Facilitating #edcmooc

Elearning and Digital Cultures, EDCMOOC, is taking place for the third time. And I am there, participating again. I was very pleased when Christine Sinclair sent me an email and asked if I could act as a Community Teaching Assistant, CTA, this time. Her request was easy to accept because  I had enjoyed the course very deeply. I recognised there similar pedagogy which I had developed while working as an online teacher. I felt at home there.

Another CTA, Rajiv Bajaj, gives basic information about the participants in his blog post ‘interesting statistics‘. The course is really global, 35 percent of the participants coming from emergent countries and the number of countries is over 150. The education background varies from none to doctors. Participants’ interests vary more than I can imagine.

The curriculum is open and participants choose what to do. Materials are offered for every week with varying themes and discussion forums are in use. Writing blogs were recommended and the course has its own Twitter hashtag. Blogs are aggregated into daily News. For voluntary image competition the course uses Flickr. The studies are distributed and not followable, choosing one’s own way is the key. What can facilitating be in these circumstances? I can answer only partly. Directs questions for help can be answered or commented and CTAs are needed to help in the Hangouts.

But what could be real facilitating on a mooc like this? Christine has published a blog post about ‘who is the teacher?‘ and she gives an answer: teacher cares about the participants, teacher cares what happens during the course. The post is written for the first edcmooc, but it still helps in a similar way. The expert can say it shortly. The students do the work and they understand that so it must go. Peer learning is very important. The participants who register into edcmooc already know very much about the learning process during MOOCs.

What can be said about networked mentoring?
The term is young and its definition will probably evolve as what we do becomes fleshed out through action. For me this is my third time working as an Expert participant, Teaching assistant and now Community TA.  It is possible to define that  network mentoring means the direct and indirect support of individual in their learning through the affordances made available through networking technologies.

More specific examples are listed below (this was begun in some mooc, I copied from Google Drive creative commons)
1. Write blog comments.  Check regularly the aggregated posts. Comment on individual student posts.  You can provide students with rich feedback and a richer sense of audience (I hope I could 🙂 )  If you blog yourself, add its feeds to the reader so that others can find it.
2. G+ community. Feel free to join this space. We invite you to share links and resources in this space, lead or reply to discussion topics, answer students’ questions,  participate in impromptu Hangouts or act in other ways to support the learning of students and the entire community
3. Hangout or Blackboard. Help the instructors to find students’ needs. I left this to the other CTAs who are much more skillful in technological issues and quicker in speaking and understanding English
4. Twitter #edcmooc, please monitor, engage in converstations with participants, share links and resources, offer support when possible. To do it efficiently you may consider apps such as Tweetdeck  which allow close monitoring of hashtags. Rajiv recommended this.
5. other ideas: create screencasts, videos or other media that might assist in a student’s learning generally or to answer specific questions. You could post these to the G+ community or Twitter.  Create your own blog and participate in course assignments, reflect on weekly sessions and or share resources. Curate content  in other tools (Diigo).

The previous text is more like a to-do-list. Actually it is similar to the course guides given to all participants and many experienced students fill these recommendations without being named as CTAs.

I am most interested in the last guide which is as follows:

In general, model networked learning through openness, transparency of your thinking and connecting with others, This process is experiential and to truly understand the power of networked learning and openness students need to participate in a highly collaborative connected culture.  Create successful learning environment for learning.

If I could do that I could have the identity of a network facilitator. I began my work by conceptualising human presence in the previous post (and many others actually) but it is challenging to go further. Coursera’s guidelines for responding to students are obvious to experienced teachers but they had one good point: Engaging students on questions that leverage your strengths or speak to your personal interests will make your time as a CTA much more enjoyable. Perhaps I have been too cautious this time and only followed the discussions, been afraid of speaking about my interests. I am – as licentiate in psychology- very conscious about this advice:  “feed the community, not your ego”.


This post is long and I feel tired of using the English language, I must go to the kitchen for lunch. Have a good day!

Please take a cup of coffee. This mug is my daughter’s – she sent it into Facebook morning coffee conversations today and I got the permission to use it.

Mug humour is something which we will remember  #edcmooc3 – and Whitney Farmer’s parrot taking away her earring in the first Hangout.


Fantasy and science fiction: Eric Rabkin

I want to continue my blogging on the course ‘Fantasy and science fiction. The human mind. Our modern world’ by telling about our professor Eric Rabkin. His videos created the atmosphere needed to maintain motivation and hard work. He spoke to me and to everyone, from heart to heart. I learned a lot about literature as a science (this was my first course) but it was not the only point. Professor  Rabkin has the ability to empower students, he helps to find the best inside us (how to say that better in English?)

In the discussion forums there are many threads owned to Eric Rabin. We want to thank him and should like to continue studies with him. The best.thread.ever. is “Professor Rabkin’s closet” in general discussions, began by William Richards. In one of his video lectures, Rabkin promised to tell us what is in the closet behind him. This  inspired many students to use their imagination and photo manipulation skills to present optional answers. This is my favorite, made by William Richards 2.9.2012. I only changed the color to moonlight, I think it works.

Where o where does my raven repose?
That is the question that Poe does propose.
Where has he lost it
God only knows
Ask the professor
In poem not prose
Look there it is right in front of his nose

The online community of students is as important as it is in f2f studies. The teacher influences the atmosphere very much. Eric shared his love to languages and literature and motivated us by sharing this passion. He shared his confidence toward us by appreciating our essays. He told that he learned much from us, in such a way, that it did not sound to be a phrase.  He was really interested in this open course where people learn from people around the globe. His attitude  is the opposite of cynicism. I thank him from the bottom of my heart just as he said to us in his last video with feelings in his voice.

His videos were easy to follow for us non native English speakers. He spoke slowly enough and used gestures, spoke with his hands – and through his whole personality. He seemed to love his work and us, every student on the course. More this kind of teaching and learning makes the world better. The aim of the course was to help everyone think more imaginatively, read more deeply and write more powerfully – and this became true in my mind.

I give the last words to Eric Rabkin, his farewell e-mail to us ended “Thank you for your participation, your kindness, and all you’ve taught each other and me. Ours is truly a new world of learning.”

Assessment can support learning and development

I continue my studies on Evaluation in PLENK2010. I liked the JISC pages about assessment. Every educational institution should present their assessment principles in this way. I could recognize  many perceptions I did while working as an online teacher. Assessment can be used to support learning rather than just test and certify achievement – and testing & certifying can support learning, too.

Technology, every learning platform,  provide ways of enabling students to monitor their own work. The technology can be designed for this purpose. I always used simple questionnaires about basic knowledge and then gave openly the results so my students could reflect and evaluate them from their point of view. Voting systems, online discussion forums, wikis and blogs allow practitioners to monitor levels of understanding.

When students are independent lifelong learners, they can become better at judging their own work.

If you really want to improve learning, get students to give one another feedback. Giving feedback is cognitively more demanding than receiving feedback. That way, you can accelerate learning.

I agree with that and always used peer-assessment. Students did not like it but afterward were content – organizing feedback is one of facilitator’s job. I suppose that better ways to assess and give feedback to each other are factors that make online teaching better than f2f.

This analysis of many researches convinced me: Evaluation of Evidence Based Practices in Online Learning – A Meta Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies. I had seen that happen in my online courses. Soon I begin to miss those time 🙂 Last autumn I was working as a teacher educator and now totally free. Just now I am interested in assessing (my) open studies.

I haven’t yet listened to Wednesday recording (Helene Fournier) but I will do it. There are some discussion in our Moodle, should I read, I am not sure. JISC pages promised better dialogue and communication – is it there?

Evaluating online activity

We have the Evaluation Week in PLENK2010 and this challenging topic interests me greatly. I scanned the web pages recommended to us. My first astonishment was that a famous guy who’s name I do not remember (never heard) and do not want to write here: he made a survey and asked people (American people) about influence and popularity: same or not? Oh god, I cannot say anything, I am wordless.There is so much stupidity in world and internet is effective in spreading it.

There was one description about web participation, the Google.doc is here. It is worth trying and assessing. It will be my first step this week. I checked my earlier blog posts from CCK studies. I had planned assessment criteria for myself in October 2008. I had assessed myself in December using images in my final project. I am not shamed about those writings, they seem nice in my eyes still 🙂

Clarence Fisher has given content to expertise levels (beginner, capable, accomplished and expert) using areas:

  • commenting
  • developing global understanding
  • connecting and networking.

He aims to help his students think about these issues. He has written earlier about blogging and writing must be there. Now I will reflect myself and my doings with this rubric scale.


  1. Beginner until 1996, then I wrote my first public comment and made my first mistake and insulted a friend on mine
  2. Capable 2000- online teacher, rarely comments
  3. Accomplished 2005- regularly comments on own and others work, quick feedback
  4. Expert 2007- often comments on the work of others, build a community around my space. Comments ask questions and drive forward thinking.

Here I assessed my work in Finland, as a teacher, colleague  and community member but: when starting CCK08 I could not participate an in expert-like-manner. I was a beginner in using English and only capable (level 2). So this depends on the context.

Connecting and Networking

I combined this scale in commenting, I see now. Rude behavior belongs to the beginner level, of course. But RSS feeds were not possible in 1996, I began as late as 2008 and 2009 it began to work for my purposes. Now I see that Fisher scale is planned for students as he told, it warns about giving personal information online.

I have to stop reporting my own history and only check this day’s situation. Capable level: usually uses proper netiquette and connects with others safely, network changes only with support – I can perceive discussions about these themes in our Moodle every day (just wrote about the openness of comments).

  • level 4. I work on the  Accomplished level: use proper netiquette (or do I with this English?) , connect safely (thx to Akismet), regularly review self-chosen RSS feeds. And last: My network sometimes changes, grows and shrinks slowly.

How about the highest level expertise?

  • level 5. Supportive of others online: yes since 2000 I suppose. RSS-feeds I do delete and add as needed, but I do not know why subscriptions are better than self chosen RSS? And the last: my network is flexible, changing to meet needs. Oh yes, it is and is not, it depends…

Developing a global understanding

The year 1968 opened the global world to me, or some years later. Never been a beginner who accesses information only from North America 🙂 This is nice to read in Finland: American people must learn that there are other continents. Now I recognize how good I am at global thinking. I have regularly created own content about global issues since 1970’ies. This part was for Americans only.

I thought that he had said something about THINKING but no, it is lacking almost totally. Waited too much.

But it was nice to fill this rubric of Clarence Fisher. I tried to grasp this issue at the end of CritLit and after it: I was searching the content of expertise in these open CCK courses – and try it again during this week.

Learning and institutions

It seems to me that participants in PLENK2010 already know good points of PLE, PLN, LMS and their borders as well. Those were reported at the beginning of Friday Elluminate (the recording is available) . I want to take a broader point of view. Or try anyway, to discuss about factors that help learning in a state level as Finland. I like a presentation of Tarmo Toikkanen: Education in Finland, held in Galgary 15.7. 2010. Perhaps some of you heard it there?It is Slideshare with 16 slides with audio, easy to follow.

I do not want to say that Finland is good at learning things, I know we have normal difficulties and this theme  is a very complex one. But I admire Tarmo’s way to choose some of the important facts. Official explanations must be shown (slide 4) and some are worth noticing: Master level of teachers for instance. Tarmo’s unofficial explanations begin from slide 6: teaching is a valued profession, slide 7-8: teachers have freedom to try out new pedagogies. I love slide 9: free time and less homework are needed for long childhood. Slide 10 can explain reading and writing results – did you know that we speak and write in a same way? We are so simple.

In the end of the presentation you can find how Tarmo puts the technology into its place: it is not the first challenge in learning. Students activity is more important and a good basement in pedagogy, learning culture etc. Slide 15 shows some possible future trends: open content, informal learning etc.

Perhaps some of you like this presentation as I do 🙂

Expertise and guidance

I still have a need to understand expertise, mine and others’. This time I will use a Finnish Dr dissertation of Minna Lakkala: How to design educational settings to promote collaborative inquiry: Pedagogical infrastructures for technologyenhanced progressive inquiry. It is published in  the University of Helsinki.

The study begins: Educational practices should pay special attention to improving the skills necessary for collaboration and knowledge work, in order to address current societal changes. Strategies of scientific, question-driven inquiry are stated to be important cultural practices that should be educated and promoted. – Easy to agree with these thoughts.

The study did not clearly follow any learning-theoretical paradigm, but it can be characterized as falling between socio-cognitive and socio-cultural approaches to learning: Bereiter and Scardamalia in Toronto, Canada. The model of Progressive Inquiry is developed by Kai Hakkarainen and his colleagues, Lakkala is one of them.

Lakkala’s study focused on investigating multiple efforts to implement a research-based pedagogical model of Progressive Inquiry and related Web-based tools, to develop guidelines for educators in promoting students’ collaborative inquiry practices with technology. The Progressive Inquiry model explicates epistemic activities that are generally important in academic and scientific inquiry; i.e., in collaborative activity that aims at improved solving of ill-structured problems, utilization of knowledge sources, and explication and elaboration of ideas, explanations and theories.

The results indicated that appropriate teacher support for students’ collaborative inquiry efforts appears to include interplay between spontaneity and structure. Consideration should be given to content mastery, critical working strategies or essential knowledge practices that the inquiry approach is intended to promote. In particular, those elements in students’ activities should be structured and directed, which are central to the aim of Progressive Inquiry, but which the students do not recognize or demonstrate spontaneously without explicit modeling or promotion, and which are usually not taken into account in existing pedagogical methods or educational conventions. Such elements are, among others:

  • productive co-construction activities;
  • sustained engagement in improving produced ideas and explanations;
  • critical reflection of the adopted inquiry practices, and
  • sophisticated use of modern technology for knowledge work.

The developed Pedagogical Infrastructure Framework enabled recognizing and examining some central features and their interplay in the designs of examined inquiry units. The framework helped to recognize and critically evaluate the invisible learning-cultural conventions in various educational settings and could mediate discussions about how to overcome or change them.

The concept engagement was used to delineate the quality of students’ inquiry activity in order to evaluate the success of the pedagogical intervention: a central aim was that students demonstrate sustained engagement in an active and deepening process of improving ideas and explanations as well as in critical reflection of inquiry practices.

Most of the explicit process guidance in the tutors’ postings concentrated on rather practical issues, such as using information sources or organizing the threads in the discourse forums. The guidance did not draw the students’ attention to higher-order metacognitive inquiry strategies, the promotion of which is one principal idea in the Progressive Inquiry model and should be a central focus in the tutors’ scaffolding efforts.

The analysis of social aspects of the inquiry designs revealed that the threaded discourse areas in the web-based system were experienced as a valuable new possibility to promote collective working practices, and teachers reported how eagerly the students participated in the technology-mediated interaction by reading and commenting on each other’s ideas. The most difficult objective appears to have been to induce the students to enter into “serious” efforts for advancing collective understanding and elaborating common knowledge objects, instead of just discussing or sharing ideas.

Educational settings should include elements that explicitly advance students’ metalevel awareness and understanding of inquiry strategies, which may support their self-regulative action. The analyzed features of the course designs, categorized according to the components of the Pedagogical Infrastructure Framework, were the following:

  • Technical component: Access to technology and technical guidance, and Diversity of tools provided;
  • Social component: Structuring of collaboration, Sharing of the inquiry process, Individual or collective nature of the inquiry outcomes, and Integration of multiple social spaces;
  • Epistemological component: The emphasis on question-driven inquiry, Main source of acquired information, and Concrete knowledge object as an outcome
  • Cognitive component: Modeling of inquiry strategies, Human guidance provided, Scaffolding embedded in tools, and Promotion of meta-reflection.

The aim is to support epistemologically high-level and deepening inquiry activity in which students direct their efforts in elaborating questions, explanations and knowledge products, that the tasks and their achievement criteria are accordingly defined. A requirement for a concrete product (a report, a model or a presentation) as a goal and outcome of the inquiry process appeared to increase and focus students’ inquiry efforts. If there was an explicit assignment to produce a research report, the students were very engaged and productive in writing their contributions. It is important to set explicit high-level epistemological criteria for the quality of the outcome (systematic summing up of inquiry results with theory-based arguments), otherwise the external form of the end product easily starts to dominate as the object of the work, not the improvement of ideas or solving of knowledge problems.

Most students do not spontaneously take responsibility of the advancement of other students’ or the whole community’s inquiry. This is quite understandable because conventional learning culture in schools and universities is strongly shaped by individual accountability and grading. So they hardly ever contributed to the work of others or other teams, if it was not explicitly demanded or built into the task criteria. Thus in progressive inquiry, the common goals of the process across individual students and groups should be explicitly defined, and the practical ways of contributing to the common outcomes should be modeled and explicated; for instance, by directing students to together produce a common summary.

It still is an apparent difficulty to have students openly share the entire process-progression (including original ideas, drafts and intermediate knowledge products) for commenting and co-construction through a Web-based learning environment.

The Progressive Inquiry model aims at simulating expert-like and authentic cultural practices of collaborative inquiry and knowledge creation. One problem is, that students do not necessarily benefit from the guidance style where the teacher demonstrates too advanced expert behavior. In progressive inquiry, it apparently is not enough that the tutor models the high-level, expert-like inquiry practices by demonstrating them in his or her own on-line performance; there should be other ways to scaffold students themselves to recognize and perform intended high-level inquiry practices and cognitively demanding strategies. Teachers and tutors should not do the critical cognitive tasks on behalf of the student.

One finding of the studies is that a typical feature of progressive inquiry practices appears to be that the engagement in open-ended inquiry is experienced as challenging, particularly, at the beginning. Students complained that the level of guidance was insufficient. Teachers were surprised about the feedback because they thought that they had provided clear models and guidelines for the process. These results may relate to the parallel increase in the cognitive challenge of the inquiry task together with the increased authenticity that to give special attention to encouraging students to struggle at the beginning of the process; by helping them realize that the phases of confusion and chaos are elementary characteristics of open-ended inquiry; assuring that it is acceptable and, indeed, probable that inquiry efforts do not always succeed.

Teachers should pay more attention to designing the educational units so that the tasks and other arrangements, especially, stimulate students’ engagement in epistemologically highlevel, deepening inquiry and true collaboration around shared knowledge objects and products. Students’ own metalevel awareness of or intentional efforts for effective collaboration and appropriate inquiry strategies may be more deliberately and explicitly promoted through modeling and self-reflection activities. These conclusions led to define the cognitive or metacognitive support for students’ inquiry engagement as a separate pedagogical design component that requires special attention from the teacher, in addition to technical, social and epistemological components.

Lakkala’s study ended, Heli Nurmi begins to analyse her experiences. I can’t help thinking about our CritLit2010 course which had same ideology than progressive inquiry, and voluntary adult students, but same difficulties as well. Much talking and less serious problematizing, was it so? I remember some comments from Alan and Maria that helped me. I remember deep misunderstandings with Stephen and I am still wondering why. We are experts both but cannot follow each other’s thoughts. Sometimes it goes that way: inquiry efforts do not succeed.

Many discourses about open courses deal with same themas. Educause and many analyses about CCK08 learnings have been interesting to read.  A new course PLENK2010 with these principles will begin next week – we already know mistakes that will happen during next weeks 🙂 .

What is normal in teacher's role?

This week I have two times classroom teaching, normally only online teaching (working, facilitating). I notice that I have alienated from classrooms, I wonder why adult people must be in a classroom at a certain time. The other period begun at 8:00 o’clock(or it should, only one was present at that time, and me if course).

While working as online teacher I am totally free. I prefer asynchronous methods – adult students need freedom like me. No alarm clocks no time hunting, no hurry to any place, no voice using. But most students say that meetings in classrooms are important and it is necessary to see each other. I meet them online. Is this a guestion of learning, changing habits or is it in personality? I am introvert and need my own pace, I like slow working and peaceful thinking (or I am simply lazy). Some teachers don’t want to leave classrooms because they want to be in front of their pupils. (Institution stays, we have buildings and curriculums, this is not a psychological case at all).

Anyway, my first teaching period is over and I liked it. Students were experienced teachers who wanted to develop their online teaching, materials and pedagogy. We met in a computer class- I had prepared links to Second Life and we discussed about possibilities in using it, and problems of course. Then I showed my Finnish blog that focuses on online teaching, I have got an community around it. It was useful to me and to others because there took the space, I was one of participants and I had experiences to share and I wanted to share. Not bad, not at all. But it was not nice to wake up early and be at their school 8:00 am.

Tomorrow I have a group of young adults who have begun studies in educational sciences. Their program consists of  three classroom periods and this is the last one. I have last two hours. My online course begun in June, there are many assigments, questionnaires for refreshing their own thoughts, poems, aforisms, and recommedations about scientific books of course. Some case (material in internet) and optional assigments (movies, novels) and self assessment in the end. Students write a learning diary (blog) continually.

25% have done all and they liked the freedom: I forced them to build up their assigments, I gave only material to use (and freedom to use almost what ever). In the beginning they were embarrased, but after studyind they are very content. They have understood why they have to choose. I followed their blogs and answered at once if they had questions. Sometimes I felt that support was needed and so I gave it.

My subject is educational and developmental psychology. I think that becoming conscious about oneself (a little) is the focus. They practice reading and writing and correct citations, and that is OK but I hope that they connect their experiences and observations  with readings. I do not like copies of any kind.

The last 75 % of my students have done only some simple tasks or nothing. I they are present I should help them, and how? I ask students to tell each other what they have found and I tell how I see ‘sensemaking in psychology’. What is my role as a teacher? I want to meet the students, really. They tell in their blogs feedback about meetings, they tell what touched and why (serious things cannot be said aloud at once).

I respect my students and trust that they can study and want to study. If some cancel, it is not my problem – they have something that is more important, they cannot take to time. I want to encourage, I must be sensible to unsure … I must be myself and now I have to go to sleep that I am not tired tomorrov.