This course is designed according to my philosophy and beliefs about what makes for engaging learning and effective instruction. Review the points below to quickly get a sense of whether or not you will enjoy participating in this course.
Your Learning Artifacts Belong to YOU
I agree wholeheartedly with Terry Anderson who recently wrote, "learning occurs through construction, annotation and maintenance of learning artifacts." "Learning artifacts" are things you create like videos, essays, diagrams, concept maps, photo collages, etc. Because these artifacts are the core of your learning experience, it is critically important that you own these artifacts and have ongoing access to them. Consequently, all of the learning artifacts that you create for this course will be stored somewhere outside the learning management system. Specifically, these artifacts will be stored and maintained in a space controlled solely by you. You should jealously guard and protect control and access to all of the learning artifacts that you create - whether in this course or in another. As explained on the Course Technology Requirements page, to participate in this course you will need to create accounts on several systems outside of Canvas which will be under your full control, will live much longer than the duration of this course, and will support you in creating, annotating, and maintaining your learning artifacts.
You Should Freely Share Your Learning Artifacts
Anderson continues, "A key characteristic of these artifacts is they must be persistent and be open, such that they contribute to knowledge, beyond the temporal or geographical boundaries of the learning group or course." Persistence is a critical prerequisite to annotation. I can't make useful notes on your blog post, video, or collection of bookmarks if they disappear tomorrow. Openness is another critical prerequisite to annotation. I can't learn from, take notes on, extend, or remix your learning artifacts if I never have access to them. I have also been impressed, over and over again, by how much additional effort, thought, and craftsmanship people put into learning artifacts they know will be publicly visible. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously observed, "sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."
As I will argue strongly later, education is sharing. If you're not sharing, you're not learning - just as if I weren't sharing, you certainly wouldn't be learning here. To maximize sharing - and by equivalence learning - you should openly license your artifacts with a Creative Commons license, just as I have openly licensed this course with the Creative Commons Attribution license.
You Should Network with, Teach, and Learn from Other Course Participants
It takes two to tango. It also takes two to share. If I walk down the sidewalk offering to share my french fries with anyone who's hungry, but no one eats my french fries, then I haven't shared with anyone. Sharing is an iterative relationship of offering and accepting. If all the participants in this course offer their blog posts, videos, bookmarks, and other learning artifacts, but no one accepts them, reads them, critiques them, or annotates them, then no sharing has happened.
Course as Campfire
|Photo by Jen Orton|
Probably the most useful way to think about this course is as a campfire. A campfire does, of course, have important nonsocial functions (like providing heat) just like courses have important nonsocial functions (like conveying information). But the most important function of both a great campfire and a great course is the manner in which they draw people together. A good campfire is a thing around which storytelling, singing, and other social interactions happen. The same is true for the best courses – they draw people into arguments, explorations, discussions, relationships, and even friendships.
Without a campfire all you have is a bunch of tents setup and people wandering around disconnectedly. The campfire provides a place for people to congregate and interact. The campfire appears before the singing starts. Likewise, the proper way to view this course is as a "place" for people to congregate, tinker a bit and build some learning artifacts, share, critique, and improve each others' artifacts, and generally enter into relationships of sharing and learning.
If you were hoping that this course would be one of those "watch some videos and answer multiple choice questions without needing to interact with a human being" MOOCs, then these aren't the droids you're looking for. You can go about your business. Move along.