Sunday, August 3, 2014

thinking ahead to week 1

I'm stoked!  School may take summer off but learning never stops. It's been a great summer for Open Source Learning.  Many learners around the globe are trying new things with technology and they are eager to share and learn with us.  Last month I joined RHS/OSL alumni Gabi Pereverziev and Nik Koyama & former Creative Commons CEO Cathy Casserly for a webinar on trust in connected learning environments (sponsored by the Macarthur Foundation and the Connected Learning Alliance).  Later in August I'll travel to London to give a talk on learning networks at the Royal Geographical Society.

Part of the success story is the way the Class of 2012, the Class of 2013, and the Class of 2014 accepted the challenge.  Each year has brought new challenges, triumphs, and LEARNING.  In the first year everything was brand new and students were international trend-setters.  Over time the success stories became more personal, as students gained confidence in asking their own Big Questions and taking the opportunity to take charge of their own education (if you haven't already seen these, here are a couple examples from the Class of 2014 courtesy of Melissa Steller and Matt Reynolds).  Lisa Malins and friends developed an online academic support system. Others have created games and even peer-to-peer evaluation platforms (yes: that means you can "grade" your colleagues).

But even though you'll have alumni and virtual TAs as a resource, remember the "etch-a-sketch" factor. You are completely different people and this is a brand new year.  Times have already changed. There are tools and ideas on the Internet that didn't exist yesterday, much less last year. The political and economic climate around us changes day by day.  So, even though I have some idea of how this might go, and you're certainly welcome to build on and expand the ideas and ventures of past years' students, I invite you and I encourage you to build from scratch. Imagine how you can connect your goals and your passions to the course in meaningful ways.  We're all in for a surprise as you discover what ideas and tools move you to action as you learn your way through this experience.  Incoming students are already designing new learning experiences and ventures.

As August begins, however, reading this blog is like a scene from one of those old westerns where the sheriff slowly walks down the empty main street and mutters, "It's quiet. Too quiet."

[NOTE:] This would ordinarily be a good opportunity for a HS teacher to nag.  I'm not.  Your first week will be what you make it.  I'm just observing and acknowledging a place that isn't (yet) bustling with comments, Big Questions, Member Blogs, etc.

Composer Claude deBussy suggested that music is actually "the space between the notes."  The space between things in a composition isn't nothing; it is a very different sort of something.  Visual artists refer to the space between/around objects as negative space.

I'm fascinated by how the appearance of something suggests its lack elsewhere.  Earlier in my life I figured this was just a byproduct of perfectionism, a desire to see completeness.  But now I see it as discrimination; when people single something out for a moment in time or a specific place, they imply it doesn't exist in any other time or place.  For example: if students are encouraged to be geniuses for one hour out of the day, what are you supposed to be the rest of the time?

You have undoubtedly been doing and thinking interesting things since we talked in May-- please start posting & use your writing as a way to let us get to know you.  If you've been reading and  taking notes, please post them on your course blogs and share the URL. One of the defining characteristics of Open Source Learning is transparency; you know I've been thinking about this course because this is the 28th post I've put up since our orientation meeting.  I just looked-- last year's course blog has 548 posts on it, and the year prior has 489.

To be clear, I'm not asking you to get anywhere close to those numbers or beat Josh Montero's all-time record of 720 posts (what do you expect of a guy who wrote an essay upside down on a roller coaster?).

[SPOILER ALERT:] On the first day of school--Tuesday, August 12-- you'll be writing an essay on the summer reading. On Wednesday we'll begin a conversation about how this blog and other 2.0 tools will help you contribute ideas and collaborate in new ways. In the meantime, the following tips will help prepare you for the first week:

1. Get to class as early as you can. We'll need every second.
2. Bring a spiral notebook or composition book in addition to your binder (returning students will recognize this as the infamous journal).
3. Post your summer reading notes to your blogs. If you haven't posted them by the first day, please bring hard copies to class and be prepared to turn them in. I will return them Thursday so that you can use them on the in-class essay. (Oh, by the way: we're having another in-class essay on Thursday).
4. Make sure you're in the right class. I don't mean according to your program-- I mean according to your own heart and mind. This course demands intellectual courage and intestinal fortitude, and it is not for everyone. Be honest with yourself and see me if you have doubts.
5. The next few posts (which you'll probably see before this if you're not following the blog or frequently checking it) will provide vocabulary and poetry assignments for Week 1. There will be a vocabulary quiz on Friday, August 15, and you must have the poem memorized by Monday, August 20 (--er, Monday, August 18-- thanks Edgar!).

I look forward to exchanging ideas about the reading and embarking together on a memorable journey.  See you 8.12.


  1. I'm very excited to begin my journey in Open Source Learning. I'm fascinated and inspired by students of the past and others around the world who have created and innovated new ideas that integrate Open Source Learning. This post definitely made me aware that it's never too early (or too late) to start getting involved in Open Source Learning and to begin thinking of new, fresh ideas! Really looking foward to this course. Oh, and, by the way, by Monday, August 20th do you mean Monday the 18th?

    1. You're right! (Twice--thanks for the date correction, I somehow manage to fail Calendar 101 over and over... :)