Why I am an Open Educator – it’s because you all matter!

Why I am an Open Educator

After teaching online courses to Chinese students, from Calgary, AB Canada – it soon became apparent to me that the “content” in my course was not going to get me new students. The fact that all of my course content was getting copied was not lost on me. It just took me awhile to realize that how I taught and the relationships that I built with the students, was going to get me more students the next year. Copyright was non-existent.

I had an amazing moodle course for online students in China. However, due to the way it was created I was unable to edit, or “tinker” with the course in anyway. The course was designed for students to complete at their own time in their way. However – it was a language course – and I believe that to learn a language, you have to talk, clarify and connect with other human beings in some way. So even though I had an amazing moodle course, I created an Edmodo course in order to communicate with my students and create a digital community . I created a schedule where they knew we would meet in a virtual room each week and chat in a group. I created videos and posted them in Edmodo to explain what we were going to learn each week, because the Flipped learning trend seemed to be a great idea. And it worked. The students connected and engaged, met with me online and learned a new language. Special thanks to Corrie Macdonald, Shannon Poulsen, Jamie Wright and Dean Coder for collaborating with me to create an awesome interactive online program.

At the end of the school year, I was “forced” to consider competency based rubric style assessment when some of my students missed parts of an exam. Competency based assessment “made” me look at the course outcomes and clearly identify what my students were able to demonstrate and what they had yet to master. Another paradigm shift – you can focus on mastery of learning over exams and standardized tests? It’s possible?

Working for a “business” rather than an educational institution also encouraged me to look for alternative, cheap or free options for professional development. Classroom 2.0 under the guidance of Steve Hargadon offers free weekly PD for educators. Steve also facilitates online conferences and I presented my first conference presentation online as a result of Steve – through Learning 2.0. As a result of Classroom 2.0, I learned about EdCamps and ConnectedCA.  I will never forget the hard work of Erin Coulliard and Neil Stephenson, oh and George Couros’ voice insisting that we use twitter. It was at the ConnectedCA conference, and through George’s consistent nagging that I thought I had better “try” this twitter thing – I mean really look at what he means – and I have never been the same. I also met Valerie Irvine and countless other twitter greats like Brian Harrison and Rodd Lucier and I began to see that there were others like me “out there” who spoke my language.

While looking for alternative online programs for China, I discovered MOOCs and joined #change11 late in the game. I was fascinated at the anti-hierarchy, encouragement of chaos and connecting with others to form networks of learners. This “open” environment encouraged everyone and anyone to connect, engage and learn.  Through the help of Alec Couros and Steve Hargadon, I worked on creating #Digifoot12. A “mini-MOOC” designed for k12 Educators and their kids. While #digifoot12 soon became more of course for educators, it opened my eyes to alternative forms of online learning. I was not an expert in MOOCs or open learning, but because I took the risk to create an opportunity to learn in a different way, I learned more than I have ever learned in my life through others. The course helped me develop a PLN of dedicated online colleagues who are all tirelessly working to create new opportunities for learners around the world. I only”personally” knew one of the facilitators for #Digifoot12, Tracy Poelzer.  The other facilitators, Kim Gill, Scott Monahan, #stuvoice, David Preston, his students Ian and Trevor, Imtiaz Maheed and Bill Belsey – were all people I met through twitter or the “new” unconferences like ConnectedCa. Through #Digifoot12 I also created a PLN made up of educators who stepped up to help others including David Truss, Peggy George, Paula Naugle, Sue Wyatt, Jose Alvarez Cornett and many others, this is the #Digifoot12 twitter list

In July I participated in the k12 online summit for leaders in online learning – and I was offered a job working with ADLC to create MOOCs for k12.  We switched from the name MOOCs to “Open Classrooms” – and  soon created the TheOC@ADLC. I completed my summer by participating in #moocmooc which was a “MOOC” about MOOCs. For the first time I realized that MOOCS are just a name for an opportunity to learn. The #moocmooc community is still important to me today, and the PLN that I developed through the course and subsequent google hangout #moocmoocbars has pushed me to think about open learning in a million different ways. A big thanks to Pete Rorabough and Jess Stommel

Another amazing educator, Karen Fasimpaur contacted me about an article she was writing so i could add some k12 MOOC content. I asked her what k12 conferences she would attend if she could go to anything she wanted. She said that her biggest learning was not a conference, but sending in proposals to present then preparing, presenting and engaging in conversation with others. It is the ability to connect with others and express your ideas and learn with others that really offers her the most professional development.

So, I set my sights on pushing my comfort levels and “presenting” about breaking down classroom walls through open learning. With the support of my Research and Innovation Team from ADLC, I sent proposals all over the place. After attending and “pitching” The OC@ADLC to the Beyond Content Conference in Vancouver, David Wiley came over and said that I was his hero. David Wiley is known to have done some incredible work in OER (Open Educational Resources) CC (Creative Content) and alternative forms of education to offer the opportunities to the masses. His comment meant the world to me.

What I think he meant by his comment though -was that open learning was finally getting through to the soccer moms, and the regular “folk”. If I was able to create a course and have people participate, then others could do the same. The opportunities are endless – and I validated all the hard work he had been doing to get through to the “average” person.  At #Beyond Content I also met Audrey Watters author of the hackededucation blog. Although intimidating online, she is really very kind, passionate and full of common sense. Connecting with “online superstars” and realizing that they are humans too is a HUGE part of open learning.

After Beyond Content, I presented at a few other conferences and each time I presented – I began to really understand what OER and the impact of open learning could be.  I have also taken more open courses through BC Open Campus on “badges” as an alternative form of assessment and “Open Content Licensing 4 Educators” through wiki educators and UNESCO. The combination of conferences and open online learning opportunities have pushed my learning to new heights.

Developing and creating #BEFA12 in November, an open course for high school students, was a highlight to my year because the ideas that had been percolating in my head actually came through. The students naturally “connected, collaborated and created” new learning together. I am looking forward to Version 2 in 2013. It proved that open learning is possible and doable in k12 learning environments.

When I received a twitter Christmas ornament from @mrnichol – it made this whole year – real! The learning wasn’t all in my mind…it really happened! This learning is about human beings, connections and relationships.

So – as I work on creating questions for a social media strategy for ADLC, I think back to my year and reflect on how being a teacher is an amazing job. Technology offers opportunities that I couldn’t have ever imagined and sharing my love of learning with others is my passion.

So – why am I an open educator? Because I am a lifelong learner and nothing has offered me more opportunities than sharing with others and learning from and with others. That is what open learning is all about. Oh – and finally accepting that if you are doing more “work” than your students, you are doing something wrong- Great advice from my friend Lynn Somers. Being a guide on the side, means following and learning with others. Equal effort and a collaborative effort. That’s what open learning is truly about…

Have a great 2013 and after learning more than I have ever learned since April 2012 – I don’t know what 2013 will offer. But if you take anything from this post realize that you all make a difference, people are listening and as Angela Maiers says, #youmatter. So thank you to my PLN for making such a difference in my life. Being an open educator means being open to opportunities in education and always innovating and pushing for new alternatives for learning. Ultimately, it is about being open to being vulnerable, accepting that we are all human, we all make mistakes – but we all want to learn. If I can help others learn – then this is where I want to be – in the open.

What about you – where do you want to learn in 2013?

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