Last spring, as each day brought announcements of new MOOCS, I decided that this was something I needed to know more about. After all, I had taught college classes for more than 20 years both face-to-face and and on several distance platforms. My unit, IT-Client Support and Services, also provided the campus support for our LMS and other online instruction support. Obviously, this new area was something I needed to know about.

I signed up for “Introduction to Databases” from Stanford. At the time, they were using the platform that later became Coursera. I had a basic understanding of and experience with databases, but I knew my knowledge ended somewhere in the middle of a first semester course. This was the perfect opportunity to learn a subject that had eluded me through many web tutorials and and “Dummies” books.

Turns out, I really picked a winner for my first MOOC. The course was well-paced, provided ample support through a lively discussion forum, and was expertly taught by Dr. Jennifer Windom. And I worked my way through all of it and achieved my certificate! Remember, this was something I had failed at numerous times through my many self-learning attempts.

Several months later, I gave this presentation to the upper academic administrators to inform them about MOOCs. Definitely a room full of skeptics!!

Now that I’ve retired I’m engaged in several more MOOCs to get a feel for the whole world of MOOCs and to keep learning. I’ll report back on these later.

Accelerated Reader + Amazon = Shelfari

I’ve always been an avid reader, but it runs in fits and starts. Lately I’ve been using a site called Shelfari that works for me like Accelerated Reader works for many middle school children. When I put books on my shelf, I get that same boost and sense of accomplishment that motivates many kids to pile up points in AR.

Combine that with the reviews and discussions and you’ve got a more personable version of Amazon. Depending on the book, you’ll get lots of good advice on what to read next and why this book is better or worse than another. The only drawback is that the numbers on Shelfari are so much smaller than Amazon.

In all, this is another tool that makes the Internet a community of like-minded folks.

1000's of Learning Professionals on Twitter

Today one of my colleagues sent a link to “How One Teacher Uses Twitter in the Classroom,” the story of University of Texas at Dallas History Professor, Monica Rankin’s use of Twitter. The included Youtube video has a number of interviews with students describing why this is a such a useful tool.

Even better, though was a link in the post to Jane Hart’s Directory of Learning Professionals (& Others) on Twitter. What a great selection of folks to follow to understand more about how the world is using this too.

Learning…Not Teaching

Here’s a quote that’s bound to get you riled up! The 2009 Game-Based Learning Conference was held March 19th-20th in London. As part of the proceedings, I was led to this post on

‘Classrooms dead’ says games pioneer Bushnell

Nolan Bushnell (left), founder of Atari and a world authority on computer gaming, presented an epitaph for the classroom when he opened the two-day Game Based Learning 2009 Conference in London yesterday (March 19). “The classroom died as a concept 12 years ago,” he said. “There are so many things wrong with the classroom that, unless we evolve to the next plateau, we will never fix education in a real way.

“Second, teaching has to fundamentally evolve into a mentoring one-on-one relationship rather than one-to-many. Third, the virtual classroom, the virtual tools that everybody deals with, have to be part of any curriculum.”

Bushnell should well know how enticing games are to people of all ages. In the meantime, I’ve been following a discussion on Twitter around a blog post by Mr. Kimmi titled Taught Versus Learn, A Distinguishing Factor. There is such a disconnect between teachers and the way many other professionals work. The tech folks I know all have a project going on the side. They are not waiting for the teacher but doing and trying and getting help from Google searches. Meanwhile, we are working with teachers in K-12 who are waiting for someone to show them how to open PowerPoint or get the digital photo off their camera.

One of the realizations that came to me when I did a presentation a few months ago to 9th graders is that this is the first generation that will never have to say “I don’t know.” They have Google and Wikipedia and their PLNs on their phones and with them everywhere they go. Surely all education will have to change…

Dumber or Smarter?

Today, Will Rich’s Delicious link led me to this book review, ‘The Dumbest Generation’ by Mark Bauerlein by Lee Drutman. There are so many interesting points raised by the article and its lead sentence is a bit scary.

In the four minutes it probably takes to read this review, you will have logged exactly half the time the average 15- to 24-year-old now spends reading each day.

This is a continuation of the "Does the web make us dumber?" meme that’s been all over the Internet possibly starting with NIcholas Carr’s article in the July/August 2008 issue of The Atlantic," Is Google Making Us Stupid?"

As an educator in regular contact with students from K-12 through grad school and their instructors, I constantly see that these technology skills and uses are not evenly spread through the ages or across all of the socioeconomic strata. So, this raises two questions for me.

  1. Is everyone becoming "stupider?" Or maybe it’s just those blessed with 24/7 access to technology. Maybe only the iPhone owners are getting stupider… And, what about all the impetus to get more computers with Internet access into the hands of schoolchildren all over the world. Is there a tipping point so kids will get smarter for awhile as they have vastly expanded access to resources and then dumber when they jump wildly from topic to topic?
  2. Or, is the problem that there is a new definition of "smart" coming? Is linear thinking the smartest way to think? Do we understand how to help students make the best use of non-linear thinking? The most intersting new application I’ve seen recently is Prezi which really turns PowerPoint on its head. The only problem is that the opportunities it offers are very hard to get your head around.

Once again…plenty to think about.