Defining My Research Topic, Problem and Questions

“Jump Across” by Kris is licensed under CC BY 2.0

On March 25, 2014 I participated in an exploratory Google Hangout about Writing and Publishing Openly Online facilitated by  Ian O’Byrne.  Doug Belshaw wrote up a summary of the Google Hangout which included linking the actual recording HERE.

Last year, I was lucky enough to have Doug come out to my school district and start the discussion about  integrating digital literacies within a K-12 school district. I wrote about it HERE.

This week I started to take the plunge into my doctorate research problem and questions. My fearless leader Sarah Eaton suggested that we look at her blog to find more resources to support refining research questions and problems. Here is her post called How to Narrow Down Your Research Topic. I swallowed some of my fear as I start to develop my “open researcher” identity and started to remember how it felt like when I was “just an open learner”.

How does the Google Hangout in 2014 and Sarah’s post connect? Both examples model open researching using a participatory approach which is using the power of networks in order to share and build knowledge together.

I have been too scared to share my knowledge, and as I spent this week thinking about my topic, my problem and my research questions, I realized that I had to model what K-12 open educational practice could look like. So, as I look back on my confidence and collaboration with esteemed colleagues from March 25, 2014, I am humbly facing my fears and taking the jump “back into” the open. This means that I am looking for critical feedback, I am looking for support and I am daring to put myself out there….in order to learn in those deep and meaningful ways that were previously inconceivable….

So…what am I considering in terms of research? Here is what I am thinking about:

Research Problem:

There are a variety of factors that adversely influence the opportunity for K-12 students to learn in open and networked digital learning environments in 2017.

Some of the problem’s  key considerations for me as a researcher include:

  •  K-12 learners are exploring and learning digitally outside of traditional K-12 classrooms. There is discrepancy surrounding how student digital learning outside the classroom is being transferred or integrated into the K-12 classroom.
  • The learning students are doing outside of the classroom could be better supported by development of competency in digital literacies that connects learning outside and inside formal classrooms.
  • Without experience learning open and networked learning environments, teachers are less likely to have an open learning mindset and able to model open educational practices in their classroom.

Research Question:

How does a teacher’s Open Educational Practice support the development of digital literacies for K-12 students?


What impact does Open Educational Practice have in K-12 Learning Environments?

Key Learning Models to Support Research Problem/Question

K-12 Open Educational Practice

Indicators of K-12 Open Educational Practice Licensed CC-BY Roberts & Blomgren (2017 – in publication)

Digital Literacies:

Elements of Digital Literacies – Doug Belshaw (2011)

A great post that summarizes the 8 Elements of Digital Literacies is written by Kevin McLaughlin and is found HERE

Initial Literature Review Organization:

A. Key Definitions:

What are Digital Literacies?

What is Open Educational Practice in K-12 Learning Environments?

What are the indicators of K-12 Open Educational Practice?

  • Open Educational Resources (OER)
  • Open Learning Design
  • Participatory Culture
  • Networked Learning
  • Digital Learning Spaces
  • Open Readiness

B. Key Questions:

What is the theoretical framework behind Open Educational Practice?

What are examples of current research that include aspects of OEP in K-12 learning environments?

I look forward to your feedback and support as I jump into deep end of learning in the open. What are your initial thoughts and reactions?

Verena 🙂



Belshaw, D. (2011). The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. Available from under a CC BY license.

Roberts, V., Blomgren, C., Peters, K. & L. Graham  (Unpublished). Open Educational Practice in K-12 online and blended learning environments. In R. Ferdig & K. Kennedy’s Revised Handbook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning. Pittsburgh, PA: ETC Press.

Developing my Researcher Identity ->Here I go….


Research by ianshellystudio

I am feeling very grown up as I take the steps into my collaboratory stage of my research.  For EdD students, it is the beginning of the storm, the preparation before candidacy and actual research. It makes me feel like I’m in Jr high school when I took the bus for the first time.  I watch as my own children are entering middle school and new schools – and developing their own identities.  So, one of my goals is to figure out what “growing into my identity as a researcher” will be.

This goal will start to develop in a few ways:

1) Writing about my research topic

I have spent the last few weeks finishing up an unpublished updated chapter on Open Educational Practice (OEP) in K-12 Blended and Online Learning Environments  for an updated Handbook on K-12 Blended and Online Learning. The  At first, I was overwhelmed at the thought of writing anything more after this summer, but I went into my writing over the last year and used ideas and references from my writing to build the revamped version of the chapter. I also worked with Dr Connie Blomgren, the BOLT Assistant prof from Athabasca University. She kept my writing in check and I was able to bounce my ideas and connections to theory off of her. I started to develop my researcher identity around my passion research area.  I was also able to write with a long time colleague, whom I originally met through twitter as part of a MOOC (Massive Open online Course). Her name is Dr. Lee Graham and she is just starting as an Asst Prof at SUNY in New York. She just moved from the University of Alaska. I am going to write another chapter for a Athabasca University online handbook on Open Educational Resources this fall. It is not as research focused, like my APA chapter, but writing about my research passion and interest is helping me to develop ideas around my topic and research question.

2) Connecting Research Writing and “Practical” Writing

Dr Blomgren has also asked my colleagues at work to write a chapter from a more practical point of view. As a result, I am  working with colleagues from my school team to write a collaborative chapter about one aspect of my research topic, How to Create, Adopt and Integrate Open Educational Resources across a Canadian School District.  This is one of the ways I am connecting research and practice. I will also be working with some work colleagues to update our district research ethics expectations and application for research within our district.  Part of this role will be advising my district on research issues as well as supporting Masters students with their research.  I am so excited to connect research to my everyday workday and share research ideas with my colleagues in the district. Going to the Partners in Research conference helped me bridge some connections between UofC, Alberta Education and my own district. Finally, I will be writing blog posts for the International Literacy Association and my own school district, connecting research to practice.

3) Pilot Collaborations: Balancing the Role as Educator and Researcher

I will be working directly with educators in specific learning contexts, in pilot like studies, with the understanding that I am learning more about what they are doing in order to shape my own research question for the future. Working in collaboration with educators is already part of my job as a Technology for Learning Specialist. What is already making the conversations and collaboration different is the ways in which we are talking about their practice, their learning design and the choices that they are making as educators in order to support student learning. I am open in my efforts to integrate research into our discussions and I am already fascinated at the different directions and dedication of the teachers to improving practice. My intention is to develop relationships with a variety of educators in “pilot” like experiences to see who might consider being part of my research in the future. I am choosing to use a design based research approach and relationships are key to working collaboratively.

It is my hope that by completing my Lit Review throughout this semester that I can not only build upon my own knowledge in my passion research area, but I can also build upon my researcher identity in academic and practical situations.

Case Study Research Course- Focus – Research paradigms

Discussion Questions:

Is all educational research case study research? What is a research paradigm? How many different ways are there to conduct educational research?  Why do you suppose there are many controversies over educational research approaches?

I looked back to my original design -based research course to find my online discussion answer to my epistemological and ontological beliefs as a researcher. My answer would not meet the fantasy qualitative classroom nor writing assignment expectations described by Wolgemuth (2016).

“… I was really being asked to describe my epistemological beliefs. I described learning as demonstrating deep empathy. I believe meaningful learning happens when learners share their learning with each other. Sharing includes connecting with other learners or digital content, collaborating with other learners and creating “something” that communicates learning to others. Endelson describes the potential for design based research to develop design domain theories, design frameworks and design methodologies (2002). My epistemological beliefs stem from connectivist and constructivist learning opportunities where teachers guide learners to the nodes of learning found in various mediums that best support personalized and collective student learning pathways (Siemens, 2004; Vygotskiĭ,1978). My research focus in k-12 open learning provides the potential for a design domain theory integrating connectivism and constructivism.

Davis, Sumara and Luce-Kapler (2015), distinguish between four historical movements that are associated with distinctive teaching practices and theories. As a design based researcher, I consider my ontological stance as one that blends two of these movements, democratic citizenship education and systemic sustainability education. I believe Individuals will learn by participating in learning with others and building upon the knowledge of all learners. As such, Barab and Squire best described my ontological epistemological stance when they described the goal of design based research is, “to directly impact practice while advancing theory that will be of use to others” (2004, p. 8)” (Roberts, 2017).

My online discussion answer  from my design based research course, was similar to the student examples Wolgemuth used in her article. While my answer is not inaccurate or incorrect, it could be so much more. It still lacks the breadth and depth case study research can offer.  A research paradigm includes the epistemological and ontological beliefs of a researcher as well as a theoretical framework and methodology. (Patel, 2015) I demonstrated that I was becoming aware of my research paradigm, but what I lacked was opposing views and different perspectives in order to make my research paradigm even stronger. I also gave a very specific answer which could restrict my potential to research my topic of interest from different perspectives. Wolgemuth’s article criticizes forced research paradigm and research frameworks within qualitative research. Instead she supports to, “…seek to create opportunities for students to take up multiple paradigms, methodologies, and methods; to foster paradigm proliferation (Lather, 2006) and creative, ambiguous, and boundary-defying research designs” (Wolgemuth, 2016, p. 518).

In her article, Lincoln’s overview of the historical context and success of qualitative case study research supports Wolgemuth’s views on flexible and unique research paradigms, especially in light of recent emphasis on static positivist scientific inquiry. Lincoln, like Wolgemuth, supports the flexibility, breadth, and depth of case study and qualitative research with a plethora of flexible definitions, perspectives and examples. “We have become, largely because of our methods,lenses, and paradigms, rather awesome purveyors of some of the most profound insights into Western society ever assembled” (Lincoln, 2010, p. 3).

Within the qualitative research world there is debate over the flexibility of interpretivism. There are examples of the ambiguous postmodern lens without a particular research methodology or research direction as opposed to  more pragmatic transformationism, which is based on those who believe research methodologies, theory, processes and approaches connect. Howe’s (1998) article suggests the new debate within interpretivism is not as essential as the old debate between, positivism and interpretivism. In fact, by trying to distinguish interpretivist qualitative research perspectives, quantitative positivist researchers have more ammunition to critique and disseminate all the progress and quality research created by qualitative researchers.

Thomas (2011) has created a choose your own adventure research paradigm to support case study research. His article was not an attempt to validate the potential for case study research in terms of a single framework. However, Thomas understands that case studies need some structure, especially in the planning and organizing stages, regardless of the research paradigm attempts .Thomas provides an opportunity for future case study researchers to consider how research paradigms can be flexible yet pragmatic, open-ended yet credible. He is able to help future researchers identify their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of their own epistemological and ontological beliefs based on purposes and approaches while still integrating theory and methodology into a diverse research framework.

There are controversies over educational research approaches because there is a competitive aspect to research in that one way to do things is the “right way” as it provides the best results. Society will also support research that gives them the answers they want, not necessarily the data to support answers they do not want. It is difficult to accept change and different perspectives. It is always easier to stay the same and provide evidence of why the “same” is the best.

As I look back to my online discussion answer, I am proud of my iterative attempt as a researcher to be flexible enough as a researcher to understand that a research paradigm helps to create my research identity in terms of interest and passion, but does not limit my potential to research similar topics from different methods and perspectives. I do research about open learning and I do not want to limit myself as to how I will continue to research this topic in the future.

Week 2 question for my colleagues: Is flexibility and an iterative process important to you as you consider your own research paradigm?


Davis, B., Sumara, D.,& Luce-Kapler, R. (2015). Engaging minds: cultures of education and practices of teaching (3rd edn.). New York: Routledge.

Edelson, D. C. (2002). Design research: What we learn when we engage in design. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 11(1), 105–121.

Howe, K. (1998). The interpretive turn and the new debate in education, Educational Researcher, 27(8), 13-20.

Lather, P. (2006). Paradigm proliferation as a good thing to think with: Teaching research in education as a wild profusion. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 19, 35-57.

Lincoln, Y. S. (2010). “What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been…”: Twenty-Five Years of Qualitative and New Paradigm Research. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(3), 3-9.

Patel, S. (2015, July 15). The research paradigm – methodology, epistemology and ontology – explained in simple language. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. [online]. Retrieved  from

Thomas, G. (2011). A Typology for the Case Study in Social Science Following a Review of Definition, Discourse, and Structure. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(6), 511-521.

Roberts, V. (2017, January 20). Verena’s Preliminary Position Statement [Online discussion group]. Retrieved from

Wolgemuth, J. R. (2015). Driving the Paradigm: (Failing to Teach) Methodological Ambiguity, Fluidity, and Resistance in Qualitative Research. Qualitative Inquiry 1-8.

Vygotskiĭ, L. S., & Cole, M. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

“Expert” vs “Novice” – Examining the “boundary” concept in informal learning environments

We are examining the idea of research around informal learning opportunities this week in my EdD class. My experiences come from cMOOCs, in particular my experiences as learner in #Change11 and #Moocmooc, lead conspirator of #etmooc lead facilitator of #DigiFoot12 #ceetopen and #oclmooc.

In our course, we are using the science domain to demonstrate how the boundary spaces can create a learning community in which “expert” and “novice” knowledge can come together.

Screenshot 2016-07-20 08.26.52

I am looking for examples, writings, storify’s, digital artifacts – anything – that would demonstrate how learner agency is supported and the idea of “expert” and “novice” meeting and building knowledge with each other in a learning space.


I understand that the boundary layers and objects referred to in the article are within the context of the historical framework of scientific research – but could you help me with my comparison to informal learning in cMooc environments?


Or am I comparing apples and oranges?


Verena 🙂



Shanahan, M.-C. (2011). Science blogs as boundary layers: Creating and understanding new writer and reader interactions through science blogging. Journalism, 12(7), 903-919.
I apologize for anyone who cannot access this article to refer to.

Mozilla All Hands in London England, 2016: Personal Leadership Framework and Toolkit Project – Experience

My usual week…

I am an educator and educational consultant. I spend my days working from home working on reports about how teachers learn about Blended Learning or thinking about the future of the Alberta MoodleHUB or creating course content podcasts about K-12 Open Educational Resources.

When my kids come home, I get their snacks and water and rush them off to the their soccer practices and games. I am the Team Manager for two of my kid’s teams and I am an example of a soccer mom. Being a soccer mom means I leave my “professional life” behind me at my home office, and I connect with other like parents from around city. We talk about the weather, the team, politics, soccer and mostly about our kids

My Mozilla AllHands Week:

From June 12-16 I was a volunteer with the Mozilla participation team. I applied to be considered for the Mozilla Work week, where I was going to help Emma Irwin work on the Personal Leadership Toolkit based on her research and work over the last few months.  This is my post on my goals and expectations of the work week.

And this is the post about what actually happened…..

Unfortunately Emma was unable to make the workweek, so I was given the amazingly enthusiastic and supportive George Roter as a mentor, the head of the Mozilla participation team, to support my work. After the original keynote given by Lorraine Heggessey from BBC1 about her leadership in reinventing Dr Who, I connected with George to get an overview of the volunteer work expectations. From the Dr Who keynote, I was able to ascertain that Mozilla was compared to the Dr Who show because of the show’s reinvention and ability to consistently be different, think outside the box, push barriers and try and save the universe. Apparently Mozilla had been used to doing some things the “old way” (imagine Dr Who in the 1960’s) and now we were being challenged to think about the transformation and success of Dr Who in 2016 (imagine what Mozilla could be if we had no barriers in which to save the universe). I assumed that “the universe” we are trying to save was the Internet – and we are trying to ensure that the Internet remains free.

Saving the Internet Universe? Tardis Boxes?

According to Chris Beard, CEO of Mozilla, during the keynote introductions, I am a Mozillian. And as a Mozillian, I am part of the “force” now trying to ensure freedom on the Internet. I have to admit, I was a little confused…I knew I had signed up as a volunteer for Mozilla, but now I was a Mozillian? Tardis boxes were being flown in with smoke, lots of great videos about Mozilla accomplishments were being shown  – but I was seriously beginning to question where I was and why I was there….

Back to my reality…

Go back to the beginning of this post where I described my usual daily life: a mom who works from a home office and spends her evenings on soccer fields trying to keep her family and soccer team in order. Creating a leadership toolkit seemed like an easy project based on my world of organization & consulting.

Into the future and my beliefs and passions….

However, now I am a Mozillian. I was being encouraged and challenged to push barriers and think beyond the “normal” and the “expected”. Those who know me – know I was in my element! I was being asked to step out of my “soccer mom” role and actually be myself!

I was surrounded by the type of “work” world we as educators speak about as we question how and what students are learning today. As educators, we are constantly being told that we are preparing our students for an unknown future. We are teaching and facilitating the skills, knowledge and behaviours for jobs and careers that don’t exist yet. At Mozilla, these skills, knowledge and behaviours exist already.  

I realized that I was already in my own rocketship sent from Calgary, Alberta, Canada  discovering a new planet in a foreign galaxy. I had stepped out of the Canadian Tardis I didn’t know I was stuck in – and I was exploring a new world – well new to me. My personal challenge was going to be to figure out how to learn as much as possible about this new world then bring this new learning back to my current world.


IMG_0231What a Volunteer Learns at a Mozilla All Hands Event:

Luckily, there were a number of sessions offered at London AllHands to help me figure out what this planet filled with Mozillians had to offer. I spent Wednesday learning about the participation team, “teams” who were reviewing and evaluating the campus campaign, rethinking the Reps program and developing the Reps mentoring and coaching support. Although each team had a Mozillian common vision and goals, they appeared to each speak their own language and do their own thing. They had their own means of communication (like telegraph) and their own “rules”, expectations, history, culture, leadership and world.

In fact, in 24 hours I learned about how the word “leader” can be taken in many ways, that there are many different definitions of open source and my favourite, that Chris Beard (CEO of Mozilla) referred to Mozilla as a chaordic organization  So….this was not “just” a leadership tool kit I was being asked to help support. I was being asked to try and be Dr Who discovering another planet in order to describe  the current Mozilla Universe. I was not being asked to tell anyone what to do, to change anyone or try to set up a new set of rules. I was being asked to explore, listen and translate. I was being asked to try and figure out how to encourage other people to take the plunge and enter their own Tardis, from their “place” and become a Mozillian. A Mozillian, like open source in general, is open to the world without barriers or “skin”. A Mozillian is transparent and lives and breathes for a bigger purpose than just themselves. They are devoted to the bigger picture and one size will never fit all Mozillians. They are their unique while still being part of a whole.

How to Complete a Project at Mozilla All Hands:

So – developing a tool kit, yes that was my project goal…but I was finding the getting there extremely difficult. I decided to use Design Thinking to help me with the project:

Screenshot 2016-07-02 17.38.53

Design Thinking image retrieved from:


Based on listening and observing of the other Mozillians, I learned that I needed another team member. Mikko Kontto is a Finnish elementary school teacher with experience working with the Mozilla web literacy framework and using Mozilla learning tools to encourage his own students to become Mozillians in their own way.  (Side note: As an k-12 Canadian Educator I shook with excitement because I was working with a Finnish teacher!!! And we are all told that the FInnish Education system is “it” right? And after working with Mikko – I can honestly say, all Canadian teachers should have the opportunity to collaborate with Finns!)


Mikko and I took Emma Irwin’s work, the personal leadership framework, Julian Stodd’s work on social leadership and compared other chaordic resources in order to  create a “Version -.0.5” of a personal leadership framework and competencies for Mozilla.

We started by using social leadership as a guide/common definition.

If you want to learn more about social leadership and how we made this connection to Mozillians please click HERE.


We started to integrate the behaviours, skills and knowledge that Emma had filtered into the social leadership competencies developed by Julian Stodd into our own Mozillian context:

Screenshot 2016-06-14 08.10.45

Retrieved from:

Then we created an excel spreadsheet which described the competencies using Mozilla words and vocabulary to ensure that we were translating the common language. We used the behaviours, skills and knowledge described in Emma Irwin’s work to ensure that the competencies connected with Mozillian culture.

Click HERE to see a copy of the Personal Leadership Competencies and descriptions

Prototype 1:

With a basic framework in mind, we were able to present our ideas to some of the Participation Team Leaders to ensure that we were creating something that was usable and others could “see themselves in”.

Prototype 2:

Finally, we presented our findings to Mozilla on Friday and were given feedback in order to take next steps.

Our “presentation display” looked like this:

Panel 1 represented the personal leadership framework – with the social leadership competencies and a description of how Mozillian skills, knowledge and behaviours connected to the competencies:

IMG_0295We used the Reps as an example to try and demonstrate the potential for this personal competency framework.

Panel 2 represented the current leadership framework within the Reps system.



Panel 3 was created to demonstrate the potential for Mozillian growth in terms of personal leadership and numbers. While Panel 2 exemplified  a “closed” system that was not able to sustain itself, Panel 2 exemplifies an open and networked system where there is an unending potential for sustainable growth for current and future Mozillians.


Next Steps? Testing….

As I headed back to Canada in my Calgary based Mozilla Tardis, I began to think about possible next steps. I was delighted to receive an email from Ruben ( @nukeador ) creating a timeline to keep working on the project. We are currently completing a Version 1.0 of the personal leadership framework – by connecting priority Rep skills, behaviours and knowledge to competencies and finding resources to support these prioritized focus areas. This is the link to our current work: Click HERE

I look forward to the next few months to see how/if the personal leadership framework will be prototyped and developed within the Mozilla participation team and beyond…

And until then….I will jump into my Tardis …and see where the future takes me as a Mozillian…


From Lurker, to Follower, to Leader: Mozilla All Hands in London Goals

The “Mozillian Lurker”


Photo by

Sitting next to Sunny Lee and Carla Casilli on on school bus exploring Vancouver during the the “Open Education” Conference in 2012, I discovered that I was already a Mozillian. Although on the fringes of the community, I learned about open badges and realized, that’s what I am doing already!  In late 2012, I collaborated with Laura Hilliger and Pete Rorabaugh (Twitter vs Zombies fame)  as co-conspirators for #ETMOOC. We worked together on a digital storytelling week. The primary reason Pete and Laura were involved in ETMOOC was to learn more about how to facilitate and offer future MOOCs. Pete is a part of the famous #moocmooc community and Laura developed Mozilla’s #TeachTheWeb community. I had no idea I was learning with experts as we collaborated and conspired together. I also managed to meet Laura and other Mozillians like Chad Sansing face to face at EduCon in January 2013. We even managed to be part of the #ETMOOC Lip Dub (Check 1:18)  That year I worked with Alberta Distance Learning Centre and won an Innovation Award for creating the Open Classroom – which would never have happened without the key connections and learning that had occurred throughout the year.

I spent the next year completing my course work for my UBC MET and briefly supported the development of the original web literacy competencies led by Doug Belshaw.  As part of my project work completing my MET with UBC, I presented my research to the mozilla open badges community. By developing my connections within the original open badges and #teachtheweb community I met people who have since become trusted mentors like Ian O’Byrne and  friends like Emma Irwin.

Over the last 4 years, I never really moved from the “fringes” of the Mozilla community – but I was always a Mozillian. I live and breathe openness. I strive for open communication within our school systems and developing digital literacy for all learners. As a Canadian, I work with a lot of American educators and we chat about web safety and privacy regularly – there is a difference. I watched from afar as Mozilla changed leadership, watched as my “heros and leaders” shifted their focus and I watched as Mozilla started new campaigns and directions.

Emma Irwin reconnected with me about 6 months ago – she checked in to see what I was up to. We had met years ago in Victoria when I was considering a PhD program.  Late last year, Emma asked me if I would be interested in volunteering with the Mozilla participation team. I was working with an organization at the time that did not give me the “soul work” I always need, so I said yes. I had no idea what the participation team was or what I was getting myself into. After a failed attempt to get me to Singapore (my fault), the timing was right for London – and I am about to break my pattern and move from the “Mozilla fringes” into the “Mozilla swamp”.

Jumping Into the Mozilla Community:

  1. Communication and Identity -> One of the Mozilla’s main goals is to increase membership. How we go about this will be a hot conversation topic in London. However, one of my goals will be to be an honest and authentic guinea pig who will act as a voice for the “Future” Mozillians. Learning about GitHUb, how to follow the Mozilla project process, how to communicate, Mozilla rhetoric – these are all experiences I can speak to first hand. In London – I will be asking  a lot of questions and asking for a lot of clarification. I will need people to explain things and to repeat things for me.  I have a lot of experience working as an ESL teacher and I know how important it is to remember that a student’s inability to communicate has nothing to do with their cognitive abilities. Just because they can’t answer my questions, doesn’t mean they don;t know the answers. To say I am stepping outside my comfort zone would be an understatement from a technical vocabulary and programming point of view – many Mozillians will be speaking another language to me. However, I hope that by trying to communicate in my fringe language, that I can lead present Mozillians to future Mozillians.
  2. Building community- based on my current network Idea -> Based on goal #1, and my desire to use diversity to increase communication and future Mozillians, I want to use my K12 teacher network to support future volunteer opportunities. Right now I am calling it a “Teachers Without Borders” idea, but I hope to work on this concept and have a viable action plan after spending time in London.
  3. Learning → I am starting my EdD  at UofC this summer. I plan on learning more about Mozilla’s campus campaign to learn how I can better support current Mozilla projects as well as learn more about the research community and finally get some ideas for my future research.

I genuinely have no idea who I want to meet in London, although I am hoping to connect with Chad Sansing because he is cool and Emma Irwin because she was the one who spent the time pulling me from the fringes.

Push me, challenge me, encourage me, hear me….All Hands in London comes at a great time for me – and I am heading into London with my eyes and ears wide open! Let the fun begin!

How to “Teach” Social Presence

This blog post is about “Social Presence” for the #HumanMOOC Course

imageWhat did you learn today?s

Image from:

Learning “How to Learn” Online…..with a focus on Social Presence

When I co-facilitated ED722 with Dr Ian O’Byrne last year….(A course  to introduce you to emerging trends, issues and practices in online learning.) we thought long and hard about developing our digital presence – but also about how to help develop the students’ online presence so students could develop confidence to learn on their own – online.

We wanted to expand on the idea of “open learning” and MOOCs by learning “with” our students and consistently modelling “how” we learn. We wanted the students to realize that we have never stopped learning, and that the way we learn in a “course” is only the first stage of learning online.

So we set up the course in “social presence stages”. After having experienced the lack of learner support in previous MOOcs ourselves we knew we needed to set up the course in stages. We used  “constructivist” pedagogy first as a stage BEFORE attempting to promote connectivist and ultimatley serendipitous learning

So – our “teaching online plan”looked something like this:

12 week course Course Syllabus

Week 1 -2


  • Building relationships
  • Introduction to the course resources and tools

We used Google Sites as the main course page, with a separate closed Google community students were introduced to basic research, literature and the digital tools that the 12 week course would provide.

Week 3:

Objective :

  • How to demonstrate evidence of learning- in the open

Then we introduced (and modelled) Storify – We asked students to examine examples of story’s that we had already made about “What we learned OR a summary of the learning we saw collected – from a facilitator point of view”. We encouraged the students to refer to the set course references, resources and tools.  The instructional design was simple: course content and weekly synchronous google hangouts with Dr. Ian O’Byrne *(and Verena when she remembered to make it).

Week 4


  • Experience Learning in an open networked environment

We joined  a MOOC together. We decided to join DLMOOC – a Mooc about Deeper Learning. I happened to know one of the lead facilitators of the course – so I did mention to Karen Fasimpaur  that we would be joining as a “Learning Cohort”. Most of the course discussion still remained in the private Google Community and students started to transition to Storify – but seemed to prefer to “describe their learning” on their blogs.


Week 5-10


  • Overview emerging trends, issues and practices in online learning – by experiencing them and connecting to your own experiences.

Using the MOOC topics as a guide, Ian and integrated the course topics to connect with the MOOC topics. Students started to expand their “Community of learning” from the set “closed” private community to the Learners within the MOOC. What data did Ian and I have to support this? Each week we asked the students to add their storifies and blog posts (either or) to a google chart.

What I saw evidence of as a facilitator-learner……

At first students tended to add course resources and their own social media posts to their storifies.

For example, a student would comment about the weekly readings then add in their tweet or google post.

Then – With the addition of the MOOC “learners” , which provided a larger community but a more sustainable means for the lead facilitator to give feedback to students posts and comments. We started to see evidence of the addition of different learner’s posts, examples of their tweets or posts (within a ED722 student’s storify). This demonstrated that there was a shift in the perception of how we express our learning” because the resources and “teacher guided” content was not the only content quoted, and we were not the only people  that the students were learning from. “The experts were in the room – the room being the Internet”.

The private google community became a place for questions and feedback about assignments – but the learning was taken “outside” of the private community and transported “back into” the community by the students.

By Week 10 – with the addition of the MOOC “learners” , which provided a larger community but a more sustainable means for the lead facilitator to give feedback to students posts and comments, students were responding to the course topics, the MOOC topics and adding RT’s and replies and answers. Many students were invited to participate in Google+ hangouts for the MOOC – so their social presence was promoted by learning “outside” of the traditional course.

Week 11 and 12 were a time spent completing projects.We had asked that the groups be 2 or 3 people, but many of the groups had connected with other learners outside of the course. By building relationships with other learners in the MOOC, they had a plethora of people to learn with and from.

For me – the best experience was the final blog posts and storifies.

All the “evidence of learning” for the course is found here if you are interested.

What did I learn as a facilitator?

All students need to start a  new project or experience by finding their common cultural border crossing. BY giving the students 2 weeks to figure out what we were up to, we didn’t initiate too much fear. We also focused on developing relationships so the students knew who we were and knew that they could ask us for help and support.

We also started slowly – by starting an online course, then a MOOC, students could see we were starting in stages.

We modelled how we learn. Ian and I gave feedback through social media, we RT’d student tweets, blogs and other forms of online interaction – we supported their development of social presence – and I feel the students knew that they were supported. The students also got to see how the facilitators learn and who we are through our personal interactions and development of our own digital identities.

By the end of the course, I felt that the students knew how to learn by themselves. We transitioned from teacher-directed to serendipitous connected learning – while always maintaining a stable “safety” zone private online community. To this day I Retweet (RT) and connect with the students and consider them my fellow peers.

We continue to learn together.

Why I love cMOOCs

Why I love cMOOCs – (The c really stands for Canadian….)

I found MOOCs because someone encouraged me to go find the most engaging, motivating and interactive “thing” happening in Online Learning. At the time – April 2012 – that thing was MOOCs. There was no difference between a cMOOC and an xMOOC back in those olden days.

The original way to find out about a MOOC was to:

  1. Google interactive and engaging online learning
  2. Find a course website like Change11 or MOOCMOOC
  3. Register online
  4. Frantically figure out how to create a twitter name, blog, your blog’s RSS feed and download and run  BlackBoard Collaborate
  5. Then…Figure out who your weekly “teacher” will be and remember to show up to the live session and check the webpage for any activities that no one would mark but you could do
  6. Figure out what a twitter hashtag is to figure out who your classmates were

It was the most chaotic, lonely, difficult, challenging and crazy learning experiences I had ever had in my life. It was also the first time in my life I felt like I was learning – for the sake of learning. When you learn because you are passionate about a topic and there are no set guidelines and expectations but your own…it is a totally different experience.

By joining in April 2012, I joined in a course that had been running since the previous year. While I could sense some exhaustion on the behalf of the facilitators  (George Siemens, Steven Downes and Dave Cormier and weekly host Alec Couros) my learning was ignited.

Since that day – I have become dependent upon my network to learn. To me, what Downes and Siemens refer to as “nodes of learning” refer to the people,  digital artifacts (like blog posts) and social media networks (like twitter) with whom and which I connect and learn everyday.  I collaborate and interact in one continuous learning community. My PLN (Personal Learning Network) also includes people, digital artifacts and social networks. Alec Couros created this image of the Networked Teacher:



So- as we start this new adventure called #OCLMOOC I encourage you to become a serendipitous learner. That means – learn in the moment, take risks, fail often and learn from your mistakes and your successes! I challenge you to learn how to learn with others – online.

So – stop reading…get out there…and learn!!! Meet a particularly talented “node of learning” Dave Cormier tonight in the #OCLMOOC opening webinar.

I am really, really looking forward to learning with you! Please follow me on twitter @verenanz

No More Learning In Isolation! Why we need to Collaborate in Order to Learn…

inspirational-quote-reaction-transformation-carl-jungRetrieved from:

This blog post has been built upon the conversations and learning with others over the last two months…

 The ideas started based on Ian O’Byrne ‘s  Digitally Literate Google Hangout about Writing and Publishing Openly Online. Ian and I have had an ongoing discussion about the idea that “Open is an Attitude” which was originally brought to our attention by Doug Belshaw. Doug Belshaw was one of the Digitally Literate guests and he mentioned using Minecraft or a “game” as a space to connect with your kids when you are away from home. Then he blogged about it.  The concept of meeting and interacting using digital tools to connect, interact and possibly collaborate – intrigued me. Coincidentally, I recently completed the #Gamifi-ED project with Dr. Lee Graham, Vicki Davis and Colin Ousterhout. In one of our final gamemaker weekly chats we started talking about the importance of collaboration in online environments.  Vicki and Lee were fascinated (and intrigued) by the increased engagement level of their students based on online collaboration – but we were wondering what had led to such high levels of engagement and so we started examining research on collaboration in online environments.

So I started to look for research in online learning environments – with an “open” or networked” focus if possible…

Debbie Morrison’s post on, “How Collaborative Learning Works in Closed Online courses vs MOOCs” started to give me a better idea, from a learning design point of view, of the differences between online “group work” and MOOC networked serendipitous collaborations:

“Collaborative learning [group work] is a component of COLCs and MOOCs, yet learning with peers occurs differently in each; one is prescribed, controlled and potentially used for assessment purposes, as in the COLC, while in a MOOC learning is often chaotic, student-driven, optional, and not controllable by course facilitators given its thousands of participants.”

(COLC, is the acronym Morrison used to label a closed, online, for-credit learning, course)

Similarly, a recent research synthesis on Connected Learning (Written by Mimi Ito and large group of writers) suggests that learning involves intergenerational collaboration with like minded learners based on similar passions.

  • This is Table 1 from the Connected Learning Framework:



Retrieved from:

Another ongoing conversation has been with Karen Fasimpaur. We are chatting back and forth in a wide variety of digital mediums, blogs, google hangouts and twitter chats about how open educational resources play a role in open learning and collaboration.

So – I began to think about the opportunity to encourage student engagement in online courses by integrating collaboration that prioritizes learning relationships and authentic applications to their lives.  All of my learning has been in collaborative spaces where I have been interacting with people or directed to blog responses or twitter interactions by people. My deeper and more meaningful learning connections have developed as a result of collaborating with others.  So this post about the potential of online collaboration is a result of – online collaboration.

And then  this week- I was in a Palliser PD Session on Literacy given By Dr. David Booth. I had that moment to breathe and connect the ideas as I drove many km’s back and forth to the face to face session. I needed that time to think and reflect.

I heard Dr. Booth ask me to reconsider my perspectives, “Today’s kids aren’t  your childhood”, to consider “how do we prepare kids for a world we don’t know?” and, “ to find meaning in all text forms.”

How will I do this as a teacher? I need to get to know my students, develop relationships with them. I need to accept that they are not only me in that they may not learn like I do, but that digital media and influence ensures that students today cannot be like me. I need to facilitate personalized learning opportunities by being a meaning maker. I need to rethink my role as a teacher by figuring out how I can be most useful and helpful by trying to “read the code” of literacy medium. This means examining what literacy could mean in terms of the context, text, person, skill, ability and medium in order to best meet the needs of my learners.

I am currently working  as an online teacher with Palliser Beyond Borders. Dr. Booth’s words, inspired me to rethink how we could learn about Forensic science. I decided that I needed to include a story into the course, a case study. Although I am starting the story, as we start the course and build relationships, I am hoping that we can construct the whole story together by the end of the course. We will co-create  our learning through online collaboration.

Based on all of my learning about online collaboration, I am using Mozilla Popcorn Webmaker as my literacy tool.  I am able to integrate videos, music, wikipedia, maps, 3D models, images and personal comments into a digital story.

Students will be able to remix my original story, compare the original story, add to the story, collaborate with others in developing new stories and hopefully construct their own stories. Their voice will be heard and their learning will be transparent.

I  so excited that my open collaborations with others were able to help me rethink how to encourage collaboration and deeper, more meaningful learning with my students.

How are you learning as an educator? Do you feel that collaboration leads to more learning opportunities?

Learning by Doing – #Gamifi-ED Project OOC !

The project can only be compared Sochi 2014 Olympics Fireworks ……

So – what kind of project is blowing my mind, challenging my assumptions, promoting collaboration, emphasizing trust, developing confidence, initiating creativity, developing new skills, promoting competencies, evaluating standards, developing interdisciplinary (and multi-aged) models, making me think outside the box and ask what am I getting myself into????

 I want to tell you about the project I have been working on since last October – it is called: #Gamifi-ED !!!!

I am collaborating in a guild with a team of Gamemakers:

Lee Graham – University of Alaska

Vicki Davis -Teacher, IT specialist, author and connected educator

Colin Osterhout – Alaska University Student & Minecraft Specialist colin@akgee

 Quest 1 – What are we doing?

Students from Vicki’s grade 9 class and Lee’s University EDTech leadership course have been working together to examine and evaluate “Serious Games” in a massive project called #Gamifi-ED . They will each develop rubrics  (based on collaborative group work in a wiki) that they, and educators, can use to evaluate and examine “Serious Games”. These learners of all ages, started their group work in early February in wikispaces. They will be presenting their projects at the end of February 2014 as part of the #Gamifi-ED OOC.

This is the recent blog post from Vicki Davis that describes how this project is positively impacting her students and most importantly ->enriching their learning!

What is the Gamifi-ED OOC (Open Online Community) from February 12 – 26, 2014?

To support the #Gamifi-ED learners, we have organized a two week open online community bringing experts from around the world into Google Hangouts – to discuss Games Based Learning. These Google Hangouts are open to the world and will be offered live and saved in the #Gamifi-ED youtube channel. We are attempting to create a Open Educational Resource about Games Based Learning that can be remixed, recreated and added to in the future.

The #Gamifi-ED “Squirrel Chaser” Open Online Community can be found HERE

The #Gamifi-ED OOC wiki can be found HERE

The #Gamifi-ED OOC Calendar of Events can be found HERE

The #Gamifi-ED Project wiki can be found HERE

The #Gamifi-ED Youtube Channel Click HERE

The EDGamer Interview is found HERE (How Gamifi-ED empowers students)

 You are welcome and encouraged to participate in the #Gamifi-ED OOC by supporting the Google Hangouts.

p4 Squirrel Chaser Community

What happens after the #Gamifi-ED OOC?

Vicki’s students will then take what they have learned about serious games and create videos about a game that they could create in Minecraft that could “Solve the World’s Problems”.

Which student created Minecraft game design based on solving the world’s problems, will win?

This is where the project really blows my mind -> We all win! Once we have a crowdsourced winning game design, we will all collaborate and work on creating the game together in Minecraft led by Colin Osterhout. That’s right -> all that work to create a game and learn together!

Sooooooooo……I encourage you to be a part of this learning. Please participate in the #Gamifi-ED OOC that starts Feb 10 with: “What is Twitter vs Zombies” with Pete Rorabaugh and Jesse Stommel. And don’t stop….add to the discussions in the Google Community, help us learn about games based learning and its impact on Education together!