Monthly Archives: July 2011

who was that online learning space designed for?


I’m in the middle… well, ok, the beginning… of writing a paper for the first class of my career as a graduate school student — sorry to call out to the same blog post again, but I find the technical design of the course terrible. (Thanks, Blackboard!) Until very recently, I was in the funny situation of not really knowing when my final paper is due… and I coudn’t find the information anywhere. It’s wasn’t on our discussion board, it didn’t seem to be in the course documents, and, well, I didn’t know where else to look.

Now, I don’t particularly like phone calls. I find them a bit disruptive, and a lot of the time the same questions can be answered with a quick email. So when I couldn’t see when my paper was due, I emailed my professor… and never heard back. And I posted something to my class discussion board… and never heard back. Along the way, someone else asked in the class discussion board about when the paper was due and someone in my class tried to help me out. Only later in the week — five days before the paper was due — did the professor finally give us a deadline.

The thing about being an online student — and this shouldn’t matter if you’re a professional taking a graduate school class or a tenth grader taking Mr. Kolani’s social media class — is that you need to know where to find all the information. The design of your online space matters, as does the level of the teacher’s engagement in that space. And if you’re dealing with a less than optimal online space — maybe yours was determined by someone else — and you know that things are going to be tricky to find, then you need to have a constant presence in the space, or at least be responsive to questions.

I should have found that info, and I’m frustrated that I didn’t find it myself. It should have been clear in the online space that my class is conducted in and the associated documents, and I believe that I deserved a quicker response from my professor. I would argue that the due date for the one major paper in the class should be pretty darn obvious, but not answering a student’s request for help is unconscionable. 

If an online space is your only interaction with a student, then you should be prepared to answer your students in that space. You have to live in that space for the duration of your class, particuarly an asynchronous class that could see students popping in and out with varying degrees of frequency. You have to be willing to engage with students in the same way you ask — and in some cases limit — them to engage with you. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Who was that learning space designed for?

photo credit: zabdiel

thinking through professional development #edcamp #edcampnyc #tedxnyed


I’ve got about a million things racing through my brain as I try and finish a paper that is due on Saturday. At least I think it’s due on Saturday, as none of the course documents make it too clear. (Have you read how I really don’t like the way this online course is presented?)

And if you haven’t already, please do me a favor and fill out this survey on professional development, as it would really help me out.

Anyway, as I’m trying to make the argument that a more informal, PLN-based (either online or in-person) model of professional development is perhaps as effective as it gets, I’m also part of the team that’s planning EdCampNYC, starting to kick off planning for next year’s TEDxNYED, and also trying to put together the technology professional development orientation sessions for my school during our all-too-soon orientation. (For what it’s worth, I’m going to try to plan at least one of our half-days in the unconference style.) I’m also looking at attending, in the coming weeks, PadCamp, 140edu (did you know that educators can attend for $1.40 — seriously, just register here now), and TSETC. Busy times…

What I’m worried about, at least regarding the two external conferences I’m involved in planning, is how we reach out to a potential new audience. I love the PD sessions that I attend, particularly the more unstructured ones, but they’re starting to feel like the same people are presenting and attending every one. Even ISTE felt that way, and that was HUGE. So how do you a reach a new audience?

Maybe it’s Twitter, with the hopes for retweeting seen by people you haven’t connected with. Or blog posts, Facebook postings, a Google+ post or hangout or huddle or whatever comes next in that space. But isn’t that just dipping into the same well of potential participants? By continuing to use the same online tools that you’ve been using to connect with this person, that person, or the other person you met at x, y, or z conference, aren’t you, in a way, preaching to the converted? I argued to the EdCampNYC organizers’ mailing list that maybe we shouldn’t use those same tools — but I didn’t really have the greatest of ideas about where to turn in their place.

I’m not being crankly becuase I’m sick of seeing the same people all the time — in fact, I love it. They’re the people that inspire me all the time, in whatever forum I interact with them in. Sometimes, even face to face! But there has to be a way to engage with those not already engaging.

How do you bring new faces, ideas, perspectives to your table?

photo credit: me