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.



1 Comment

Filed under ETMOOC

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?

Leave a comment

Filed under ETMOOC

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?

Leave a comment

Filed under ETMOOC

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

Leave a comment

Filed under ETMOOC