Hello Everyone!

As most of you know (if you’ve read my intro that is, hehe) I’m a bit familiar with Second Life, having been a virtual resident for nearly 2 years now. I have been doing some exploring in-world lately with more of an educational focus in mind and I’ve got some things lined up that I’m exploring and I’ll share those with you once some other pieces have fallen into place for me. (I’m touring a medical facility on Saturday and I’ll take some pictures and post them here in a video for you later!) For now, though, I thought I’d show you my island home, or at least a very short 30 second video of some pictures of it anyway. I piggy-backed on Michelle vanGinneken’s idea of creating an Animoto video with the images. It was super easy to do! Thanks Michelle for the excellent tip!

I do find, however, that the free version of this won’t be sufficient for me. Sigh. 30 seconds is just too short! But $30 a year isn’t a bad deal to purchase the upgrade I guess šŸ™‚ I wish there were more freebies for instructors really. It can get expensive fast to sign up for a lot of different tools. Anyway… I hope you like the video I have created here and I’ll be making some more very soon!

PS. All of the landscaping and the positioning of things (some of them built, many things purchased in-world) was done exclusively by me and my love and SL partner. He did a lot of the landscaping and terraforming parts of the sim and I did the bulk of the interior decorating. Unfortunately with THIS video you only get flash glimpses of the exterior of the island. It was only when the video was done that I realized I had tried to cram WAY too many images into a 30 second slot, haha. Oh well. It’s a steep learning curve I’m on, but at least I AM learning šŸ˜‰

Updated! New full length video clip: Ā 

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It’s the start of a new class (or in my case this semester, two new classes) and thus a new set of reflective posts will be forthcoming in the next few months to this site. Just as housekeeping information, I’ll use the title as well as tags and categories to differentiate between the different reflective pieces written for each course.

This past week in EC&I 832, we read an article :

The Song Remains the Same: Looking Back to the Future of Educational Technology
Punya Mishra, Matthew J Koehler, Kristen Kereluik.Ā TechTrends.Ā Washington: Sep/Oct 2009. Vol. 53, Iss. 5; p. 48 (6 pages).

The reflective question posed for this article is:

What do you think needs to happen in your context that would allow educators to ā€œforge a new path that does not merely retrace the pastā€ (p.48)?

Answering this question requires that I first give you an idea of what my particular instructional context is šŸ™‚

I work as an adult educator, one whose day to day activities consists of utilizing educational technologies in the delivery of content to adult learners. I design and deliver online courses for Adult Basic Education students throughout the province of Saskatchewan and beyond. I even have a student who is living and working in France this year who is taking a couple of online courses with the college I work for. The courses are delivered completely asynchronously and each student progresses through their work at their own pacing (with lots of encouragement from me, of course). The online delivery of adult basic education courses started 6 years ago when I was first hired by the college. Our initial foray into utilizing distance educational technologies was using email to send andĀ receiveĀ student work for an Information Processing class. We’d meet a couple of times a week online using Elluminate, a web-based conferencing tool. All of the students I had in the class were at a location remote from me (they were in Yorkton and I was in Esterhazy) and the class would occur at a set time each day of the week. The students also had a tutor in the room to assist them for at least part of the week, as the technological skills of the students were quite low at the time (a couple of students had never used email and one of them was confused when keyboarding, not understanding that there was such a thing as a spacebar he should use to stop all of his words from running together into one big jumble).

Things have progressed quite rapidly since those early days for the college and now we are able to deliver a full Adult 12 certificate online. Our courses use Moodle, an open-source content management system that is quite user friendly, both for the students as well as the instructors, and as I said earlier, all of the courses now run asynchronously. The introduction of Moodle as a way to organize and house the content was a pivotal turning point for us and we’ve never looked back. There are many ways of delivering online courses and there are challenges inherent in each of those ways.

The authors of this article have pinpointed the crucial issue when it comes to thinking about and utilizing educational technologies. They write: Ā “Teachers with flexibility of thought, a tolerance for ambiguity, and willingness to experiment can combine traits that perfectly design and tailor their own educational content, pedagogical, and technological environments” (pg. 52).

I agree with that statement 100%. No matter the methods chosen to instruct and help others learn with, there will be inherent challenges and obstacles to overcome. The biggest challenge I see for education in terms of being able to address these challenges and obstacles is to provide instructors with the TIME and the supports they need to become confident and proficient experimenters with technology. I don’t feel that a lot of instructors feel safe enough to DO a lot of exploration, really.Ā It took a lot of trial and error and experimentation with different learning and instructional technologies for my college to progress to where it is today in terms of online learning. It’s sort of like being on a circular track, though. There was a beginning but there isn’t really an end in sight. Things keep on changing, new technologies are introduced, and programs that were effective once have been updated and so the instructional materials created need to change as well. (I never ever purchase a textbook for in-class use that doesn’t come with electronic supports anymore as an example.) I personally like the cyclical nature of it all. I find I am rejuvenated and excited by the developments which are emerging.

I find that spreading that enthusiasm to others to be challenging sometimes, however. Many of my colleagues in the college I work for have been working in their positions for 20 years or more and while most of them are tolerant of the changes in educational technology, not a lot of them have embraced the changes.

I have read in some of my fellow student’s blogs that they feel there needs to be a certain accountability for instructors to keep up with the changes that are happening so rapidly around them. I agree, but I think too that it’s not fair to just throw a computer at them and say “Here! Develop something innovative and challenging and exciting for your students.” I believe they need someone to be a mentor and a guide, to be encouraged to take some risks and further, to be given time to do it all in. Teachers are under pressure so much of the time, it’s scarcely a wonder that many of them feel resentful and threatened about the technological developments that come along.

I’m lucky. I’ve been on an evolutionary journey, one that is still continuing as I expand my zone of comfort and as I add things into my toolbox, using new programs and experimenting with various instructional materials and methods. The thing that makes my situation different from so many others though, is that I’ve been given time and support to do this. The quality of what I’ve done is something I’m proud of and enthused about. In an ideal world, this same set of lucky circumstances would be the norm for all teachers out there.

Another thought I had had while reading the article pertained to the following section of it. The authors write:

“We wonder how far current teacher preparation programs are telling pre-service teachers what an educational technology is rather than empowering them to experiment and create their own. A new focus needs to take root, one characterized by creativity and flexibility of thought and experimentation by educators with their own educational technology designed to meet specific, immediate needs. If technology is truly to be beneficial to education, the power and potential of educational technology must be acknowledged to reside within educators and not within objects. We must foster in future educators new skills designed to harness the potential of our “unbounded” world.” (pg. 52)

Again I would completely concur with this statement. As far as the question they ask goes, I can only write about my personal experiences. I was trained as an elementary teacher with a specialization in educational technology for my undergraduate degree. We were exposed to many different educational technologies and I found that we were encouraged to do a lot of experimentation and play with different tools to see what potentials we could unearth and harness for our purposes. I created my very first online course in that final specialization year using a content management system very similar to Blackboard. This educational training I had occurred 10 years ago, which, when you consider how rapidly technological advances occur today, is quite remarkable. The same pedagogical concerns that were an issue for me back then are still concerns for me today. I would hope that the current generation of instructors working toward their undergraduate degrees today experience the same level of encouragement and support that I did 10 years ago and that the opportunities for the creation of educationally enriched media has increased as well.

Hello Everyone!

It’s hard for me to believe that today is the last day of the EC&I 831 course. Well. At least it is for the credit portion anyway. I do plan to drop in on future classes with Alec when he teaches this class again in the future (and please do so, Alec. This course is far too valuable not to repeat it for others, and as I say, I will certainly benefit by coming back and attending sessions from time to time). So much has happened in the last 3 or so months and so much has been learned and it’s difficult to try to explain the paradigm shifts and the new ways of thinking and broadened perspective I’ve gained. I’ll do my best anyway šŸ™‚

My initial expectations/hopes:

When I began this course in September I was really only looking for a credit. I am nearing the end of my degree now and the road to completion has been long and convoluted for me, with some personal twists and turns (such as an ugly divorce that is taking far to long to finish) that have thrown some roadblocks in my way. Ā So truly, when I chose EC&I 831 I did so because it was an online class that I could do while remaining at home with my daughter. I was thrilled to see it was Alec who was instructing. I’d had the pleasure of meeting Alec a couple of times at Tlt summit conferences so that was another bonus. As far as what I expected to learn, I wasn’t entirely sure, though I had attended Alec’s session on open and social media tools at the Tlt summit and now that I reflect on this course and that presentation session, there were many overlaps.

What I learned:

There are many many things I have learned this semester. One of the most valuable lessons I think I’ll take away from this class is that I will never learn it all. And that is OK. One image that stuck with me is this one:

The idea that technology is Ā a coursing river and that we are standing on it’s banks watching the rushing water rage past. I have my cup in my hand and I dip it in when I am ready, drinking my fill and then turning away when I’ve had enough. I’ve learned I don’t need to dive headlong into the rapids and drown. I can satisfy my thirst and my technological needs one cup at a time. This idea is Ā a very valuable thing for me to take in and absorb really. I’ve always been one of those overachieving types who always puts a ton of pressure on herself to be the best, to do as much as I can no matter what it is I’m doing and while that sort of attitude isn’t necessarily terrible to have, it can and does sometimes result in an undue amount of stress. I will learn more if I relax and allow myself to absorb things at my own pace. I have felt during this course that I’ve been allowed and encouraged to do that. It’s an attitude I consciously try to encourage for my learners as well. I’m fortunate as an instructor in that my students set their own pace in the online courses they take with me.

There are all sorts of other things I have learned and there are things I will continue to develop for the future. I’ll summarize them here in this list:

  • Blogging: I’d heard of blogging prior to this course but I never really understood what it was all about or how it could be valuable for me as a professional habit and practice. I’m a very introspective reflective sort of person so blogging really is a wonderful way to formalize and solidify my thoughts. I fully intend to keep on blogging long after this course is done. I do blog on another site as well, but it’s more of an entertainment forum than an educative one, though I have learned lots there as well, just in a different context. It’s far less formal than something like this blog. I have also incorporated Forums and postings for my Psychology students to respond to in their courses, even though all of the students work asynchronously from one another. I’m hoping that just seeing what others thoughts are on different issues will spark thoughts of their own, even if the students are at different places on their learning paths.
  • Wikis: I created my Adult Basic Education Integration Wiki as my final cumulative project for this class and it’s not done. But what wiki ever is? I will continue to add things to it, polish things already added and encourage others to join and contribute. I’ve learned to do many different things in wikis and I’m just starting to see their potential as a means to share student work and celebrate learning successes. That is a direction I’d like to head into for the future too. I’d love to create a wiki to use with my online students as a part of their learning, to have them contribute to it and post their projects and so on. It’s a goal I’ll work toward down the road here.
  • Various online tools: There were so many different online tools for enhancing student work, for enriching my classroom as well as establishing my own personal and professional network, it’s hard to list them all here. I have a page on my wiki though that does a bit of that and I’ve linked it here. There are so many tools out there and so much to play with and explore. I’ve just started really. The ones I love the most are the Xtranormal video creation, YouTube and Wordle.

Favorite class sessions:

While there were SO many wonderful presentations and I did learn an immense amount about technology and how to best implement social learning activities into my day-to-day practices, there are a few that stick out in my mind as being especially memorable. They include:

  • New media literacies & Internet Blocking: This was by far the best post of my blog, I felt. I had struggled for a long time to frame and articulate what my beliefs were surrounding the thorny issue of how much trust and accountability we expect of our students to self- monitor and filter content for themselves. I don’t think they SHOULD do it by themselves, of course, but this presentation sparked a lot of thought and introspection and when it was coupled with Bud the Teacher’s blog post, this topic ended up being my favorite to explore.
  • Blogging: Sue Water’s presentation on blogging was great! I sort of wish it had happened a bit earlier in the course though, so that I would have incorporated some of her fabulous tips and hints right from the get-go. But.. sometimes jumping right into that river and seeing how things go is OK too, from time to time, especially since we had Alec on the shore with the life preserver handy!
  • Digital Story Telling: I loved this session a lot. Alan Levine’s wiki where it details 50+ ways to tell a story is one of my favorite wikis and I have it linked on my wiki too. There has been an evolution of storytelling. We’ve graduated from oral traditions, to written and now we are shifting once again into digital and visual ways of communicating. It is exciting and at times overwhelming, but it is vastly interesting too! I thoroughly enjoyed this session and there is fodder for future explorations for the next several years on this wiki, easily!!

Things I still find challenging:

There are several things I still find I’m struggling with. I don’t really like Twitter all that much, despite the fun I see others having on it and the valuable things that get shared with it. I understand the concept and can see the potential of it just fine. I’m just not sure it’s for me really. I used to always have an updated status on Facebook too, but now I don’t bother with even that. I’m never on Facebook unless my daughter sends me a message. I’m not too worried about not participating in this particular aspect of online interaction and networking, however. I know how to use these tools and I will use them when/if it becomes necessary for me to do so.

I haven’t become as proficient at using Delicious yet. I have used it and I have some bookmarks saved there but I don’t have nearly enough though. I think I’ve just gotten in the habit of making my own folders and whatnot and using that instead under My Favorites. I can definitely see that Delicious is an excellent tool but it’s one that feels clumsy to me yet. That will change with time and increasing my usage of the service, of course.

As I expressed earlier in this post, the road of learning in this course has been a twisting turning one, always with fresh surprises along the way and a simply magnificent view of the learning to come. Thank you all so much for being such incredible travel mates and guides on this incredible journey. The very very very best thing about this entire class has been the connections made with you all and the learning we have all shared together. Thanks again!

PS. All of the images used here were taken from WikimediaĀ Commons and are public domain files šŸ™‚

This week’s class session discussing the social media literacies of contemporary learners and instructors as well as the pros/cons of internet blocking has me thinking in a number of different directions all at once. On one side we have the issue of instructors wanting to use social media in ways that benefit their learner’s learning and teach them to be discerning consumers and purveyors of media. There are a number of skills and competencies learners need to polish and acquire to be able to do this successfully. In response to Alec’s reflective question for the week: ” What are the new media literacies, and how should teachers and/or schools address these?” I’d have to say that teachers need to help their learners to:

  • Discern and discriminate: I believe this needs to occur in two fundamental ways.

Firstly, learners need practice in evaluating the value/authenticity of web based content (is the information reliable? How do we know?) as we all know that anyone can publish anything on the web at any time and not a word of it needs to be truthful. The web is rife with examples of false information, much of it intended to be satirical or entertaining. It’s a mistake for teachers to believe their learners automatically can tell the difference from reliable information based on substantive fact from opinion driven inaccurate information that may bear little resemblance to reality.

Secondly, learners also need practice in determining time and place-appropriate activities. For example, it may not be appropriate to watch streaming videos of friends doing some sort ofĀ embarrassingĀ or dangerous stunt on YouTube during class time. Though it certainly could be appropriate if one was participating in a safety class of some sort. Appropriateness is often determined by the contextual situation at the time. It also might not be a bad idea to encourage students to establish a “professional” digital image/reputation for school/work based networking and perhaps maintain a separate one for social contacts. I personally have only one FaceBook account, one YouTube account, etc. and I don’t have a separate identity for school/work/home because I enjoy the overlap and there is nothing I have posted on any of these sites that people from different contexts of my life couldn’t see. (General rule of thumb for me: Ā If my daughters shouldn’t read it, I shouldn’t write it and post it, but that’s just my take on the issue.)

  • Appropriate and Attribute: I believe learners need to become proficient at viewing published content, seeing it with their own perspective and world view and be able to take it, mold it into something new and fresh and yet be able to attribute the original idea to the original creator. That takes a skill set that takes time and patience to encourage and require of learners. It can seem a daunting and frustrating task when one receivesĀ paper after paper filled with “appropriated” content and not a word of attribution from learners. (Whenever I have an essay due for class, I emphasize over and over the necessity of proper citation of sources, and provide many “how to” lessons and yet there seems to always be a couple of learners every semester who hand in something someone else wrote and published on the web with no citations. I’m sure this isn’t an unfamiliar phenomenon for instructors around the world!)

There are many more competencies that could be addressed and I think a lot of them could be slotted and categorized under the broad ones I have mentioned above. I think that schools and instructors need to become minimally proficient at these skills themselves first, before they can be reliably counted upon to instruct learners in how to do this. Though, Ā for a great many of the skills that learners will need to acquire to become media savvy creators and re-mixers of media, I think the learners have an expertise advantage over a large number of instructors out there. I’m sure that’s pretty intimidating for many instructors to consider, the idea that learners have more media skills than they do in some respects. It’s not at all threatening to me as an instructor though. I love to learn from my students because then the instructional pattern in the classroom becomes something engaging for everyone concerned. It becomes more transactional and reciprocative in nature and I love to be more of a facilitator than a “font of knowledge” for my learners.

This all leads me (eventually) to the topic of Internet Blocking. I despise the current trend I’ve observed in many K-12 schools to ban wholesale any and all social media sites from school-based computers. YouTube blocks in particular bother me immensely. I use YouTube video clips in ALL of my online courses that I design and teach and when I have learners unable to access these instructional and educational resources, it becomes frustrating for both me and the learner involved.

I have to wonder what it is we are really saying to young people when we blanket forbid things and don’t expect them to filter appropriate content for themselves. For me, the message is something like this: “You aren’t to be trusted; we know what’s best for you better than you do; the Web is a collection of smut and dangerous content.” Maybe this is a bit exaggerated, but it’s close and it’s not a message I want to endorse, either as an instructor or as a parent, frankly. I believe we are doing our learners a tremendous disservice to plunge our heads into the Internet sands here and just “ignore” social media tools that COULD possibly be abused and misused by anyone. Where is the education in such a stance? To me that speaks more to fear than to anything else. (Plus anything forbidden automatically becomes more desirable and attractive, doesn’t it?)

I absolutely LOVE the link Alec posted on the EC &I 831 wiki, the one leading to Bud the Teacher’s blog. His response to teachers requesting Internet blocks is bang on. I plan to pass this along to others as he has encapsulated so many of my beliefs and thoughts on the issue of internet blocking in a clear, non-confrontational and eloquent way.

The bottom line for me is that my job is to educate learners in the best ways I can. I believe that by helping learners become more discriminating and better able to judge the value and accuracy of information, to be able to attribute it properly, to be able to take information and reshape in ways that are meaningful for them and how to share that vision with the rest of the world, then I am doing my job. If I teach fear and loathing by blocking off the flow of information and media, then I absolutely cannot teach and encourage appropriate internalization of control.

I’ve been doing a lot of browsing around on the Internet since the last Tuesday session, taking a look at various open courses offered at various institutions, such as the MIT open courses compilation that Jon Mott linked our EC&I 831 class to during the last Elluminate session. (Howzat for embedding links…;) ?) While I have found some useful materials, and I think it’s just incredible that prestigious institutions such as MIT are opening up their courses and allowing free and open access to them, there are a few reservations I have about the practice of doing it myself in my job with Parkland.

One thing I noticed is that there were some things I could use, but there are many things I won’t be able to use, simply because the level of the material is so far beyond where my students are. Also, I don’t know if this is the typical sort of online instructional experience or not, but I find trying to use something someone else has developed has some big limitations for me. Ā What seems to be missing for me is the rationale for the instructional choices one person makes over another and if my instructional philosophies are at odds with someone else’s then odds are I’m going to find their materials of limited use to me.

As an example, the college I work for has “traded” developed courses with another college in an attempt to try not to re-invent the wheel and to develop more efficiently. This has only been partially successful as we’ve generally found that the courses weĀ receivedĀ in return for the course we gave required an extensive overhaul to beĀ usableĀ for us. (I’ve see the other college’s use of the course I developed and very little of my course was altered in any way on their site.)

There is another concern with regard to the college I work for and ABE in general. Parkland charges their ABE students a nominal registration fee to take the class and we have also opened up our courses to be offered to school divisions throughout the province so that they have an option for distance classes for their students. The demise of the correspondence school has left a gap and we are doing our best to fill it. Those schools get billed for each course that their high school students take with us and that money gets funneled back into ABE, where it is really needed to keep providing programming for a needy sector of the public. To make these courses open and free of charge will end up stopping course development and reducing vital services for adult learners.

So while philosphically I wholeheartedly agree with the principles behind open education and I believe that knowledge should be freely available, the realities of budget crunches and shrinking economies plays a definite role in whether or not opening up courses is feasible for many institutions. MIT may be in a far better fiscal position than many smaller organizations and campuses, such as Parkland, which has limited resources, and not just financial ones, but personnel, staff, etc.

These are just my thoughts on Open Education and I’m still forming my thoughts.. they tend to evolve over time and as I read more and learn more, I’m fine tuning them too. Please feel free to continue the discussion and comment on anything I wrote here. šŸ™‚

A Science Digital Story

October 29, 2009

Ok.. I know this post was supposed to happen well over a week ago, but chicken pox got in the way of my best laid plans and it didn’t happen. But that’s OK because I stumbled across a couple of amazing digital stories.. stories that are science-based. I don’t know if anyone else has seen these before, but I never have. I’ve never ever seen anything like this before. I strongly recommend you take the 7 minutes and 46 seconds it will take to enjoy these clips! Make sure you turn up the audio too.. it’s really quite remarkable.

I personally plan to link these videos to the science Ā course I teach online for my students. I hope you and they will enjoy them as much as I did.

Carl Sagan – A Glorious Dawn:

Carl Sagan – We Are All Connected


Blogging for Knowledge

October 13, 2009

Well I’ve spent the last week putting off writing this post, not because that is the normal way I do things (I’m one of those hyper-organized sorts who tends to spend her Halloween evening wrapping Christmas presents) but because I’ve been sick and to use the new terminology I’ve learned in class, my personal life “back channel” has been just… overwhelming… Ā is the only word that comes close to describing the personal levels of stress I’ve been experiencing lately. Not that these personal issues should get in the way of my learning and doing the things I know I need to be doing here, but I’m human and they have, for this week at least. I probably would have felt better had I just written my blog post right after our class last Tuesday and I think this will be the practice I will adopt from now on because I just can’t take the guilt of knowing I should be doing something but just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Sigh. I’m living and learning how to learn, even at this stage of my life, I guess!

Anyway, to get back onto the topic this blog is supposed to be about, Sue Water’s presentation last week on educational blogging was exactly the sort of presentation I enjoy, very practical and very hands-on. I went to Sue Water’s blog and read what her readers have to say and I’ve read all of my classmates’ blog posts and reflections about the presentation and found my head nodding along in many instances. I don’t think I have any “new” questions to ask about blogging, to be honest… I’m pretty sure my fellow learners have covered the major bases for me. But, these are the Top 3 Blogging Questions in my mind and I apologize for any repetition there may be here as compared to anyone else’s posts they have already published on the subject:

1. Inspiration for blogging: Right now, in this class, we are being guided as to the sorts of blog posts we should be thinking/writing about and given that this is a for-credit course for me, that is just fine. I don’t mind the guidance in the slightest, particularly as I’m new to blogging and I’m still not 100% certain what I am doing the majority of the time. My question has more to do with what I should use as inspiration for blog posts after this class is over? Are there things I shouldn’t blog about?

2. Pacing for Blogging: How often should I be posting in a blog? Again, for the purposes of this class, at least one blog post per week is expected and that is no problem (most weeks šŸ˜€ ) for me, but is there a standard people tend to do or is posting Ā based more on one’s gut and when “inspiration” strikes?

3. Privacy Issues: How concerned do I need to be about my personal privacy? I tend to be a very open person, yet prudent. I don’t and won’t post anything on here that cannot be read by my daughters, or my boss, or give out personal information (other than what is on my first blog post) for example. As far as using blogs with my students, which I fully intend to begin using them right away; blogging will be conducted in a closed environment, at least to begin with, so privacy issues aren’t as prevalent in that sort of system as one that is open to readers from around the globe.

I suppose the answers to most of the questions I have posed would depend on the purposes I have envisioned for my blog. Once this class has concluded, I would like to keep this blog more professional in some respects, yet I’d still like to use it as a way to communicate what is happening in my life with closer friends and family and not just the faceless masses.

As I stated earlier, I do intend to start blogging with my students online as well, but in a closed environment on topics relevant to the course material we are covering.

I’m getting the feeling that a lot of this will end up being instinctual on a lot of levels for me as I feel my way along the blogging trail. Fortunately, the trail ahead has been well marked and forged by those who have gone before me. There are a lot of really good articles on blogging practices offered by Sue’s readers on her blog and that is my starting point for developing my own best practices. Any other tips or suggestions any of you have for me I would be most appreciative of hearing them! Thanks!

I have spent the last couple of days thinking about George Siemen’s presentation on Connectivism (which was actually the second time I’ve heard it.. the first time was at a Tlt conference in Regina, I think) and the theoretical backbones he covered were familiar to me, as I am entering the last stages of my degree and I’ve researched almost all of the theories and theorists presented in some capacity or another.

I have also read my fellow classmates’ blog posts for this week (the ones posted so far) and they, as well as George, gave me some things to consider. A theme I am noticing in several threads are issues of privacy and safety, particularly for instructors and learners who are part of public school divisions. Liability and safety concerns are naturally an issue for everyone, but I think everyone would agree that these concerns are especially prevalent when one is entrusted with the social, emotional and educational health of young people.

Some instructors have said they’d like to employ more social networking tools, such as blogs and wikis and the like, but they are hesitant to do so given these safety concerns.

I have a suggestion to make to all of those instructors (and I will link this blog into a comment into each of their posts that I find). There is an online CMS (course management system) called Moodle that is an open source software program that you and your school division can use to create a “closed circuit” learning network, one that can be restricted to a single school, or class even, and there are a lot of social networking features that could be successfully employed. Moodle allows instructors to create Group Discussion Forums, and Wikis and also has an instant messaging system embedded within it that would allow students to communicate with their classmates and the instructor both during school hours and out of class as well. Instant messages that aren’t received instantly (when someone is offline, for example) get routed to the person’s email address they used when signing up for entry into the system. Some people might be hesitant to employ an instant messaging system with their class, for fear students will chit chat when they are supposed to be on task (I would personally call this “social network learning” myself, Ā just an informal model of it) or passing answers to one another, etc. but Moodle allows message histories to be saved so past messages can always be viewed.

I know there are other sorts of “closedĀ circuit” tools out there, (and maybe you’d like to share them with me?) but I just happen to know about Moodle myself, since it is the system I work with everyday. It’s one way for instructors to start small and safely with their classes. Enrollment into a Moodle based course can be by invitation only or it can be open to the public, much like the EC & I 831 class is.

I Need Your Help!

September 17, 2009

Hello everyone! I’m in the middle of a big project and I figured I would harness the brain power of the social networking geniuses I’m lucky enough to know (that’s you, by the way). I’m designing provincial workshops for adult basic education instructors who are going to be introduced and given an integration guide that I have co-authored. Now my partner in this project, Joanne, and I, have managed to get the initial plans set for the 1 day workshop and we have a number of things prepared for it, like a tentative schedule for the day, a pre-workshop survey we’re really hoping people will fill out (we’re hoping the “incentive” of a random draw for those who DO fill out the survey will help ensure participation), a post-workshop evaluation assessment form as well as assorted activities and media we plan to utilize throughout the day.

Today as we were wrapping up our very exciting and productive planning session, I had the INSPIRED idea of combining my wrap up major digital project for this course along with the needs of ABE instructors throughout the province to network and to share successes/frustrations/teaching practices with one another by deciding to create a wiki site for it. I thought I could use the ECI831 as an example of what I could do, or at least as a rough framework for my own design. What I could use help with from the rest of you is suggestions or tools that you come across that you think might be valuable for me to include on the wiki. Anything you happen to find that would either be a resource to help instructors integrate multiple subject areas together, or suggestions for networking tools you think would be valuable to include on the site.. really anything you’d like to contribute would be SO welcome and appreciated.

My initial plans are to have some pages of the wiki editable so that everyone in ABE in the province (and worldwide of course) can contribute to the base of knowledge about ABE and integration in particular (I’m envisioning having separate pages for each of the subject areas on the wiki as well as pages dedicated to integration) as well as some locked pages and those would be few and far inbetween. Likely as not they’d be the ones where a PDF version of the integration guide would be available.. any sort of informational things that should remain static and unchanging, except by administrators of the wiki, which likely ends up being me.. hahah.. I’m making my own job opportunities! Also, I thought I’d include a page that has YouTube clips demonstrating how to use various social networking media, and a directory of ABE instructors (just like the directory Alec has for the credit students) for those who want to offer their expertise to others.

And that’s all I have thought to do so far with it. If you can think of something that might be helpful to me, I’d be really appreciative of it and I, of course, will be looking for opportunities to pay back the favour in kind! Thank you in advance!