Do you speak MOOC?

booksThe world is full of acronyms. Sometimes I feel a little bit like the barnyard animals in this classic tale who try to eavesdrop on the secret cow negotiations but can’t speak “Moo.”

So, for those of you who might not yet speak Moo, what is a MOOC? It’s one of those terms that has been floating around for awhile and is a frequent subject of both praise and controversy in the educational stratosphere. There is hardly a day in the news or related commentary that MOOCs do not surface. Just today, Voice of America ran a story called MOOCs are Moving Forward in which it says that MOOCs “are changing how people learn in many places.”

M = Massive
O = Open
O = Online
C = Course

These terms mean different things in various MOOC designs and scope, but the general idea is to bring higher education to the masses, so to speak. Some of the big MOOCs are being facilitated through major universities like Stanford, Harvard, CalTech, MIT, and the University of Virginia and on sites like Udacity, Coursera, and OpenCourseWare. The idea is that anyone can join, without admission criteria and without cost (there are fees if you want to obtain credit for the course). They make it possible for anyone, anywhere (with an Internet connection and computer) to learn. This video speaks MOOC:


Open, free education is not without opponents, for sure (no doubt including many universities and colleges), and quality control is a concern. Everyone on both sides is interested in how MOOCs will play out because they are potentially powerful vehicles in learning. Unlike a gadget or new tech tool for the classroom, MOOCs change learning design altogether. They just may change the future of higher education and brick-and-mortar institutions as we know it, especially distance learning. These changes will likely trickle down into K-12 environments in due time. It is not only interesting, but crucial, that we understand the pros and cons of MOOCS and how they impact student learning.

My culminating assignment in EdTech 543 was to create a pilot MOOC. I worked with two group members to create S.W.A.T. Students Working to Advance Technology. It is a small-scale MOOC designed for high school students but could easily be a larger project or involve younger students. The objective is to reach out to students who have a passion for technology and help them become technology leaders while strengthening their 21st Century Skills. It would be really fun to pull this off.

Interestingly, we reviewed our peers’ MOOCs using a screencast. This was certainly a learning experience and an example of using screencasting in assessment. Catch a quick glimpse of my screencast here (you don’t have to watch the whole thing to get the point):

Additional MOOC Resources:

Example MOOC-Inspired Courses:

Screencasting Resources for Teachers:

Social Network Learning: Supporting Theory and Framework

Pull up a chair. Here is my paper for EdTech 505:

Social Network Learning: Supporting Theory and Framework

While it’s not reading for the faint of heart, it is for those interested in supporting their use of social network learning with learning theory. It certainly contributed to my personal growth and connectivist learning. Enjoy!

An Evaluation of Evaluation

appleIn the spirit of reflection and at the completion of yet another intense course experience, I find that I learned far more than I ever intended. While I can’t say I was giddy at the thought of taking EdTech 505 Evaluation for Educational Technologists, I did recognize that my learning curve would be huge. It was. I entered with not even a working definition of program evaluation and now have the skills to conduct one.

I began the course by creating a Gretel-at-a-glance word cloud explaining who I am and what I hope to gain from the course. My formal experience with program evaluation was nonexistent. My objectives for this course were to learn evaluation techniques that could help me evaluate some of the big picture programs in a school. I feel like I at least have the tools and background I need to begin.

Many of the course assignments were exercises found in the course textbook so I didn’t find the need post them on this learning log. One of the downsides of this course is that it is not really designed to increase my digital footprint.

Program evaluation “enables accountability” (Boulmetis & Dutwin, 2011, p. 38). I enjoyed reading about the various vantage points and considerations that make evaluations meaningful. Everyone, especially in today’s economy, wants to know “what did we get for our money [or time, or effort]? Did it work? Did it do what we hoped it would?” Those are fair and important questions. I appreciate the detailed explanations, both in the module and in the text, of programs, inputs, process, outputs, and outcomes.

Our final project was to conduct a small-scale but real program evaluation. The Explore Nepal program is an extensive school-wide program designed to help students reach out to the Nepali community and gain a deeper connection to their host country. I chose go evaluate the Grade 6 Explore Nepal week-long trip to a local Tibetan monastery to see whether the program objectives laid out for the trip were accomplished. The five objectives include: learning about Nepali culture through community interaction, environmental awareness, service learning, challenging physical activities, and team building. It was a major effort and here is a link to a generic copy of my final report:

Summative Evaluation: Grade 6 Explore Nepal Program

Summative Evaluation: Grade 6 Explore Nepal Program on Google Docs
Summative Evaluation Flipbook

One fun aspect of this course was the option on nearly every assignment to turn in an alternate submission format using some sort of tech tool. Some people created slideshows, videos, infographics, collaborative corkboards, flip magazines, and mind maps. It was fun to see the creativity and it sure was nice to have this option to shake things up. I wish every teacher would do that and allow students to complete an assignment while building their online presence, developing creativity, and taking ownership of their learning.

While I didn’t love everything about this course and would have liked more focus on education and technology, I certainly learned a lot that will serve me well, even if I don’t become a professional evaluator. What a ride it has been!

Other coursework:
Evaluation Design Format
Gap Analysis
Program Cycle
Goal-Based Method, Design, and Type
Top 3 Sites on Data Analysis
Review of Chapters 1-9 in course text
Request for Proposal (fictional)

Boulmetis, J., & Dutwin, P. (2011). The ABCs of evaluation: Timeless techniques for     program and project Managers (3rd ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Social Network Learning: A Reflection

image art for reflection4-page-001I find it interesting that the class I expected to learn the least in is the one that has enriched me the most. Such has been my journey this semester in EdTech 543 Social Network Learning.

We’ve all got the first two words down – it’s that last one: learning. This course has opened my eyes to the powerful learning tool that social media and social networking can be. I’ll try to sum things up with a few before-and-after glimpses of what I have learned to help paint a better picture.

Before: Twitter is for people who have a lot of time on their hands and want to follow celebrities or make political statements. What could I possibly have to say in 140 characters?
After: Twitter is a resource so versatile and powerful that it can be used in the classroom and for painless professional development. I’ve truly been converted, as shown in Twitter Power. In just two months I have found dozens of helpful resources. I found out about the Global Education Conference and actually presented two sessions. Each time I check Twitter I walk away feeling enlightened and inspired.

Before: Pinterest is a much-too-pretty time-waster for people who love to cook and craft
After: Many educators use Pinterest in remarkable and creative ways to curate resources, share ideas, and enlighten students. My two boards so far (My Personal Learning Environment and EdTech Spotlight: Resources Educators Should Try) have strengthened my digital footprint and inspired me to create more.

Before: No one really cares what I have to say
After: It is my digital duty to contribute academic and sound content to the cyberspace knowledge cloud. My Periodic Table of Connectivism was picked up on Twitter, Scoop.It, and various blogs and websites. I still get dozens of views on it weekly. My presentation  My Digital Footprint and PLN currently has over 3,000 views on Slideshare since I created it two months ago. I’ve used it as the backbone for a huge presentation proposal I’ve submitted to an international conference. Point? Educators, professionals, and students are looking for specific content and topics and appreciate well-researched resources.

Before: Social networking really means Facebook
After: I am amazed at how many social networking tools that can be used for specific learning purposes. My Personal Learning Environment has grown immensely in this course. I’ve developed my personal brand and identity on Learnist, Classroom 2.0, Pinterest, Slideshare, Edmodo, and updated several other profiles on sites I’ve been using for a long time. I’m consistent and intentional in what I put out there.

Before: Social network learning is used interchangeably with social media and social networking
After: I ended up writing my very dense EdTech 504 paper on Social Network Learning: Supporting Theory and Framework. Social network learning is about learning in connected ways. It’s deep and powerful. Social media are the tools that facilitate this connection, and social networking involves using these tools to find new connections. The focus of this class has been on the learning.

I could go on. I’ve developed a social media acceptable use policy. I’ve created an infographic representing my Personal Learning Environment. I’ve created a MOOC prototype. I’ve communicated, connected, and collaborated with my peers spread across dozens of time zones through Facebook, Moodle, and Google Docs. I’ve received beneficial instruction and feedback from my professor Jackie Gerstein, who lives what she preaches and lives it well.

My digital life is deeper, richer, and more meaningful – and it’s only just begun!

Photos at top used under Flickr Creative Commons from the yes man and Anja Jonsson