Thursday, February 28, 2013

Customized Education

I am massively MOOCing. In a Canvas Network MOOC on Social Media and actually learning how to make sense of my twitter account which has been largely dormant. Learning: Social Media =#SoMe ...oh me, so me, this is incredible. Now I see....LINKS to great writing and COMMENTS and INSIGHTS.  OH!!!!!!  Starting to get it.
Maria Anderson  from Canvas is teaching the MOOC....the person who tweeted her dissertation one hour at a time.  So I decided to tweet the book I'm reading for the class one chapter at a time: Inevitable Mass Customized Learning, by Charles Schwahn and Beatric McGarvey. So readable, so right. 
Customize our education: I'll have mine grande, double shot, peppermint mocha. What? Of COURSE I want whip!!

WAKE UP, EDUCATORS and ADMINISTRATORS!  THE REVOLUTION IS HERE NOW...but  I don't see much progress towards even recognizing it at the small technical college where I work, which is struggling with enrollment. CUSTOMIZED LEARNING  is where it's at!

The reality of how we should be changing versus how we are not changing has gotten my brain thinking in ALL CAPS.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The 3-day rule

My husband and I studied Japanese together and then lived in Japan for 12 years studying Japanese music and language (and of course teaching.)  While we were there, we had what we called the "Three-day rule."  That was, whenever we learned a new, useful word or pharse, within three days, we would suddenly hear someone using it.

What was amazing about this was that of course people had been using those phrases all along, but since they weren't in our active vocabulary, we weren't hearing them. As second-language learners, we clung to what we could recognize, took in body language and context, to glean much of our information. And then suddenly, HEY!! Everyone has been saying this phase to me that I just couldn't hear because there was no context. After I had learned the phrase, I was able to scaffold it into my active listening ears and mind.

We are both optimists, and didn't let the fact that the endless learning of new phrases was, well...endless.  As soon as one three-day rule phrase popped up, we'd learn another one, again and again.  We persevered with our learning, enjoying the process. When you take on something as big as a language and culture, the journey never ends.

Recently I've revised that three-day rule to apply to the  language and culture of the internet.  During winter break I went to my neighbors' annual New Year's party and she told me she was taking a Coursera course in contemporary poetry. She's a nurse.  "What's that?" I asked, and she explained what a MOOC was. When I got back to my work computer, I signed up for a Coursea course (I was in the one that crashed) and also suddenly noticed the email titles with MOOC in them. I know they were there before. I just had no context for them.

The same has been true for OER (such an incredible concept that many teachers are just getting a grasp of), and the many offerings of Google. (Have you tried a hangout? Amazing.) The challenge is to stay on top, keeping  my ears and eyes open for the most useful, developing skills to see how they can be used, and make effective use of it as an educator.  

It makes Japanese look easy.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Taking part in an online course - whether as a student or teacher – is like suddenly being asked to take care of someone else’s three-year old. A very rambunctious three-year-old.  And even though it may have seemed easy enough when you agreed, it demands far more attention that you could ever have imagined.  All day long, as you attempt to carry on with the rest of your life it interrupts what you are doing and tosses toys at you and needs to be fed.  It may play quietly for a few minutes, but only temporarily. As soon as you try to put it down for a nap, it starts wailing uncontrollably. And at night, when you have checked in on it for what you swear will be the last time and are quietly tip-toeing away so that you can have a few moments to yourself before you too must get some sleep, it jumps up again and asks for a glass of water.  Or says it has to go to the bathroom. Or follows you to wherever you are and just stands there staring at you.

You took the “babysitting” test for online learning/teaching and easily passed: Yes I am self-motivated, Yes I like to communicate in written form, Yes I can organize my schedule, Yes I can meet deadlines.  But what you realize as the course progresses is that they meant all those things CONTINUOUSLY and NOW.  Of course you like to write, but not when everyone else has already said what you wanted to say in the discussion forum. Of course you can meet deadlines, but not when they are so relentlessly continuing to come into your inbox so that you hardly have time to check your other email.  If you are the teacher it’s worse; even if you spend countless hours setting up a course up so that you only have to check in once a day, the unforeseen questions and little fixes you must make come fast and furious. You were SO wrong about that.   

You knew you’d need to allow “space” in your schedule – but how can anyone allow this much space in their schedule? If you are already parenting, this three-year-old is added on top of everything else, and doesn’t play well with your own kids. If you are done parenting, you remember how much energy it took, and wonder if you have what it takes. And if you’re not a parent yet…take this as an example of what it feels like.

You must give in and give yourself over to this demanding three-year-old. You must abandon the rest of your life, sit down on the floor with the blocks and the grimy toys and engage with that kid who is driving you crazy. You must suspend all judgment on whether you want the kid in your life or not and just resign yourself to the diapers and feedings and unreasonable demands.  You must extinguish all thoughts of despair and give yourself to whatever it takes to please this time-consuming toddler that has inserted itself into your life.  There is no other way to succeed.

It is not until you have finally given up half of the rest of your life; goodbye relaxed meals, extended phone calls, facebook and any and all superfluous semi-or-actual online addictions, that the course comes into focus. You start to respond to posts and in your response realize that you have offered something worthwhile.  A light goes one when you are plodding through a reading, and an important connection is made in someone else’s comment.  You watch a video made by someone like you and feel deeply inspired.  You struggle with the glitches in the system and doing the assignments and in doing so become increasingly more computer-literate; finding workarounds, discovering amazing sites, piecing together new ideas and information from the blossoms of knowledge that your fingertips and keyboard bring to you.  

Slowly, you realize it’s worth it.  It’s worth the late-night feedings, the messy email inbox, and the constant demands for attention. It’s worth giving up parts of your life you thought you couldn’t give up.  You  start to make it work; being part of an online course.  You strap that kid into a carseat, put it in a baby pack on your back, and take it everywhere. You sit down and play with it every day. You actually start to brag about it; how interesting and fun it is, and your friends frown in bewilderment and stare at you hard because two weeks ago you were a shamble in tears.

Hold on to your binkie. You have now become an active member of the messy, edgy, furiously fast, extremely exacerbating, being-made-as-you-watch, overwhelmingly global world of online education.


Monday, February 4, 2013

MOOC Problems...

I was so excited to sign up for my first MOOC ever...and it royally failed. Not me, the MOOC. Too many people, too many problems...reminded me of riding a crowded subway in Tokyo. (Been there. Done that. But don't want to live it again.) I posted a few things to the discussion board for group #39 but people were definitely confused. When I saw the problems and then ultimately got the email that they were suspending the course for now, I felt bad for the teacher....but also relieved: I'm. Not. The. Only. One. Unexpected problems are SUCH a part of the online experience at this point. As soon as your figure something out, another one appears. There's hardly time to eat or think. Teacher or student, on some level the online course is here to mess with your life. Here's an article about it --not missing the irony of course that the MOOC was about teaching online: