Category Archives: Open Education

fedwiki proposal to opened15

March’s Teaching Machine Happening led to some Hangouts and discussions with Mike C, Ward and a small group of participants. Encouraging. Those discussions led me to submitting a proposal to the OpenEd Conference, 2015. With mine , I’m following Mike Caulfield’s lead, but focusing on composing strategies. Alyson Indrunas also submitted, more on the lines of assessment.

Writing Strategies in a Federated Wiki Class

A commonplace in writing instruction says that the tool changes the process in noteworthy ways. Users have to learn how to operate the new writing tool. But they also have to adapt and devise writing strategies to suit the affordances and constraints of the tool as well as the social interactions the new tool creates. Users of the first wikis developed ThreadMode and DocumentMode as one strategy for organizing their collective work. Federated Wiki, now in development, makes similar demands on users to adapt and develop strategies for collective writing.

This presentation takes a first look at some of the writing strategies participants used in the Teaching Machines Happening. The aim is to get a sense of the issues for teaching new and alternative strategies for collective composing this new writing space.

Abstract: A first look at writing strategies in FedWiki.

I made it simple, with an eye to keeping the pretension down. And although I submitted it as a standard presentation (25 mins), I’m hoping that they’ll schedule it with Mike’s presentation.

Update 18 May 2015. My proposal wasn’t accepted, but I’m assuming Mike’s was and will still be attending in November. 

does the team cMOOC? from june, 2011

I discovered this un-posted set of notes while clearing out an old set of nvALT files. It was an innocent time, that summer of ’11, just before xMOOCs drove their railroad through our pastoral cMOOC glen. The MOOCs refereed to in the post are all cMOOCs: MOOCs that enact a constructivist pedagogy. I’ve changed my references to MOOCs to cMOOCs to keep things up  to date. But the posters are all referring to cMOOCs.

Does the team cMOOC?

When I need to learn something on my own, I put on my darkest shades and sit lotus-fashion until l fall over out of hunger. I don’t confuse my mind with anything beyond my navel.

I have a couple of projects to get back to and move along but for the last day or so, I’ve been having a blast looking at the cMOOC debate on preparedness, connectivism, and epistemology.

Here’s the Wiley post that Siemens is responding to.

I am cited as being the dissenting voice in the current, broad-based love affair with MOOCs. … So, for some reason I’m not fully certain of, I feel the need to set the record straight.

’I was mis-represented!” and it’s clear he was the dismissive voice. So Wiley reviews his position on the application of MOOCs.

Now turn to (the Siemens blog post](

Succinct: “the fact that people don’t have the skills to participate in distributed networks for learning and sensemaking is exactly why we need MOOCs.”


The problem David sees is the solution I envision. This has been a sore spot for participants in each of our CCK courses. When the course begins, we inform learners that the process of clarifying confusion and disorientation – sensemaking and wayfinding in complex settings – is the learning. Grappling with pieces that don’t connect and finding a way to connect them is what the course is all about. In the process, learners may move toward a target where knowledge is defined and educators know what learners need to know or they may move more informally in directions that interest them without a goal of accreditation. Many (no idea if it’s most or not) learners that continue in the MOOC seem to settle into the flow of the course and begin to connect pieces. They don’t do this in isolation, however. We have high levels of support in terms of weekly live sessions, Twitter/blogs/The Daily, peer support, and in the learning analytics course we did in January, Dave Cormier started offering a “learner concierge” forum where irritated and confused learners could go with the expectation of getting help.

And let’s get this straight:

With my involvement with MOOCs, I’m not stating “I have found the answer, follow me!”. Instead, I’m stating “I’m experimenting, join in”.”


The concepts we’re exploring with MOOCs – distributed teaching, sub-networks, peer teaching, learner content creation, social networks, new methods of aggregating information, local institution accreditation – are important in reframing the higher education system of the future. MOOCs may or may not have a future. But the ideas we’re playing with and trying to understand will be foundational in any education system in a technology-infused world.”

And for massiveness:

Sub-networks and learner-defined spaces of interaction are a function of the number of participants. If we only had 25 participants, activities and sub-networks wouldn’t make much sense. We need a level of “learner density” in order for the innovation to develop that we’ve witnessed in previous courses.”

And some notes from the comments.


simply lecturing in a webinar is not really teaching – even though this can be a good point of contact for learners.

[Looking back, that foreshadowd the development of xMOOCs, webinars on sticks.]

The comments move into the status of connectivisim: What is it? A phenomenon? theory? movement?

So is there any productive place for cMOOCs?


Yes, absolutely. Technologically savvy, academically well-prepared people will likely benefit greatly from participating in MOOCs. And I see no problem with the rich getting richer when the world is not zero sum, and those gains don’t come at the expense of others. However, should we start to focus on MOOCs as an answer to large-scale, broader problems in education, we will do so at the expense of the less well prepared – exactly the people many of us in open education are interested in helping.”

This position (“the rich get richer” are fighting words – all gains come at the expense of others) kicks off the comments.

From Keith Hamon, who seems to be reading Bartholomae and Berlin at the moment,

I challenge him to give me an example of a class that does not favor the sufficiently prepared learner. One of the commonplace complaints of teachers at any level from kindergarten to graduate school is that their students were not adequately prepared by some earlier teachers for the current coursework. Well, of course MOOCs favor sufficiently prepared learners. All classes favor sufficiently prepared learners.

But the issue I would take is more like that of Siemens: It ain’t about getting rich, but richer. That is, even the academically remedial may well be able to take something away from a cMOOC – and contribute to it. If nothing else, becoming a little less remedial. (Yeesh, this ghettoizing language is annoying.)

And and and it seems that the thing that makes a cMOOC untenable for the dummies is “lack of structure.” Not sure what he’s referring to their. Might use a face to face tutor to create a structure for a remedial learner: bring in a curator.

Students in spring’s Weblogs and Wikis reported the cMOOC moves I introduced in the course were difficult – but that’s because they were new (we’re all remedial) but if students started this way of learning earlier in their academic careers, it could be really powerful.

At issue: What does it mean to be prepared – and that’s at issue for a number of reasons, including that of colonialization addressed by Wiley

By “well prepared,” I mean someone who has had the necessary prerequisite learning experiences and who has succeeded in those experiences. A person who is well prepared is ready for the current learning experience in terms of prerequisite knowledge and skills.

Wiley falls back on the general lack of academic preparedness (Where? US? numbers please, or a link) as witnessed by the “Hence the huge rise in remedial courses (e.g., in reading and mathematics) in high schools, community and technical colleges, and universities. ” OK: confusing academic preparedness with reading and math – and still not providing numbers or seeing that the rise has been there for effing ever.

A little backhander from Wiley as he tries to move the debate back to the academic turn:

I’m sure I’ll use the connectivism technical jargon incorrectly, but perhaps we might say that a prepared person is someone whose personal knowledge network shares a large number of nodes with the knowledge network made available through the MOOC.

Connectivism – the uppitly little sprite! – uses jargon. True Academic Study (Spoiler: Vygotsky is going to come up) has technical terms, like this: “operationally defining the ZPD is the degree of node overlap between a person’s knowledge network and the knowledge network they’re trying to assimilate with the help of the MOOC.”

A point to concede is Wiley’s response to Siemens’s claim that “When the course begins, we inform learners that the process of clarifying confusion and disorientation – sensemaking and wayfinding in complex settings – is the learning.”

Learning to work your way out of confusion and disorientation can be a technology problem, as it was for LMSs with poor user interfaces. And better LMSs, combined with an increased amount of exposure to online systems, can significantly decrease that problem. However, when the problem is a lack of sufficient relevant prior knowledge, and this lack is what impedes a person from being able to orient themselves and way-find or sense-make, you don’t fix that problem with better user interfaces.

But that isn’t what Siemens is referring to – not as I read it. Learning to organize stuff on a cMOOC can be defined as a technical issue – and perhaps it is at time – but it’s also a cognitive / ontological / rhetorical / semiotic issue – and that’s where the learning takes place. Want to investigate that? Move a day’s collection of stuff to a more remedial-friendly mode (paper, or for the really lame, speech!) and have people work in that mode. See what happens.

Again, points taken when Wiley brings ZPDs into play with

People who aren’t sufficiently prepared (and I continue to believe that’s most people on the planet for most subjects) are clearly outside the realm of what they can learn themselves…

[But most of the world is not autodidactic, as drop rates in xMOOCs demonstrates. xMOOCs don’t provide scaffolding.]

Vygotsky himself clearly states that this help can come from more capable peers. So, doesn’t that mean that MOOCs can succeed in supporting learning, at least theoretically?

Yes, MOOC-like networks can support learning when a few conditions are met. (1) There must be a sufficient percentage of learners who already understand the domain sufficiently well to answer other learners’ questions, and (2) there must be a sufficient percentage of this sub-group of learners who have the time and the willingness to answer questions in the MOOC. “Sufficient” in these conditions is a relative statement comparing the number of questions that will need to be answered with the number of qualified willing volunteers.

And so the cMOOC is a case of COIK

The problem? MOOC-like courses only support student learning if most of the people in the course already know the material. This is another, perhaps clearer, way of stating my original objection that George responded to in his post.

The assumption is that everybody is underprepared – so, a simulation is called for. Might be worth a look (Wiley why not lay it out in language. Make me understand whether running a sim is worth it). but Wiley’s assumptions are wrong from the start.

Knowledge in a cMOOC (and perhaps all knowledge worth having) is bootstrapped by learners – which might be the same in all courses. [Can’t say that about xMOOCs, where knowledge is always already a commodity.]

What’s coming clear are the pedagogical / ideological isoglosses: those lines of contention as to the value of a MOOC, and those assumptions behind the design and engagement in a cMOOC.

Comments? Keith Harmon via Dave Courmier’s blog

hint of essentialist epistemology that I sense in his argument. For me, Wiley is working out of the assumption that knowledge is a collection of nuggets that a teacher can transfer from herself to her students. I find this reductionism untenable. To my mind, knowledge is always a function of dynamic, complex networks, forged through the interactions of individuals with their discourse communities and their worlds. Knowledge is a fluid pattern that emerges through the dance we have with others and with the universe. It is not a chunk of information that a teacher writes on the blackboard for the students to write in their notebooks.

So,the last word to Courmier, who articulates what I’ve been seeing in MOOCs I’ve been in, and points to actually testing the ideas this fall.

I don’t think that the MOOC favours “sufficiently prepared” learners. It actually really irritates and confuses lots and lots of people who are considered VERY prepared learners. And, well, i guess I’ll find out how that works out when we do our “MOOC on Basic Skills for university” in the fall. It’s specifically intended for the people I think David is talking about. Success in a university is partially about knowing what some things mean (see the videos we’re making). They need to know what a syllabus is, what a professor is, what social contract they are getting into. But the path of their success is something that will be very individualized. I can’t tell 30 people, at one time, what is going to make them the most successful. There are broad generalizations that are helpful… going to class is better than not going to class… but they really need to find their own strategy.

As a side note: Comp-Rhet people have been addressing the preparedness-remedial crap … landgrab colonialization BW debate for over 40 years. Start with Mina Shaugnessesy, then Coles, Mike Rose, Bartholomae, and Berlin. We’re also taking up the issue in literacy issues – because from one angle learning on a cMOOC is learning the literacy of the mass and the groups you’re learning in – and that learning has to be bootstrapped: you can’t learn the local literacy before you jump in the pool. drink from the fire hose.

Hopefully not going too pastoral on you, I’d place moving into a cMOOC on par with entering university for the first time: new circle, new sense of what’s valued and how, new habits of mind and practice, new epistemic roots.

And if you have questions, talk to Keith.

notes on designing a future of academic programs

Note to: BSU Future Academic Programs Workgroup
Re: Reframing the brief

Think of the charge of coming up with ideas for future programs as a design problem. It’s not a matter of refining already established traditions and practices, but of inventing new conventions. We are being asked to invent new conventions.

We can think of new approaches to academic programs by reframing familiar learning and teaching activities, such as rethinking the context in which they can be performed  – Eg: Not in a classroom. Not in a 2 or 3 day a week set of meetings. Not even necessarily replacing face to face interaction with a video link or Skype.

Reframing practices teaching means rethinking assessment. This means setting aside current best practices which are based on traditional conventions that need reframing. This means not assessing course design and course practices using criteria tailored for traditional courses – Eg: quality management; the quality management rubric presumes that e-course proceed by digital analogues of traditional f2f course practices.

Our response to Pres Hanson’s brief to think about where we are going oughtn’t be a response to customer demand. Consider the apocryphal story of Henry Ford inventing the automobile. If he had asked customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse. According to MnSCU and the dominant local ideology, our customers want cheaper and more convenient access to what already exists: faster horses, rather than re-conceptualizimg what we’re doing. MnSCU isn’t focused on what else might be possible. Cheaper access is not a matter of closing off buildings but a matter of getting the state to fund education properly. Our role as a workgroup is to develop a response grounded in pedagogy and new ways and means of learning, not just addressing new situations but creating new situations for learning.

By reframing and inventing new conventions, we set the stage for a new market.

A few examples, with a focus on what it can mean for students and faculty and support.

Reframing at a technical level
For example, open source.

Open source reframes the LMS to something like Moodle, wikis, weblogs, developing personal learning environments. Open sources not a matter of being less expensive but a matter of reframing and redefining the student-teacher-knowledge relationships.

Open source reframes the role of tech support – but that creates opportunities for internships working along side an expanded IT-faculty-design group. Current tech support is modeled on Appliance Repair silos rather than a model of collaborative or collective work.

Open source enacts a fundamental design principle: keep designs platform-agnostic to keep delivery flexible. That flexibility can be used in teaching.

Open source reframes the role of the teacher towards the curator. It reframes the role of the teaching intern and student TA. We will have to and can set up a new support system for those TAs: They have to be more savvy to support teaching in this framework.

Open source changes the context (social, rhetorical, pedagogical) in which students learn, and the practices they take on in that context. The space learning becomes more public if not completely open. That’s going to require some changes in FERPA or permissions from students.

Open source can change what BSU will be valued for.

Reframe at a social level
For example, English Dept curriculum.

MnSCU et al are asking us to connect curriculum with work and employment – a social connection.

To reframe the social level means, for instance, re-creating curriculum not strictly along lines of disciplines but other lines. Creative and Professional Writing can be reframed as Creativity running across contexts and disciplines. Creativity in lit crit, teaching, poetry, tech writing all together. Couple this with Lib Ed courses (Lib Ed as a grounding) from psychology, philosophy, and others focused on creativity.

Reframing on the social level changes how we position the vocational-technical. We can reframe a study of creative arts (writing, professional writing, lit crit, teaching) as a social vocation rather than a personal mission.

The BA and MA in English can be reframed as vocational scholarship (BA) and professional scholarship (MA). Courses would connect theory with extra-scholarly practices: vocational practices based on scholarly principles.  One model is Weblogs and Wikis. But others are massive open online courses, personal learning environments.

This is to bracket the desire of students for a bigger, faster horse of their own. To address that, reframe marketing.

Reframing marketing

Reframing at social level can drive how BSU and the curriculum are marketed. The marketing tail is wagging the curricular dog, and marketing has been taking its signal from focus groups: customers who want a faster horse in new packaging.

Reframing on the social level means marketing BSU not as The Lake but designing a physical campus infused with sites to study, read, talk, work. Coffee shops, street cafes. This requires actually creating these spaces. BSU and Bemidji doesn’t have them yet.

Reframing at a social level means getting off campus to public spaces, creating a distributed campus (town and gown): Cantabria study space, Lake side visual art space, Pine Ridge welding space, Harmony Co-Op digital hub and editing space, BCAC Skype space. These spaces would not be refinements of existing spaces but re-framed spaces, unlike those we’re familiar with. They wouldn’t be teaching spaces but spaces where students meet and work – with occasional guidance of faculty-tutor. MnSCU is not thinking this way when they talk about moving the classroom to the mall. They are still thinking about a cheaper horse.

Reframe learning
Reframing learning recasts the role of the teacher and student, the practices of learning, student success and support, teaching assistantships and student internships.

Reframed learning practices draw on both scholarly and vocational practices that can be connected tightly to curriculum. For both, the reframe heuristic can be aggregate, annotate, remix, repurpose. The practices of Picasso and Henry Ford, Agassize and Plato fit this frame. It’s what the scholar does. It’s what the artist does. It’s what the technical specialist does.

Reframing learning means that students will need a new kind of support for a new set of skills and competencies in the university classroom, and before they get to the university classroom. We would need to define what’s expected of them, and they would need to be aware of what’s demanded of them and willing to prepare for it. Advising and support services would need reframing that places them less as a customer service agency and more of an innovator-in-waiting.

Reframing learning means faculty take on a role as curators. They guide consumption and practices: “This content can be read in short bursts, but this other project is going to require a three hour uninterrupted session.” “This project means you’ll need to live in your studio for the next two weeks…” Access to texts, videos, scholarly vocational tools (the OED, lathes, 3D printers, Google Scholar) and spaces (studios, theater spaces, gallery spaces, libraries, labs) is partly there but mostly not. Some of curatorial practices are already in the curriculum and practiced on campus: labs, shops, student studios, student offices. But many reframed practices are yet to be realized in tight connection with curriculum.

Changing the academic ground is going to demand as much or more of students than it does of faculty. Again, this is where reframing departs from MnSCU’s notion of education. Reform doesn’t mean more convenient access to the same but a change in what’s being accessed.

On reading Janet Murray, Inventing the Medium, Benjamin, The Arcades Project, and Alexander et al, A Pattern Language.

eduMOOC: (maybe) Online Learning Today… #eduMOOC

Gigi and Vivienne at Beaver Auction

eduMOOC is going to be one big MOOC. Looks like press The Chronicle brought in a new wave of registrants:

eduMOOC: Online Learning Today… and Tomorrow: “Enrollment Update! We are elated to see enormous interest in this topic!  Since the Monday morning announcement of the MOOC, we  have  enrolled more than 1,300 participants from more than three dozen countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas; still no one has identified as themselves from Antarctica, but we remain hopeful!  Those participating are from colleges, universities, community colleges, libraries, school systems, educational association, and many other entities. The Chronicle of Higher Education Wired Campus Blog has noted this MOOC, asking the question: What happens when you invite the whole world to join an online class? This is going to be a grand MOOC that will only improve with an expanded diversity of views and perspectives from around the world.  “

I’m not quite sure what the plans are letting the participants distribute themselves, or how the admins are going to handle that. As of today, the course looks more like a series of weekly presentations and sets of readings with a Google Groups discussion at a meeting-place center rather than a distributed array of interests and participants. No aggregator that I have spotted yet. A twitter hashtag of #eduMOOC, but no mention yet of how or why the MOOC would use it.

I come to the course with pedagogical baggage – not as much as some, but baggage all the same. I have a sense of what a MOOC (as a PLE) can be from #PLENK2010 and Weblogs and Wikis this last semester, and I’m hoping for that kind of distributed activity rather than the centralized discussions the plans seem to suggest. I’m not sure I’m really interested in hearing the same old arguments re-hashed on discussion boards. I want to see the administrators who registered for the course engage it by creating a graphic storyboard in response to a collection of readings; or see what the librarians on the course could come up with by way of ontologies, or plans for how a library might support a mobile MOOC. I want see participants create content that we can respond to, not have Yet Another Discussion.

And there’s this from the Chronicle blurb:

Siemens welcomed the growing interest from traditional universities. And he countered the more skeptical take offered by another open-education leader, David Wiley, who wrote recently that “MOOCs and their like are not the answer to higher-education’s problems.”

Um, I’ve never heard anyone in the know claim that MOOCs were an answer to higher ed problems (begging the question, there). In fact, I recall (I’ll find it somewhere) Downes denying that they are intended to be. They are an option in learning, as Siemens is pointing out.

This could be interesting. Or there could be tears before bedtime.


summer to do #1: (m)OOC Proposal

Sumer is ycumen in, lhude sing cucu.

I’m heartened by how Weblogs and Wikis is going and can see moving further – especially given the local climate change (BSU President Wraps Cuts in “Recalibration,” Promotes New Modalities. BSU Drops 15+ Faculty in a Weekend. Departments Cut Programs to the Bone – and Deeper. Campus Brain Drain Begins as Recent Hires Flee. Campus Responds to Tsunami with a Shrug.) Yhe time is ripe for revolution: mOOCs, PLEs, and OER.

Looking outside of the local climate:

That last one’s a little tame, but I’ve always like Brown.

My proposal for the University: One or more courses – ENGL 2152 (A&E)? Tech Writing? Web Content Writing, even E-Rhetoric – open to 100+ students as a MOOC/PLE. One course a semester. Just designing and proposing the course is enough for the spring and summer. We would easily get 100+ students in Tech Writing and A&E.

Proposing a (m)OOC for either of these would get campus blood boiling because of how it would have to address The Usual Suspects of sentence-level concerns (It Can’t be Done!) and Quality Control. The university would have to work hard to get (m)OOC-level enrollment in WCW or E-Rhetoric: we would have to promote it out of state, out of system, and online in general. Tears before bedtime for Marketing, as they would loose control of how the courses would be promoted.

That’s invigorating.

Loudly sing cuckoo.

wpa conference proposal accepted

Looks like we’re on for the WPA Conference this July – thanks to Joe Moxley who came up with the idea, and to Matt Barton who rounded out the third perspective.

Panel Presentation Intellectual Freedom, Writing Programs and Open Textbooks

This panel is for WPAs and faculty who wish to learn more about the Free Textbook Movement. For WPAs facing adoption decisions, we discuss the viablity of online textbooks and the value of community-authored courseware. For WPAs and prospective authors, we explore the benefits of community platforms (Connexions) and open-source authoring tools (Joomla, WordPress, Open Media Wiki).

Proposal description Moxley will begin the panel by addressing the questions WPAs and writing faculty have about the FreeTextbook Movement: What meaningful alternatives do WPAs have to expensive, commercial writing textbooks? What criteria should be used to evaluate online books (stability, web design, peer review, writing tools, and social media features). Who benefits when WPAs engage faculty in collaborative efforts to develop instructional materials? What open source tools or collaborative textbook platforms are available for would-be textbook authors? Moxley will argue that writing teachers and writing programs should consider the possibility of developing their own textbooks/courseware. He will draw on his experience developing (Joomla) and (Sharepoint) to inform his analysis of the pros and cons of developing on collaboration platforms that are emerging (Rice’s Connexions,” Wikipeida’s Wikibooks) or personal websites using tools such as Joomla.

M C Morgan will report on embedding a writing handbook directly into a course wiki at In this instance of a freetext, the handbook is composed and revised in the same writing space used for instruction and student writing. Issues for writing faculty include refactoring pages initially written for another purpose into handbook pages; adapting student observation and advice into handbook pages; linking to and from student content pages; incorporating traditional wiki guide pages (StyleGuide, GettingStarted); and using and evaluating the handbook.

Matt Barton will then discuss his five-year effort trying to develop The Rhetoric and Composition Wikibook, a free alternative to commercial textbooks for first-year composition. Although such efforts are highly popular among students and potentially administrators, faculty tend to be less receptive. The problems are naturally the lack of funding. This presentation explores the possibilities for grant funding, particularly at schools that serve under-privileged students.

Joe Moxley, “If Textbooks are History, What’s the Future? CollegeWriting.Org”, University of South Florida
M C Morgan, “A Freetext Writing Handbook”, Bemidji State University,
Matt Barton, “Wikis as Public Works: The Rhetoric & Composition Wikibook.”

I’m going by Amtrak, but that’s a different story.