Monthly Archives: October 2012

Open Learning – trying to define and apply to K12 …again :)

I am still thinking and reflecting about what  “Open Learning is all about”….

I have been thinking more about the variations of “open”…and perhaps @OpenContent  and @FredWBaker  can add to my thoughts (Thanks your comment earlier Fred).

I am now beginning to think of “Open Learning” in three distinct areas: Open Content/ Resources (OER),  Open Pedagogy and Open Leadership. My recent experiences at the Beyond Content Conference #opened12, challenged my thinking on what we (as educators) are really trying to mean when we say, “open learning”. What does open learning “look like” to you?

Gardner Campbell captured my interest on the first day with his fantastic – must be watched and listened to key note address.  “That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all.” (TS Eliot) Campbell alluded to the widespread “free” content online, MOOCs – and their subsidiaries (of which I am a one) and other examples of “open” learning opportunities. But he kept coming back to, “ That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all.” (TS Eliot)

What? Well what did you mean then? And who is the I?  Am I  getting this all wrong on the first day I wondered?

What is open learning and what does it mean to me?  What does it look like – to me?

My thoughts on open learning are that it  can lead to opportunities that a person did not otherwise have before. If you have the passion, you, as a human being, should have the opportunity. That’s what I think open learning is all about.

Now – how do I create an “opportunity” for “open opportunities” for a k12 community.

I am creating a “program” at ADLC. The “OC@ADLC” – The Open Classroom at Alberta Distance Learning Centre.

Within this “Open Classroom” I have to start somewhere, so I have decided to start with students over 14. Students at this age are already experimenting online and are legally allowed to register for more online software providers. Up until this point, any “open” learning should (yes I said should) be teacher guided.  The teacher can create amazing “walled gardens” within the learning environment as proven by teachers Kathy Cassidy @kathycassidy , Silvia Tolisano   @langwitches , Vicki Davis  @coolcatteacher or Kim Gill @Gill_Ville

My point is, there are many examples of amazing “open learning” examples happening in k-6 which are teacher guided.

These teachers have led the way in helping me consider why their learning is “open”.

Characteristics of Open Learning: (Based on exemplary k6 Teachers)

1) Free and open access to resources
2) Willing to collaborate
3) Open Mobile Access (I can “see” artifacts on a variety of platforms)
4) Transparent tone and means of communication
5) Give credit to their sources
6) Open to feedback (peer review)
7) Approachable – able to connect with them
8) Focused on learning and the students

So – to focus on “open Learning” I need to have a more systemic approach, and I can’t do it my myself.

As a result, for me open learning is separated into three categories in which the “open learning characteristics” are apparent.

Where have I seen these characteristics and how have I tried to apply within my organization?

Open Leadership – I have communicated with my administrators about how to approach cultural change and paradigm shifts within our organization. How can I develop new open courses, while still supporting and challenging our “regular” courses? As a “teacher leader” I need to offer PD sessions to my school and to a broader audience, write on my blog and reflect, connect with my PLN and engage others with my ideas.

AND – I also need to listen to others and be empathetic. Just because I want open learning, does not mean that others feel the same way. I can only model “how” to be an open leader and try to emulate the characteristics of the k-6 “open Educators”.

At a recent conference I was in awe as my administrator took out Evernote, linked his notes to twitter and responded to others when they connected with him on twitter. He was demonstrating open leadership characteristics and modelling that everyone (our immediate staff and anyone on twitter) could have an opportunity to “learn” what he was learning.

Open Content – Open Content the area, in my opinion, that has had the most attention. How to create free and open eBooks, online courses, develop and use OER and consider CC (Creative Commons) licensing. However – this is still a weak area in k12 learning environments today and there is a lot of potential in development, research and projects.  @rbyrne Richard Byrne’s timely blogpostyesterday is evidence of the need to consider “how” K12 are could use  open content. I spent time yesterday working on a LiveBinder of OER for ALDC inspired by @kfasimpaur

Open Pedagogy – “How” are we learning online? Are there a variety of instructional designs for open online courses? Are MOOCs really the answer? How can opportunities to learn in free and open ways – focused on student choice – be created online?

These are the options we are  focusing on in TheOC@ADLC this year:

Option 1: “MOOClike” option
(Based on work of Siemens, Downes and Cormier)
Massive Open Online Course focused on connectivism, networking and interaction and collaboration among networks. (Synchronous, Cohort)
At the moment, we are about to pilot a Digital Citizenship themed open online courses in The OC (#BeyondFacebook – end of November/12). Over three days, “learners” will be involved in collaborative groups projects that will lead to student created content- open online courses. Students (and educators) will work together in interdisciplinary, intergenerational groups to complete “parts” of a project. On the last day, the “learners” will present their creations to the world (using social media) and the projects will all come together to create one open online course for all. These courses will be open to any High School student or Educator in the world. Students will be offered badges for their work which could lead to possible dual credit (if they are an Albertan) or certificates and badges.

Option 2: Closed “Course” with Open Content and Open Connections/Networks.
(Based on work of Alec Couros)  (Synchronous, Cohort)
We are also hoping to work on a pilot with a project like the Kaleidoscope Project. 20 ADLC students, 20 College students and 4 teachers will work together to investigate the “Keystone Pipeline/ Northern Gateway Pipeline” and its implications on our environments. Using an Inquiry based approach, students will ask questions and collaborate to create a project that blends politics, geography and science. The students will be offered  English and science credit in this “inquiry” based open online project. In this case, the course will be limited to a set number of students, but anyone can watch the course be built as all content will be open and online and outside networking and participating is encouraged, especially with any Pipeline stakeholders.

Option 3: Open Content in an Open Platform for Autonomous Learners
(Based on the work of Alan Levine and MIT) ( Asynchronous, autonomous)
Finally – we will be working on our OER (Open Educational Resources) – and developing a website/.portal for “creation and innovation”. This will not have any defined coursework, but instead a portal for “creation and innovation”. Students can create projects and attain dual credit or “badges” based on competencies for their work. This will be based on the #ds106 course and scratch.

Option 4:  Open Content in a Closed Online Course
(Based on the work of David Christian – similar to Flat Classrooms) (Asynchronous, Independent)
This option focuses on how to integrate OER (Open Educational Resources) into closed environments and will be developed with a  specific group of asynchronous students. There will be open content, but limited open access. However,the students will connect to other students within the “walled garden” course around the world and the teacher will have the option to encourage “open” pedagogy including connecting through social media. Although – nothing is stopping the students from going outside the course by themselves, the teacher is just not facilitating the learning “outside” the the course itself.
The assessment will be based on a credit system within ADLC.


These four different options of open online learning will be offered to meet the greatest number of students in the widest variety of ways.

So – which model do you think will be the most successful and why?
Does it matter which is the most successful?
What factors will determine success?

Which option could you see yourself implementing into your classroom?
Which model best represents your learning style?

What are the other “open learning” models?

Looking forward to your feedback!

Verena 🙂



#opened12 – The First Pitch

The Voice By Shel Silverstein
There is a voice inside of you
that whispers all day long.
“I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
or wise man can decide
what’s right for you – just listen to
the voice that speaks inside.

Retrieved from:

Today I gave my first “pitch” in front of a live audience since I tried to be the Student Union President in grade 9. I lost that election.

I pitched a 5 minute elevator speech at the Beyond Content Conference #opened12 in Vancouver, BC about The OC@ADLC. I had something planned, then redid the whole thing in the hour before the “pitch” time – no power points, no technology…just me and my dreams.

David Wiley – a personal “Geek Tech God” of mine….came up to me at the end and said to me, “You are my Hero” and gave me a hug.

So – I think it went well. My adrenaline is slowly leaving the system.

I stood up in front of about 150 people(?), shaking like more than a leaf, and spoke to the Open Online Community about myself, how I got here and my dream to bring open learning to k12.

I spoke about MOOCs, about Open Content and about why I think open “learning” is so much more than just  “open content”.  I spoke from my heart, alluded to the fact that Alberta is the most cutting edge province in Canada for open online learning and explained how a soccer mom could be so devoted to the MOOC phenomena.

At the end of my “brief description of the OC@ADLC  pilot” I asked for support from the online community.

I asked for experienced and passionate open online “people” to team up with and mentor some of the staff from ADLC. These “Team Facilitators” will act as the “Guides of the Side” for a Group of 20 students in the #odc1.

The educators will be responsible for supporting and encouraging the students and tracking how the course works.

Now I know. For my pilot, I would really like 100 students, 6 ADLC staff members and 6 Online Mentors to help bridge the gap between what we are “doing” and what we “can” do in online learning.

So – Here’s the lowdown:

#ODC1 – November 6-8, 2012

Focus – What does it mean to be an open digital citizen?

Three actvities a day.

The project will be inquiry based with a focus on interactions between students, social media integration, building relationships and building online community. This is the Live Binder of Resources to support the project.

If you would like to be part of this pilot, and ultimately part of TheOC@ADLC, please contact me directly:
vroberts at

What kids of activities would High School Students like to do online? What kinds of topics would you like me to consider? What could the OC@ADLC look like for you? Tell me what you think The OC@ADLC could look like.

Looking forward to your ideas….and thank you for giving me the chance to find my voice and define my passion today.

Verena 🙂

What is the OC@ADLC?

 I have been thinking about the idea of communication and the way I can describe the open classroom to others. I still feel like an alien speaking a different language…so here goes.



The OC@ADLC stands for the Open Classroom at Alberta Distance Learning Center . The Open Classroom (The OC) is a pilot to encourage collaboration and interaction among High School students using social media and digital tools. A variety of “short” courses, on different curriculum related topics will be offered throughout the 2012-13 school year to ADLC learners, Alberta Learners and the world. The OC courses will be offered as an extension to online courses already being offered by ADLC. You do not have to be an ADLC student to participate and the cost is FREE.

The OC@ADLC Pilot Course:

Course Title: The #ODC1 (Open Digital Citizen 1)

Course Timeline: Tuesday November 6- Thursday November 8, 2012

Course Objectives:
Using social media and digital tools, learners will investigate the following topics:
1) Introduction to Open Online Learning
2) Digital Citizenship :Rules and Security
2) Digital Citizenship: Stages of Connected Learning

The course is based on the idea that High School students and Educators can learn about digital skills and social media in an “online open learning enviornment” together. Based on the “MOOC” trend that has devoured Higher Education, Learners will be encouraged to create, play, innovate, make messes, remix and collaborate while developing key digital media skills and focusing on social media competencies. Learners will be asked to complete synchronous and asynchronous open online activities in order to complete the course competencies.

The focus of the Open Classroom is on encouraging High School students to learn in open environments. To ensure that all Learners have an opportunity to feel safe- there is an emphasis on learning how to be proactive and accountable in open online learning. The goal of #ODC1 is to develop the skills in order to create collaborative projects in open environments in the future. To do so, there will be an emphasis on digital citizenship, responsibility and skills to build a knowledge base and create supportive networks. By encouraging positive digital  experiences, learners will develop the confidence to participate in future courses.

We all have skills as Learners – let’s network and collaborate together to build on these skills and create new knowledge.

“ Today knowledge is free. It’s like air, it’s like water…There is no competitive advantage in knowing more than the person next to you. The world doesn’t care what you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you know.”  Dr. Tony Wagner

Guidelines for the Open Classroom:

  • Everyone is a Learner.
  • Learners will get out of the course what they put into it.
  • Unique and engaging learning experiences are promoted.
  • There is no minimum or maximum time expected to “complete” activities. It will be up to the discretion of the Learners as to how much time they wish to invest. Learners will have the option of completing independent activites after the completion of the course in order to meet their learning needs.
  • Learners will have be offered media competencies to “guide” their learning. When a Learner feels that they have met a competency, they will be responsible for curating and self evaluating their digital artifact.
  • When the Learners complete competencies, they will be given a badge.
  • The badge(s) can be pulled together and used towards dual credit certification with ADLC. If the learner is not an ADLC student, the OC learner will still be able to attain badges and certification. (More clarification on this to follow after meeting with Mozilla Badges.)
  • Learners will have the opportunity to link their personal blogs and digital artifacts to the course RSS feeds.
  • All the learning is in the open – all learners are accountable for their own learning (No one will make Learners post anything online, however; Learners will be responsible for their own work).  All content will be freely distributed and visible to everyone – including people who are not participating in the course.

Security and Privacy Issues

The Open Classroom will use Canvas Invrastructure as its LMS (Learning Management System). It is a cloud based LMS . All the courses will be open to all to “see” but there are some limitations to those who can participate:

  • All Learners must be 14 or older with a valid “institution” email address. If Learners are between 14-18 years of age, they must also register a valid parent’s email address.
  • Any Learners over 18 years of age must register with a valid educational institution email address.

Any Learner who intimidates another Learner, or creates a negative learning environment will be taken out of the OC@ADLC.

Please direct feedback to: vroberts at

Twitter: @verenanz