ETMOOC: Pressure Systems – MOOCs like the Weather

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I’m a week into the Educational Technology and Media MOOC (etmooc) experience. This style of experience is difficult to describe. It’s a BIG conversation between hundreds of (1500, or so) folks from all over the globe with similar interests, across multiple channels, in a large and loose structure. The course leverages Twitter, Google+, live sessions, and blog aggregations from participants to expose these conversations to the group. Yeah, 1500 participants mixing across multiple tools. If you don’t have well tuned filters, this can be seriously overwhelming. It’s chaos. But not necessarily in a bad way.

As this experience coalesces, I see people doing many things for the first time. First blogs. First time using Twitter. Sharing different types of simple media production tools and producing video narrative to “make learning visible”. As the experience progresses, folks are beginning to form smaller groups of resonance in this great big space. Through a natural process, smaller spaces form within the bigger space.

This is the most fascinating thing to me about this experience. Observing the social dynamics of a very large group, engaged in a really big conversation is pretty fantastic. Each participant working around a couple of big questions:

  • How are you making your learning visible?
  • How are you contributing to the learning of others?

Here’s the way I am thinking of the MOOC. It’s working like a pressure system, behaving with dynamics not entirely unlike weather patterns. The loose course structure and the promise of learning about how to improve pedagogy with communication technologies create a pressure well, drawing folks in. Participants come from different fields and backgrounds, with different perspectives, and with different levels of commitment and intensity.

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Not entirely unlike a weather system, differences in pressures (interests) form eddies. Groups of interest are starting to emerge. I anticipate this will continue through the remainder of the course.
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This isn’t my first MOOC but it is my first connectivist MOOC experience. It may also be the first MOOC I finish. Enrolled in a few content MOOCs but combination of linear structure and no real incentive caused an attention dump early on.

I’ve been inspired by the passion of the educators in the group. It’s been a positive experience. Maybe I’ll make it through this one. Time will tell.

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ETMOOC Introduction


I’m Steve Flowers and here’s how you can build a mental model of my construct.

Note for my 2 (or so) regular readers: I’m participating in #etmooc, a massively open online course for education technology and media. This is assignment 1. I think there are still open spots if you want to join in.

1. Steve’s personal and professional life are hopelessly intermingled

headshotMy personal and professional life are a seriously commingled mess. By that, I mean that it’s difficult to see where one stops and the other begins. I suspect that this is fairly common in folks that are passionate about what they do.

On the professional side, I have worked for the U.S. Coast Guard in one form or another for longer than 20 years. I was an active duty electronics technician for just over 10 and I’m currently a performance technologist / solutions consultant with the USCG Performance Technology Center. That means I’m sometimes a consultant, sometimes a developer, sometimes a producer, most times a designer (technical, communication, instructional, or process — really whatever the situation calls for, I try to fill the need). I build digital stuff like EPSS, tools, and eLearning.

I’m a tool pilot and tend to master tools quickly. There aren’t many classes of tools I haven’t driven or taught others to drive. Consequently, I’m less interested in tools than I am in outcomes, goals, results and the covert or tacit things that contribute to outcomes, goals, and results.

2. At the heart of it, Steve is (proud to be) nothing more than an assistant

If you remove all of the lofty terms that define a discipline, at the heart of it I’m just an assistant. I assist the apprentice, the journeyman, and the master get done what they need to get done. I try to enable growth and development where I can but I try to stay out of the way.

3. Steve writes stuff and participates in communities

There’s a book I co-wrote with a couple of other fine fellows to support new Articulate Storyline users. I also participate regularly as an Articulate MVP (Super Hero) on Articulate’s E-learning Heroes Community.

4. Don’t let Steve fool you, Steve’s life is excellent.

irinaOn the personal side, I’m married to a media specialist, science fiction author, and fairly famous Russian poet named Irina. She’s pretty awesome. We live in a modest flat overlooking a mill pond with our three cats Lola (not the brightest cat), Gray (more person than cat), and General Tso (demon spawn). We far exceed the per capita average of devices and displays in the house. I’m embarrassed to say how much technology stuff we’ve hoarded away… It’s a disease, I tell you.

In the time I’m not working for my day job or helping folks with moonlight work, I like to play games (I used to be a huge World of Warcraft nerd) and write about stuff that interests me. I read a bit, though my collection of unread books is far larger than my collection of read books.

5. Steve likes his friends and his network. 

I’m fortunate to have a network of really smart friends that like the same stuff I do and a global network of tools that makes it easy to stay connected. If you’re reading this, you’re automatically one of those friends. So, thank you.

6. A lot of things interest Steve, here are a few of them:

  • Application of technology to help people 1) get things done and 2) develop their skills. Particularly interested in mobile / accessible and Web-based technologies and structures. Have written a few things on the xAPI (Tin Can API).
  • Use of everyday household technology to generate things of use to other people. This includes a strong interest in the use of video to capture and share authentic experiences or articulate ideas. This tech is ubiquitous. The barrier isn’t gadgetry, it’s habitry. I made it my goal to use a tablet / device to generate much of the media I’ll produce this year and I hope to share some things I’ve learned with the folks in this group. Did I mention that I have a technology addiction?
  • Profiles, lenses, patterns, and frameworks are a passion of mine. I think lexicons of work and decision paths are important to validating a body of knowledge. I don’t believe we do enough in the education and training space to communicate the things that work and consequently we rarely discuss why. To me, this is critical to the development of (an admittedly fractured) professional discipline.

7. Steve is opinionated as all get out. Here are some things Steve has opinions about:

  • Culture as the core influencing signal on behavior (how we are influenced by and influence this signal)
  • How often we seem to avoid showing our work and end up arbitrarily making decisions about delivery mediums and media with big holes in our data support.
  • The biggest problems in education center around 1) a focus on information [vice capability] as a central object 2) poorly designed and administered assessment mechanisms that result in misplacement and mismatches between certification and competence. Both of these are common but not universal. That’s what makes the problem so darn hard to diagnose.
  • Everything (yes, everything)

8. Steve is happy to be on this journey with y’all.

Happy to be here. I anxiously anticipate the adventure.

Tech, People and Systems

The article below was written for an internal audience to illustrate the potential of the Experience API (Tin Can API). This brief overview contains narrative descriptions of four use-cases.

Disclaimer

The use-cases described below illustrate projections and opportunities that could help to resolve some organizational challenges. The use cases described below do not represent plans. This article doesn’t necessarily represent the viewpoint of the U.S. Coast Guard or the Department of Homeland Security.

The DoD ADL Initiative is working on a set of technology interoperability standards to enable training and learning systems. This new set of standards is called the Training and Learning Architecture (TLA). The first technology standard to emerge from the TLA is the Experience API (XAPI) also known as the Tin Can API. Differing from current systems that focus on connecting content with systems, this standard creates a language and technology framework that focuses on connecting people with systems. More specifically, the Experience API enables systems to capture the actions, activities, experiences, and accomplishments of people. Continue reading Tech, People and Systems

Narrowing the Solution Field – Part 2

In the first part of this series, I introduced an approach for making selection of interventions a little less arbitrary. In this installation, I’ll refine process funnel a bit to round out and clarify definitions of the output levels.

When using processes like this, I think it’s important to keep in mind:

  1. There is no magical process or algorithm to make design decisions automatically. Because of all the factors at play, this stuff is work. Doing it right takes rigor and  discipline. Anything short of a disciplined approach is rolling the dice.
  2. Design is a complex business of weighed options and trade-offs. The answers are almost never easy and there is rarely only one answer.
  3. This process of refinement isn’t linear. It IS iterative and involves making and validating assumptions.
  4. Design is a process of illumination. You can’t solve a problem that you can’t see.

That said, models and tools for thinking through problems can be really helpful to shake things loose and help you to show your work.

Continue reading Narrowing the Solution Field – Part 2