Another #postvember feat: @bonstewart, contrafabulists, bon iver, the thirsty beaver, and other heavy stuff

  1. Bonnie Stewart showed up on Saturday and seeing her is always invigorating – she is one of our oldest friends and we owe a lot of who we’ve become to her generosity and awesomeness over the years.
  2. She wrote this piece yesterday which is a pretty great read (of course).
  3. Our early morning podcast listening life has now moved on to the contrafabulists – you should check it out if you care at all about educational technology.
  4. Going to see Bon Iver tonight in Charlotte which should be pretty great – I grabbed some extra cash today cause I’m hoping to pick up some vinyl.
  5. Went to the Thirsty Beaver on Saturday night – it is one of the truest forms of what one could call “development activism” I have seen anywhere – if you ever make it to the neighbourhood, you should defo drop in.
  6. Working on a few “fun” projects right now, a defo fave is an entry (or two?) for a GIF competition – you should join in as well :)
  7. This weekend I swear to get back to making activist bracelets – moving, travels, and travel stuff the past couple months has really delayed a lot of stuff I want to keep working on.
  8. Our house really does look great now that all the rooms are almost done – will post pics soon.
  9. In my first #postvember, I talked about how hard it is sometimes to type even a few sentences with what is happening in the world and with yesterday’s shooting in Sutherland Springs it feels much harder now.
  10. For what it’s worth, I think now is EXACTLY the time this country gets “political” about gun regulations and do ANYTHING to at least further limit access to guns – its clearly a really complex situation and would take forever to regulate, but this country really needs to do something.
  11. If you like NYC and calendars, then you should check out my pal’s 2018 NYC calendar.


This, like all the writing I am now embarking on, is a thought draft — a water cooler conversation starter?

Pretty sure most people will read this piece because they have an affinity for some sort of learning in tertiary spaces, or they, like myself, have been mesmerized by the intricate, playful, and honestly brutal performances of Sufjan Stevens, who has a J in his name that sounds like a Y. Either way it is great to have their (or your) attention on either/both fronts. Over the past few days I have participated in the Digital Pedagogy Lab PEI (#DigPed) and a Sufjan Stevens concert (in Chicago) for the first time, so I thought it pertinent to write on both as they are fresh and (in my mind) linked in some way(s). Looking at the pageantry, conversations, and accessibility present in a Sufjan concert reveals a few interesting calls for HigherEd.

During #DigPed, there were two different tracks: one in digital literacy, one in networks. Both tracks explored various themes and ideas around how technology affordances have intrinsically changed learning spaces. If you are part of these conversations for long enough, certain questions repeat and echo themselves, with a central precept present: How can we solve (primarily student centered) problems in education? Although this question is likely never to be answered, the poking and prodding most people in the education sector always creates dazzling conversations and narratives. Throughout #DigPed smart and caring people try their hardest to reason with and develop more the complexities of education.

CONVERSATIONS By no means a Sufjan fan boy, I do admit to being quite familiar with his most recent album, Carrie and Lowell, which is a beautiful, stark, and captivating meditation on the passing of his mother, and step-father. It is an album at once sad but celebratory, with soft volleys of whispy recants of magical imagery and gutsy recollections of love and pain. An album that you need to pay attention to for it subtly pulls apart modern concepts of interaction using poetic turns of phrase for songs that work as potential song cycles. I will not attempt to depict the content of these songs, but it is very safe to say that there are conversations on this album that are both frank and playful. Honest and sad. Folk and experimental. There is a diversity and inclusivity of viewpoints. One is challenged to reanalyze the direction of a song given different turns of phrase. You ultimately feel like you are listening to, and somehow privy to, a conversation of great importance. Sufjan sings to/through/with you somehow.

This is the main context I brought to the live show and while this piece was present there were so many other conversations happening it was even more compelling and engaging than expected. He opened the evening saying “Welcome to the Sufjan Stevens Community hour” and joked about how he had toured the world for over a year singing mostly about death. He acknowledged how some of his artistic/tortured journey had begun in Chicago and how transformative that was. He asked us to send positive vibes to his co-singer/dancer for she had some health issues with her hip. During the concert he continually revealed himself to be someone who was learning from everything he could. He was frank and honest and humble. He made several mistakes, but just kept playing through them. He told us that we’re all going to die. He read a beautiful poem about the impact we can all have (if you’re reading this and know the poem PLEASE share in comments!). He covered Prince’s “Kiss” as his last song because he said every night should end with a kiss. He told us he loved us.

Of course a lot of this may be in service to the spectacle, but that misses the point. There was a clear message throughout the evening: we are all learning together and not one of us was without power. It truly was the Sufjan Stevens Community hour and this is what we need in Higher Ed. We need to analyze where we have come from and as institutions/boards truly assess how we are helping our communities. We need to evoke positive change on our campuses and beyond. We need to have open and honest accountability. We need clear and honest communications about direction. We need to make mistakes and be honest about them. We need to tell each other we love each other more and share in that care.

We need conversations that somehow include all of the voices of our past, present, and hopeful futures.

PAGEANTRY Sufjan’s aesthetic does a lot of reaching through its pageantry. There are overt spiritual references in his music and his live show fully harnesses and expands on spiritual tropes and imagery. In the first song of the set, he and his two female singer/collaborators, wore costumes that transformed them into angels. At other points in the show he stood on a shimmering silver step ladder covered in similar material creating a shining monolith casting light back onto the crowd. At the end of the show he donned a multi-coloured hat and suit made of balloons of varying sizes and shapes. All of these eclectic set and costume pieces were further supported and built on by the accompanying video projections. These projections often included live video outline capture of people on the stage, personal imagery of Sufjan in various video/film formats, and distinct aesthetics for each song. Mixing these elements together really created a sense of immediacy, yet somehow none of it seemed gimmicky — it was tied to the message of the song and accentuated the music. Every song was treated in a unique way and told very different stories. So what has all this to do with Higher Ed?

What if we looked at each of the songs in the set as a course experience for a student? A lot of great work is being done in places in the realm of personalized learning where course experiences are truly centered on individual learning. And we truly need to make learning contexts relevant and unique for students because referring to them in a general sense as a group undermines them all ~ (this idea is from something I’m not properly attributing ATM — if you know what/where it is please add in comments and I’ll add here). We need to find a way to allow our students to, like a song in a Sufjan concert, tell their own stories while contributing to the overall fabric of the whole. We need to find ways to build spaces and environments where our spirits, bodies, and minds are raised together as part of our community. Where we are safe to make mistakes and gain agency from the process.

ACCESSIBILITY DigPed was a truly great event. Over 50 people spent 3 days at the University of Prince Edward Island discussing/workshopping different approaches in education. We used TWITTER as our main conversation space, which was new to some, with an engaged community both in the flesh and virtually. Our little league was so active that we were top trending topic in the area for some time. Wazzah! Most of the conversations I saw/experienced were about finding communities for your professional and personal development. People want to expand their networks so that they can also expand their worldview. regardless of what field people are in. In the two days since, there has already been a few great posts about the event from Brittany Jakubiec Lawrie Phipps @DonnaLanclos Stephanie Loomis with many more to follow for sure.

Perhaps it’s obvious, but this all happened only because of how OPEN we were in our practice. Just a small group of people sharing their work in the open can have huge effects. For me, the main take away was exactly that: Work Open or Close Off. You can try to engage with a bunch of great communities/supports or you can keep your practice regional, and in most cases disappear behind paywalls. Especially in Education, we need to openly share our voice(s) so that we can find those in similar struggles and unite with them in the struggle. Join in by following #OER #OA and #OPENPED (thanks to Robin DeRosa for her inspiring work in this area).

During the last couple of songs, there were 5 huge flailing balloon men that sprang up backstage and blew around with jubilance. They moved about bouncing around off each other. At times they seemed like they were hugging, other times dancing, and sometimes they even seemed to lift each other up off the ground. As silly as these large objects were, there was also a tragedy inherent in their positions: stuck in one place and only able to connect at their extremities. There lot was to be stuck; without movement or the ability to connect with others.

This all hit me very strongly on the field of the Pitchfork Festival as Sufjan sang and danced around openly on stage singing of hope, love, and death ~ no matter what your medium, we need to open up. His field may be large rock venues and as educators ours may be classrooms, but we have the same goal: share what you have learned and be as open as you can about how to make a difference. That is why I felt compelled to publish this post ~ it is time for me to share some of the seemingly disconnected parts of my life in an open space and hope that I can learn something from it. These are just initial thoughts at the beginning of what promises to be a long road at looking at connections between education, music and other art forms/experiences.

FOR THE COMMENTS(?): What are you willing to share to help education? Can your work have greater effect? Why haven’t you already started? Where have you seen Sufjan and what kind of impact did it have on you?

top image:



We five are sitting on the last day of Hybrid Pedagogy Lab PEI during the unconference afternoon session. I am but the scribe of this swirl of ideas voiced in the hope of making sense of the pain we encounter in our varied personal and professional lives. On tap: why don’t people in general understand the value and flow of educational journies.

Blog posts can become conversations. If people respond. Lawrie Phipps had some comments on his blog recently and it shocked him —”Who actually comments on blogs anymore?” he asks. We are sitting at #DigPed PEI discussing annotation and which methods. Scott Robison nods and expresses with his face what we all feel — education is messed right up.

Robin DeRosa is trying to sort out and is concerned about things because she wants to know where the bigger picture work gets done. During a conference, she wants the thought leaders to gather from a variety of industries to gather and get the tough work done.

Lawrie Phipps worries about differentiating between the work self claimed thought leaders and what is actually being done. He takes issue with the noise and sound-bite thought lead-ness of some thought leaders in his beloved UK. These shady figures appear on the keynote circuit and they create an initial buzz, but then fizzle. It reflects poorly on the HigherEd landscape.

How do you differentiate the noise? We need people who want diverse models to structure and design programs. With all of the “awesome” people we have in our lives, how do we get people like Martin Weller to talk to others who want to enact change in higher ed?

There are personal and systemic changents that we share with those around us. How do we shape a more critical systemic group?

#DigPedSystems is what we might need? But Lawrie doesn’t believe that the focus should be on the PED — it should be focused more on the soft skills and “embodiment” as Amy Collier references in her Digital Design work.

We can come to conferences like #DigPed and no matter how oppressed you are can change your individual pedagogies, but systemically you will eventually hit a wall. Our enemies and how we counter them are un-nameable perhaps. Money doesn’t matter. We need to focus on low input high impact projects that affect change and create a need to be fulfilled.

OER may be a way for us to break through some of the barriers. As schools become run more like businesses, the human elements and public service are disappearing. People cannot see the public needs because of the privatization of #HigherEd. Public narratives are fledgling because of education not serving the common good. This lack/abuse of basic literacies have lead to UK being literally torn apart.

We need to find a way to talk to the public about the true possibilities of education.

picking parts & #flexlearning2015


I haven’t been to an #edtech conference in person for a long time. Most of my professional development for the past few years has been through live streaming and/or following twitter chats. Many of these events have been very fulfilling as they offer me new view points and resources to use in my field. They open me up to new people and networks. They expand my view of what education can be. Most weeks I engage in a few streams and/or chats. I find them to be very cost effective ways to keep current with some trends in higher ed and I get introduced to a bunch of diverse people/concepts/approaches.

This was also the case with #flexlearning2015, although unlike the live streams and tweets, I witnessed a lot of the things I’d forgotten about with in person events. A lot of the time people go to these events to be told HOW to do something. From my experience, this usually ends up being a fruitless venture. People go to these workshops, create an account in *new thing* and don’t end up using it much (if at all). We all hear people say “I have an account in *new thing*, but I hardly ever use it. This is what I see as the main problem with this approach to professional development: it is way more complex than just learning/using *new thing*. There has been a sea change occurring in education for some time and it will not be tamed with *new thing*. There may be no way at all of ever taming it. These transformations are what make education what it is – constantly learning new approaches to teaching.

Although I may sound naive here, I truly believe that unpacking the complex issues that orbit the use of technology in the classroom is something that most people don’t do. This is mostly because of resources and exposure. If you have been teaching for many years, you usually just do not have the time to research or engage in contemporary practices. When you have intense professional and personal commitments, adding nuanced pedagogical research to your plate is often impossible. So what do you do? You go to a conference/seminar/workshop on themes that you are expected to work into your practice. And what happens in these spaces is people expect to take a bunch of notes or ‘get their hands dirty’ with this tool or that, return to their jobs, and somehow start incorporating said tool(s) into their practice.

Having used some form of online educational tools for over a decade now, my motto when I consult is that using these tools is akin to playing an instrument. And I have never heard of someone who sat at a piano once every few months and became a decent player. Same with guitar. Or accordion. You cannot become proficient in pretty much anything if you only use it once in a while. Although practice does not necessarily make perfect, it sure can help.

But how do you find the time to practice? If you want to learn how to use *new thing* in your classes or organization, where/how do you do it? You’re looking to go paperless – how do you know which tool to use? Let me assure you, usually a conference is not going to tell you. Conferences are meant as a way to share ideas, projects, and dreams. To connect with people and to help you understand how complex *new thing* or *anything* may be to master. They are usually not meant to teach you how to play guitar, but are more about listening to how the guitar is being played in different contexts. And when you find someone playing the way you picture yourself playing, you start playing more yourself. You start following other people who play. And you do it everyday. Even if its only for five minutes. Take that five minutes every day. Or at least book it into your schedule a few times a week. 

If you do this, you will become much better at *new thing* or *anything* really. When you get better at one *new thing* you will, usually, be able to transfer some of those skills to *some thing*. When you learn guitar, you can move some of those elements to a bass or cello.

What do you think? Does the instrument analogy work for you? Have you ever tried to learn an instrument? Do you think it could be compared to learning new teaching methods? Was the time you put in worth it?

Writing reflection from #rhizo15 & #HPJ101

After years of lurking around various communities, I decided recently to share a lot more of my work and interests with others. As a major lurker in #rhizo14 last year, I decided in March that I was going to do something everyday during the #rhizo15 course, even if it was a series of slides with pretty clusters and nodes and such. Leading up to the course I did a lot of writing in my journal trying to sort out what kinds of things I may be able to contribute. In the first week of the course I even wrote a blog post centred loosely around Learning Subjectives with a hint of Wassily Kandinsky.

As part of #rhizo15, I encountered a lot of fun people and decided that I wanted to start engaging these people in a more frequent and somewhat more formal manner. Somewhere around this time there was a Hybrid Pedagogy call for editors and I thought I should throw down my digital gauntlet(s). And so I did.

From May 12-18 I participated in the #hpj101 pseudo-open online course with 50+ participants who submitted to the Hybrid Pedagogy call. The course consisted of several forum discussions, two live twitter chats (which were awesome!), collaborative editing on two documents, a picture assignment, and a reflection on writing. Essentially HP was trying to get a feel for a group of people who would compliment each other and add some interesting perspectives to the journal. It was a very fun week of sharing and I feel like many things are still sinking in. There are so many awesome people and ideas out there dontcha know?

So there is our preamble-esque thing :)

Inspired by Gregory Zobel openly sharing his writing reflection from #hpj101, I thought I would do the same. So here it is, originally submitted as a Google Doc, with yet another preamble of sorts :)

I find this piece of writing interesting because it started thinking about #rhizo15, but ended up being used in #hpj101. For those of you following along as a rhizo-er, to some extent this piece became an invasive literary piece, interwoven between two simultaneous events which contained many of the same people and ideas. Does this then qualify, to some extent, as a practical artifact for #rhizo15?

~ ~ ~

taken from my moleskine journal – March 30, 2015

began as words to push me to write more, then transformed into a pseudo slam poetry piece that i never thought i’d write

slightly reformatted to read better as a google doc :)

~ ~ ~

write more

and more often

write with

various utensils

write using

many fonts & colours

write on lines

on graphs, on empty spaces

write everyday





write lies, lists, lessons

write feelings, fights, figures

write worlds, wars, wrongs

write songs, sonnets, sonically

write quietly, quickly, quizzically


write until you know that every

possible space inside has been

devoured and explored en route

to the negative and/or positive

spaces created by your writing


write as though you feel that

someone, somewhere, sometime

will read the spaces you’ve made

and will gradually feel as though

something, somehow, sums up

their situational dream-mare


write because you can and

because you should and

because you can’t stand

not doing it anymore


write for the lovers, the

haters, the makers, the breakers,

the thinkers, the fakers,

the players, the teachers,

the doctors, the lawyers,

and the movie stars

and write for the writers


write for you, me, and everybody we

(wish we could) know


write for / about / through /

as / around / after / before / of / on

all of us


write in the sun

write under the moon

write over a table

write until you are beside yourself


write before you fall asleep & you fail to keep

awake forevermore

hoRHIZOntally : Learning Subjectives for #rhizo15

“Every work of art is the child of its age and, in many cases, the mother of our emotions. It follows that each period of culture produces an art of its own which can never be repeated.”

 ~ Wassily Kandinsky, Introduction to “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”

One of the few books that has moved around with me since my under graduate days is “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” (Gutenberg OR Amazon) by Wassily Kandinsky. When I first read it I was a fine art undergraduate living in Montreal surrounded by a great community of artists, many of whom remain my spiritual kin. It was a hugely influential text for me as I attempted to synthesize theorietical and practical courses in painting, writing, filmmaking, drawing, and the philosophy of art. More than any other art book, it has been a reference for me over the years, returning to random passages for inspiration when the need arises.

Since the first time I read it, the Kandinsky quote above has pushed me when I look at art: is it saying something that is not just ‘new’ but is it saying something ‘now’? Does it change the way I feel/perceive ANYthing? One of the fields that does this for me is data visualization. Several years ago I had the opportunity to see David McCandless present some of his data visualizations at a conference. Before going in to see him, I overheard some others at the conference who said he made infographics, so my expectations were very low, but he definitely delivered and the seed for my own explorations in dataviz began.

As an Instructional Designer, I feel that dataviz is hugely important in a lot of what I do. When a subject matter expert comes to me with a bunch of content that is predominantly, but not necessarily, text, I try to “re-format” as much of it as possible to make it easier to read and understand. Or, when doing presentations, I feel that it is essential nowadays to condense as much information in visuals as possible. If a picture once did speak a thousand words, dataviz amplifies that idea x-fold.

Since seeing David McCandless I have been lurking in a bunch of #dataviz communities and look at dozens of examples daily. I have dipped into the field and been happy to find Edward Tufte’s work as well. And a bunch of other stuff.

So. To summarize, my learning subjective(s) for #rhizo15 is to finally create a bunch of dataviz work and see where it takes me. In the first week it has already lead to variations using photo tweaking appsa song and a rhizo-trance video mashup, so thats pretty impressive. And definitely rhizomatic I think.

As we near the end of week one of rhizo15, I am very excited to be spreading out some and hope to start pushing things as well.

~ ~ ~

What data visualizations do you think are good examples in the field? If you’ve had a look at some of my work, where do you think I should go next? Is there anything you’d like visualized that you think I would have fun with?

~ ~ ~


Wassily Kandinsky ~ Squares with Concentric Circles, 1913

Mutiny in the Open – OR – The 5 Stages of Twitter

NB: “Mutiny in the Open” – the title of this post, is taken from one of Bonnie Stewart’s headlines in her post “Twitter for Teachers: an experiment in openness” as this post is meant as a kind of companion piece to hers. (It would be beneficial for you to read her post first or as well)


In mid-August, when tasked with teaching two sections of Ed 474, I was both entirely excited, yet wary: I hadn’t taught in a while and this would be my first time teaching a full semester course based solely on Technologies in Education. My primary focus over the past few years has been giving workshops and consultations to professors in course design and online engagement, so cueing up to teach a course to Bachelor of Education students seemed both exhilarating and daunting.

When hired for the course, I was paired with friend and colleague Bonnie Stewart. She would teach one section, I would teach two. We were asked to give a fairly consistent experience to students in all sections. Our way of doing so meant that we shared the same 12 primary readings, the same assignment structures (weekly Moodle forum posts, tweets, a panel discussion, and a final presentation) and the same hashtag on Twitter: #ed474. It was this last piece that constantly thrilled, frustrated, and exhausted me throughout the course.

How does one use the Twitters?

If you have a look at my Twitter feed, you will see that I am not prolific, at this point, by any means. Over the past 3 years of usage, I would definitely call myself a lurker and occasional contributor. Not to say I don’t use Twitter everyday, because I have and do, I just mostly use it to keep up with the people I find fascinating in education, art, music, literature, and other areas.

I have also been lucky to be included in a lot of engaging get-togethers, online and in person, with people that have embedded Twitter in their lives. So, I thought I had a very good idea of where and how it worked. My ideas of how to model Twitter participation seemed sound. Then the course started and everything went a little pear shaped.

The 5 Stages of Twitter

Within the course, participants were expected to tweet at least 4 times a week, with an initial tweet summating their Moodle post, and 3 other tweets either addressing classmates or others using the #ed474 hashtag. I had never done anything like this before and, although we went over several pieces before and during the course, what ensued was quite interesting. Over the 9 weeks I saw many of my students transform their opinions about Twitter and its affordances, and through these moments I have loosely defined what I see as 5 stages of Twitter. What follows is a brief explanation of what these stages are, paired with a few factual examples from moments with my class.

To begin I would say safely that at least 10-15% of my students were already Twitter users of some type, but I think none of them really understood its full capabilities for networked learning or participatory education.

I. Reluctance

Self explanatory – for a variety of reasons, participants REALLY DO NOT want to use Twitter. There were many knee jerk reactions to tweeting – “Tweet this” and such, and early on many participants derailed the idea. A variety of reasons presented themselves in this sphere, although I would say safely that the primary issue was about safety and digital identity. More often than not, I heard people say they didn’t feel comfortable posting things publicly or were concerned that their tweets (or accounts) could be trawled and exploited. Basically, the concept of learning in the open had no capital for them. Despite the modelling, readings, and sharing, they just wouldn’t come out of their eggs (not literally – I made sure everyone hatched in the first week) and try learning in the open.

After some modelling in class and through the first week of class, many of these issues dropped and participants carved out a way they felt comfortable with. Some others grudgingly continued on and ended the course in this phase. They did the bare minimum for the course and treated Twitter like a plug board for accomplishments. Its doubtful to me that these users will continue on with their accounts. A few have already cancelled theirs.

Some reluctant users even turned to derision of the concept of tweeting, but mostly when reminded by the almighty syllabus, they came along as it was a vital part of their mark. There was also a concern about why we had to use Twitter at all. There was a very powerful moment in class where someone stated that they felt they were being forced to use Twitter as a tool, to which we all agreed – Don’t we always force some type of tool usage in classrooms? Doesn’t every tool have different affordances?

II. Confusion

I think I would say that this is where most users stayed for part of the course. People had issues with following/controlling/managing their feed. One of the main questions that kept arising was: How do I follow it all? No matter how many times we went over this question, or what kind of modelling happened, people were overwhelmed.

To be honest, there were moments when I was overwhelmed as well. With roughly 70 students tweeting at all hours of the day, it was hard to keep up with who had said what and when. It was very interesting as I often engaged people in Bonnie’s section, and she mine. #ed474 became a space where we had created an open discussion with not only our students, but other people from all over the world. It was confusing, and at points rough, but at the end of the course a majority of the students were not confused. Not to say that moving up meant they liked it or will continue to use it, but they at least see its relevance.

III. Awareness

“Ahhhh…I get it.” The first time I heard this out loud in class was week 3. I had told everyone to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) as we would be live tweeting in class. With the stream flowing behind me and members of class engaging each other as I talked, the real time piece hooked several people in. Whereas before they had been engaged in asynchronous conversations, they finally saw directly into the Twitterverse and one of its strongest points: the live forum!

This was supported when, each week, I promoted live Twitter talks with different hashtags (#PTchat #satchat, etc) that afforded them glimpses into communities with similar interests and goals. Our classes continued to have the live Tweets every week and often people outside class would jump into conversations allowing for ever expanding discussions.

If I could have done it over again I would have modelled this from day one and set up a special hashtag and treated it like an office hour or the like. This would have given them an immediate live environment to see how complex and wonderful Twitter can be with live events.

IV. Acceptance

My guess would be that at least half of us came away from this course accepting the affordances and opportunities of Twitter. What that half will end up doing with it is anyone’s guess. Both sections I taught were Pre-Service teachers with half specialized in early/intermediate years and the other in secondary. With a handful of panel discussions and presentations based on the many uses of Twitter, by the end of course there was little denying its possibilities. Some participants were talking about how they plan to use it in their practicums and future classrooms. Some had started using it for professional development. Most came away from the course with a real feel for what is possible, regardless of what they do with it in the future.

My takeaway here: It was tough to get this far in the 9 weeks. Networked learning doesn’t happen overnight and the “how to” of Twitter is not even close to being a manual of success for engagement. Its a very personal road, and one that is tough to lead down when you yourself have mostly lurked.

V. Engagement (Enthusiasm)

This would be the hardest one to really gauge, although there were some really clear “wins” with some of my students. A few students engaged and entered conversations with some of the authors of articles on our course. Others engaged in discussion with learning networks that they’d never known existed. Yet others were happy that they were retweeted by local celebrities.

The main point here is that they not only felt engaged, but were engaging others in the open.

And then what happened?

The nature and structure of ED 474 (especially the Twitter element) made it a very challenging course to both participate in and facilitate.

While many students walked away with a clear roadmap for how, when, and why to participate (with enthusiasm!), there were still a number who never left reluctance. This is such a strange point. How often in any class does everyone walk away feeling successful? As educators, don’t we always feel like there’s something “better” we could have done for our learners? As learners, how many courses have we been in that we felt the immediate (if ever) impact of?

A lot of the discussion around technology in education is very binary in this way: is tech better than traditional means? Does Twitter work better than ultra-short fiction as an assignment? Through using Twitter I felt that many participants were able to better break down these binary discussions (even if it took more than half the course to do so) and I am sure they are the better for it. In the last few weeks our #ed474 stream showed more and more students challenging this binary approach and offering more complimentary solutions over either/or conversations.

Personally, there were moments when I felt challenged as I’d never been before. Sometimes when I went into the open, I was greeted respectfully and with constructive comments, while others made me feel very vulnerable. The conventional power structures in a class dissolve when you’re in the open. You’re part of a collective. There are players in that collective who like to play power by assuming certain positions at moments that benefit them and you have to be aware of that. It can be a very delicate place to be and not one that is always comfortable. I felt challenged and those challenges led to a lot of growth. My belief is that since I was always very open and fair with my classes, they felt the necessity of being the same. We shared a community. Even if for a short window.

Of great importance is that I got to know the students in ways that I never have before. It was ultimately a very intense and informative experience for me. With these people I watched “Fearless Felix” diving from space, attacks on American embassies, Hurricane Sandy fallout, the American elections, and many other events. We were often online sharing our thoughts on ideas outside #ed474 and the context of our class. Then there were nights when we commented on Louis C.K.’s SNL pieces and other light-hearted moments. Quite a spectrum for a course on Technology in Education.

During the last week of the course, we decided to come up with a new hashtag so that the cohorts can stay in touch through Twitter in the future. We decided on: #edt13. With this hashtag, the sections move out together having braved the 5 Stages together. There is a value they have invested in moving forward with a shared calling card.

If nothing else, at least this group has a way of staying connected with each other, no matter where their learning futures bring them. And for my part, I have a way of staying in touch with people that brought me through a process I found both exciting, and scary.

It was also, at a lot of points, a whole lot of fun.