Saturday, 21 April 2012

Sister Soups - my new e-book - a great learning experience!


I just finishing an e-book for Kindle. It is called Sister Soups: Recipes, Hopes and Prayers for Times of Illness.
Sister Soups is a book of healthy soups, hopes, and prayers for people facing cancer or another serious illness.
Sister Soups offers delicious recipes, beautiful pictures, words of hope, and prayers of encouragement for each month of the year. Sister Soups are full of healthy ingredients and the soups have a mild taste and are easy to eat.

I wrote it for someone very dear to be me who is going through a year of chemo.
This also explains why my assignment 3 was late!

Writing for Kindle is a great learning experience. And I get to try out that "Long Tail" theory we learned about in class.

Joanne

This


Friday, 20 April 2012

Assignment 3 CCK12 - My Presentation on the influence of connectivism on my view of learning

Here is the link to my Assignment #3 Presentation for “Connectivism, Networked Learning, and Connective Knowledge”.
You can find my presentation on this Vimeo video at: http://vimeo.com/40748695

My presentation explains the influence of connectivism on my view of learning. I also talk about the depth and diversity of my own learning networks.

And, in closing, here is a picture of George Dawon, who learned to read at 98 years of age. This picture always give me heart and spirt for learning! I hope it inspires you too.

I'm grateful for the awesome, challenging, fun, disturbing, hopeful, and profound learning experience!

It has been a pleasure learning and connecting with you all.

Warmly,

Joanne

Monday, 9 April 2012

Changing views and systems: we’ve got a long way to go! – Week 12 - CCK12

George Siemen’s article, “New Structures of learning: The systemic impact of connective knowledge, connectivism and networked learning” (http://elearnspace.org/Articles/systemic_impact.htm) made for a fascinating read between Barrie and Kingston this Easter weekend. Between stopping to view various wildflowers (Spring Beauty, Dutchmen’s Breeches, Hepatica, Bloodroot and a very early Trillium…), I learned a great deal about connectivism and learning.

Specifically, I learned that while technology has made it possible for massive shifts to be made in how education is delivered, educational institutions have typically been extremely slow at adapting to the exciting possibilities for teaching and learning offered by the digital age. Opportunities include “global classrooms, shared curricula, complex problem solving through collaboration, and new relationships between educational institutions and society” (page 6).
The article overviewed some of the challenges to traditional education, including:
·         A transition from a solid knowledge base of information to a wide and wild array of information and resources which must be assessed and contextualized by an individual.
·         The global campus – where people can easily access learning via non traditional sources of education (informal education via podcasts, online videos, the Khan Academy, GCF Learn Free, etc.  or via universities and colleges without walls such as Athabasca University or Contact North)

The question was then asked “how does change impact institutions”. It would appear that while there are small pockets of innovation brought about by early innovators and champions, that overall, the opportunities offered by digital technologies have not resulted in a transformation of the way we learn. Typically, the traditional classroom model is still the model most valued by educators and the public. New tools, old strategies. New possibilities, old thinking. 
For example, here in Ontario, educators often seem to think that the use of a SmartBoard is an incredible innovation. And, while SmartBoards do indeed provide access to helpful resources and tools, this technology is essentially merely the automation of a blackboard. No changes or new opportunities in classroom learning have in fact been made. Standard classrooms, standard curriculum and hierarchical teaching practices remain in place.

To use another example: this spring comes the time most dreaded by shy children: speeches!  In 2012 in Ontario, my terribly shy Grade 8 son and all of his compatriots are required to write out their speeches on FLASH CARDS, and deliver them verbally in front of the classroom. Can you imagine the alternate possibilities? Even PowerPoint would be a huge innovation here. How about YouTube, podcasts, animations? The learning would be equal or greater than delivering a speech via flash cards (I used that decades ago, as did my parents – I mean, this is stone tablet technology!), and it would meet the learning styles of individual students. Even the teacher (perhaps ESPECIALLY the teacher) would learn a thing or two!
Some other concepts I found interesting in this paper were: open versus closed systems, expertise versus amateur content creation, and open versus closed educational resources.

Let’s hope in the coming years that educational institutions are more open to change and to adapting so that they and their students can benefit from the possibilities offered by digital technologies. Ideas can take time, but if they hold on, even despite the odds, they can grow and flourish. Here is a great illustration of this: look at this beautiful wildflower from my Easter hike (it is a native Canadian plant called Spring Beauty). It is growing in the crevice of a rock. There is almost no soil, but still it persisted and from a tiny seed it germinated and grew into this beautiful plant.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Week 11 – Research and Analytics – Data Maniacs CCK12


PROS
The Internet and new technology gives rises to many new ways to research, analyse and evaluate. Many trends can now be analysed via Google analytics, Google blog search, Twitter hash tags, YouTube hits and ranking, Facebook analytics, Amazon rankings and ratings, and other methods. This has lead to many new and exciting possibilities for data gathering, research and evaluation. The fact that much of this data (thanks to technology) now comes to us easily, and at no cost, is of great benefit, particularly to small organizations such as mine.

For example, as my organization moves into creating a social enterprise, we are using Google analytics to select training topics and also pick the best topics to write e-books to sell on Amazon. Knowing what is popular and where gaps are greatly increases our chance of success in building a strong social enterprise. Google analytics is also an incredible tool for our website both to evaluate user trends, but also to build our website with the end user in mind. To use another example, Facebook automatically tells me each week about all of the trends for our organization’s Facebook page. Thanks to this free feature, I can readily understand the trends and adjust the content or the marketing of our Facebook page accordingly.


CONS
On a separate topic… this week’s reading started with the intriguing comment of:
“Thus connectivism is perceived as relevant by its practitioners but as lacking in rigour by its critics”. (Frances Bell, Connectivism: Its Place in Theory-Informed Research and Innovation in Technology-Enabled Learning. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/902)

Immediately my ears perked up! I work in a sector (nonprofit, charitable sector) and a domain (adult literacy) that both endure the ongoing struggle with the fact that we do important, relevant work but we are constantly criticized as lacking in rigour (or sound evaluative data).

Some immediate questions jumped to my mind regarding research and evaluation: Can all services be quantified and sold at a price to satisfy the bureaucrats among us? Does everything fit nicely in a box the way some would like? Is life neat and tidy the way government funders would have it? Can everything worth doing readily be evaluated?  

As noted in the above article, evaluation techniques will vary depending upon the scope and purpose of the evaluation, the funding available for the evaluation, and the skills, experience and philosophies of the evaluators. However, I would add as well, that the evaluation techniques will also vary based the goals of those driving the evaluation and whether the evaluation is for internal purposes (such as for course improvement) or for external purposes such as governments needing random, meaningless data for their own mysterious purposes. 

Here is a library in Haiti. I don’t think its value could be easily evaluated and quantified. But its worth is priceless. 

Week 10 – Role of the Educator – Brave New World! – CCK12


I agree with the week 10 readings that the role of the educator is changing dramatically. In literacy we have long emphasized that while the school system and teachers are important for the education of the children, in fact the family has a profound impact on a child’s success at school. “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents” would be one familiar refrain in literacy.

In my forays into high education I have often been miffed at the common mantra of that teachers should not be the “sage on the stage” but rather that they should be the “guide on the side”. This mantra has seemed unassailable but to myself I’ve often thought, “But I don’t know anything about this topic, I’m taking this course to learn from the teacher, not to teach myself or learn from other unknowledgeable students. This teacher has a lot of knowledge to impart – please be the sage on the stage!”.

It was interesting to read Stephen Downes’ article on “The Role of the Educator” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/the-role-of-the-educator_b_790937.html) where educator roles were well fleshed out, instead of glossed over and diminished to just the “guide on the side”.  These new roles are dynamic and interesting – for both the student and the educator!

In adult literacy here in Ontario we have an excellent case study of how technology has indeed created a shift in the role of the educator. The Ontario government funds an online learning program of studies called e-Channel (see the Learning Hub at: http://www.learninghub.ca/Home.aspx). Students all across Ontario improve their literacy skills online. There is standard self-study, online course content which learners work through at their own pace. They are assigned an off-site distance education teacher and they often also have a tutor in their home location to support their work as well.  

I agree that the role of the educator has expanded and has become actually richer, rather than being reduced to a mere “guide on the side”. Stephen Downes identifies 23 possible roles that the educator can assume in the new world of education to support online students. These roles include the modeling the learning process, collecting resources and materials to support learning, organizing learning, championing ideas and beliefs, building networks, coordinating and connecting people, critiquing and questioning, providing technical support, mentoring students, and many other roles.

Different teachers might assume the roles that they are most comfortable with, or that their students are in most need of in order to effectively learn. Students as well vary in their needs, some might need mentoring while others might need tech support and still others might need a champion, or a critic, or help connecting with others.
We have a whole new world ahead of us where we can teach and support learners in more effective and authentic ways! I think it is very exciting!

The picture I am posting today is for me a great reminder that the best teachers are the people who take the time to teach you about things they are passionate about. This is a snowdrop, and my old, old friend, who died this week of Alzheimer’s, always took the time when I was a young child to teach me about the important things in life: how to canoe in rough waters, how to identify bird calls, how to navigate by the North Star and how to identify wildflowers.  RIP HT.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Open, closed and the need to just survive! – Week 9 CCK12


The readings this week on openness and transparency were extremely interesting. I believe deeply in the concept of openness in education for the following reasons:
  • It is an extremely helpful way to build up educational resources, curriculum, ideas, AND strategies that result in better teaching and more effective learning experiences
  • It is a powerful tool for building educational communities of learning and peer relationships
  • It develops global linkages and knowledge sharing
  • It is a cost-effective way for small organizations with scarce resources to learn and grow
  • It prevents the constant need to reinvent the wheel and allows educators to build on and adapt existing sources of knowledge
  • It allows for sharing of promising practices and tools across wide and diverse geographic and economic areas 
  • Ordinary people and organizations get to chose what is worth sharing and publishing, not large publishing houses or government. 


The non-profit organization for which I work has in fact as long modeled this sort of open and transparent information sharing. We have freely and openly shared (via the Internet) all of our resources from printed guides to webinars to online self-study websites to podcasts to e-communiqu├ęs and newsletters. Although we are a small organization with just four staff, our resources are extremely well-regarded and thousands upon thousands of resources are downloaded each year from our website – and all for free.

Small as we are, we’ve been inspired by other large organizations to openly share for the benefit of others. We are energized when others write and tell us how much our publications have helped them.

HOWEVER! As much as we value this openness, we’ve become a bit jaded by it and are changing our philosophy. We are really wrestling with this abundance versus scarcity philosophy. Perhaps we are doing something wrong in our free and open approach – advice would be appreciated! Here is the situation:

We find that the sharing often goes one way. From us to others and not back. We find that sometimes because we give things away for free that they aren’t valued as much as resources or webinars that people pay for. Sometimes people think “free” means poorly done and that experts and quality cost money.

Mostly importantly, we receive a very small amount of government funding; in fact, we must raise over 50% of our budget from other sources of income. Soon, we will need to look at cutting back our staff, especially given the poor state of the Ontario economy when government funding may in fact decrease. Therefore, for fiscal reasons, we are planning to start a social enterprise in order to make money from the resources that we have normally given away for free.

Here is a perfect example of why we have to change our strategy. Last year, a colleague and I wrote a resource that we freely posted to our website. This Guide was so popular that it was downloaded over 50,000 times in just two months (with no advertising). On our website, we have a paypal link that said “We are pleased to share this resource with you. However, we are a small nonprofit and we would request that each person or organizational downloading this report make a minimum donation of $2 towards our organization”. And, while 50,000 people downloaded our report, NOT ONE PERSON made a donation to our organization. This led us to think that we are not just open sharers of information as we’d always liked to think, but instead, we are perhaps suckers?

During our 10 years of open information sharing, we always hoped (naively I’m sure) that some philanthropist would notice our excellent and free resources and our generous spirit of sharing and offer to sponsor us. But that never happened either.

We sadly cannot afford to be so generous any more – perhaps larger organizations with deeper pockets can. Instead, we are moving towards a social enterprise and moving our resources over to Amazon.com. Our resources will continue to be free for our members, but outside organizations will need to start paying for them.

Do you think there is a better solution than our planned social enterprise? We want to keep being open and generous, but it doesn't seem sustainable. Are there models whereby organizations can share and yet receive some kind of compensation for their generosity and skills and talent? Stephen Downes mentions several helpful funding models in his paper "Models for Sustainable Open Educational Resources" (http://ijello.org/Volume3/IJKLOv3p029-044Downes.pdf) but those models seem to apply more to the formal world of academia than to the informal world of nonprofits. Your ideas would be most welcome!

We hope our social enterprise will give us the money to continue doing what we do best – helping small literacy organizations to survive and thrive! And, we will find ways to continue some open sharing however, as it is deeply embedded in our culture.
Joanne

Friday, 16 March 2012

Power, the Long Tail, and e-publishing on Kindle – Week 8 CCK12

Power and authority, always interesting topics! I agree that new medias have allowed for an unprecedented level of communication and collaboration which in turn has resulted in a strong voice for ordinary people. Whether it is politicians who quickly respond to Facebook protests from constituents (for example, Premier Dalton McGuinty changing his policy on the process for licensing young drivers due to a Facebook campaign from young Ontarians), or companies who change products and policies based on Twitter feedback, or nonprofit organization such as Invisible Children who immediately respond via all forms of social media to critics, ordinary people can effectively use new technologies to make their opinions known.
One of this week’s readings “Revisiting Multiliteracies in Collaborative Learning Environments” by Vance Stevens (http://www.tesl-ej.org/wordpress/issues/volume10/ej38/ej38int/) discusses the fascinating concept of “the long tail”. Stevens notes that in traditional print media, publishers decide what is worthy of publication, often based on the perceived ability of a book to be marketable to large amounts of people. However, due to new medias, ordinary people who want to share their voice, can easily use new medias to create a blog, develop a website, gain a following on Twitter, or even publish a book.
According to Wikipedia, “The term Long Tail has gained popularity in recent times as describing the retailing strategy of selling a large number of unique items with relatively small quantities sold of each – usually in addition to selling fewer popular items in large quantities .” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Long_Tail)
Amazon is an amazing example of the long tail concept. Amazon through its Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) allows authors to publish and market digital books. It is free for authors to use this service (Amazon takes a percentage of sales). Under KDP, E-books are created based on the interests and passions of authors. Few are best sellers, and the Amazon model is based on selling small quantities of many types of diverse books. Amazon makes a HUGE profit either way.
 I am most interested in e-publishing and, in order to learn how to write, format, publish and market e-books, I wrote a book for Kindle this December on something I am personally interested in. Based on my experience with KDP, my non-profit organization is in the process of moving many of our instructional books to Amazon KDP and selling them as a social enterprise. In this time of government cutbacks, we nonprofits must be more innovative than ever!
So “power to the people” I say, and give thanks that new medias exist where we can share our stories, voices, and resources without someone on high saying they aren’t worthy. We can engage stakeholders directly ourselves and use our creativity without someone in power stopping us. Hurrah for the long tail and new medias such as KDP!

Joanne

p.s. Happy Saint Urho's Day everyone - the day St. Urho drove the grasshoppers out of Finland! A time to wear purple and green and celebrate!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Complex Adaptive Systems – Martin and Rosa and Joseph - Week 7 CCK12

The idea of complex adaptive systems rings true – and leaves me feeling oddly hopeful. My own instinct and experience have long told me that the universe is an unpredictable and complex place. It is not as easily subjected to unwavering laws and unbreakable rules as some would have it. It is not a giant jigsaw puzzle or a machine, that with time, effort and study you could understand, fix, and replicate. Such theories of a complicated universe do not account for the ability of interactions, whether human or in the natural world, to greatly impact and change events in unpredictable ways.
There may be some elements that are predictable. For example, from a demographic point of view, many people once they reach 50 will start to become more interested in health and fitness and typically, more young people are interested in extreme sports than are middle-aged or elderly people.

However, the actions of individual humans can be highly unpredictable – as can the response from others with whom they interact. Tiny stones throw in large ponds can occasionally have dramatic impacts which can only be understood through a complex adaptive system lens.

For example, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg in 1517 he wanted change. Others made the same requests for reform and were killed or ignored. Yet Luther’s words had an enormous impact on others and this unleashed a massive revolution and reformation beyond anything Luther could have imagined.

And, to use a more modern example, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, she could not have predicted that her actions would greatly impact others and ignite the civil rights movement. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJ1OO5iBWCQ



As I write this, the Kony 2012 movement going viral on the Internet. There have been 71 millions views (and counting) of this 30 minute video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc&feature=share). I sit here wondering: Will a small group of people from Invisible Children impact enough other people in this complex adaptive system in which we live? Will a brutal killer be captured at last?

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Personal Learning Networks / Environments - CCK12 / Week 6

A Personal Learning Network is a network of people that you connect with for the purpose of learning. PLNs are often informal and are always personalised based on the needs and interests of each individual. I would like to further develop my personal learning network. Upon reflecting on this week’s readings and the Thursday night lecture, I think that my network is not diverse enough.
George noted during the Thursday class: “If you agree with everyone in your network, your network is probably not diverse enough”. It is true that sometimes those we heartily disagree with force us into deeper thought and new perspectives. I think my current personal learning network is mostly full of people with whom I share many common perspectives.
This course has expanded my horizons since other members of CCK or the MOCC come from different countries and workplaces than do I. I learn a lot from these diverse perspectives and look forward to particularly the Thursday nights when I get to listen and read the the chat and think: “How interesting! I would have never thought that way or perceived that issue in such a manner”.
A Personal Learning Environment is a technical environment you create to support your learning. This environment varies for each person. In fact, a PLE is your very own, personalised, customized learning environment. It is built on tools that you find helpful in your own learning process.

The main tools I use in my PLE (in ranked order) are:


·         Blogs
·         YouTube
·         Podcasts
·         Webinars
·         Facebook
·         Photosharing
·         Social bookmarking
·         E-books
·         LinkedIn
Here are a couple of examples: GCLearnFree’s blog: http://blog.gcflearnfree.org / YouTube for Teachers: www.youtube.com/user/teachers and  iTunes University: www.apple.com/education/itunes-u/

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Annoyed with Pinterest! CCK12

True confession - I'm mad at the saintly Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/). Now don't get me wrong, I love social media and was an early adopter of it, and I know Pinterest is great, amazing, fantastic, don't know how I lived without it, blah, blah, blah. I already had an account and I thought it was fine, but certainly not life altering.

BUT, how come life as I knew it was great until about 3 weeks ago when everyone I know started pushing Pinterest on me - as though not being an active user of Pinterest was a major social faux pas - akin with not having Facebook or something REALLY awful. As well, on my organization's Facebook page (which I manage), almost every single nonprofit organization I know is posting about and singing the praises of Pinterest, sharing "how to" tutorials, asking why you aren't using Pinterest and why you really need to immediately join the band wagon, and carrying on like each and every respectable nonprofit simple cannot function with this technology.

It feels like "group think" to me and way too much pressure. Why the sudden popularity of this one technology? I find it very odd. Are people getting bored with the "old" standbys of Twitter, blogs and Facebook? Why do groups suddenly en mass decide something is right and good? Why do people persistently push the latest fad on you?

I do realise I sound cranky and uncooperative - but I'm actually not, I'm just really, really tired of hearing about Pinterest!

Laughingly,

Joanne
p.s. I did once find the most adorable picture of two pigs swimming in a pool on Pinterest. Those pigs remind me of us in the nonprofit sector, working so diligently to do our missions! Pinterest definitely does have some good features!



Monday, 27 February 2012

Groups: Love and hate – Week 5 Posting – CCK12

Stephen Downes in his article “The Group Feeling (http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2006/10/that-group-feeling.html ) so powerfully articulates some of the benefits and perils of groups.
Here is an example of why I hate groups. My grade 9 son has awesome bright, long red hair that he loves. It’s his trademark and even his identity. On this past weekend a group of cool kids dared him to shave his head bald to fit in with their group – and he did it. As Stephen mentioned in the above article, many people will risk a lot to belong to a group, and there is a price (and sometimes a high one) to be paid for joining.
However, I also love groups and am personally involved in a fairly unique experience. A group of close friends from our church and I are trying to replicate a wee bit of the community created by first century Christians, in a 21st century urban dweller fashion. We try to create an informal community by doing some group activities together and helping one another out. So, we meet one evening per week to talk, learn and pray together, and we take on community projects – serving at a soup kitchen, cleaning up a park together. We also hang out socially a couple of times per year (bowling, cards, hiking, or whatever) and go camping once per year. And, we help each other as best we can when bad situations occur in our lives.  It is quite informal; and people get involved with some, all or none of the activities and come and go as they like and suits their needs. We have a lot of fun. A lot of the people in our group are not connected in community otherwise and love being in a group that cares about them. When something bad happens, these friends are some of the first people I’d call. It doesn't really have a leader, we are just friends walking together. This group has been a blessing not a burden (I like that terminology from Stephen's article).
I agree with Stephen’s assessment that “groups are based on passion while networks are based on reason”. And that you’ve got to carefully watch the dividing line between healthy and unhealthy groups. 
Joanne

Friday, 24 February 2012

E-Books!

Several classmates (is that still the word in a MOOC?) have posted on our Diigo group regarding e-books. Though I'm the daughter of a librarian and grew up with my nose in a book, and to this day I love the look and feel of books... I must admit, I LOVE e-books!
My primary job at a work is to research and write (hurrah!) but I had never written a e-book. This fall and winter I taught myself how to write, develop and produce e-books on Amazon's Kindle. It was a huge learning curve for sure!

Here are my two e-books, one just for me and one for work.

"Christmas Sauna Traditions" http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Sauna-Traditions-ebook/dp/B006P4EN9E/

And, one that I just posted on Kindle today: “Guide to Effective Technologies for Providing Online Trainingwww.amazon.com/Effective-Technologies-Providing-Training-ebook/dp/B007CMLLRA
I know that I definately used networked learning to get these produced, as this is such a new field and I had to learn from many different people using e-mail, webinars, book, e-books, websites, printed based resources and even one face-to-face connection! Not mention trying to learn how to use Amazon's amazing network...!
Now for a nice winter sauna after a busy week...


Monday, 20 February 2012

Adult Literacy and Learning Theories #CCK12 - Week 4

I work in the field of adult literacy, which overall, is highly influenced by the constructivist theory of learning. Adult learners have typically not succeeded in standard educational institutions and yet they have important and diverse life and work experiences – not to mention incredible coping skills. For our sector, constructivism tends to be a highly valued theory because it values and builds on people’s previous life experiences.

However, when an adult has extremely low levels of literacy, we must sometimes begin with a behaviourist approach, i.e., drilling and practicing basic spelling and reading skills. Without gaining basic conventions of spelling and reading through a skill and drill approach, it can be difficult to learn and progress.
Seldom do adult literacy learners favour a humanist approach to learning. They typically are not upgrading their literacy skills for reasons of self-actualization and self-development; often their reasons for learning are more basic and profound than that. They need improved literacy skills for critically important goals such as furthering their education, gaining employment, or reading a banking agreement, apartment lease or a child’s report card.
Literacy educators might use cognitivism as a means of organizing how the course is designed and delivered, rather than as a learning theory.
In family literacy, we would be more likely to use a social constructivist theory, since family literacy involves the whole family (immediate, extended and sometimes the community) learning together. We definitely recognize, given the strong co-relation between a parent’s literacy level and a child’s, that social constructivism is an important learning theory in family literacy.
Connectivism would be a new learning theory to most literacy educators and adult literacy learners. Many of the concepts within connectivism would be however be familiar to us. For example, the concept that knowledge can be gained through social interaction and that people learn through connection with others would be commonly accepted principles. As well, the concept that knowledge is distributed across a network and that learning is supported by navigating these connections would also be accepted in literacy.

In terms of social interaction and connections, adult literacy learners often benefit from social and peer-based learning and from sharing stories and resources of how to cope with low literacy levels in a highly literate world. Therefore, often in adult literacy we encourage peer support and peer tutoring. Knowing the value of this social and interactive learning, and its ability to support others, we also encourage adult learners (based on individual comfortable levels) to share their stories, via literacy agency blogs, newsletters, videos, podcasts, speaking engagements, and books). Who can better relate to the struggles and needs of adult learners better than people sharing the same journey?

In literacy, we also seek to build connections of adult literacy educators and adult learners via networks, both in person and digital. We do this using incredibly diverse methods, including via provincial learner conferences and via a wide variety of online tools such as those mentioned above (blogs, stories of the week, online videos, webinars, newsletters, etc.). For some, networks help them to learn; for others, they create a lifeline!

To illustrate, here is a powerful video produced by People, Words and Change, (a community-based literacy agency in Ottawa) that shares the stories of six adult learners: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTL2C09gQNk

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Network Joy!

Joy, yes joy! 

Yesterday, the Huntington’s Society of Canada (http://www.huntingtonsociety.ca/english/) announced the first-ever research breakthrough for a potential treatment for Huntington’s disease (HD). http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-02/uoaf-uoa021312.php

HD is a devastating genetic neurological disease that is incurable, untreatable and which each child of a person with this disease has a 50% chance of inheriting this terrible and terrifying disease. Some describe it as a cross between Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. My family is directly impacted by HD.

So what’s the link to networks?

Networks play an incredibly important role in such medical breakthroughs. And there are many players in this network who have roles both large and small. These would be just a few of the many network players (most who will never meet each other but who all share a passion for finding a cure):


- Researchers at the University of Alberta
- Past researchers for HD all over the world
- Researchers who mapped out the human genome
- Researchers who found the defective HD gene markers
- Government funding for HD research (very, very, very limited compared to other diseases)
- Researchers for other diseases that have relation to HD – Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.
- Online tools and technologies that allow researchers to share information easily
- Huntington Societies around the world which provide such awesome support to families and which advocate for the disease and fund research
- People affected by HD who take part in clinical trials and various tests
- People who let researchers use their computers to compile and crunch data regarding various diseases including HD under the Folding@Home project http://folding.stanford.edu/
 Donors who give to research (including one anonymous donor who gave 5 million to HD!) 
Families affected by HD who raises funds for research by walkathons, bake-a-thons, selling flowers, begging and pleading and grovelling for money, etc. etc. 
 My son who helped me bake pies to raise money for research!


AND, most importantly, those who suffer from HD who have held on to hope in the face of despair brought on by this devastating and incurable disease!

This is not a cure, but perhaps the beginning of a cure. And a day I never thought I’d see. A big HURRAH for networks! THANK YOU! It's a day for joy! 



I'm not sure whether to put the course tag for this post, it feels a bit weird, but I'm so happy, so here goes: CCK12 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Rhizomes and Canons – Week 3 – CCK12

Yes to:

·         Learning without borders – people learning and growing and sharing in ways that interest them and meet their needs and abilities

·         Networking to share and construct knowledge with others

·         Negotiating with others in the learning process

·         Agreeing that experts do not know everything and new ideas and new technologies result in paradigm shifts in learning

·         Accessing information, resources and people in new ways due to the massive shift in technology

·         Decentralizing who is an expert and who controls access to knowledge

·         Considering new ideas!

·         Creating community in new ways

·         Re-examining standard beliefs and practices

Here is a picture I took of a native Ontario wildflower called “Spring Beauty”. It is the first spring wildflower you will see in Ontario forests. It is a rhizomatic plant, spreading and growing throughout the forest floor and showing up where you least expect it – just like networked learning!
And for Hugh McKellar’s interesting insights about books in his “The changing nature of knowledge,” here is a humorous 3-minute video: Medieval Help Desk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQHX-SjgQvQ

No!
Despite my many “yeses” to this week’s readings, I have a big NO to there never being a canon for anything. While I know this is not a popular concept in modern society, I believe there is some knowledge that is settled and unassailable. To me, technology does not change this type of knowledge, though it can make it easier to share and connect and learn more, but the knowledge does not itself change. For me, this is my faith in God and human love and hope.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The M.O.M. Network Solution

On Thursday, George asked us to think of practical applications for networks for our CCK12 course. Here is a real life network scenario that happened to me on Friday.

The Problem:

·         My 13 year-old son accidentally leaves his cell phone at home and heads off to his Grade 9 classes

·         His orthodontist calls with an emergency appointment that afternoon

·         I need to get a hold of my son ASAP to tell him about the appointment

The M.O.M. Network Solution

1.    I enact the secret M.O.M. network

2.    I send a Tweet to Mom A (son’s best friend’s Mom) and tell her the problem but… her son (kid A) doesn’t have a cell phone. Dead-end!

3.    I send a Facebook message to Mom B and she promises to text her son (kid B)

4.    Kid B doesn’t have any courses with my son so he texts kid C who shares a gym class with my son

5.    Gym class is over by the time kid C reads the text, so it is another dead-end!

6.    Kid C then posts on his Facebook “Anyone who has a class with Charlie please tell him to call home ASAP” (though of course he posts in lol language not these long words!)

7.    Kids D, E, F, G, H  (none of whom I know) all read this Facebook post and tell my son to call me

8.    My son makes it to the emergency dental appointment!

9.    Hurrah for the M.O.M. network – with its strong and weak ties, dead-ends, false starts, known and unknown players, awesome use of social network tools and ultimate success as a network!