Open Learning Irony

I learned something today. I learned that even in an open online course using an broad social media group, open learning is not a given.  I erroneously assumed that within such a structure, we would all be utilizing whatever resources we could just to learn and grow together. Open courses do not instantaneously make connected educators…. just as open education does not instantaneously make a self-directed learner.  


Of course in this group of close to 300 people, we are allowed to share funny videos, urban legends, unrelated pictures, and ask tons of questions that no one answers, but we can’t connect with each other outside of the group. Oh no. That would encourage people to spam us with educational information when we choose to click on the link and read someone’s blog. I purposely have not been posting my recent blog thinking around the course content because I didn’t want to be seen as spamming… I thought this might be a way to start a blog-to-blog conversation and add classmates to my feed reader.  And maybe the post does really seem self-seeking…. my intent was to share blogs with people, not direct traffic to mine. I was much more comfortable when I didn’t think anyone was reading my blog than I am now- it’s a scary thing to be transparent in your thinking and ask for feedback.

I need to be more patient in teaching others about connected learning. I forget that it isn’t normal to everyone. I do appreciate the kindness and humor with which the moderator commented (blacked out to protect his/her privacy). As with all things in this course, there is the possibility that age and culture is coloring the conversation… I’m older, and so posts about being nervous for a quiz feel sophomoric. I’d just like to discuss the concepts, how others are incorporating them into their classroom/life, and learn where my thinking needs challenged.  In other words, I’m a serious old lady. I’m also unsure of the nationality of the commenter, but it may be that open sharing of information is frowned upon in his/her country. Regardless, I  deleted the comment as requested and removed myself from the group as it wasn’t an effective learning environment for me.

The funny part? I found out about this network in the course discussion forums where they shared a link (SPAM!) to the Facebook group. Am I the only one that sees the irony in that?

How could I handle this better in the future? Do you limit yourself only to open networks?  

(Taking my ball and going home…. er, back to Twitter and Feedly where the conversation and thoughts run free.)


On Professional Responsibility

306205_9376I am done procrastinating, and will now attack my peer review essay in the presence of all the interwebs. The topic? “How might you contribute to your own professional development and that of your colleagues?” paired with “What are the influences and people that played a part in your decision to become a teacher?”

You know, this subject of personal learning networks is one that is near and dear to my heart. I love learning. I love learning in community. I love sharing ideas. Collaborating. Networking. Sharing. These things are life giving and energizing to me.

Which is why I just don’t understand the negativity and animosity many educators exhibit towards any kind of non-district sponsored, required, or credited professional development opportunity. I really don’t understand it. Several years ago, I sat in a high level meeting where the discussion centered around the new teacher evaluation system, and quickly degenerated into how to support teachers through professional development. Now, we are not talking about cutting edge training here…. we are talking about basic things like how to use a grading system or email. I foolishly spoke up and asked “Why would we even provide that kind of training? Aren’t teachers professionals who should be responsible for staying current with tools of the trade? Shouldn’t this be their responsibility?” Ah, naive Julie. I continued on and mentioned that in industry no one is trained in using email or tools- as professionals they are expected to either know how to use them or to seek out extra help to get current. The reply I received from one individual was , “Julie, if everyone thought like you did, I would be out of a job.”

I think this is my underlying frustration with the original question. I do know how to contribute to my own professional development. I take time out of my busy life to learn, grow, and network. I attend virtual conferences. I attend live conferences, often on my own dime. I read books. I read blogs. I discuss ideas on Twitter. I take online courses. I organize local tweetups. Beyond that, I invite colleagues to join me. I have two who are joining me in the Blended Learning MOOC that starts in a few weeks (you are invited too!). I’m hosting a book night in November to discuss The Self-Directed Learning Handbook.

I don’t expect everyone to do those things. We all learn in different ways, and professional development is a personal thing. You have the opportunity to craft your own education.  Pick what works for you, but not picking isn’t a choice- especially if you are in the classroom teaching one of my kids. As a parent, I expect you to be current. If you are not, you should expect me to remove my child from your class…. since I know there is no way your administrator can fire you for such a “minor” thing.  And as your enrollment numbers drop, your building should start looking inward instead of blaming outward circumstances.

The bottom line is that I am a professional and should be held responsible for staying current in my field. So are you.

The biggest contribution I can make is to own my professional development and to expect my colleagues to own theirs. Of course, I can share heaps and heaps of ideas. But if the underlying assumption of personal responsibility for learning is not there, all the opportunities in the world cannot change the outcome. Sound familiar?

Well, that was a lovely little rant. Ahem. Don’t think I’ll be able to use that for my essay response. However, I have worked through why the question was bothering me so much and can now approach it like a professional. A procrastinating professional, but a professional nonetheless.

(Rather than write an essay, I elected to create a Powerpoint presentation. My preference is writing, but since my ESL peers are the audience for this piece I elected to make it more visual and less wordy.)

October TweetUp (Loveland, CO)


Just wanted to issue a quick invite to grab coffee and chat with other educators in the Northern Colorado area. I’m hoping to have the large table reserved, but haven’t been able to talk to anything other than the answering machine at The Coffee Tree yet.  And it won’t reserve a table for me. Go figure.

  • Who: Northern Colorado & TSDR2J Edu-people
  • What: An informal “tweetup” coffee and chat time (come and go)
  • When: Thursday, October 10th 7:00-9:00p
  • Where: The Coffee Tree (downtown Loveland, CO)
  • Why: Talk education, innovation, and network…. local PLN!

Please share with other educators. Bring a friend. Grab your team. Ask your administrator to come with you. Talk to that teacher down the hall. Drink decaf or tea…. leaded coffee not required.

I’m looking forward to hearing what each of you have been doing, and the exciting things you have on your horizon. Hope you can make time to visit for a bit! Leave a comment if you plan to come.  ~Julie