Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Narrows and the Shallows

Most of us can relate to the befuddled lady in the "Age-Activated Attention Deficit Disorder" video  With the constant distractions of modern life interrupting completion of any tasks begun, the lady depicted can't keep up with frequent alterations to her memory synapses which are potentially activating a few genes capable of creating protein for memory storage which might find their way into the gene pool in case reproduction was on her agenda (oh, NOW I remember where I was going in the car :-)

For many of us, these distractions would be Internet-activated: checking email, Facebook, and hey what's this? Google Plus! This is new, can't wait to check this out!  We get a pleasant jolt of dopamine in our nerve synapses just anticipating the next Internet event, the classic addiction syndrome, to which many of us succumb at the expense of other things we should be doing. Worse, our brains are being altered in favor of accommodating our newly learned horizontal tracking behaviors and this is drawing resources from areas that used to accommodate our more focused vertical thinking skills.  These facts are as certain as global warming.  The question is, as with global warming, to what extent should we be concerned?

In his book The Shallows,  Nicholas Carr lays out a case for his contention that our infatuation for Internet is costing us our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection. In one collapsible argument after another, Carr follows up with a next level of argument in which he says he's aware that we would have spotted that flaw, but hang on, here's more evidence. 

My video conception of denizens of this planet being overwhelmed with inputs impinging on focus takes place during Neanderthal times, in a cave. Someone is hungry so Daddy goes looking for his club but on the way gets distracted by a painting on a wall near where he sometimes leaves his clubs but he's out of a certain pigment, so he calls to the wife who suggests he go into the forest and collect some moss off the trees. Meanwhile granny is remarking on the fact that their last child was born with a forehead with distinctly less of a slope (due to re-allocaton of brain cells, get it?). Distracted, she fails to prevent another child touching a hot coal near the fire. The child starts crying.

So what else is new? Learning creates new synapses. It changes our brains. That's positive isn't it? We survivors are here thanks to that process of species improvement.

Paul Howard Jones uses the analogy of fire to compare its use with that of the Internet Fire brings warmth and access to fine cuisine but it can be the source of tragedy and must be treated with caution. We have trained ourselves and our children over eons to take advantage of its affordances while avoiding its pitfalls. The title of Jones's video lecture, "What is the Internet doing to our Brains?"  echos the subtitle of Carr's book. In this lecture Jones assesses whether the latest scientific findings support popular fears about how technology is rewiring our brains.

Jones addresses three popular beliefs: (1) that technology is a 21st century addiction, (2) that Facebook is infantilizing us, and (3) that Google is degrading our intelligence, as Carr famously suggested in his Atlantic article, "Is Google making us stupid?" (which prompted Stephen Downes to write that if that were true he must be a raving lunatic by now, or something to that effect).

In taking on the notion that using search engines takes something away from us in neural terms, Jones reminds us that "learning is always associated with changes in the brain." He cites research where naive and experienced Googlers used search engines; and another case where subjects practiced difficult multiplication problems. These studies found that in unpracticed subjects processing tended to take place in areas of the brain already taxed by demands of short term memory; whereas with experienced subjects this activity moves to the rear of the brain, areas associated with automaticity. Yes, experienced subjects had learned how to search or multiply more efficiently, and yes their brains had been rewired.  That always happens in learning.

Jones addresses other areas of  research, dismissing findings of decreased socialization with Internet use done on teenagers in the 1990s because the friends of the research subjects would not have been themselves connected. But nowadays, kids are, and current research shows that where social networking is used to augment existing relationships, this leads to happiness and well-being. Does screen readng disrupt sleep (apparently reading from small screens does)? If so, it would disrupt memory and learning as well.  Does use of technology contribute to obesity by suppressing exercise? Jones finds after weighing the results of 178 studies "no evidence of digital technology's special influence on the brain."  

The social media site Facebook might indeed be a panacea for a major problem for the elderly.  Nick Harding's\
-social-network-2329529.html reports on a year-long study by Daniel Miller, Professor of anthropology at University College London, which he has reported in his book, Tales From Facebook. "If there is one obvious constituency for whom Facebook is absolutely the right technology, it is the elderly. It allows them to keep closely involved in the lives of people they care about when, for one reason or another, face-to-face contact becomes difficult... Its origins are with the young but the elderly are its future."

Furthermore, with all this talk about what is lost with the new technologies, Facebook is seen here as a throw-back to a time when everyone in small communities knew everyone else's business: "As Facebook transforms our relationship with public and private, it also updates the notion of community, becoming a simulacrum of the neighbourhoods lost in the West over the past 50 years - a place where people can keep abreast of the lives of their online neighbours. "

Such findings support Jones's contention that, as with our use of fire, maybe the positive aspects of technology can be emphasized through our better understanding of what it does do for us.  Looking at past research on technology used in training memory and other useful skills, Jones notes that transfer has been shown to be a problem in traditional studies, but that research in video games suggests the opposite. Gaming research has revealed that enhancements can be achieved in performance on motor tasks, ability to task switch, to filter distractions, and in inference ability.  And the reason for this is that in each instance the addictive response to the constant distractions of the Internet (the dopamine hit) is harnessed toward these outcomes. Jones grants that technology can generate addiction and aggression but more importantly, "benefits arise from exactly the same processes,  learning new skills, pro-social behavior, and immense educational potential."  So it's  not whether we use technology but how we use it (we know fire burns, so use it safely).

NPR's On the Media did a show recently on video games, including a segment on the Future of Gaming In this segment Brooke Gladstone explores how the potential envisaged by Jones is playing out in today's marketplace, culminating in Jane McGonigal's TED talk from February, 2010 on her research into how video games can contribute to training for a better world:

George Siemens has been expressing some dissatisfaction with the shallower aspects of  social media in his Elearnspace blog; e.g. Here, George dismisses social media as being mostly about flow, not substance. Perhaps, but without flow, substance would be lost, and that to me is one importance of social media.

George is saying, I think, that SM is impoverished where it doesn't create content, but simply kicks it along.  This is certainly true in many cases of vanity posting (and just look at Farmville); however  
social media's significant impact in contexts where mainstream media is locked down is well understood. Clay Shirky dwells for a chapter in Here Comes Everybody, on the idea that popular uprisings occur not when "everyone knows" and not even when "everyone knows that everyone knows" but when finally "everyone knows that everyone knows that everyone knows" that the king has no clothes. Social media like Twitter is highly significant in creating that awareness. But George points out that it can also appear self-serving, cliquish, and a waste of time if you're spending mouse clicks sorting your friends yet again into this circle or that.

But in this post George doesn't count Blogging as social media.  On the contrary, where "Social media=emotions", "Blogging/writing/transparent scholarship=intellect."

Michael Coghlan notes in a recent talk on The Shallows (; and print version how he becomes productive only when he disconnects. I can relate to that, I've been mulling over this blog post  for over a week now, articulating it bit by bit in posts to the Webheads Yahoogroup. Such fora comprise another form of social media, time consuming, unproductive, and shallow only if you consider such deliberations as avoidance of a more deeply construed final product. However anyone who teaches writing knows the importance of process in achieving a well-crafted product. The most progressive writing teachers are putting their students in touch with peers via 
social media (here, including blogs). Is this misguided? I think George and Michael are bringing their valid and treasured perspectives on a 'problem' which I guess I'm saying is actually a part of the process.

Harold Jarche has been blogging about PKM, the gist of which he encapsulates in 5 minutes in this video presentation on "Sense-making with PKM, personal knowledge management":

This  complements Siemens's views on some of the dilatory effects of social media with an explanation of how what are suddenly being called distractions fit as part of the process of knowledge management, with an assertion at the end that Jarche's critical thinking skills have improved as a result of his cycle of PKM (which I suppose would be anecdotal evidence of lateral thinking processes leading to vertical ones).

Jarche defines PKM as "a set of processes individually constructed to help the flow from implicit to explicit knowledge." Managing the flow of knowledge, "staying abreast events and advances in our respective fields takes more time than many of us have." Consequently "the lines between learning and working are getting blurred," and proper management of workflow becomes essential.

Knowledge management seeks to make implicit knowledge explicit through Internal (how do I deal with this) and External (who can I work with on this) processes. This entails a continuous loop of four internal elements: sort, categorize, make explicit, retrieve; while percolating these through the key external elements of  Connect/ Exchange / Contribute. This enables us to observe, reflect, put tentative thoughts out;  read, listen, converse, and reflect. Jarche points out that this is more about attitude (what I call paradigm shfts) than a particular set of tools, but the rest of the presentation is essentially about what tools go with which part of the flow.

Jarche concludes by saying that PKM is "part of a social learning contract" wherein we have an "obligation" to participate so that we can learn from each other. "Cooperation is the glue that holds together the important social networks in which we work and live."

This helps put Siemens's insights into perspective, but Jarche also touches on Carr's when he says at the end that he feels that he has been creating a powerful resource, "a growing and connected digital library. It has also helped me to better develop my critical thinking skills."

However Carr comes to similar conclusions himself in his series of beguilingly collapsible arguments, but then  explains why all the input we're subjected to now is different from previous information revolutions (e.g. the one where using calculators freed our minds for better internalizing maths concepts) because this latest onslaught isn't freeing up mental processing power so much as it is making what's left impervious to keeping what flows past around long enough for proteins to form that will put it into long term memory. 

I would argue that again these resources are being optimally allocated. We are evolving systems for tagging and bookmarking that are placing information at our fingertips where and when we need it, so we can process perfectly well once we recall where we can link to what we need. I guess I am arguing that resources devoted to long term memory are increasingly being devoted more to tracking linking mechanisms; whereas Carr seems to be saying that this is the shallow part, we index it but don't process it.  On the other hand, this very process could be developing a level of abstraction that further pushes the boundaries of our cognition which distinguish us from other less capable species.

Samuel Johnson was aware of this distinction in the 18th century ("Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it." from Boswell's Life of Johnson). Coghlan mentions this in his talk where he contrasts the relationship between horizontal thinking (multitasking, allowing us in the midst of composition to link out to the Internet for the source of a certain quote by Johnson, for example) vs vertical thinking (layered and focused, to allow us to complete the piece in which the quote is inserted). He shows us Howard Reingold's video ( about how Reingold finds, organizes, curates, filters, and begins to compose using an impressive array of tools which have everything to do with generating two paragraphs of prose with awsome face valididy.  Coghlan intends this as an illustration of how a wired academic can harness distracted horizontal processes to contribute to deeper vertical ones, but in the example we see no direct evidence of developing or adding value to content (though we can see that Howard is about to take that step, if the phone doesn't ring :-). Reingold's workflow appears however to work for him, he is after all a Stanford professor with an impressive publication record, and his output and workflow illustrate how he is able to manage and leverage certain processes for linking and abstraction to eventually produce a well-crafted final product.

Carr however seems to be saying that this kind of workflow is making us incapable of deeper processing. True I was listening to an instructional designer in a VTE podcast the other day saying that whereas before you could count on a 12 min attn span now you had to reach learners in 5. But this doesn't mean we are incapable of processing. We are reading Carr's book aren't we? We are deeply examining the ideas to the extent that they engage us. So? We're distracted! - isn't this the human condition? From time immemorial? (And if it's immemorial then it didn't form the protein to make it into long term memory back then either.)

The skill of indexing and retrieving through networks is at the core of connectivism, an idea whose development is anything but shallow.
 Siemens for example says in his free ebook, Knowing Knowledge (available at

"Once flow becomes too rapid and complex, we need a model that allows individuals to learn and function in spite of the pace and flow. A network model of learning (an attribute of connectivism) offloads some of the processing and interpreting functions of knowledge flow to nodes within a learning network. Instead of the individual having to evaluate and process every piece of information, she/he creates a personal network of trusted nodes: people and content, enhanced by technology. The learner aggregates relevant nodes…and relies on each individual node to provide needed knowledge. The act of knowing is offloaded onto the network itself. This view of learning scales well with continued complexity and pace of knowledge development."

David Weinberger has an interesting take on
The Shallows. He says that "if the Net is the shallows (a brilliant title, by the way), then the old media that Nicholas romanticizes was the narrows: narrowing the richness of shared experience to a manageable trickle." 

Today's learners must learn to navigate between the narrows and the shallows. A recent CIBER meta-analysis of the reading and learning behaviors of student visitors to libraries, both brick & mortar and virtual, highlights trends it sees for the near future (next 5 years, 10 years from 2008) as noted in CIBER. (2008). Information behaviour of the researcher of the future. UCL.

The report finds on p.9 that the emerging form of information seeking behavior of those in the study appears indeed to be "horizontal, bouncing, checking and viewing in nature." These users are "promiscuous, diverse and volatile."  This poses "serious challenges for traditional information providers, nurtured in a hardcopy paradigm and ... still tied to it."

As with any data, these are subject to interpretation. My interpretation is that as information becomes more accessible patterns of access are of course going to change. On the other hand, maybe not all that much has fundamentally changed. I can't tell you how many nickels I put into photocopying machines when I was in grad school in 1981 in order to take away copies of journal articles I possibly skimmed at home looking for factoids I could use to augment my references, or perhaps didn't read at all. Except that back then, the library was neither able to track my behavior apart from monitoring my expenditure of nickels, nor know what I did with the material once I got it home and put it on the growing stack of accumulated papers.

I'm taking the stance that this is much ado about nothing much. Carr points out early in his book that, regarding the "torrent of new content ... one side's abundant Eden is the other's vast wasteland." Young people might tend to be hitting at links in their recreational browsing, as we all do, but to extrapolate from this to 'they therefore never engage in deep vertical absorption of what they are browsing' is in my view quite likely false.  It could be that they have so much more data to scan that they simply click on a lot more horizon, as we all do, before we latch on to the bits we feel we need to explore in greater depth (possibly because there is so much horizon out "there", and now in my mind I hear Siemens warn, "there's no there there" :-).

As we learned from Clay Shirkey's Cognitive Surplus it's not so much a question of what someone is doing at a particular time but what they would otherwise be doing. Dan Pink asked Shirky in an interview, what was your favorite episode of Gilligan's Island, an inside joke because Shirky counts himself as one of a generation plunged into the vast wasteland of passive addiction to the shallows of television. It would have been impossible when Clay Shirky was curled up on the couch to know how young people in his day ('the TV generation') would develop as researchers and academics of the future. Shirky nevertheless seems to have undergone some positive plasticity considering his subsequently observable ability to grasp concepts and convey them to others in deeply textured literature.

Regarding my own cognitive surplus, I hardly ever sit down for any length of time in front of a TV anymore, and though my kids might do that, they don't just watch whatever's on, they'll have chosen their program and have some purpose in watching it. I would think that this observable change in behavior is freeing up time and cognitive surplus for the kind of horizon scanning that emerges in some of these studies.

In other words, if you have some moments where you are tired from a long day and you have no pressing deadlines, what do you choose to do? Do you play solitaire? sit down in front of a TV? Pick up a good book? See what's on YouTube? Check email / Facebook/ Twitter? If you tend toward the latter end of the scale you're in good shape in my view. And when many of us were growing up we didn't have the latter options, but now that we do, we learn a lot from YouTube / email / Facebook / Twitter, and other interactions with our PLN which, when it's time to write and reflect, we switch off and get down to it, as Michael said he did in writing his article. Switch it back on and it feeds and stimulates the times when it's switched back off.

The CIBER report recommends that "information skills have to be developed during formative school years and that remedial information literacy programmed at university level are likely to be ineffective [and that libraries should] go with the flow and help children to become more effective information consumers."

We should be making ourselves and our kids aware of how to successfully leverage the affordances of the new technologies while avoiding the pitfalls, same as for fire, TV, the telephone before that, books in the 16th century (much decried by writers back then, get the irony? writers?).  What we would need (but will never have) is a comparative study of how much deep cognitive endeavor people did during the TV era vs what they engage in now. I think that, in Shirky's terms, a lot of cognitive surplus was merging with recreational time and now that we invest more of our  cognitive surplus in recreational time, we still can only devote so much energy a day into that deep cognition, and for recreation, we web surf rather than watch TV, storing up links (utilizing our tagging and feed systems) for retrieval later during our focused work hours.

This is actually a positively enlightening development, making possible, in my view, a renaissance in thinking and sharing, along with a reversal of power directionality, as when cognitive surplus gets invested in Wikileaks, for example. Many people are scanning those superficially, but there are many others demonstrably capable of delving into the revelations deeply and distilling what they find into packets appropriate for consumption by the scanners. Is that a problem? (answer, only if it's your power that's being reversed :-)

There is an interesting quote in a post where Andrew Keen interviews Nicholas Carr regarding the central thesis of The Shallows: "Indeed, the depth and sophistication of much of the debate about the book—especially the thoughtfulness of many online critiques—might be taken as an argument against its thesis."

Case rested (for now, until the next comment or blog post :-)  I'll just switch my network back on now and see what they have to say about this

Incidentally, Michael Coghlan and I and others had a discussion of these ideas on Sunday August 7, 2011, at our weekly Learning2gether event, in Elluminate.  You can access the recording at


Some of my network are saying ... 

From Elizabeth Hanson-Smith 

From Mark Pegrum

Thursday, July 14, 2011

MOOCs raise questionable practices

Many questions have been raised in EduMOOC 2011

How big is a MOOC? What is the importance of a cohort in a MOOC? Where is the center? What is its optimal time frame? Can participants dip in and dip out whenever they feel like it?  in which case can they dip in and dip out over a number of years? or can they band together informally in a space that's not called a MOOC? Would that then still be called a MOOC?

Some of these questions are developing answers in the literature. For example, User:Mackiwg created a post in WikiEducator where (s)he asks "How big is a MOOC? Double the number from one week to another". As attrition in MOOCs is also an issue, the answer could just as easily be "halve the number from one week to the next."  Still, for the question of what number constitutes a MOOC, most references point to McAuley, Stewart, Siemens and Cormier (2010), where for an open online course to be massive, it has to have hundreds or thousands of participants.

McAuley et al. are also relied on for the definition of a MOOC.  For example quotes this definition:
  • "a MOOC integrates the connectivity of social networking, the facilitation of an acknowledged expert in a field of study, and a collection of freely accessible online resources
  • Perhaps most importantly, however, a MOOC builds on the active engagement of several hundred to several thousand “students” who self-organize their participation according to learning goals, prior knowledge and skills, and common interests.
  • Although it may share in some of the conventions of an ordinary course, such as a predefined timeline and weekly topics for consideration, a MOOC generally carries no fees, no prerequisites other than Internet access and interest, no predefined expectations for participation, and no formal accreditation."
However those working on the Wikipedia article are less committed on numbers, saying only that the course must be 'large'; "A Massive open online course (MOOC) is a course where the participants are distributed and course materials also are dispersed across the web. This is possible only if the course is open, and works significantly better if the course is large. The course is not a gathering, but rather a way of connecting distributed instructors and learners across a common topic or field of discourse."
    When is a MOOC not a MOOC?

    Size is one thing that MOOCs seem to have in common.  As can be seen, it is often pointed out that this is a necessary characteristic, but I've been experimenting with what I call Miniscule Open Online Courses, which is where I think that the principles on which MOOCs are based apply to courses run on a much smaller scale e.g. This fits at least the Wikipedia definition of MOOC, where size matters ("works significantly better if the course is large") but is not essential. Some of these characteristics are:
    • extremely student centered,
    • highly networked,
    • course consists of rich content,
    • facilitators provide coherent PLE,
    • participants navigate curriculum according to their interest and individual choices
    Ray Shroeder posted his adherence to much the same principles in the way he and his colleagues conceptualized EduMOOC 2011.  To better display his ideas, I've bulleted his points in the passage quoted here:

    "We have approached this MOOC in a way similar to how we teach a graduate seminar.
    • We respect the knowledge, diversity and innovative spirit of those who choose to participate in a MOOC. 
    • Our approach has been to create opportunities to learn; 
      • to mention thought-provoking ideas where we can; 
      • to invite some people who care about the topic to our panel discussions, 
      • and mostly to point people to interesting resources in the area of online learning. 
    • Our approach is not that we, the organizers, will teach in a traditional hands-on way, but that we will provide the opportunity to engage, interact, and learn. 
    • We set the original agenda, invited some panelists, created some spaces - though many more spaces were created by the participants - to give some form to the MOOC blob so people would have an idea what it might become." 

    What's missing?

    Mary Rearick, a prolific contributor to EduMOOC 2011, observed in a Facebook post (in the MOOC group on July 15, 2011) in answer to someone trying to find their way in the MOOC, that "one can find oneself going in circles... Since distributed groups have formed and content is scattered everywhere... a person can waste a lot of time and there is really little opportunity to collaborate on anything significant." I replied that "Sometimes I feel I'm going in circles with Google+ but with EduMOOC I'm learning every day. I mentally leap to ePortfolios where individuals can specify their learning goals (significant to them) and document how they achieve them. In this context I wonder if we can consider time wasted if a learning goal is achieved. In a MOOC some of the goals are likely not achievable in other learning environments."

    In recent renditions of my multiliteracies course, assessment has been by means of ePortfolios. ePortfolios are a logical accompaniment to MOOCs, and there is in fact an upcoming MOOC being arranged on
    that topic, starting later this month:

    One good example of how connectivist learning takes place is Twitter, where people follow one another in an effort to expand their PLNs and maximize contact with postings leading them to learning even one thing over coffee in the morning.  This one thing (and often it is many things) can be considered a significant learning increase over what was previously available.  Similarly, Mary created another post in the vicinity of the one mentioned above (July 18) When I saw it, I Scooped it and then tweeted that thereby spreading the knowledge throughout my network.  The article worthy of so much attention is a study of PLENK 2010, ellucidating patterns of learning to emerge from that recent MOOC: Kop, R. (2011). The Challenges to Connectivist Learning on Open Online Networks: Learning Experiences during a Massive Open Online Course. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 12, 3. Available:

    I think these ideas are revolutionizing how we (we in this particular choir) are thinking about how we might configure and deliver educational products, but as with most revolutions, the ideas have been there all along. It's just that now the spark is there, or that connectivity is such that learning-directed interaction is now possible on truly massive scales, and the time is right for many of us to realize that the people in the next cubicles (or at least in the ones we've been connecting with online recently) have been mulling these issues in the same way we have for some time now.

    For example, the epcop_learnspace MOOC portal at sports a quote by David Wiley who was asked, "Do I think MOOCs can be effective in supporting learning?" He is quoted here as answering, "Yes, absolutely. The MOOC is not terribly different from the learning I saw occurring in 'Online Self-Organizing Social Systems' a decade ago, which we published an article about in 2002. I thought the possibility for informal learning in these settings was intriguing then. Add the new 'Web 2.0 / social media revolution' that has happened since the article was published into the mix, and it’s downright exciting." (Incidentally the link on the epcop page is broken, but the article is available here:

    In our Learning2gether EduMOOCast July 10, 2011 Nellie Deutsch was hypothesizing on what has given this particular MOOC its legs. She attributes a lot of that to the relaxed degree of control that the moderators here have been exercising, but I would say also that the participants in their present mindset are also more in a position now to take their own control.  There are many experienced MOOCers here, which could not have been possible with the first one just a couple of years ago, when the ground rules were only then being formulated. But that was when this phenomenon was first called a MOOC. 

    How long have we been MOOCing about like this?

    Jeff Lebow blurred the line further by suggesting in one of his EduMOOCasts that perhaps EVO or Electronic Village Online could be considered a MOOC.  EVO has never represented itself as a MOOC, but it is an ongoing event taking place each January-February since 2001.  It's massive on a scale of hundreds to thousands, it's open, it's online, and it's a set of courses.  It rolls over year after year at, and it sustains itself year round as its coordinators line up mentors prior to the call for moderators, who then undergo training which is also organized year round, so they can conduct the sessions in January and February. 

    Jeff could just as easily have mentioned his own network of webcasting educators. The network of committed and productive educators at continues to churn out podcast after podcast, almost every one including a word of thanks from godfathers Jeff Lebow and Dave Cormier for providing the server and the opportunity.  Many of these podcasters matriculated through, a MOOC by all the standards listed in McAuley, Stewart, Siemens and Cormier (2010); i.e. a coherent course with a syllabus and timeframe for training participants in the complex techniques required in webcasting. It's free and open, richly socially networked, and has hundreds of participants who organize themselves around helping to write and update content.

    I'm starting to think that communities of practice such as could conceivably be construed as a MOOC.  This group is also massive on the scales discussed here (over 1000), it is open, online, and is a course insofar as its members are constantly learning from one another, overtly in the case of its weekly online events which have taken place every Sunday since 1998, and have most recently manifested themselves in the seminar series archived at

    I just happened on a post I made in 2009 when I was following a SCoPE seminar (possibly yet another MOOC) and reflecting on my learning then: At the time, networked learning was catching on in a big way (this was just after the first MOOC in 2008, see and this post recalls what I was learning at the time and more importantly how I was doing it, and more important still, how I and others in my PLN had been learning from one another from almost the moment ubiquitious connectivity became possible with the advent of Web 2.0.

    So, I'm starting to wonder, have we in fact been MOOCing all along?


    McAuley, A., Stewart, B., Siemens, G., and Cormier.D. (2010). The MOOC model for digital practice. Created through funding received by the University of Prince Edward Island, Social Sciences and Humantities Research Council's "Knowledge synthesis grants on the Digital Economy." Available,

    This post was published on July 14, 2011 and then updated on July 15, and again on July 18

    Saturday, July 2, 2011

    Orienting and declaring in eduMOOC 2011

    The concept of MOOC really appeals to me as a way to organize learning.  It apparently appeals to others as well, judging from how so many sign up for them.  When MOOCs are announced, the news spreads across overlapping PLNs like a swarm of locusts and thousands are attracted like moths to a flame.  There's one on now at: for 8 weeks starting on June 27, 2011.

    I was wondering how to get myself writing about EduMOOC. It was natural that the impetus should come from this thread on the eduMOOC Google Group forum:

    The thread relates to the optimal amount of time such a course should run and how much time participants should spend with it.

    B.D.Boardman asked:

    As I find myself checking in with the various discussion threads, 
    posts, online articles, and misc content throughout the day I notice
    that I'm beginning to "chunk" my MOOC time into small 5-10 minute
    segements that perhaps, by the end of the day, may add up to an hour
    or more. I am wondering if other participants are having a similar
    experience, and what the larger implications are of this approach to

    In addition, as my attention wanders a little throughout the day, I am
    also wondering if 8-weeks is the most appropriate span of time for a
    MOOC? Given the content and online dynamic, I wonder if a more
    "concentrated" time span (like 2-4 weeks) might be more effective for
    this particular learning model? 

    So, does anyone have any comments or thoughts on the topic that they
    would like to share? 

    I've dabbled in MOOCs before and use Dave Cormier's videos in a course I teach on Multiliteracies at I have lately modeled my approach in this course on the MOOC model, only there I call it miniscule open online course, on the assumption that the approach scales downwards nicely.

    That course is a part of the TESOL Electronic Village online sessions, which also run for a similar length of time.  The first round in 2001 was just for 4 weeks, but apparently the coordinators thought that amount of time was not enough because in 2002 they went up to 8 weeks.  In 2003 however, they decided they had overstepped and the time was reduced to 7 weeks. For a while after that we ran them for 6 weeks, but the last couple of sessions have been reduced to 5. The feeling is obviously that when the session goes on for too long, people get worn out toward the end of it.  Eight weeks is intensive for the volunteer moderators, a long time for them to have to sustain momentum.

    But in a MOOC it really shouldn't be up to the moderators to have to drive the course for 8 weeks like a 20-mule team.  A course that is set up nicely around provocative aspects of a topic can run itself, especially once you get people interacting.  Dave Cormier for example points out that the over-riding take-away from such a course is not a certificate, as you would expect from a 'formal' learning situation, but the network you develop through participation in such a course. This dovetails nicely into the idea of learning and knowledge being essentially connectivist. As George Siemens told me once, in answer to the last question I asked him at the end of this recording:, it is the moderator's job to provide a coherent structure to the course. After that what can you do with 2000+ participants? They learn by constructing their own coherence in their run-up to the end of the course, based on what they are learning and how they are restructuring their knowledge and perceptions of the part of their world they are exploring in the course, and an important part of that is not relying on the moderators to do this restructuring for them.

    Nellie Deutsch tweeted a question on the #edumooc tag asking " I wonder if it's necessary to stay to the very end of a MOOC. What will you gain by completing a MOOC?"  I replied "asked another way, what will you gain by starting a MOOC or lurking in one? The answer is 'whatever is gained' :-)" to which Nellie muses: "Maybe there's more learning in quitting before the end. Would it be the same if the MOOC were not free and for credit?"  (an aside to Nellie, see who posted this also on the #edumooc tag).

    This reminds me of a line in one of my favorite Rush songs, "the point of the journey is not to arrive."

    Anything can happen
    From the point of conception, to the moment of truth
    At the point of surrender, to the burden of proof
    From the point of ignition, to the final drive
    The point of the journey is not to arrive
    Anything can happen

    The double meaning here is either that arriving at the destination is not the reason we travel, or that the point of traveling is to stay on the road and never end the journey.  The question of 'arrival' is what Nellie seems to be getting at.  However B.D. Boardman brings up the amount of time we should spend on the journey, and asks for insights on that question, which is what I am addressing here.

    To me it's transcendental.  The point of the journey is to be on it.  It doesn't matter how much time you spend on it or when or where it ends, if it does.  YOU could focus on EduMOOC for 2-4 weeks if that's right for you, or 5 min. a day for whatever duration of time will benefit you.  That's why I said to Nellie that you gain "whatever is gained." Whatever that is, it's quantums over gaining nothing by not participating at all.

    As Ken Robinson says in "The Element" (see his TED video at, there are 6.93 billion different intelligences on the planet, a number that he would have to revise upward as people are born (see Accordingly I would say there are 2000+ approaches to coping with this particular MOOC, and the same number of opinions on how much time would be optimal for it.

    I glanced over the reading on Disrupting College suggested for this week, and I'm reading the book by Clayton Christensen et al. on Disrupting Class There, the point is made that the book is researched and written partly to counter the notion that education is often construed as one-size-fits-all (or 'no child gets ahead' as I like to call it). People learn differently, evincing 6.93 billion different intelligences or learning styles, to use Ken Robinson's rough figure (and I was amused by "Clay's" recollection of being involved in distance learning in the mid-70s when distance in the huge auditorium at BYU was anything past the 5th row, where the teacher was reaching the students only asynchronously, e.g. Clay slept while the teacher lectured, and the teacher slept while Clay read the coursebook.)

    I'm participating in EduMOOC by blogging around the topic, tweeting, trying out a on the topic at, and working whatever and whomever I encounter in this course into my summer workflow.  This post is one salvo among many being inspired by EduMOOC 2011 as we speak, with slim chance of my reading many of those other salvos, or of a significant number reading this one ...unless we consider that one person changed through encountering the opinion of at least one other is a significant number, which it is.

    Learning is change; which is to say that if nothing changes, then nothing has been learned.  Ergo, as we learn we change and as we encounter one another in that process of learning we change one another.  The idea of a MOOC I think is to create one cauldron into which you pour a heap of ideas and stir, and change emerges.

    Stephen Downes was once asked why he put himself in the position of having to support such a huge endeavor, and he said, because he would learn from it.  What is clear from the premise of Christensen's books for example is that there are many aspects of education that need to change, and what we are doing here is coming to grips with that.

    The questions of how long or whether to see the course through to the end are good ones to be asking, but the problem with the answer(s) is that there are 6.93 billion of them.

    The suggested reading for Week 1:
    Clayton M. Christensen, Michael B. Horn, Louis Caldera and Louis Soares Disrupting College: How Disruptive Innovation Can Deliver Quality and Affordability to Postsecondary Education

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    How cognitive surplus drives us to helping one another

    Why am I taking my time to write this?  I discovered the other day that it has something to do with Josh Groban, a ‘popera’  singer who Clay Shirky, in his book Cognitive Surplus, says appeals to teenage girls and their grandmothers.  I had never heard of Josh Groban nor imagined that I could possibly have anything at all in common with him.  His entry in Wikipedia doesn’t mention Grobanites (yet), but Shirky dwells mostly on these Grobania fans who have banded together to raise money for Groban’s charities.  Intriguingly, they have a lot in common with Webheads.

    The Grobanites are young fans of Groban’s who met through the community on Josh Groban’s website and at some point tried to decide what to get Josh for his birthday.  After rejecting teddy bears and other fluff, they decided to collect money and give it to one of his charities.  The first year they raised a thousand dollars, the next a magnitude amount higher, and by now they have raised over a million dollars for Josh Groban charities.
    Shirky puts this into perspective.  When you donate to a charity there is usually an overhead associated with running the charity, so that  only some fraction of what you give actually reaches the beneficiaries. It’s considered acceptable if a charity retains 40% in overhead, whereas holding back only15% for administration is excellent. With Grobanites, 100% reaches the beneficiaries.

    This is because they are all volunteers.  The webmaster is a volunteer; accordingly, the website is a little funky, homegrown, but friendly:  Shirky talks about Geocities, one of the first online hosts that allowed just anyone to create web pages, and how at the time he thought Geocities would fail because those web pages were going to pale next to what professionals could do, but Shirky says he was proven wrong.  He had not factored in the heart and passion and the spirit that causes amateurs (in the etymological sense) to care more about having their say than about how their web presence online stacks up against slick professional look and feel (Webheads also utilized Geocities until the site shut down, and its exstant Web 1.0 sites retain that same look and feel).

    Shirky goes on to detail how home-cooked websites invite sharing and interaction. This is exactly what we have inadvertently achieved with, or as an example of 'class roots' modeling and interaction, what we are trying to inspire with
    Shirky analyzes such spirited initiatives.  He cites research on motivation, e.g. seminal work by Edward Deci (1972), who gave students Soma-cube puzzles to solve and then left the room to take a break.  There were distractions lying around the room, Playboy and other magazines, so the experiment was to actually to see what the students would do during the experimental treatment, the 8 minute break.  On average, they were intrinsically motivated to spend a few minutes of their free time working on the puzzles.

    Permission to use granted under creative commons license; attribution:

    Then he ran the experiment again, but this time he paid some of the subjects for each shape they were able to create.  During the break he observed that those who were paid spent a minute more of their break time working the puzzles than before, since they now saw this skill as a source of income, whereas those who had no money involvement behaved pretty much as before.  Then he ran the experiment a third time, with the same subjects, without offering to pay for puzzles completed, and he discovered that during the break those he had paid spent on average 2 minutes less of their free time exploring the cubes.  In other words, the introduction of the extrinsic motivator, money, had suppressed free choice and “crowded out” the intrinsic motivator.
    Shirky concludes: “Doing something because it interests you makes it a different kind of activity than doing it because you are reaping an external reward.” This research and others with similar findings overturned the intuitive assumption that you get what you pay for, that putting money into a mix would increase the incentive for people to engage in a given behavior.  Deci’s research suggested that this worked only as long as the extrinsic  incentive was there, but if that was withdrawn then the desire to do it intrinsically was “crowded out” resulting in a reduction of motivation to do the task at all, or as Shirky puts it: “increasing extrinsic motivations can actually decrease intrinsic ones.”
    Grobanites and Webheads on the other hand work entirely on intrinsic motivation.  Shirky says there are three reasons people engage in such efforts.  First, they crave the autonomy.  Second they want to be perceived as competent.  And third, they want to feel connected. Furthermore, the desire to contribute to society and to help others is also a motivator.  Shirky cites another experiment where people in a town in Switzerland were asked if they would accept a hazardous waste dump in their precinct.  The request was couched in two ways.  For both groups a reason was given why the town had been selected for this, but in one form of the request, it was stipulated that the town would be paid for accepting the wastes.  Of course there was opposition, but the acceptance rate  was significantly higher when the request was made appealing to civic duty rather than when money was used as the carrot.
    So money is not necessarily the most powerful stimulus for producing change for the better. People will volunteer to do good when they feel they are acting autonomously and when they will be seen to be competent at what they do.  The third reason, the connected aspect, is the one that Shirky particularly explores in his books. Previously when connecting was hard to do, it was hard for charitable ideas to scale.  It was possible last century for volunteer donors to work through a church group, for example, but if you wanted to organize 100 churches, you needed to hire a manager, an accountant, a publicist, etc. and incur overhead.  But with Grobanites and Webheads, the tools are now available for people with purely altruistic agendas to promote their niche interests voluntarily and scale those interests to reach thousands of others without needing to resort to extrinsic motivators such as money.
    Shirky cites work by Yochai Benkler and Helen Nissenbaum to help explain how this works. Benkler and Nissenbaum (2006) write about “commons-based peer production" in which they discuss how the social motivations of connectedness or membership, and sharing and generosity, support the personal motivators of autonomy and competence. Shirky says: “The motivation to share is the driver; technology is just the enabler. This feedback loop of personal and social motivations applies to most uses of cognitive surplus, from Wikipedia to PickupPal to Grobanites for Charity.  Grobanite donors and supporters get two messages: both I did it and We did it.”

    All this is precisely what drives Webheads, an amateur movement of educators with accumulated cognitive surplus who truly enjoy helping one another, and benefit from being helped in the bargain. As Benkler and Nissenbaum suggest, Webheads have a strong feeling of belonging, of membership in a group with a funky name "webheads". The group's members are overflowing with sharing and generosity, as is evidenced time and again in their thousands of messages posted at This leads many of us in this group to realize what Sir Ken Robinson calls our element, "the place where natural aptitude and personal passion meet," and to define our epiphanal aha! moments.

    This leads into Shirky’s chapter on "Amateur Motivation, Public Scale", which begins “Amateurs are sometimes separated from professionals by skill, but always by motivation … Keeping a large group focused can be a full-time job ... Organizing groups into an effective whole is so brutally difficult that, past a certain scale, it requires professional management … salaries … bookkeeping and all the rest of the trappings of a formal organization ... As always, high hurdles to an activity reduce the number of people who do it, and the hurdle of large-scale coordination has largely separated amateurs from professionals ... when pursuing an intrinsic goal in public required considerable work, the amateurs largely opted out of public action. We have always wanted to be autonomous, competent, and connected; it’s just that now social media has become an environment for enacting those desires rather than suppressing them
    "… Back when coordinating group action was hard, most amateur groups stayed small and informal. Now  that we have tools that let groups of people find one another and share their thoughts and actions, we are seeing a strange new hybrid: large, public, amateur groups. Individuals can make their interests public more easily, and groups can balance amateur motivation, and large coordinated action more easily as well.
    “Globalization isn’t necessarily about size; it’s about scope. Now that the difficulty of coordinating interactions has fallen, it is entirely possible to have a tiny global organization. Geography still matters, but it is no longer the main determinant of participation.”
    These ideas are echoed in Lawrence Lessig's book Remix (2008), available now as a free eBook: Lessig talks about two distinct economies, commercial and sharing. Purely sharing economies thrive on just the dynamics that Shirky describes; i.e. a set of social values where members are essentially paid for their surplus time in recognition for competence and generosity. Lessig also discusses what he calls hybrids, or ventures that incorporate vestiges of both economies. Whereas there have been some ventures that have succeeded in going from commercial to sharing and visa versa, Lessig cites many more instances in which this has proven impossible. Some of the studies cited by Shirky, notably Deci's, give crucial insights into why this is so.  If projects are started as sharing ventures, attempts to monetize them simply suppress the motivations that gave them their traction.
    So why am I writing this?  For the three reasons noted,  I am intrinsically motivated to do so even though my extrinsic motivators are telling me that I’d better get working on things more relevant to my paycheck.  And why do participants in a large community of Webheads invest so much of their cognitive surplus in joining me in sharing with one another?  Because, as with Grobinites, there’s no money involved.  They have not come to see the good they do as being a part of the money economy.
    Now why did I know all that instinctively? Why do so many others pursue the same altruistic goals without demanding the most obvious extrinsic compensations? Because it's the natural thing that humans have always tried to do for one another. Shirky, Lessig, and others are just, after all this time, telling us why we do it, and why in our connected era, it is now possible to help one another on the scale on which we can now help one another by putting into play our inherent intrinsic motivators.



    Benkler, Y. and Nissenbaum, H. (2006). Commons-based peer production and virtue. The Journal of Political Philosophy 14, 4: 394-419. Retrieved May 1, 2011 from

    Deci, E. (1972). The effects of contingent and noncontingent rewards and controls on intrinsic motivation. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance 8, 2:217-229; Received 23 September 1971.
    Available online 26 August 2004, doi:10.1016/0030-5073(72)90047-5 (Elsevier Inc.) More info here

    Lessig, L. (2008). Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy. New York: The Penguin Press. Available as eBook from

    Robinson, K. (2009). The element: How finding your passion changes everything. New York: Viking Penguin.

    Shirky, Clay. (2010). Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. New York: The Penguin Press.

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    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    Reflections on a teaching philosophy

    When applying for teaching jobs, you are often called on to write a mini-essay stating your teaching philosophy.  Sometimes you are forced to be overly concise (state your philosophy of teaching in 150 words or less) but I just started one for which there are no guidelines. 

    Obviously, it needs to be something someone can pick up off a pile and read in a few minutes, so it can't be too long. 

    I was writing one like that just now and I realized that my philosophy of teaching suggests that:

    1. I should myself write in the way I would expect of those whom I teach; in other words, I should ‘transfer’ or carry over from my personal habits (my blogging for example) into my workplace and professional spaces.
    2. I should not treat my writing as something I do for an audience of one.  I should direct it at a wider audience.
    3. Writing like this is obviously directed at a purpose (to get a job for example, or to get a high mark) but its true purpose should be directed at the search for wider knowledge.
    4. When teachers write about their profession (or when anyone writes about their true passion) that act of reflection should be pumped into the ongoing peer conversations around that topic.
    5. My articulation of the teaching philosophy I am trying to convey can be improved on the basis of feedback I might receive by doing the above.
    6. When writing is personal in addition to purposeful, writing becomes a joy, a liberation, and it becomes better writing, writing that writers want to improve through a process based in peer appreciation and feedback.
    With that in mind, here is my short philosophy of teaching …

    I love teaching.  In fact I thrive on it.  I realized this was so when I had completed my first 20 years of teaching and went into CALL software development and then worked on the management team of a language center.  Working in an office, I felt a kind of withdrawl. I missed teaching so much that I started doing it on a volunteer basis online, just to be working with students and to explore and learn myself how learning takes place online. 

    I teamed with colleagues I met online to work with our shared students at first, but eventually other teaching peers began getting interested in what we were finding out about online learning, and gradually started to join us. So in 2002 I set up a course to model for them how to make their students feel a part of a community online by applying those very techniques in the new course I was facilitating.  This small community of teaching peers, which we have since called Webheads, has sustained itself to this day and now has well over 1000 participants in its associated communities, and touches thousands more through its larger extended networks.  Many who have encountered our community have said that this association has produced an epiphanal moment in their teaching and learning careers.

    Several aspects of my teaching philosophy can be gleaned from this story.  First, it’s a story, and I believe that story-telling is an appropriate technique in helping learners to consolidate and internalize their learning.  In this story I started out talking about teaching, because I was asked to write about my philosophy of teaching. But as soon as I could I turned that word over onto its flipside, learning. At one point I used the word facilitating  in place of the word teaching.  Then I mentioned ‘teaching peers’ to soften the concept of teaching, and level out its hierarchical overtones. 

    A major role of teachers should be, in my view, to facilitate learning environments which enable students to tell their stories. In a language or writing class, they might do so overtly.  But in other classes this might mean that the teacher strives to enable students to relate the material to how they envision themselves in the context of their own stories.

    I like David Warlick’s idea of a teacher as ‘master learner.’  I often cite that phrase in conjunction with Stephen Downes’s distinction between teachers and learners. Downes says that teachers model and demonstrate, whereas students practice and reflect.  If you consider teachers to be master learners then you could argue at one extreme that there is no such thing really as a teacher, only learners.  At the other extreme, you could say that teachers are really learners in disguise -- master learners -- who constantly percolate the processes of modeling, demonstrating, reflecting, and practicing.

    Language is not something in my view that can be taught, like a scientific principle or theorem.  Most of us know for example that e=mc2, or how to calculate the length of a hypotenuse of a triangle.  Many of us have been taken through the proof of that theorem, but I would think only a tiny fraction of all students who have regurgitated that proof on a geometry test have actually learned it, or can explain clearly what would happen to time if light were ever to exceed the speed of c (or even what happens as it approaches that speed in the vicinity of a huge mass the size of a black hole, which in turn would be tending toward the size of a pea, a flea, and so on). Similarly many have been taught some expressions in a foreign language (for example, “frère Jaques, dormez vous?”) possibly without knowing hardly any other French.

    I said in a plenary address once that there was no such thing as a language teacher, only language learners.  Here we must distinguish teaching from training.  It is possible to train someone to speak a grammatical subset of a language. In how many languages can you (1) greet people? (2) thank them or express dislike? (3) negotiate food and a place to stay? (4) speak to them about topics of concern to them or to you? (5) talk politics? or (6) understand a wide range of media in their language? As all language learners know (or find out, if it’s their first time), these tasks chart a progression (from 1 to 6) of increasingly difficult and complex skills. It is possible to train people to do the first three with some degree of competency (as you can train them to sing Frere Jaques). But the last two require that the learner has taken the training further through curiosity and motivation to learn the language. 

    This is what I mean when I say that language at this level cannot be taught.  I mean that someone who succeeds as a putative teacher to such learners is creating contexts in which they can more efficiently and successfully learn.  This then is the true work of a teacher, to motivate students to want to learn, to challenge them, to construct environments whereby learning will best take place, to model the behaviors of good learners according to what the teacher has found works best as a master learner, to demonstrate, to practice what is learned, to reflect on what he or she is learning, to do, and to model for the students how to do, all of the above.
    And my brief philosophy of teaching ends there.  That is about the right amount of prose for a job application. It reads like a story, it’s neatly ended.  But there is of course more. When I was writing this out, freewriting as it were, I continued in this vein …

    Like others, I love to learn but I hate to be taught.  To be taught implies a teacher with a long ruler standing over fidgeting students bent over desks except when called on or to sneak furtive glances at the clock on the wall.  In my perception, a learning space should take on much more pleasant, more flexible dimensions.  Ideally it should be a space that learners want to go to (there have been studies of such spaces, such as children’s museums, space centers, etc. where people go voluntarily to learn).  Using Web 2.0 tools it is possible to construct such spaces online where students feel motivated to treat each other as collaborators in and audiences for projects.  The Internet allows us to scale such efforts out to highly significant dimensions, so if technology is available, it can be used for this purpose. But even if IT tools are not available, the focus of learning (as facilitated by teachers) should be on collaboration and appreciation of individual strengths, with deficiencies rectified in ways that students can see lead to success and progress.

    When I have free reign to facilitate as I like (when I construct and facilitate my own online courses for example), I am able to tailor curricula around individual needs. I do this in part by letting students define their learning goals and document their progress in what I am now calling me-portfolios in open spaces of their own construction (not using a kind of e-portfolio software designed to place the entire e-portfolio into a single proprietary server space). In this way, when I have freedom to construct my own courses, I balance learner needs vs. a variety of choices in my curriculum to keep course materials flexible, adaptable, driven by students, and by their response to teacher trial and error. 

    Sean Banville articulated this give and take in teaching quite well in an interview with  Larry Ferlazzo, reported in Larry’s blog here: (link). Sean referred especially to face-to-face language teaching, where teachers must listen carefully to students and then move in one of any number of possible directions either thought out and prepared in advance, or (and this is where it becomes an art) invented spontaneously.

    Another important aspect of teaching is that it is necessary to have two general philosophies, or approaches, one for mature learners with developed literacy skills who can understand and articulate the metalanguage of learning and dissemination of knowledge, and another for learners without sufficient experience to enable them to express as well what they wish to accomplish in their learning environment.  I most often encounter the first group in online environments, where people tend to self-select to be there. Many of whom I am referring to as online students are in fact teaching peers carrying through on their master-learner roles, and for these learners I try to model how to use technologies to help them discover and learn what THEY want to know, and extend their learning through productive networking.  I often find that one of the rewards of working with such learners is that I am able to learn from them (again, in my role as master-learner).  Here, there are usually many opportunities to show-through-doing that to teach is to model and demonstrate, and to learn is to practice and reflect.  

    For the less mature learners, the young men and women I teach in my day-to-day teaching at tertiary level in Arab countries, my over-riding goal as a teacher (as opposed to trainer) is to model and demonstrate for them the literacies I feel they will need to reach the next level. This involves giving more discrete guidance, much of it directed at affecting change in the culture of the learning environment itself.

    One more important aspect of teaching is the role of doubt and confusion.  If my courses include many instances of realia and options, students can be confused at first.  I tell them, reassure them, that confusion is the state where learning begins.  If there is no stress or tension, then it is possible that training is taking place, but not necessarily learning in its optimal self-questioning sense.  So confusion serves a purpose and can be anticipated in stages where learning is most strongly internalized, and can be dissipated where interactions between participants are rich enough to help them resolve that confusion.

    And now, as Auden said about great poems, never completed, only abandoned, I must leave off my exploration of teaching philosophies, or I would never actually complete any job applications ;-).  However, if the topic interest you, won’t you continue this conversation in the comments section below?

    I didn't get the job but my teaching philosophy got two retweets!

    Original links:

    Yes, I accept pay in karma :-)

    Hold Presses:
    This just in, here's a teaching philosophy in action from a teacher in my PLN, linking her students to the world from a class somewhere on the planet. This just popped up on my computer while I happened to be editing this blog post ...