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Archive for the ‘Etmooc’ Category

Friends Who Have Never Met

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My first digital story, created for #etmooc in tribute to #educoach: Friends Who Have Never Met

When I was a child, I dreamed of becoming a novelist. I wrote short stories, poetry, and even a  children’s book. I played with words, wondered about adjectives, and imagined characters, plots, and settings. I lived in the universe of story.

My father encouraged me both to write and to come up with a “Plan B”. “Novelists,” he shared, “can rarely support themselves.” I considered becoming a journalist, even began my studies in journalism. And yet, somehow journalism didn’t quite work for me. Reporting on events others impacted was interesting, yet not how I wanted to spend my career.  Joyfully, I found my way to education, a place in which the stories are real and the stars are the students whose learning and life journeys we have the privilege to impact, support, influence, and perhaps even inspire. My work became engagement in the present and my stories faded to the background.

Signing up for #etmooc, a learning experience that for me feels like something between an on-line course and a network of learners exploring areas of interest, awakened my interest in story. We were asked to experiment with digital storytelling. I was nervous. While expressing myself in words flows for me, naturally utilizing a skill set developed honestly through hours upon hours of creative writing from the age of seven, I’ve never been particularly capable expressing myself visually.A snow day gave me the gift of time I needed. I turned to the #etmooc provided resources, sifting through. There were numerous project options touching on different skill-sets: defining and collecting, animating, creating, composing, visualizing, remixing, collaborating, and playing. Not surprisingly, the most compelling activity for me involved creating:

I dutifully reviewed Alan Levine’s excellent resources, tutorials, and examples. I followed his three step guide.

  1. Outline a Story Idea (He advised that for the purposes of this workshop, you need to think of a rather short concept that can use perhaps 4-8 images, text, maybe audio or music to bring a story to life on the web.)
  2. Find Some Media 
  3. Pick a Tool and Build Your Story 

And off I went, creating my first digital story ever. It is a rather straight-forward autobiographical tale, created in several hours on a snow day. I was quite nervous, yet persevered, had fun, and emerged intrigued by the potential of digital storytelling.

Global Conversations

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Collage of presenters at CO13: Connecting Online for Instruction and Learning Conference

Today was my two year anniversary on twitter and I was serendipitously honored to celebrate by presenting a course on Learning and Leading in Online Community about my work with YU2.0 for  the Connecting Online for Instruction and Learning Conference (co13). Learners included a lecturer at Wroclaw University of Technology in Poland, a teacher and researcher in Romania, an ESL teacher in Italy and an ESL teacher in the Philippines, a psychology teacher in Puerto Rico, a dance teacher in Massachusetts, an English teacher in Egypt, as well as learners in Nigeria, Argentina, England, Sweden, India, Senegal, and Australia. We joined together to discuss our learning and leadership in online community in a conversation I would not have dreamed possible two years ago when I tentatively ventured into the world of Professional Learning Networks (PLN’s) and online collaboration and engagement. 

I joined the conference as a learner with excitement, and as a teacher with humility, recognizing I would be speaking with individuals who have tremendous knowledge and experience. Through both the session I taught, or more aptly facilitated, and the sessions in which I participated as a learner, one primary big idea emerged for me – an idea which has similarly emerged for me in my current learning as part of #etmooc, a mooc (massive open online course) on educational technology and media. We must as professional learners own and personalize our learning. We must accept the role as “stars” of our own learning journey; just as we must, as educators, strive to empower our students to be the stars of their own learning journeys.

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Participant driven professional learning, and student-centered learning in schools represent a seemingly subtle, yet profound shift in learning today. There are no recipes, no clear paths, and no right or wrong ways to learn. There are possibilities and potential, actualized when we set our own learning goals, find guides to help us reach those goals, and remain open to shifts in the journey in directions we never imagined possible.

Two years ago I couldn’t imagine connecting in real time with educators from six of the seven continents (nobody participated in the session today from Antarctica, but you never know). I couldn’t imagine unconferences like edcamp in which experts and keynotes are eschewed and learners relish in learning with one another. I couldn’t imagine creating collaboratively with strangers who although we’ve never actually met, have become friends.

Who is Wise?

Ben Zoma says:
Who is wise?
The one who learns from every person…
Who is brave?
The one who subdues his negative inclination…
Who is rich?
The one who is appreciates what he has…
Who is honored?
The one who gives honor to others…
(Talmud – Avot 4:1)

Sometimes ancient wisdom becomes new again.

Although blessed with an alphabet soup of degrees – BA, MA, M.Phil, Rabbinic Ordination, and Ph.D – along with years of experience, there came a point several years ago that I found myself painfully unprepared for the demands of contemporary educational leadership: higher standards, fewer resources, new technologies, and a rapidly changing world to which to adapt. It’s not that I wasn’t trying. Indeed, I was in process of implementing a strategic plan more ambitious than any of us initially involved in drafting it had understood. At heart, the plan was reaching at a notion we could not yet clearly articulate – a paradigm shift from a focus on what is taught to evidence of what is learned. We were becoming a truly student-centered school, although we didn’t yet know it.

Image from Tony Gurr, and Tom Whitby,

Image from Tony Gurr, and Tom Whitby,

I had reached a wall; glimpsing a vision of more for our students, yet unclear as to how to articulate that vision and uncertain as to how to provide our teachers with the very significant supports they would need to make the shifts we strove to accomplish.  I set out in search of wisdom.

Through engaging with educators throughout the world via social media, primarily twitter but other venues as well, I discovered more than I ever anticipated; I found not only wisdom, but also bravery, riches, and honor as Ben Zoma defines the terms. I found Ben Zoma’s ancient wisdom within the very contemporary notion of a PLN (professional learning network).

When reaching out to learn with others I anticipated finding educators who would share practices, recommend readings, and answer questions. Yet, I hadn’t dreamed of  the creative collaboration and problem-solving with which I was embraced. Through the learning, I gained the strength not only to acknowledge, but to celebrate the fact that I’m not an expert. I’m a learner. And that wisdom has made all the difference.

Paradoxically, embracing what I did not know enabled me to develop the trust and credibility to lead other learners on-line and in my own school. I didn’t have to have the answers, I didn’t even have to have all the questions. Yet I was open and attentive.

Image from Tony Gurr,

Image from Tony Gurr,

I learned not to strive to “fix” teachers, or even myself. Instead, I strove to focus our school system to build on strengths, transform dreams to high expectations, and foster joint responsibility for the success of all our students. I found bravery in overcoming the inclination to tell others what to do; discovered riches in appreciating the greatness within my own school; and attained honor in honoring others.

As I learned, I gained the opportunity to lead, or more aptly, to facilitate. As a co-moderator of #educoach, a community on twitter dedicated to instructional coaching, I’ve deepened my understanding of providing robust job-embedded professional support for teachers. As a facilitator of YU2.0, a Community of Practice invested in learning, collaborating and integrating technology in Jewish education, I’ve  engaged with other Jewish educators interested in the connections between ancient, enduring values and contemporary paradigms of learning and growing.

My recent participation in #etmooc, a connectivist mooc (massive open on-line course) on the topic of educational technology and media makes me wonder about the future of professional learning both on-line and off. Through my participation in #etmooc, I’ve learned that within connectivist moocs participants set their own learning goals and  strive to create knowledge together. Perhaps that’s the essence of contemporary learning – setting meaningful learning goals and creating the knowledge necessary to achieve those goals together.

As I prepare to teach a course next week for the C013 Connecting Online Conference titled  Learning and Leading In Online Community I reflect on ways learning and leading in online community may be evolving. What have been some of the benefits and insights you have gleaned from learning and leading in online community? What do you anticipate the future may bring for learning and leading in online community? What questions do you have? What wisdom have you gleaned?

On My Time; In My Space; At My Pace

I’m learning and loving it!

Take a look at my first assignment for #Etmooc,  an online learning experience, part course, part community.

The task was: “Create an introductory post, video, podcast, slideshow, etc., of yourself.  Tell us a little bit about yourself – perhaps, where you’re from, what you do, or what you want to be when you grow up – and let us know what you’d like to gain from #etmooc? A few paragraphs of text, or preferably, a form of visual or auditory media lasting between 30 seconds and 2 minutes is ideal. These are very rough guidelines – feel free to break every one of them if you wish.”

I took the challenge and decided to try to have some fun in the process; creating a voki and finding a way to present an introduction in 60 seconds. It took some thinking and tinkering, but I am proud of what I accomplished.

And, I’m enjoying the learning. For the first time since I finished my doctorate almost 15 years ago, I’m back in class as a learner. Only this time, it’s not a brick and mortar classroom; it’s on-line courses I can engage with on my own time, in my own space, and at my own pace. I’m participating in: Charting a New Direction for Online Learning with Online School for Girls#Etmooc, coming soon Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application and recently completed #Leadership20Series.

I’m also learning regularly with two very special on-line communities of practice with which I am involved: #educoach and YU2.0.

In our #educoach chat on January 9th, 2013, we discussed: Moving From Knowing To Doing, inspiring me to move from “knowing” that one can easily podcast or vodcast without great levels of technical expertise, to actually “doing” and creating my first voki.

I have similarly been motivated to learn and expand my skills by some recent robust conversation on YU2.o on podcasting and vodcasting including: Why Not Use Avatars to Create Vodcasts by Cindy Zemel, Podcast in the Classroom by Amy Bond, Changing My Ideas About Podcasts and Vodcasts by Elyse Haber, Podcasting in Education: @TeacherCast – A Great Resource by Rebecca Penina Simon, Uses for Podcasts and Vodcasts by Elana Schwarzberg, and Advantages of Podcasts/Vodcasts by Chagit Alpert. All of these conversations on YU2.0 stem from the Yeshiva University Institute for University School Partnership Educational Technology Certification program taught by Rabbi Meir Wexler.

So, in celebration of my steps forward into a new world learning, I want to thank all who are part of my learning journey!

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