Leveraging technology to support teaching and learning

Gratitude for #dLRN15

I feel very privileged, humbled, and honored to have had the opportunity to attend the dLRN conference at Stanford University and to present some of the ideas and research that I’ve been working on with colleagues Maha Al-Freih, Joyce Seitzinger, Rebecca Hogue, Maha Bali, Autumm Caines, Jeffrey Keeler, Rolin Moe, and Matt Crosslin.  As an outcome of this meeting another iteration of the #HumanMOOC will run this winter with Matt Crosslin, Maha Al-Freih, Patrice Prusko, and I facilitating. We are really excited as a team about this opportunity to support Matt in his data collection for his dissertation and revision our course design.

The #dLRN15 conference was organized around important themes in higher education; the ethics of collaboration, individualized learning, systemic impacts, innovation and work, and sociocultural implications. These key themes guided the panels, plenaries, and breakout sessions and the ongoing dialogue throughout the minutes between these moments and beyond.

Image of Stanford University


The conference program format was well structured to set the tone for conversations, create opportunities for sharing, and to fill my head with more questions! The first day started with a keynote, led to breakout sessions, back to a plenary panel discussion, another group of breakout sessions and a final plenary panel for the day. Day two was similar in the organization but with two more awesome keynotes.  I’d like to explain why I’m so impressed with the format of the conference.

  1. The themes were an embedded part of either the keynotes and plenary panels.
  2. The format of having three short 15 minutes presentation within a session was fantastic for those who were presenting so that they were also able to learn from two short sessions within the sessions that they were presenting and did not feel like they missed out on the learning experience. I was really delighted by this as I was presenting four sessions and still felt like I gained very much as a learner from the conference.
  3. There was great care given to those of us in attendance which allowed me to be more vulnerable than I would normally feel I could be when interacting with colleagues. Kudos to Kate, Bonnie and Dave for making us all feel like a part of the community, no, FAMILY of scholars.
Photo from Plenary Panel at #dLRN15

Plenary Panel at #dLRN15

The conversations within the room were rich with multiple perspectives on topics, the desire to seek out the narratives to provide a richer perspective on every topic, and the common goal to improve student experiences. There were opportunities for argument, debate, and YES even ranting. The participants were encouraged to share in a way that I’ve not experienced at other events. The keynotes (Mike Caufield, Marcia Devlin, & Adeline Koh) and the plenary panels were rich with ideas and dialogue.

Several ideas were shared that pushed my thinking outside my comfort zone, case in point:

Postmodernism Definition from Educational Technology & Media on Vimeo.

Being at Stanford also afforded me the opportunity to give my daughter (Chloe) a virtual field trip around the Stanford campus. Thinking about the impacts of technology on learning, I wonder if this experience has now put Stanford on her roadmap for her future…

2015-10-17 09.50.48 Will this exposure to Stanford at a young age cause her to “want” to go to school here? I guess only time will tell. Does this make her privileged? Is that wrong?

Chloe was also able to have a facetime call with Oscar and Posey and talk with them much like she does with Maha’s daughter Hoda from time to time.  It is the affordances of technology that allow Chloe to connect with these children of my PLN and I wonder what impact that will have on her experiences as a learner…

But first I should finish my dissertation #futureresearch ….

I close this brief post with only gratitude for the conference organizers for all they did to ensure that our experience was one that would be extended into the future with ongoing conversations and research.

  • Kate Bowles, University of Wollongong
  • Dave Cormier, University of Prince Edward Island
  • Matt Crosslin, University of Texas at Arlington
  • Justin T. Dellinger, University of Texas at Arlington
  • Kristen Eshleman, Davidson College
  • George Siemens, University of Texas at Arlington
  • Bonnie Stewart, University of Prince Edward Island
  • Candace Thille, Stanford University

And gratitude for my partners in research that I had the honor of co-presenting with, thank you very much for the opportunity to collaborate. I enjoy learning from and with you!

  • Maha Al-Freih, George-Mason University
  • Joyce Seitzinger, Academic Tribe
  • Rebecca Hogue, Virtually Connecting
  • Maha Bali, American University Cairo
  • Autumm Caines, Capital University
  • Jeffrey Keeler, New York University
  • Rolin Moe, Seattle Pacific University
  • Matt Crosslin, University of Texas at Arlington

Design Thinking session at #olc15

At the Online Learning Consortium Conference Patrice Prusko from Cornell and I presented a session on Design Thinking to re-imagine Professional Development.  The slides can be accessed here.

2015-10-15 13.33.10


Patrice and I met during the OLC #et4online conference and have been meeting every other Saturday since that conference via Skype. The focus of our meetings has been to try to solve a problem in a creative way. These conversations have brought us to explore design thinking as a method to find our own solution. The design thinking experience has been so useful to us that we wanted to share the process with others.

After our introduction to the process we shared our experiences and struggles in solving a WICKED challenge.  Then we led the group through a “speed dating” version of design thinking. The participants were paired and given a list of interview questions.  If you are interested in learning more please see the facilitators guide.

Design Thinking Workshop participants at #olc15

Design Thinking Workshop participants at #olc15

The participants were quickly engaged in learning about each other and the challenges that each of them face in their lives and work environment.  I’ve attended many sessions at conferences over the years, but often they are sit and get sessions. Patrice and I were truly delighted at the engagement of the group with each other and the problems and solutions that they were able to come up with in just 45 short minutes.

Patrice is a joy to work with and it was my honor and privilege to get to present with her at #olc15. We will definitely be doing this again! Look out OLC Innovate.

Get Involved in K-12 Online Learning Research: Notes from #olc15

The pre-conference session presented by the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute Team (Kathryn Kennedy, Joe Freidhoff, Kristen DeBruler, Rebecca Stimson, & Justin Bruno) along with Jered Borum from George Mason University & Michael Barbour from Sacred Heart University was quite interesting. I’ve summarized the highlights here for those interested in the topic.

The Michigan Virtual Learning Research team presented their OLOT tool. OLOT is an openly available self-paced learning tool designed to help students understand what online learning involves and introduces the skills and knowledge that are key to success. The question raised was if a student orientation would prepare students for success or by forcing completion of the orientation would that prepare students for “finishing”.  Either way (chicken or egg) the data in higher education shows increases in retention so it is a worthy project to add the student orientation! The OLOT tool is described in this get to know OLOT tool booklet.

OLOT is used in conjunction with the Online Learner Readiness Rubric (shown below).

Online Learning Readiness Rubric

Online Learning Readiness Rubric

They are also concerned with teaching teachers to teach online and have developed a guide for mentors who facilitate online learning experiences.

The MVLRI guide for mentors can be found here: http://media.mivu.org/micourses/pdf/toolkit/mentor_guide_14.pdf

Additional resources include

The Parent Guide to Online Learning

The Implementation Guide for School Districts and Parents

The MVLRI Blog

K-12 Online and Blended Learning Research Clearinghouse

It’s not about the destination so you better enjoy the journey…

Sue Beckingham’s #blideo challenge accepted!  It seems that Steve Wheeler has come up with another way to get us all blogging about education.  The call to action is to view the video and write a response to the video that connects it to education in some way.  I will then have to select a new video a pass the challenge on to three more people.

Here is Sue’s blog post where the challenge lived: http://www.suebeckingham.com/2015/08/building-confidence-takes-time-learning.html

And the tweet that let me know that it I had been challenged:

Tweet from @suebecks

The video below was chosen by Sue.  When I watched it I immediately thought of my own PhD journey.

The Journey vs. the Destination:

Before I entered the PhD program, I was asked by my future mentor “Why do you want to get a PhD?”  My response was probably not what was expected.  I didn’t expect it to transform my future or my career. It was something that I felt I had to do. When I first entered college after graduating high school at 16 years old, I was too young and naive to navigate the social and academic differences between high school and college. I failed miserably and let myself think for a period of time that I couldn’t “do” college level work. I let myself believe that I was a failure and I was on a mission to prove myself wrong.


Image Credit: Gary Traynor CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This all changed on that special day when I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane for the first time. This day changed the way I think about failure. When I was dropping from the aircraft at terminal velocity, my chin strap came loose on my helmet and began beating me in the face. My eyes welled up with tears due to the pain of the chin strap hitting me and at that point, I could no longer see the altimeter or my jump masters who were giving me the signal to pull my ripcord.

When I arrived safely on the ground, I learned that my ripcord was in someone else’s hand. I could have thrown in the towel and let failure and fear control my destiny, but it was this day when I recognized that failure is a learning opportunity. I became determined that I was going to become a certified Accelerated Freefall Skydiver and I did just that. I also decided that it was time to go back to school and finish my degree.

You see, I realized that the goal of jumping out of the airplane wasn’t to get down to the ground, but rather to master the art of the free fall. Enjoy the ride… It isn’t always about where the ride stops, it is about the fact that you rode it. 

The video of the roller coaster starting off in the dark made me think of the lack of knowing one’s own path. There is a certain amount of finding your way in every educational process. You need to learn the rules of the road and figure it out. As the coaster comes into the light, it is much like when rapport is established and trust begins to form.  You are able to clarify expectations and can begin to see what is ahead of you.  And the big climb… this is the FEAR, there is fear of failure, fear of success, and so much more. When we are getting close to a difficult point in any process we may second guess our choices and wish we could get off the ride.

In educational programs, we are not strapped in tight and it is easier to get off the rollercoaster. Staying on the ride during these difficult times and when other distractions (life) get in the way, is what separates the completer from those who do not finish.  One group is no smarter than another, the finishers are just more stubborn IMHO.

When we see the roller coaster come into the station, we realize that we are right back where we started. I recently posted that I had attended my last class EVER but I really can’t make that claim. I’m a lifelong learner and my learning journey is just beginning. While I may have taken my last class in this PhD program, there may be more adventures on my learning journey.

Certainly the destination is not nearly as exciting as the middle part :)

The #blideo challenge continues.

I extend the challenge to anyone who wishes to respond. However, playing by the rules, I challenge three people @nomadwarmachine @courosa and @kevinhoneycutt. I know you will enjoy this video challenge.

Here is the video that I have selected for you!

Using TAGS to pull data from Twitter (Thanks @mhawksey)

I’ve been using Martin Hawksey’s TAGS to collect twitter data recently. The collected tweets will be used during coding practice in Computer Mediated Discourse Analysis (CMDA). In case you need to do something similar, the steps taken to collect the Twitter data are as follows:

1. First navigate to the TAGS website: https://tags.hawksey.info

2. Click Get Tags, Click TAGS (New Sheets), which opens a Google Sheet that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 5.58.21 PM

3. Once the Google Sheet is open, click on File and select Make a Copy.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 6.01.19 PM

4. Save the copy with a new file name.

5. In the section of the form titled instructions, add the search term to line number 4. The search term should be a hashtag. (i.e. #edchat)

6. After your copy has been made open TAGS > Setup Twitter Access and follow the onscreen instructions (when selecting this option you’ll be promoted to authorize the script to run several services).

7. On the menu bar, find TAGS, and from the drop down menu choose Run Now!

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 6.18.28 PM8. While the script is running a message will appear over the tool bar that says Running Script. Upon completion, the message will read Finished script.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 6.23.51 PM

9. Once the script has run the second tab in the sheet will contain the tweets scraped from Twitter.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 6.25.41 PM

10. Select the Archive tab to view the scraped tweets. The first time you run TAGS it can only collect data from the most recent 7 days, however, if you leave the sheet connected to your twitter account then you can “Run Now!” again at a later date and have the sheet fill in the tweets since it was last run.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 6.25.50 PM

The web: network, dreamcatcher, patterns #blimage

Before I share my response to the #blimage gauntlet that was thrown down by Sue Buckingham while I was sleeping last night, what the heck is #blimage?

It seems that #blimage began with Steve Wheeler, Simon Enzor, and Amy Burvall on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 6.54.35 AM A blog image? When thinking about ways to motivate people to blog, this is a really good motivator.  I hadn’t written a blog post since the start of my summer conference tour. I’ve been very busy traveling so far this summer.  All that time spent in airports caused me to key in on a photo that Sue had responded to taken by Dave Hopkins in an airport. It was jut the motivation that I needed in order to hammer out this post after waking and before heading in to the office!  Thanks Sue and David for getting the creative juices flowing.

David Hopkins https://www.flickr.com/photos/hopkinsdavid/15957811965/ Birmingham Airport

David Hopkins https://www.flickr.com/photos/hopkinsdavid/15957811965/
Birmingham Airport

The airport, to me this is where I have done the bulk of my formal and informal learning over the last 10 years. I’ve been in and out of airports around the world and often find myself either studying, reading, writing, or people watching. Of these activities the latter is my favorite, because you can learn so much when you listen and watch the interactions between people in spaces like airports, coffee houses, town squares and other public places.

So thank you Sue, Amy, Simon, and Steve! Here I go… @suebecks tweeted:

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 7.25.46 AM


Public domain image: https://pixabay.com/en/spider-web-web-water-drops-dew-399854/




I was challenged by Sue to respond to the spider web that you see here. I look at it in three ways. I see a dream catcher, a network, and am reminded of a book entitled Pattern Recognition.

Dream catcher

It is hard to say that this does not look like a dream catcher and since it arrived while I was sleeping, I can only wonder what I was dreaming about last night. My grandfather used to tell me that if I had a problem that I couldn’t solve that I should think about it just before bed and when I woke, I would have the answer. As a child I used to think this meant math problems. As an adult it has meant many things.  Sleep is a necessary part of processing information. Much like how you must restart your computer when you update the operating system, sleep is a needed component in cognition.

“That’s right; lack of sleep can hinder you from thinking clearly and keeping your emotions at an even keel. Studies show that excessive sleepiness can hurt work performance, wreak havoc on relationships, and lead to mood problems like anger and depression.” (if you believe WebMD)


Thanks to Marc Smith and Aras Bozkurt, I’ve learned over the last few weeks how to create NodeXL graphs. I’ve graphed several things including #foschat which was created and facilitated by Chrissi Nerantzi and Sue Beckingham. The spider web reminds me of these graphs. I see connections, nodes, and a variety of sizes of the nodes which may represent the meaningfulness or strength of those connections.

I don’t see the #rhizo15 eyes, but I do see the formation of the structure and support for the spider as being the web where we can live, feed, and grow. These structures may be partially deconstructed and rebuilt from time to time based upon a variety of environmental factors. Like how our hashtag communities overlap at times and then take form in a new direction. The spider web deals with similar fragility and may, at times, require others to assist in the rebuilding process. (This seems like something I could talk about for hours at another time.)

Pattern recognition

As a learner, it isn’t until I put all the pieces together that I can see the pattern and begin thinking differently. And, I’m stubborn — I have to PUT the pieces together, someone else can’t do it for me. The web to me is the stubborn work of the spider who relentlessly has struggled to put his web together. He has faced hard times (struggling with weather, predators, and so much more) and persevered.

I watched my daughter learn how to play the ukulele recently and observed her behavior during the learning process.  She transitioned from frustrated to angry and then became determined. I saw myself in her at that moment. Within a couple of hours of that moment she mastered four chords and then could suddenly play 20 songs.

As a learner, I have see the patterns, make the connections, but I have to create my OWN web in order to understand.  True confession: I’m a social constructivist.

So, in order to continue this activity…. I’d like to add this image to the queue for someone else to explain in their #blimage post. The blog post should tie this image back to learning (scenario, theory, methods) in some way.

Mons, Belgium during #eMOOCs: Finding the big red ball

Mons, Belgium during #eMOOCs: Finding the big red ball

Reflections on the eMOOCs Conference

This week I had the privilege of presenting at the #eMOOCs conference in Mons, Belgium. As I’m flying home reflecting on the experience I’m reminded of the power of social media. Many of the people that I had the chance to meet and spend time with were my networked connections or scholars I have read.

The keynotes from Dave Cormier and Sian Bayne were both very good. Dave gave a great overview of Rhizomatic Learning (see Inge’s post) and underpinned it with the shift from apprenticeship/mentorship to larger distributed models of learning like during the advent of the printing press and internet. These underlying changes have lent themselves to shifts in teaching philosophy. Sian presented the Teacherbot in #EDCMOOC (see Inge’s post) and opened our eyes to the idea of using bots in teaching and learning. She presented it in a way that helped me to see the potential for good.  Both of these talks were very good and left me wanting more conversations with both Dave and Sian.

In preparation for this conference, Maha Al-Freih, Robin Bartoletti and I submitted a paper which was included in the proceedings and chosen to be one of the five experience track papers to be published in a pre-conference MOOC on edX. The pre-conference MOOC was thought of as a flipped conference, where the participants would have watched the videos so they would come to the session with their questions. However, after careful consideration the eMOOC committee thought it would be best if we prepared a Pecha Kucha for the event which would give a high level overview of the paper and allow time for questions and answers. It was wildly successful and that was in part due to Inge deWaard being such a wonderful moderator!

In addition, Inge, Sian, and I connected with several other networked scholars via a Google Hangout. 

There were other impromptu things that happened on the fly too, you can read more here in Inge deWaard’s blog.

The #HumanMOOC at #eMOOCs2015

Pecha Kucha format for eMOOCs conference talk yesterday in Mons, Belgium:

Slide 1: It is my pleasure to share with you the design intent and iteration of the HumanMOOC. This course developed community while exploring the Community of Inquiry. The redesign included a competency based, badges first approach leveraging social media and asynchronous video.

Slide 2: My co-authors Dr. Bartoletti and Maha Al-Freih could not join me for this event so it is just me. Hello, I’m Whitney Kilgore, a PhD candidate in Learning Technologies at the University of North Texas.

Slide 3: The course was made available for educators who teach online.  Our goal was to create a community where approaches for humanizing online courses could be shared within the course and beyond.

Slide 4: The course was originally built and taught in 2013 in order to share the concept of the community of inquire and explore tools and methods for enhancing each of the three forms of presence (teacher, social, & cognitive

Slide 5: In the redesign for 2015, we redesigned the course to align to the Penn State pedagogical competencies and developed competency based badge pathways.

Slide 6: The competency-based alignment mapping to course learning objectives ensured the mapping of the course outcomes to the competencies.

Slide 7: And the mapping of the learning outcomes to each activity allowed us to ensure that each badge pathway was assessed appropriately

Slide 8: The badge pathways required a series of activities for each of the (instructor, social, and cognitive presence) badges, however, the Community of Inquiry badge was stackable and required earning all three of the presence badges.

Slide 9: During this 4-week course we held a series of Google Hangouts with thought leaders regarding the design, communications and the theory, and research regarding CoI

Slide 10: We know learning is social and that students drop out of online courses due to their feeling of loneliness

Slide 11: So we explored the use of asynchronous video to enhance instructor presence online using Canvas Network, VoiceThread, and FlipGrid

Slide 12: Within the Canvas LMS, video can be added to ANY content area which means that discussions can be asynchronous video.

Slide 13: While discussions help us make meaning, the humanness of video antidotally speaking, seemed to help clarify meaning and intent.

Slide 14: VoiceThread allowed users to use voice, video or text to share their ideas

Slide 15: While VoiceThread was good, I preferred FlipGrid in this particular course. It was tablet and laptop compatible too.

Slide 16: Each learner is uniquely human. We simply explored a few tools and strategies to humanize their experience and help them do this for their students in the future.

Slide 17: Why do we teach? We want to help others learn. The feedback was deeply meaningful to us but we are just learning what the data shows…

Slide 18: So what’s next? Our research design looked at the notion of persistence in MOOCs, self-efficacy with social media & audio/video recording

Slide 19: Only 6% noted an increase in their self-efficacy for using social media for teaching and learning while 82% indicated an increase in their self-efficacy regarding using video and audio recording technologies.

Slide 20: What we know: Digital Educators who embrace the affordances of technology will transform education.

Self-Directed Learning in MOOCs by @ignatia

I attended Inge deWaard’s session at eMOOCs2015 on Self-Directed Learning my notes are below.

There are multiple contexts and other focuses in the literature like self-regulated learning, mobility, individual v. collaborative learning.In the literature self-directed learning is more aligned in cMOOCs.

There were two courses included in the pilot study conducted. The “beta” courses were two weeks in length.  59 learners were chosen for the study based upon a variety of criteria that would suit the study.  The study was conducted in three phases. Phase 1 survey, phase 2 learning logs, and phase three was structured 1:1 interviews.

The phenomenological approach of the research design was complimented by using grounded theory in the analysis of the data.

The TOP learning activities that learners engaged in were:

  1. Viewing multimedia 100%
  2. Reading Text-Based content 91%
  3. Reading Discussions 87%
  4. Taking a Quiz 83%

Most of the challenges that the learners faced were time related. The slides are included below.

The pilot pointed to changes for a future study. Inge says, I need to make a decision on self-directed learning (andragogy) or self-determined learning (heutagogy)?

Inge mentioned that there is a need to untangle the concepts of self-directed learning…  As a fellow PhD student, I found it very useful to see the outcomes of her pilot study. I really appreciated the opportunity to understand her research design and methodology.

-Thanks Inge!

Counting – Grading… #rhizo15

I’ve been thinking about a lot of things lately – sometimes so many different things that it becomes difficult to begin writing. Call it writer’s block or stage fright if you will, however, I have found that after I read a couple of the #rhizo15 posts on Facebook or Twitter, I will then spend an inordinate amount of time researching these new ideas and going down the Madagascar penguin hole to learn more.

You didn't see anything

The rhizome is getting inside my head. It is the question “WHY” that I asked every few minutes as a child trying to make sense of this world, that I find myself asking now. Why do we grade student’s work and is that a real indicator of learning? Does it measure what they know and why do we need to measure that anyway?

I’ve struggled with this question before and had numerous discussions with @alicekeeler @catspyjamasnz @robinwb and @bdean1000 on the topic over the last couple of years. And then this hit my inbox:  Be theoretical. Be practical… but GRADE ME! – Dave Cormier 

I am not a fan of GRADES. I have found grades to be motivating and demotivating at different times in my life. When I found them motivating, I was a child and it was to earn my parents attention because the attention that I received when I brought home less than an A was not the type of attention that I wanted.  However, when I consider what that taught me about life and how that quantified my knowledge or learning, I think there has got to be a better way!

Let me ask the hard question… what is the difference between a student who earns a B and a C? What factors contributed to them earning that grade? How much of that was due to learning that “didn’t occur” and how much of that was because they were juggling 800 other things? Or because when they received a low grade on one assignment it brought down their whole grade and they didn’t feel like they should argue about the grade with the teacher?  So, what value do we put on those grades in life? In parenting? In society? How does this impact the world we live in?

I would ask the community, is there a better way to demonstrate knowledge? Can we support the notion of scaffolding competence? When we value knowledge in this new collective knowledge economy I expect that we need to find ways to lift each other up and support the development of new ideas, models, methods and rather than giving someone a D or C for their efforts, we might consider providing the necessary learner support and feedback to get them where they want to go…

What if we just simply said “Competent” or “Not Yet”…

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