Category Archives: ETMOOC

Why celebrate a course?

January 21, 2016 #ETMOOC celebrates its third year anniversary.

Why celebrate a course?

Because it changed the way I approach teaching and learning.


Because it introduced me to Alan Levine, Darren Kuropatwa, Dave Cormier, Doug Belshaw, Audrey Waters, Howard Rheingold,  Jim Groom, George Couros, and Alec Couros.

And Donna Fry.

Because it pushed me to think about technologies in education without thinking about technology.

Because it reminded me that good pedagogy trumps all.

Because it made me create.

Because it made me laugh.

Because it is the only learning experience I’ve had where openness, flexibility, lightheartedness, seriousness, collegiality, collaboration, creation, intellectualism, and generosity co-existed.

That’s why you celebrate a course.

What follows is an excerpt of my 2013 reflection post.

Be Ready to Make the Shift.

This past year I participated in my first mooc–Educational Technology and Media Open Online Course or ETMOOC. This event profoundly changed the way I think about learning in an academic setting. Sure, ETMOOC was an open, online course, but I didn’t know what that meant. I just knew I was taking a course. I knew there would be webinars and Tweet chats and that I needed to blog about my learning. That was all okay with me. I knew about webinars from work and my Masters’ program and Tweet chats from some online communities I had joined and I had started a blog for #cyberpd2012.

I was ready.

Or was I?

What was going on here anyway? Where was the stuffiness? The stiffness that comes when a group of strangers end up in some room together for a mutual, yet individual experience? There’s music playing at the outset of the first “lecture”. The “prof” is super casual, chatting away with folks, and the chat box is flying with comments. There is a familiarity in the room; a feeling that we all belong. There are no titles used, or groups constructed by what level you teach….no map. There is Dave Cormier heckling Alec Couros (an inside job, but I didn’t know that, yet). There’s the whiteboard interaction that clearly gets out of hand.

Then there’s the cow.

This opening learning event set the stage for a learning experience that was challenging, engaging, supportive, integrated, free flowing, always on, permissive, immediate, organic, and …fun!

Did I learn anything?

Beyond learning about digital literacy, digital citizenship, content curation, digital storytelling, open education, and beyond developing increased comfort with social media platforms and tools, and beyond creating digital products like Storify, 5 Card Flickr, LipDub, and writing blog posts, ETMOOC taught me about the changing educational landscape. The ground is shifting beneath our feet, and we must begin now to shift with it.



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Digital Literacies

Literacy is a big conversation. As a literacy coach, you’d think I’d be comfortable in it, but that isn’t necessarily the case. For starters, you won’t hear much about the complexity of literacy in the work I do with teachers. The truth is that it is tough to get people to move beyond the fundamentals of reading and writing. I say ‘people’  (meaning adults) because it isn’t just teachers who need to take their heads out of the sand. From senior administrators to parents, some learning about what literacy was and is morphing into must happen. How does the traditional view of literacy fit into the modern classroom? What does it look like? How is it assessed?

As we move to modernize our systems and try to figure out how to use the tools of the transformative learning environment, educators will struggle with all of the explanations and taxonomies presented. This post represents my current thinking on how I can support teachers in their understanding of the transformation from the traditional literacy perspective (reading and writing) to digital literacies as Doug Belshaw envisions them.

How to begin? With backward design, of course. We start where we want to be and plan backwards to where we are.

Let’s start with some definitions of literacy. Then we can have a look at Doug’s thinking about digital literacies.  A subset of digital literacy is web literacy, so we can look at that next because it may provide us with a way to get to digital literacies. And then, I think Silvia Tolisano’s work combining the SAMR model with Alan November’s thinking provides another entry point to digital literacies along side the web literacy standard.

Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society. — UNESCO

The ability to understand and employ printed information in daily activities at home, at work and in the community – to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.” (*Literacy Skills for the Knowledge Society: Further Results from the International Adult Literacy Survey*, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Human Resources Development Canada and the Minister responsible for Statistics Canada, 1997).

The ability to use language and images in rich and varied forms to read, write, listen, speak, view, represent, and think critically about ideas. It enables us to share information, to interact with others, and to make meaning. Literacy is a complex process that involves building on prior knowledge, culture, and
experiences in order to develop new knowledge and deeper understanding. It connects individuals and communities, and is an essential tool for personal growth and active participation in a democratic society.
–Literacy for Learning: The Report of the Expert Panel on Literacy  for Grades 4 to 6 in Ontario (2004)

The last definition moves into more complex territory. Now we have to think critically, share, interact, and connect not just so we may communicate clearly, but because literacy “is an essential tool for personal growth and active participation in a democratic society.”  But this definition reflects 2004, a time pre-iPhones, and iPads, pre-Facebook and Youtube. Can these definitions support the way we can now interact in the world? In what ways does our idea of literacy have to shift?

Let’s have a look at what Doug Belshaw thinks about digital literacy. From his dissertation, What is digital literacy? Doug  outlines eight (8) essential elements of digital literacy:


And from his ETMOOC presentation, here are Doug’s explanations of each of the elements:

  1. Cultural – “The nature of literacy in a culture is repeatedly redefined as the result of technological changes.” Hannon (2000)
  2. Cognitive – “Functional internet literacy is not the ability to use a set of technical tools; rather, it is the ability to use a set of cognitive tools.” Johnson (2008)
  3. Constructive – “[Digital literacy is] the awareness, attitude and ability of individuals to appropriately use digital tools…in order to enable constructive social action.” DigEuLitproject (2006)
  4. Communicative – “Digital literacy must therefore involve a systematic awareness of how digital media are constructed and of the unique ‘rhetorics’ of interactive communication.” Buckingham (2007)
  5. Confident – “Modern society is increasingly looking to [people] who can confidently solve problems and manage their own learning throughout their lives, the very qualities which ICT supremely is able to promote.” OECD (2001)
  6. Creative – “The creative adoption of new technology requires teachers who are willing to take risks…a prescriptive curriculum, routine practices…and a tight target-setting regime, is unlikely to be helpful.” Conlon & Simpson (2003)
  7. Critical – “Once we see that online texts are not exactly written or spoken, we begin to understand that cyber literacy requires a special form of critical thinking. Communication in the online world is not quite like anything else.” Gurak (2001)
  8. Civic – “The ability to understand and make use of ICT-digitalliteracy-is proving essential to employment success, civic participation, accessing entertainment, and education.” Mehlman (2007)
Great. 8 ways to think about digital literacy. How to do this? One way may be to use the grid below from the Mozilla Web Literacies project. Maybe before we can dig into digital literacies, we need to move past being only consumers of the web to makers of the web. If I am exploring, creating, connecting, and protecting on the web, then I have a much better understanding of Doug’s idea of how “Confident” is an element of digital literacy.

Mozilla Web Literacies - Intermediate grid
Silvia Tolisana has created a  way for teachers to think about how to integrate technology in order to create the transformative learning environment that will support the work represented by the  above web literacies grid. Here too, if I can move my practice from Substitution to Redefinition, from printing out digital content to participating in collaborative wikis, then I am more likely to realize how “Constructive” is an element of digital literacies.


We need to be able to move from theory to practice. What are your thoughts and / or ideas about supporting teachers and students as they begin to learn how to be digitally literate?

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Don’t Stop Me Now, I’m having a good time…

This lipdup says it all.  I am having a ball. But that doesn’t mean that it’s been easy. Participating  in ETMOOC is incredibly taxing. Trying to read, comment, post, and create for the mooc while finishing course work for my Masters, and working is not leaving time for much else. What’s worse though is the shift in my thinking about  higher education. Three months out from finishing a graduate degree,  doing that part that is crucial- the research and implementation of the intervention,  is not the best time to be influenced by Alec Couros and Dave Cormier and Alan Levine and Sue Waters and George Couros and Darren Kuropatwa and … not that they are holding me back; it’s just that my engagement level is so high in the etmooc compared to how I am feeling about the graduate work.

And it’s not like I know much about open source learning; it’s that whatever it is I am involved in here is so, so, so good. I feel like a belong. I don’t have to hold back. To the contrary. My fellow etmoocers are all passionate, intense, risk-taking learners.

Imagine working in a building filled with etmoocers.

But that’s not really the point is it?

No. Rather, imagine working (read here getting paid to work) online with etmoocers?

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How metacognitive are you?


“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 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


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

Grades 7 -12

All grades

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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.


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.


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


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


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.


In the sun, the rain, the snow…




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.


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