It is increasingly clear that the future of learning, K-12 and post-secondary, will entail a significant online dimension; I’m especially drawn to the concepts of “networked learning,” “connectivism” and “blended learning,” as regular readers surely have noticed the past few months.

At the same time, I am well aware I have a lot to learn about effective practices in online learning of whatever kind, and I need to step up my learning and practice of networked, connected learning.

Accordingly, this month I have stepped into (in various capacities) no fewer than five FREE  online learning experiences, four of them MOOCs of one kind or another.   For each of these five there is some expectation that I reflect and share my thoughts on my blog, so this post is in part a preview (and a warning) to regular readers of what may be coming soon to this site.

What is a MOOC?  I know some readers will ask this, though fewer today than would have four or five months ago, as the term has vaulted forwards and upwards into our consciousness this summer and fall with all the publicity nationally about Coursera and EdX.    To quote Wikipedia,

massive open online course (MOOC) is a type of online course aimed at large-scale participation and open access via the web. MOOCs are a recent development in the area of distance education, and a progression of the kind of open education ideals suggested by open educational resources.

Though the design of and participation in a MOOC may be similar to college or university courses, MOOCs typically do not offer credits awarded to paying students at schools. However, assessment of learning may be done for certification.

Taking on five different programs this fall is a lot, and perhaps too much, (I reserve the right to drop-out of one or more, though the very act of posting this post increases the odds I will persevere) but I happen to have some time on my hands, and I really want to work toward strengthening my understanding about our fast-changing world of education.   As it happens, and perhaps I ought to mix it up a bit, all five are in a sense meta-MOOCs: they are all online and in various ways digitally enhanced learning courses about digitally enhanced learning (though the last, the fifth, isn’t really a MOOC.)

All five of them are open to you too, readers: join me!

The Five:

1.  The Current and Future State of Higher Education (CFHE12).  This MOOC, organized in part by Stephen Downes, the Canadian scholar, famed newsletter writer, and co-creator of connectivism, is explained as follow:

University leaders are struggling to make sense of how internationalization, the current economic conditions, and new technologies will impact their systems. Educators are uncertain of the impact of open educational resources, alternative accreditation models, de-professionalization of academic positions, and increased grant competitiveness. What is role of the academy in increasing national economic competitiveness while preserving the “vital combat for lucidity” that defines an open democratic society?

I’m enrolled not because of an interest in higher ed but because I want a better view to the changing world of education, and those in higher ed are, at least some of them in some ways, ahead of the curve of K-12, and trends in post-secondary surely will be coming to K-12 soon.  This works in reverse, too:  on a discussion forum for this course, there were interesting points made about the pressures coming to bear on higher ed providers by incoming students who have become accustomed to the flipped classroom, the use of Khan Academy and other online delivery of course content, and hence are demanding their college professors come into line with their expectations.   But for my purposes, I’m seeking to draw from this forecasting of higher ed insights about the future of K-12 learning.

2.  Designing a New Learning Environment.   This is a MOOC from Stanford and its Associate Dean of Education, Paul Kim.  It is explained here:

What constitutes learning in the 21st century? Should reading, watching, memorizing facts, and then taking exams be the only way to learn? Or could technology (used effectively) make learning more interactive, collaborative, and constructive? Could learning be more engaging and fun?

We construct, access, visualize, and share information and knowledge in very different ways than we did decades ago. The amount and types of information created, shared, and critiqued every day is growing exponentially, and many skills required in today’s working environment are not taught in formal school systems.

In this more complex and highly-connected world, we need new training and competency development—we need to design a new learning environment.   The ultimate goal of this project-based course is to promote systematic design thinking that will cause a paradigm shift in the learning environments of today and tomorrow.

I want to thank Richard Kassissieh for reminding me of this opportunity and prompting my enrollment.  This course demands the collaborative preparation of a project for course completion, and I have to admit that I am feeling shy and a bit anxious about whether I can pull this off– forming a group and working to get this project done– but I want to try.

3.  Leadership 2.0.  This course, organized by George Couros and built in small part upon the platform of Connected Principals, where I am a regular contributor, is described this way:

Parkland School Division, in conjunction with the Central Alberta Regional Consortium, will be holding totally open and free sessions on “Leadership 2.0“.  This will explore what school leadership looks like in the context of today’s world and how innovative leaders are pushing their schools and organizations forward.

The course will be based on the Alberta Principal Quality Standards but these standards are applicable to the success of a school leader anywhere in the world and usually align with most organizational standards. Based on the idea of a MOOC, we encourage ANYONE to attend these free webinars. This is meant for current leaders, new leaders, aspiring leaders, or anyone interested in moving their organization forward.

In this case, I am participating both as a learner, and the sessions so far have been excellent, and as a presenter.   Next week, Tuesday the 23rd (at 7pm Eastern), I’m presenting on the topic of Leading a Learning Community.  For more information, click here.

4. Ed Tech MOOC, with an independent school focus.   This is the one which is still developing, intended for this coming Winter, and is being organized by Fred Bartels.     He describes it this way:

A MOOC to explore, examine and reflect on the enormous impact that computers are having on K-12 education. We will look back a bit, consider current best practices, and try to peer into the misty future.

As with Leadership 2.0, I’m expecting to be involved in this Ed Tech MOOC not only as an eager learner, but as a contributor and presenter: I’ve volunteered to present, facilitate,  or contribute to sessions on digitally enhanced assessment of learning, professional learning, and pedagogy.

In the very course of writing the previous sentence, I realize I’ve stumbled upon, (perhaps tripping and falling on my face) a key concept in the connectivist model of MOOCS, where the duality of teacher and learner is intended to be broken down or eliminated altogether.

In this form of MOOC, all participants are expected to be, to some extent, simultaneously teacher and learner, learned and teacher, and the model of learning is hence rendered horizontal (“horizontalized?”)  In this MOOC model, perhaps some small amount of learning takes place in watching presenters deliver content, but the greater proportion comes from each participant reflecting upon that content, sharing it through various networks, and prompting and provoking further learning along that network, back and forth, with presenters shaping and reshaping their presentations based in part upon their own participation in these networks.

As Siva Vaidhyanathan explained in a CFHE12 lecture I watched today, presenting a lecture shouldn’t be understood as teaching if teaching is understood as making learning happen: lecturing is just a form of content delivery, but learning happens as students engage with, work upon, make mistakes and even fail at the topic at hand.

The Fred Bartels ED Tech MOOC is still taking shape, and readers here can watch for news of it on the ISED list serve: I’ll also try to post here more about it as it emerges.

5.  [NOT a MOOC]  Intel Teach.   This free program from Intel offers five free courses, described this way:

Explore 21st century learning concepts: Intel® Teach helps K–12 teachers of all subjects learn to engage students with digital learning, including digital content, Web 2.0, social networking, and online tools and resources. Intel Teach professional development empowers teachers to integrate technology effectively into their existing curriculum, focusing on their students’ problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration, which are precisely the skills required in the high tech, networked society in which we live.

Six courses are offered: Education Leadership in the 21st century (which I’m 25% of the way through), Thinking Critically with Data, Assessment in 21st century classrooms, Project-Based Approaches, Collaboration in the 21st century classroom, and Inquiry in the Science Classroom.  It is my goal and intent to complete at minimum at least the first three– and I intend at some point to blog here about some of the key take-aways in these units.

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Readers here are invited and encouraged to join me in one or more of these programs– and if you do, let me know and let’s seek, where appropriate, collaboration opportunities.

(apologies that that Intel video at bottom runs automatically with launching the post– I much prefer it when videos wait for you to click play, but I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off).