  then worked on the larger problem as a team. In other xMOOCs, where time became a factor (due to technical issues or work load)  they actually made the course longer so that people could complete their work and be successful. So why did Design Thinking Action Lab not change to meet the needs of their students? I know that in the first two weeks frustration was being expressed in the forums.

And speaking of forums, the NovoEd forum remains its normal, clunky self. If xMoocs ever solve the forum issue (perhaps just move to Google +, Facebook? I don't know) they may become a force to be reckoned with. However, on the positive side the professor was regularly on the forum site and initiated many interesting discussion threads. There were also Google + hangouts once a week, which were recorded for us to watch at any time. So the lectures were short but to the point, the Do Now assignments interesting (but until the browser problem was dealt with impossible to view/do) and the resources offered in support were great (but the short teasers from "Extreme by Design" were driving me crazy as I want to know how the story ends.)

Now where do I fit in as a student in this mix? This is were I step up to the plate and admit I've dropped the course and am only auditing it now. I moved from one province to another during the course and I just could not see pouring more of my energy into the course when it was not meeting my needs. And that is the beauty of online MOOCs.  I engage as much or as little as I feel like and what I was being offered was not enough for me to say "I will continue."

DNLE changed my perspective on learning. Design Thinking did not.


Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Using Piktochart

I have mixed feelings about Piktochart. I like that it was easy to sign up with a Google account. As a free user there are not a lot of themed pages for you to access (just seven) and you have to move to a pro account to get access to more. I chose the minimalist theme since it was the first time I had used the program. There is a tutorial, so to speak, on the page that shows you where all the buttons are, but while it was helpful it wasn't enough for a first time user. I did struggle with this program on a few key issues. I ended up having to create a second presentation because I messed up the first one.

So what can you do with Piktochart? You can move around all the lines, remove all of the pictures, add icons, move around the banners and headings, add another block of colour to extend the poster if you want, move graph bars, change numbers into letters, etc. It really is flexible that way.

Where did I have my problems? I had enough information for a page and quarter but not enough to justify adding another colour block. So I ended moving everything up the page a bit to make room for my thoughts. It was clunky to move all of the design elements up the page. When I wanted to leave the text but get rid of the picture, they were coupled together. I know there was an unlock button but the tutorial didn't cover that. I still don't know what the unlock button does- that's for next time. So I moved everything up the page and then tried to copy one of the banner headings to use further down on the page. You can copy elements alright but they just remain on top of each other. That's when I tried the unlock button so that I could move the second banner off the first. I pulled the banner apart but not in the manner I intended. I gave up after about 20 minutes and just created a text banner for the last element. Just don't remove the design elements if you want to keep using them as they are not found in the  icon bar in the same way. You have to build your own icons then (a circle, then layer another icon on top, etc) and I couldn't find the banner I wanted to reuse within the icon bars (and there are a lot of icons.) So that part of the program was frustrating. You also have to double click to edit but sometimes I felt like I was quadruple clicking to be able to open up the design elements so I could type in my own text.

 I know there is website to visit but the link is embedded in the icons so you have to double click to edit, then copy the link into your search engine and then try and decide which tutorial you need to view to solve your problem (so you have to know what your problem is, then how to express it, then search for the solution- if it is there.) You also have to do that before you start working on the chart because once you've removed that design element, the link to the help page is gone.

So will I use Piktochart again? Probably, but I know that there will be times I will be frustrated with the program. Can you use it in the classroom? Yes, but be prepared to provide lots of support.

Friday, 2 August 2013

On the last day of clmooc my true love gave to me....

Sung badly and off key...

Well, this is "officially" the last day of clmooc but if I know anything about community I would say that we'll be meeting, making and reflecting together in the future. I certainly hope so. I still have to make a stop action film that I look forward to sharing. (I do have the photos so I'll try to do that in the next few days and I'll post about it too.)

So here's my list of twelve gifts (in honour of the song) that have made my journey through #clmooc so memorable:

1. New connections, old connections renewed and deepening of connections. There is something so lovely about meeting new people and being exposed to new ways of thinking and doing. It also wonderful to interact more deeply with those that I've brushed up against in the past. The generosity in sharing has been tremendous. Thank you to everyone for making this a great community.

2. Feedback. This community has been wonderful about giving feedback, which helps me to reflect and look at something I've created or said from a different perspective, as well as reflect and think on what others have said. As someone who needs feedback to round out my ideas this has been invaluable.

3. Makes. The ideas about remixing, creating, the choice of topics and the ideas have been wonderful. I am so impressed with the creativity of all participants. Great makes deserve to be shared and there have been some wonderful makes. Hopefully I'll get a make into the make bank soon.

4. Software. The range of software being produced to help create and share is mind boggling and can be overwhelming. The clmooc facilitators made inspired choices for getting us out of comfort zones and into new ways of looking, creating, thinking and sharing about the world around us. Thank you so much for expanding my repertoire!

5. Networks. To everyone who is brave enough to network, and share something of ourselves digitally, thank you for being part of my connected learning network. I so appreciate being invited into the clmooc space. I feel like I could go into a classroom tomorrow and have all of you as back up if I run into problems. What an empowering feeling.

6.  Lurkers. Thank you for thinking about lurkers and what they bring to a mooc or any other learning situation. We've all been a lurker, whether in person (does everyone put up their hand first to do a task? volunteer? etc.) or in our digitalverse and it is right to acknowledge their contribution. Fear in a learning situation needs to be acknowledged, not as a negative, but as the first step towards learning in a new environment.

7. Power. Who has the power in a learning relationship? I've been fascinated with this discussion and the idea that I don't have to have the power to be a successful teacher. I look forward to having the opportunity to put this idea into practice. 

8. Open ended community. The idea that we can continue to make and share, make and share has a powerful allure. I hope that even once we've gone back to work that we continue to make time for each other and continue our connection.

9. Experts. Thank you to all of you who shared powerful ideas and creations, plus provided support and inspiration to us all on this journey. Your making expertise and encouragement allowed the rest of us to be successful and become experts in our own right.

10. Organization. Clmooc has been very well thought out. The care you have put into creating a digital learning community is very evident. I appreciate being a beneficiary of that thoughtfulness.

11. The acknowledgement of my own gifts as a creator. Through clmooc I have recognized that I am, indeed, a good writer and creator and that I should foster those talents. How can I foster and nurture the talents of others if I cannot do it for myself? Thank you clmooc for making that so much clearer.

12. The opportunity to write with purpose. Purpose helps fuel my writing. Because of the reflective nature of clmooc I've re-read my own blog to see how far I've come. Certainly many of my attitudes have changed over time this year as I've been exposed to new ideas and new ways of making and sharing. I'm still resistant to the term curation for anything other than museum/archival work but other than that I can seen I've grown tremendously as a person and a teacher.

Thank you clmooc 2013!

Liebster Nominee

Well Sheri Edwards has sent me a challenge!
She's nominated me for a Liebster so I have to follow the list below and answer her list of questions too.

Liebster Nomination Rules
1. Link back to the blog that nominated you.
2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with less than 200 followers. 
3. Answer the questions posted for you by the nominator.
4. Share 11 random facts about you.
5. Create 11 questions for your nominees.
6. Contact your nominees to inform them of their nomination.

So with the intent of completing the list above I started to look though my network to see who I should nominate that has the all important "less than 200 followers" ( and I know I am on that list!) portion of the challenge. Stumbling block #1: where do I find that? Does every blog have a location for the # of followers? I am tempted to just change this portion of the list to: Bloggers I think everyone should be reading but have yet to find. And if I nominate someone and they have more than 200 followers will they be insulted? Sadly, because I am deficient in this type of internet/blogger knowledge it almost stops me from completing the challenge.

I have chosen to nominate people were participants in ETMOOC, Open Spokes or clmooc. Sheri Edwards would be on this list if she hadn't sent the challenge to me. 

So in no particular order:

Christina Hendricks who writes a wonderful blog and who is brave enough to have a True Friend relationship with IamTalkyTina.
Glenn Hervieux Always a reflective thinker. Glenn has teaching experience at all grade levels.
Brendan Murphy Brendan is a math teacher who drifted over to the educational technology side. He's currently getting all of the mentors organized prior to launching OOE13 this fall.
Susan Spellman Cann: A teacher who is always mindful of the impact she has on her students.
Gallit Zvi:  I'm always interested in what Gallit has to say as she and I share a lot of common traits (including talking our way to learning!) She's a person who is not shy of starting new challenges.
Bart Miller: Because anyone who can write a symphony deserves to be on this list!

I'd love to include Jeremy Inscho in the list but I'm not sure where he blogs.

So here is the list of questions Sheri posed to me. Now some of these I won't be able to answer as I no longer work in a classroom, but once a classroom teacher, always a classroom teacher! So I will write about it as if I was still in the classroom.

1. Why do you blog?
2. What’s the most important thing a teacher can do for his or her students?
3. What’s the most important thing a teacher can do for his or her colleagues?
4. If you could change one physical thing about your classroom, what would it be?
5. Describe one of your most memorable classroom experiences.
6. What memorable experience do you hope your students have?
7. How many students/teachers do you have at your school?
8. What is your favorite classroom use of technology?
9. Who/what is your teaching inspiration?
10. What is 1 teaching goal you have for this school year?
11. In six words, what is your teaching philosophy?

1. Why do I blog?
Initially I began blogging because it was a course requirement for MOOCMOOC. I'd never blogged before. I've always written, just jotting down thoughts about different things I was thinking about as well as personal letters to my husband (when your spouse is away as often as mine is, written communication is a must to maintaining a decent relationship. It is often easy to misconstrue what is said, but writing requires/allows for  more thought and clarity.) I blog more frequently when I am in a course and that course is asking me to think, make and reflect. I do not yet blog as an outlet for my personal inner workings (still shy about that!) but I have no barrier to sharing my professional ideas and thoughts (though they often veer into the personal.) I have started to blog as a matter of habit, as the education world shifts to accommodate the rise of social media, the idea of remixing as legitimate art ( and when wasn't it legitimate?) and the impact that creating will have on teaching and the field of education. 

2. What’s the most important thing a teacher can do for his or her students?
 This question is a blog post on it's own! I think the most important thing you can do for a student is believe in them. Trust them as learners. Allow them to be learners. Don't dismiss their love of hockey cards, or manga or dinosaurs or novels or kittens as something not worthy of knowing. Use their natural interest in a subject to allow them to explore. Join them in that journey,encourage them to widen the net but also to delve the depths, validate their search for knowledge and appreciate the product.

3. What’s the most important thing a teacher can do for his or her colleagues?
Share. I was thinking originally about empathy but classroom teaching can be quite isolating and I love the idea of connected learning not only for our students but for ourselves. We need a strong professional network, a sounding board for ideas and a place to experiment for ourselves as learners. Hard to model being a learner if you're not learning with your peers.

4. Now this is a tough one since I don't have a classroom but I think it may be getting rid of individual desks. Desks make it hard to share and collaborate. I'd rather have a cubby for everyone and a flat surface that we can write on together. If I was in a classroom with desks, I might get whiteboard paint and paint them so we could write on the surface.

5. Macbeth with my Grade 6's. I love plays and drama as a way to help students explore stories and so I chose Macbeth. We started with Greek mythology and I had the students convert them into a play that they then put on. I worked up to Macbeth by first showing them a cartoon movie, then a one page cartoon, then a seven page dog cartoon, then a historical story about Macbeth and then the actual play (which I had edited and hung together with choral speech.) I invited actors and directors from the local area  into the classroom to talk to my students, and one of my students designed the set and we built it out of boxes. I'd write to them as Macbeth and have them respond as Lady Macbeth.The music teacher actually taught them Elizabethan music and dance which they also performed. I had them create a website and design the invitations as well as write reviews of the play. We put the play on and the students were giddy with the excitement of accomplishing something amazing. 

6. I wish them the joy of exploration where they are able to see that they are capable of great things, big thoughts and seeing connections. I want them to have that ah ha! moment that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

7. N/A

8. I love using presentation technology that allows students to create and share something that they have learned. PowerPoint, Haiku Deck, Prezi, YouTube, Storify are some of the different software students can use to illustrate and share.

9. My mother is my teaching inspiration. She was a teacher when I was growing up. She completely understood my need to explore and helped foster my love of learning. She gave us regular opportunities to explore new places and answered all of questions with enormous patience.

10. My number one teaching goal is to be in the classroom again. I miss it very much.

11. Learning together helps us all grow.

11 Random Facts about Me:

1. I have blue dot tattoo on my left knee from where I accidentally stabbed myself with a pen when I was a child.

2. When you put a dandelion under my chin my skin glows yellow. Supposedly this means I like butter. This is true. I do like butter.

3. I have made Peking Duck from scratch. Since I didn't have a meat hook to hang the duck on to dry (this makes the skin crispy) I used a large empty bottle of Quebec beer. It worked well! The duck was delicious.

4. I went to university instead of art school. 30 years later I still wonder if I made the right decision.

5. I have seven different cowlicks on my head and a double crown. If I cut my hair too short I look like a mad professor (or that I have been sticking my finger in a light socket.)

6. I am the shortest person in my family (even shorter than my parents.) That wouldn't be so bad if I also wasn't the heaviest, the blindest and inherited my father's colour dysfunctional-ity. I also had 6 wisdom teeth. I told my mother, that as the eldest, I was the clearing house for all of the bad genes (she thinks I'm kidding.)

7. I passed my six wisdom teeth problem to my eldest son. He had his wisdom teeth removed- twice.

8. When I was eight I could swim 50 laps of the racing pool in 30 minutes. When I was 30 I could do the same. I swim like a stately barge up and down the pool ( my mother's description.)

9. I read in the shower. (If you wish to know how to do this successfully without wetting your reading material send me an email.) I still haven't figured out how to complete puzzle books in the shower so if you have, send me an email with the solution.

10. I love to garden. There is something so renewing about seeing the birth of spring, planting in the soil, the texture and smell of the earth and seeing the first seedlings poke out of the ground. Gardens sooth both the mind and body.

11. I put ketchup on my French toast in the morning (unless I am at a restaurant and they've mixed cinnamon into the egg batter.) My parents are from England and Australia and that's how I ate it when I was growing up. My husband (of Canadian background on both sides) thinks that's disgusting and eats it with maple syrup (as do my three sons.)

11 Questions for my Nominees

1. Why do you blog?
2. What’s the most important thing a teacher can do for his or her students?
3. What’s the most important thing a teacher can do for his or her colleagues?
4. If you weren't a teacher what would you do instead?
5. Describe one of your most memorable classroom experiences.
6. What memorable experience do you hope your students have?
7. How do you incorporate connected learning into your classroom?
8. What is your favorite classroom use of technology?
9. Who/what is your teaching inspiration?
10. Where/what do you hope to be doing ten years from now?
11. In six words, what is your teaching philosophy?