“Bringing CLMOOC Back Home”: Part 1

(I am indebted to Paul Oh & Christina Cantrill, both for the title of this post, which comes from an episode of NWP Radio in which they invited me to participate, and for their encouragement to reflect on and write about my experiences.)

In the spring of 2013, when I accepted Carolyn Frank’s offer to be the Connected Learning liaison for the Los Angeles Writing Project (LAWP), I was excited at the opportunity. When the Connected Learning Massively Open Online Collaboration (CLMOOC) began in the summer, however, my excitement turned to puzzlement, as I struggled to make sense of this new learning environment.

I had decided to make my presentation for the LAWP Summer Institute (SI) about my liaison work, and I scheduled time in the computer lab for a workshop on the principles of Connected Learning and digital tools for writing. First, though, I needed to understand what I would be presenting. In particular, I was learning about a wide variety of digital tools from the members of the CLMOOC community, and I was struggling to figure out how I could adapt and scale these tools to my classroom. In addition, while I grasped the Connected Learning principles fairly quickly, I was struggling to understand CLMOOC itself. Since CLMOOC was not a traditional, linear course, I realized that it would be difficult to explain to the other fellows in the SI.

Yet, despite my confusion, as I planned my SI presentation, I had an epiphany:

I’d been using technology to make my classroom teaching more efficient, but I could use technology to transform my teaching.

By way of background, I should add that, while I’m not especially brilliant with educational technology, I am pretty fearless. I try out new things and don’t get discouraged if my ideas need revision. Still, though I’ve gained a reputation for being tech­-savvy at my site, I really think I’m a big fish in a small pond. In CLMOOC, on the other hand, I felt like a micro­organism in the Pacific Ocean. Everyone seemed to know more and have done more; they talked about badges and Thinglink and something called DS106.

Literary critic Kenneth Burke famously compared academic writing to a conversation at a party:

Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. (The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action, 3rd ed. [1941; rpt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973], pp. 110­-111)

Well, at the start of CLMOOC, the oar flew out of my hands and the boat capsized.

However, this sense of frustration, ­ of swimming to shore in a storm like Odysseus, if I may badly belabor the metaphor (and relocate it from a stream to the Mediterranean) ­ was probably an excellent environment for developing my understanding and reaching my epiphany.

As a tool for understanding Connected Learning and the CLMOOC, I created a Real­Time Board that mapped my use of technology as a learner as well as my use and my students’ use of technology in my classroom.

My Real Time Board for Connected Learning
My Real Time Board map for CLMOOC, summer 2013

This led to another insight: I was doing most of the technology use in my classroom. Oh, sure, kids used computers, but I was doing most of the creative work; the kids were essentially doing really expensive worksheets. Obviously, I needed to shift the balance toward greater student use of digital tools.

In my next post, I’ll discuss the inquiries I pursued last year in an effort to shift that balance.

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9 thoughts on ““Bringing CLMOOC Back Home”: Part 1

    1. Thanks again for the link, Terry. Resnick makes a lot of sense here, especially toward the end when he talks about the boundaries that schools put up. It reminds me of Sheridan Blau’s presentation to LAWP this year, where he lamented the ironic tendency of schools to be in opposition to learning. (It also reminds me of Gerald Graff’s piece “Hidden Intellectualism,” where he observes: “What schooling did was prevent me from recognizing my own intellectualism” – https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/pedagogy/v001/1.1graff.html)

      My only worry about Resnick’s ideas (as expressed in the video) comes around the 7-minute mark, when he talks about technology changing the “where” of learning. While I don’t disagree with the principle he espouses, I would argue that we have to be very careful about exacerbating inequity by expecting our students to have access to devices outside of our classrooms and campuses. I certainly don’t mean to suggest that Resnick is arguing for careless or inequitable use of technology in our schools, but I do believe it’s important to emphasize and make explicit the need for schools to bridge the digital divide – e.g., by opening up computer labs with staff members after school so that kids who don’t have computers, tablets etc at home can still learn with these tools.

      PS I gave in to Friday night laziness and just watched the vid in YouTube, but I’d like to try out NowComment when I get a chance. 🙂

  1. Love this post, love the diagram. Love the insight into your feelings and the quote by Burke. Heading off to part 2 now 🙂 your ending whet my appetite (err not sure of past tense of “whet” but it felt like “wet” so… )

    1. Thanks, Maha! To paraphrase Pascal, I didn’t have time to write a shorter blog post, so I wrote a multi-part one instead. 🙂

      Your question about the word “whet” intrigued me; I found a brief but interesting discussion of it here: http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/76513/whet-your-appetite-as-confirming-question

      (As one who likes his linguistics descriptive rather than prescriptive, I think either “whet” or “whetted” works, especially as it’s clear from the context in your comment that your usage is past tense. Perhaps “whetted” would be preferred in a case where the usage might be ambiguous.)

      1. Right, but apparently, the past tense is “whetted” 🙂
        Strange verb, “whet”, because I often hear it in conjunction with “appetite” and because it sounds like “wet” it brings to mind salivating from hunger, you know? Strange word.

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