Monthly Archives: January 2013

How metacognitive are you?

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“Metacognition is not something you plan into your schedule, but rather, something you do in your day-to-day teaching.”                                                                             Guylaine Melançon, 2005

There has been lots of talk about self efficacy, students learning to choose from all the information offered online, learning to see what is ‘out there’ that they need, and to be both independent and interdependent learners. How do we learn to do these things? What’s more,  how do we develop that sense of agency that will support us as we  take on new, and possibly, unknown learning environments?

Part of the answer lies in students’ abilities to be metacognitive. We usually refer to metacognition as thinking about your thinking, but what really does that mean?  Well, let’s think about being a student in ETMOOC.

How’s it going so far?

Some people feel overwhelmed with the volume of information, some are pressed for time, and others are scrambling to learn new tools like blogging. You are probably using a variety of strategies to help you cope, but what strategies are using to help you learn? And are you cognizant of them?

I am a mooc newbie. So much of what is happening is new to me that if I don’t rely on what I know about myself as a learner, I will be done, burned-out, or disengaged and gone before I ever got started.

I have a pretty good tool kit of personal strategies, but you can teach an old dog new tricks, so my first strategy in a new learning environment is to get used to the landscape. For this mooc, that meant setting up my Google calendar with the dates of all ETMOOC sessions, reading the etmooc.org site (a few times), preparing my blog, and then previewing some of the early bird submissions. Then, I run the old checklist:

Twitter, Tweetdeck, and Tweetchat  √

Blog with tags, profile, first what am I doing here post    √

Calendar set up    √

Google+ profile and join community    √

Blackboard Collaborate at the ready    √

Attend all scheduled sessions-especially the first one-live    √

These steps, or organizational strategies, help me stay calmish, and prepare me for the new learning environment, or at least for what I think I can see. Other strategies I have already used include reviewing sessions for which I needed more processing time, searching beyond the course materials and blogs to help clarify ideas, terms, and products, and importantly, trying strategies/tools others suggest that I have not used before (remember you can teach an old dog new tricks-that’s this part) like using Google Reader to manage blog reading (thanks Sue!).

None of us are new to strategy instruction. We teach self-regulatory strategies, we teach organization strategies, we teach collaboration and cooperation strategies, and we teach academic strategies. No problem. The connection between strategy instruction and metacognition is where the gap often exists. Once students have some strategy tools in their toolkit, we need to create opportunities for them to think about how and when they use them. This is the metacognitive process. Teaching to the strategies is not enough. We need to engage students in thinking about their thinking. What did I do? What helped me finish this task? What helped me be successful? What didn’t I do that I could have done to help me be successful?

We need to teach students how to do this process, give them lots and lots and lots of practice, and then release it to them.

This is hard work.
This is time-consuming work.
But if we are serious about preparing our kids for Dave Cormier’s or Alan Levine’s  university courses, then I think this is it. Our students need to begin to learn in kindergarten to be

  •   Independent
  •  Self-regulated
  • Interdependent

LEARNERS.

Here are some resources to support your work in this area:

Grades 7 -12 http://www.edugains.ca/newsite/literacy2/adolescent/metacognition.html

All grades     http://www.hent.org/world/rss/files/metacognition.htm

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ETMOOC: That place between a course and a community

How to respond to criticism and influence people by Wiltwhatman is a fabulous post about the work that Alec CourosAlison Seaman, and the other conspirators are doing to ensure that ETMOOC flies.  Below is the comment I posted on @wiltwhatman’s blog, but I have decided to post it here too, because I wanted to make my feelings more visible.

Oh my Keith. Agree heartily with your words. But I need to do more because I have had a post simmering in the back of my mind since Friday, and your post has given me the nudge I needed to get those thoughts out.

My experience of ETMOOC is incredible! Although ETMOOC is described as “developed with a weak ‘centre’, the structure, support/feedback, interaction, timely resources, and responsiveness of Alec and his conspirators has been amazing. The weekly flow of big ideas balanced with skill development is exactly what I was looking for, even though I did not know that I was. And the timing of each event has been perfect. Just as we got control of our tweeting and posting, the lipdub project arrived. On the heels of the lipdub, came Alan’s call for our true stories of open sharing. This fledgling community has been tended to well and often with questions, comments, direction, and humour. What great teaching!

And inspiring too! Now etmoocers are taking the reigns, with Ben’s 25 (now 35) Definitions of Connected Learning and James’ ETMOOC/Connected Learning Reading List.

The participatory nature of this experience is invigorating as I my thinking is challenged and my ability to articulate myself in words and beyond (maybe a vlog is within my reach!?) stretched.

When I made the word cloud slide for the Definitions of Connected Learning presentation, I wanted the one word that connected learning was doing to and for me–HAPPY! Such joy in learning, I wish all could experience.

ETMOOC Conspirators, thanks.

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Musing out loud: Reading between rhizomic roots.

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I continue to think about the rhizome-its ability to grow where it lands, its vigour, and its resiliency. I am thinking about how the rhizome can represent complexity. And I am thinking about how it symbolizes connection and what the connection might mean.ETMOOC is about connected learning. Collectively trying to tease out the parts-visible learning, contributing to the learning of others, accepting the responsibility to share,  connecting, reflecting, talking, writing, singing, creating, questioning.  It’s not all fun and games, though. There is push back. Fear of change exists even in this crowd. What happens to the rhizome when it hits that wall?

I am second generation Canadian. My grandparents, together and individually, came here for the same reasons thousands have- lack of opportunity, poverty, distress. I think in particular of my maternal grandfather, Emil Tvys, oldest of 14 children, a musician, a linguist, and a teacher in his home country, Lithuania, who came to this country on his own to start again. He rode the rails for awhile and then became a miner, and finally a carpenter.  I think about him and I wonder, how did he prepare for the uncertainty of his life? What made him so resilient? How did he find his way past the wall? This is the most important lesson, isn’t it? How do we learn that?

When I first saw the tweets about ETMOOC, I was interested because I am determined to learn about digital tools, and because I want to understand how they are currently impacting and will impact teaching and learning.  But I was so busy already-finishing up Flat Classroom Certified Teacher course, moving into the last leg of my Master’s program, and working hard at serving my teachers. And yet, there was something happening around this mooc, something intangible, yet palpable, and it drew me in.
And I mean in.  I feel like I am in a clearing deep within the  mangle mess that we call the Internet.  There is space to move around, stretch, and dance.  There is space to declare yourself. There is space to be heard.  I have a strong sense of having arrived, of being at home.

So, what’s going on here?

I believe it’s hope.


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That lateral spread is the constant seeking for possibility–for a better life, for connected learning, for our clearing. And it is wildly energizing to feel that possibility exists.What if I join ETMOOC?
What if I connect and collaborate there?
What if I make myself vulnerable?
What if share my understanding of what is ‘out there’ with my colleagues face-to-face?
What if I learn to see the trees?
What if I figure out how to tell that story?
What if I can connect my story to your story?
What if this connection fills us with hope?

What if this is the way past the wall.

Share you thoughts about connected learning and where it might take us, and what our responses  might be when something gets in our way.

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Let it Grow

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I have been growing all week—through Alec Couros’ Introduction to Connected Learning on Monday, the many blogs I have read all week (Sue Waters on smart blogging, Alyson Indrunas on teacher as agitator, Rodd Lucifer on the 7 Degrees of Connectedness-reprised, Ben Wilkoff on neighbourhoods, Wiltwhatman on self-efficacy, Alan Levine on self and voice in blogging), Dean Shareski’s message on the responsibility of sharing, and participating in the lipdub video on Friday.

Let it blossom, let it flow

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Now I don’t know much about Dave Cormier’s Rhizomatic Learning, but I happened upon (I have been told I can no longer use stumbled upon, unless, of course, I mean Stumble Upon) Dave’s post where he does a nice job (in 300 words) of summarizing Rhizomatic Learning. I am a gardener and I do grow rhizome plants—asparagus, irises, lily of the valley, and Cannas—so, I know how they grow, their lateral spread, and that they are resilient.Lateral spread.

Collaborate, Twitter chat, etmooc blogs all stretching me across the ideas of connected learning, and pulling me with such tantalizing strength to unknown places of brilliance.

I found myself at DS106. Not sure how I got there, but since I was in the neighbourhood, I listened in on Week 1 Episode of the DS106 show. I heard about how Alan connects to his students, how they connect to each other, about blogging, about participating, about contributing, about learning. I met Haley Campbell there. Her words about her learning should shake us to the bone.

“I am so much better at learning than I ever thought that I could be. I just needed a little bit more space to learn my own way.”

She’s talking about choice. Choice in the way she can demonstrate her learning. Such a simple thing and yet, she is only recently found herself in the environment where she could make that discovery.

I met Daniel Zimmerman, too. He took DS106 twice, and is now back to model and mentor new students. Or maybe, he knows there is more learning here that he can and wants to do.

Self-efficacy.


In the sun, the rain, the snow…

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But this post isn’t just about my learning—Dean and I are on the same page here—sharing is all, and I absolutely love that he provides a way for me to give myself permission to share –that it is my responsibility.Lateral spread.

Consider the real work of this past week on the ground in a school system readying itself to spring into the 21st century, scared as all get-out, but wanting to believe that the risk is worth it.

January 19—First time ever that teachers attend a Saturday Classroom 2.0 Live event to listen to Ontario educator Heidi Siwak speak about student inquiry.

January 23—First time ever that teachers participate in an online evening workshop via Adobe Connects: Choice Literacy’s The Tech Savvy Literacy Teacher by Franki Sibberson (They have to post on a ning and learn how to connect to each other!)

January 24—First time ever scheduled Google Hangout with Heidi Siwak to plan First Nations Inquiry Project

January 24—Heidi couldn’t make the meeting, so teachers decided to have Twitter boot camp instead resulting in 5 teachers joining Twitter and a weekly Twitter chat time is established (We now have 9 of 50 teachers/admin on Twitter!!!)

January 25—My colleague who is on Twitter, but  who has not tweeted …yet…joins me in our first ever lipdub.

Standing at the crossroads, trying to read the signs
To tell me which way I should go to find the answer,
And all the time I know,
Plant your love and let it grow.

Let it grow, let it grow,
Let it blossom, let it flow.
In the sun, the rain, the snow,
Love is lovely, let it grow.

Time is getting shorter and there’s much for you to do.
Only ask and you will get what you are needing,
The rest is up to you.
Plant your love and let it grow.

Songwriters: CLAPTON, ERIC PATRICK

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Letting learners learn.

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ETMOOC = Educational Technology & Media Massive Open Online Course

What I love about this screen shot  from the introductory ETMOOC session is the evidence of participants’ in their own learning.  The learners in this forum have been asked to answer the posed question, and they do clearly. But they also star, circle, and high light others’ ideas.  Immediate feedback to the teacher is a powerful tool for instructional design.  I wonder how responsive a MOOC can be? Is the feedback provided above useful to the instructor or to the learners? And if it is to the learner, who discovers what it is she has to learn next, where does she go? I know that Alec has said that there are experts within the group, and that help is there if you need it, but as I think about introducing MOOCs to my colleagues, I see that they may choose not to try because the every bit of the learning is public. Something for me to continue to think about as I work my way through the course.

I love the next slide! It is so representative of the shift in the culture of learning.
Learning is fun. Learning is messy. Learning is social. Learning has a back channel.

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Tweeting Inside the Box?

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I have been thinking about how I make my learning visible, and I am struggling with it because my experience in the system in which I work suggests that I should make my learning less visible. When your colleagues walk the other way when they see you coming, there might be a problem. The solution, of course, was to join ETMOOC because all the freaks and geeks (I am having buttons made) will be here, and I will appear normal.

So far, so good.

Recently, I joined PLPs Live Twitter chat on Action Research. I am just starting my own AR for the last leg of a Master’s program, and although I had just signed off ETMOOC’s Twitter session, I couldn’t resist checking out @snbeach and company’s conversation.

I am a newcomer to the Twittersphere, and Twitter chats still make my head spin. How do people think so fast and track the conversation so fluently? One answer came as the clock neared the top of the hour with @snbeach reminding people to have their resources, materials and pre-constructed tweets at the ready. Huh?

I get that having key points, quotes, and links assembled prior to a Twitter chat is a good idea, maybe even mandatory for a ‘thick’ conversation. But pre-constructed tweets? What is the purpose in having your thinking on a topic pre-recorded? Efficiency? Accuracy?  What is lost by being so prepared? What ideas are not acknowledged in the rapid-fire chat because they do not fit the script? How hard is it to respond to ideas that move in a completely different direction than what you have prepared? Are Twitter chats events to validate your thinking or opportunities to explore ideas? How might pre-constructed tweets support or quell visible learning?

I am interested in what visible learning looks like. Twitter chat is first up. I hope you’ll help me think this through.

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Mentor: A bitter-sweet role.

I actually started this journey in the winter of 2010 when I was working as a high school English teacher, who knew then that something had to change in the teaching-learning process. I stumbled upon Flat Classroom and it seemed like a fantasy to me. You know, one of those things that other people do, and you just read about them? But over the next few months, I warmed up to the idea; that is, I decided that my students and I could and should do the Flat Classroom project. I got excited. I began to plan. And then the rug was pulled out from beneath my feet. Suddenly in July of 2012, I became a K-12 literacy coach. Flat Classroom Projects vaporized. Sigh.

One of the high school’s new teachers was an energetic and passionate teacher, who really stretched herself. She and I bonded, and we worked closely together for almost two years, when I admitted that I was probably not going to be back in a classroom any time soon and that the idea of running global projects needed to be shared.

So, here we are…Caroline and Julie…Flat Classroom Certified Teachers. “We” are applying for the Flat Classroom Project 13-01, but it will be Caroline’s class and her students who will do the project. I will be there too–on the side lines watching, supporting, helping out where I can.

Thanks to Julie and Vicki and to all of my colleagues in FCCT12-01. You are a fabulous bunch of educators and it has been my honour to work and learn from you these past 5 months. I know I will continue to communicate with many of you online, but it is my sincere hope that our paths cross in a more significant way.

I hope to contribute to the FCP organization through judging, advising, outsourcing…in whatever capacity I can.

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