Saturday, February 8, 2014

Online Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire

     It has always been my belief that the more students learn about you, the person (not just the professor), the more they can learn from you.  There is no denying the more they realize you care and are interested in them the more attention they will pay to what you have to present. This is true in the classroom and still true online if you give yourself the opportunity. With that belief instructor presence becomes paramount in any course, but especially online since physical presence is not a luxury.

     Life is based on relationships & communication, (even Henry David Thoreau had relationships with others) so why do some act as if educational instruction should be any different? I have never understood professors/teachers who feel they cannot reveal themselves or socially interact with students. While there are boundary lines, especially the younger the student, there is no denying the line that people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Cheesy, yes, but a key to interacting with others in school, sports, religion, politics, or to sum it up this thing we call life.
     Think back into our own educational experiences. There are always the exceptions, but for the most part those professors or teachers we remember and learned from the most are probably those who got to know us and allowed us to get to know them a little. They were the instructors who were able to tear down walls and build relationships, who made it okay to share thoughts & ideas, who made everyone feel more comfortable because everyone was comfortable with them. I state all this because the strength of the course community starts with the instructor. An instructor has the ability to develop a sense of course community by providing opportunities for team building and getting to know one another in the design of their course.  When students feel community they are more apt to share, probe, and discuss ideas which leads to authentic engagement and deeper learning.
     Community in any course starts with student-instructor interaction. It is a building block that is essential to the development of any online learning community. The instructor sets the tone early on for what they find to be acceptable amounts of interaction by how they themselves interact with students. If a student begins a course and doesn't hear from the instructor till the last week of the course (we have all heard the horror stories) they are more than likely not going to interact with fellow students except to perhaps complain about the instructor. The instructor, in this type of situation, has obviously made it clear that they are only providing information and have no vested interest in the student learning or engaging with the material and/or others. These are the type of solitary online courses that give online learning the often dubious distinction of being sub-standard and in adequate.
     From the Faculty Focus Article, "Balancing Act" I thought the section on "Encouraging student-to-student interaction in online courses" hits this right on the head. Both student-student & student-content interaction stems from student-instructor interaction. Yes, there are always exceptions with truly motivated students, but even they need the guidance of an involved instructor to get the most out of a given experience. This notion that an online instructor can have a laissez faire attitude is antiquated. Early on in online learning the tools and existing platforms did not always allow for in-depth engagement equivalent to a face to face classroom. Today, this is no longer the case as the tools & platforms available allow for interaction & personalization of online instruction. If we want to teach effectively we must put the same effort in to teaching online as we do in the classroom and the technology today allows us to do just that.
     At the end of the day (course) the educational experience (good or bad) truly comes from the combination of social, cognitive, & teaching presence as shown in the "Community of Inquiry". The purpose of an instructor in the 21st century learning environment is to solicit & direct the how's & why's of learning. If students just want the facts they can Google it, as demeaning as it sounds, it is true. As educators we cannot just give the answers, we have to support the journey, whether that is in the arts, the sciences, theology, business, or in technology. This is true in both face to face, and online, as we can no longer acknowledge or accept that there is a difference. We may, as do learners, have a preference based on our learning and/or teaching style, but accepting differences as a standard is not acceptable.
     The learning community in your course IS your course. As the instructors we must embrace, foster, focus, encourage, and inspire it. This starts from the very first welcome we send out and is directly related to the presence we put forth through the life of the course. If we do it right, the life of that course will extend far beyond the end of the semester. W.B. Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” While admittedly Utopian, those words should be the premise of every course we design and support the passion with which we teach. Will this course simply fill the pail or will we light a fire? I would suggest that our presence in the course goes a long way towards answering that question.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Twitter reflections from #OETC14

     This was my 8th Ohio Educational Technology Conference (OETC) in a row and as always it was great. However, it was the first time I found myself commuting from outside the state to get there. Not to many people in Tennessee questioned the fact I was going to Orlando for FETC, but I got a few weird looks when expressing my excitement to attend a conference in snow covered January...when it was -8. None the less if you have never been to OETC I would highly recommend it to any educator.

     This year we had the pleasure of listening to Kevin Honeycutt  who in my humble opinion gave one of the best keynotes I have ever heard. If you have never heard Kevin speak take a moment when you have an hour and watch the youtube of one of his keynotes. If you are an educator or interested in learning & creativity it will be very motivational. Then make sure to follow him on google +Kevin Honeycutt or twitter @kevinhoneycutt

Seriously, if not now, come back to this video later or watch it for staff/faculty PD, it'll be a great hour of motivation.

     Now on to my twitter debrief as I pick out some of the highlights from #OETC14. Thanks to all the tweeters who made the backchannel at OETC a great source of collaboration & creativity.

Why am I flying up north tomorrow? B/C & are worth facing the cold for!

That awkward moment when you meet your twitter followers in person: make it happen @ and

Peer review really helps prepare students for the real world of evaluation, collaboration, adjusting, refining, and presenting

"You never know where students just came from...don't assume" ~

"You don't learn unless u do something in class, liberate urself, flip ur class & do something w/students"

"I'm not smart but my network is brilliant, I have 27K minds in my back pocket, Twitter, are u connected?"

"Students are snacking on the ideas of others, but not having their own" ~

"Use-lease Agreement" 1ce/wk Show us something on your laptop we are proud of, and we let you use it.

Getting students to realize their actions online will effect how they are viewed now...and in the future is critical

Nice job way to feel the beat with @

If you want to find the best teacher in the school? Find the one thats in trouble.

We are missing something by not having student musicians providing the AM tunes. Bring them back.

If you can't tweet it, it's too long for a powerpoint slide.

"Even if we don't want to change, we don't have a choice anymore" ~

Don’t spoil learning with “over facilitation” Love that

I love the concept of curating awesomeness. Thanks Learning is messy!

Kick the BUTs out of education.

In ur classrm have u moved from the "what's" 2 the "why's & how's" foster creative learning, stdnts can get "what" on google!

RT : The real work is creating assignments that you can't google -

Gotta love lots of resources for all!

Thx tweeters, I've got 2 head south, but keep 'em coming. Heading 2 present @

Help us win the digital learning day video contest. We appreciate your vote. We are the 1st vid.

Feel free to share this online course about in w/ your followers. Sharing in my session.

Hope you enjoyed, the tweets, thanks to all who shared via twitter at #OETC14

Twitter reflections from #FETC

     While I have attended multiple tech conferences, 2014 was my first experience attending the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC). Disappointed is NOT a word I would use to describe the experience. Words like motivated, inspired, and refreshing come to mind as the keynotes, sessions, and even the exhibitor area were great. In fact, after an extremely interesting opening keynote from Danny Forster the host of "Build it Bigger". There was a traffic jam getting out an into the exhibitor area? What on earth (I thought) could be causing a traffic jam in the exhibition hall. Then before I even turned the corner the picture below by Lyndsi Smith popped up on the twitter feed. Aerial Acrobats in the exhibitor hall, WHAT??? What does that have to do with #EdTech you ask? To be honest I have no clue, but it was clear this would be an interesting conference.

     What follows is my usual twitter debrief after a conference. The twitter backchannel at FETC was great and buzzing at #FETC & #FETCchat . If you have never tried taking your conference notes with twitter I suggest you give it a try at your next conference. Not only do you get to reflect on your thoughts, but you catch thoughts, pics, and ideas from others as well. Not to mention you benefit others at the conference and those remotely who can follow the ideas, thoughts, motivation, and resources being presented. Without further ado, here are what I deem to be some of the highlights from my FETC 2014 twitter feed, enjoy.

Glad 2b hope others delayed by can make it!

is really demonstrating how if u have passion u can make any subject interesting. Have passion 4 what u teach!!!

Awesome quote by Danny Forster ... It’s not about just the facts... it’s about the "ideas".

Danny Forster's keynote perfectly modeling the imp of good storytelling & asking good questions -> curiosity, critical thinking

open students minds to the questions behind the obvious, find the "why's" that get them hooked

Luv the headline, I'd go w/ "In a World of #2's...will u start the fire" reply w/ur headline
"Don't ask students what they r going 2b when they grow up, ask them what problem they want to solve"

Don't just give kids credit for things they can lookup get them 2 think critically, collaborate, create

Education cannot take place in a vacuum, we live in a team based world: Stdnts must collaborate

"Today's technology is the worst technology a five year old will ever see" So true!

Collaboration is not cheating.

Prepare stdnts 4 the real world, allow them 2 collaborate, investigate, create, fail, & succeed

Nothing Lasts Forever.

"I'm not smart but my network is brilliant, I have 27K minds in my back pocket, Twitter, are u connected?"~

step one, hatch the egg. your avatar is an extension of your soul. or, you know, a way not to feel like a n00b :)

"The quality of twitter is directly related 2 the quality of people ur conected 2."

When ur following the right people the info flows 2u

A3: in 40 mins I've gone from a bi-annual tweeter to a real believer in Twitter's value as a technology educator!

"I am convinced that students can learn in more ways than I could possibly teach" - MS math teacher

Create a course trailer before your online course begins.

of the day: "Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn." ~John Wesley

If we learn best by teaching, shouldn't we be giving more students the opportunity to teach? Especially when it comes to technology.

Welcome 2 the 100+ followers I picked up @ great 2 have u onboard my PLN, Now back 2 Nashville, thx 2 4 a great 3 days

My FETC Reflection other than my reaction to 4 days of rain in FLA: "The “C words” of Education"

Great time once again at ...have fun traveling home to where you call home on this map!

Graphic Created by Bill Ferriter RT : Great slide from presentation

Here's the short 15 second winning "Day in the Life" Instagram Video I threw together.