Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sebastian Thrun's pivot

There are a lot of "I told you so's" aimed at Sebastian Thrun for his initial enthusiasm for MOOCs and his recent turn-around. Udacity is now going to target job-specific training. So... ok, we told you so - BUT I'm thinking about how he got to this "fail": He was willing to experiment and go way out on a limb in a very public way. He had the social capital to gather up venture capital and develop a platform in short order. He has brought online education to the attention of many - including ivy league schools. He experimented in a BIG way. We told him so, but he learned it for himself. I'm sure that he will go on to do many more interesting things. Now I'm trying to think about what would be different if the last couple of years of MOOC craziness hadn't happened?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Design 101 - Victor Papanek - In print only

I'm doing Design 1o1 (one-oh-one - not laugh out loud) through One item on the suggested readings - Victor Papanek Design for the Real World - I'm reading the first edition which happened to be available in the academic library I frequent. They haven't thrown it out yet even though it's one of those academic libraries that seems bent on marginalizing the printed book. How frustrating that Papanek is not legally available electronically! (I'm quite sure that the material at is not up there legally.) I would like all of you to read it - and read it in its' entirety. I listened to some of Dave Cormier's discussion for #WWEOpen13. I'm rather confused. He seems to be saying that there's no longer a need for fixed texts. The conversation with the group seemed to fall somewhere between "print is dead" and "I like print." I think that you ought to read Papenek - not as revised or condensed or regurgitated by someone who might shift Papanek's arguments in some way. Write your own work and have your say! Don't mess with Papanek's expression. Also if I were teaching a course in design, I would insist that the students should read Papenek. Apparently this is "teacher as leader = bad." Perhaps if I disguise myself as a fellow student I could enthusiastically endorse the reading of particular texts?

First page of the preface from the 1st edition

Design in the Real World: Ecology and Social Change - 2nd edition (2005).

Design 101: I've only missed doing one assignment so far and will catch up on that one today. I'm not trying to be the best or even good. I'm not agonizing over the assignments. I'm doing that thing where you get an idea, do it, and ship it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Following along ETEC 642

I'm bound and determined to follow Bert Kimura's ETEC 642 course Facilitating E-Learning Communities ( The course website is at "Following" is the operative term. I'm already a week behind - for no particularly good reason. I think it might have to do with a character flaw - lack of discipline(?) I intend to get going right now!

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Wow, Google+ has me stymied! I can't get Hangouts to work on my desktop. I keep getting an installation error 1603 when it asks me to install the talk plugin. I thought I HAD a talk plug in! I've read up as much as possible. I see reports of problems like mine going back years - though I wasn't having any problem until a couple of days ago. Tried some of the suggestions: Uninstalled things, re-installed things, tried setting it up in a guest account... No luck! I wanted to try the on air function. So here's the deal: What do you do when you run out of problem-solving ideas? I'm sitting here with a nice webcam and a pretty good mic and a nice fast Internet luck. (Thanks for listening)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Digital Public Library of America

Micah Vandegrift has written a piece on the Digital Public Library of America - what it is - and what it isn't - and what it might become. See Micah discusses joining one of the early discussion lists concerning the DPLA. I was on the list for a while as well ( and my impression was that a lot of brilliant people had very interesting ideas about presenting digital collections - and terrific capabilities. They seemed mainly interested in presenting digital library content to scholars - other people just like them. Some of the participants in the early discussions didn't seem all that interested in including public library collections. Some of the discussants didn't seem all that interested in any user not affiliated with a research-intensive university. Public librarians were working hard to be heard. I was put off. I was hoping for the emergence of a digital public library of the world with no silly political or geographic boundaries. While I continued to read about the DPLA sporadically, I stopped following the day-to-day discussions. Now the first iteration of the DPLA has launched. Robert Darnton and John Palfry - both leaders in the DPLA were guests for a recent Special Event for Terry Fisher's CopyrightX course. Both talked about the a grand vision of what the DPLA could become and how it could become the digital library for all of us. I'm looking forward to DPLA developments!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Oprah's Life Class - a kind of MOOC

How to create community with participants from 51 countries:

Check out Oprah's Life Class web site.

Classes. Your homework. Check-in. (While registration is required to participate in discussions, there are no other entrance requirements.)

Daily Life Work; Videos; Weekly Question (with a spot for responses); Webcasts.

The website has a place for "My Notes" "Enter your thoughts in your personal online notebook".

There's a Facebook page.

Oprah's Life Class asks people to upload their photos via Instagram. The photos are broadcast so there's a sense that they are the visible part of the TV audience.

Ambassadors use Twitter to announce TV events beforehand and keep things going with lively tweets. The Twitter stream is available in the auditorium where the broadcast is taking place. Oprah tweets to her Tweethearts during the broadcast.

The audience in the auditorium interacts with the life coach and Oprah. Skype is used to bring remote students into the classroom to interact with the life coach of the day - and Oprah.

There are no grades.

What strategies can we borrow for our courses? (Is Oprah's Life Class a sort of MOOC?)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

More MOOC lurking

Report from the MOOC front: Ohio State's Writing II: Rhetorical Composing is starting on Coursera on April 22. The instructors are by Susan Delagrange, Cynthia Selfe, Kay Halasek, Ben McCorkle, and Scott Lloyd DeWitt. The instructors address the concept of "global Englishes" in their introductory material. I'm excited to see the instructors acknowledge that these courses have a global audience! In response to the introductory videos, one of the very first students to post asked if accepting more than one "English" will water down the course. A staff member replied and noted that this course will "foster a learning community that welcomes English speakers from all around the world." This is a great question to have raised and discussed right up at the beginning of the course. This may head off some problems that have developed in other courses where U.S. students have not known how to deal with writers from other regions. The instructors say that they will be spending time suggesting ways to give feedback. Official hashtag for the course: #wexmooc

In the meantime... I've continued to check out the discussions in Duke University's English Comp I (also on Coursera). One student noted that the instructor in one video referred to "inches" when talking about indenting citations. There was no corresponding equivalent for "centimeters" mentioned in the video. The student's version of Word uses centimeters. Another student supplied the conversion to centimeters, but there you go! The question about what to consider when developing a course for a global audience was raised! While APA and MLA citation styles mentioned in the course are used in many situations, would it have been worth mentioning styles used in other countries? For example I gather that ABNT (Associação Brasileira de Normas Técnicas) is used in many universities in Brazil. Maybe acknowledging the existence of some other styles would be enough?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Student Loans - Paid off!

Last week I paid off the remainder of my Federal PLUS Loan for daughter number two. We had that average $25,000 in loans when she graduated five years ago. Done! I'm happy to that she and I are both out of debt (at least for the moment). I would love to chronicle how paying for her four years at Pratt Institute went down, but every tuition bill was confusing and every financial aid letter was confusing - and it was just generally... confusing. So how much did those four years cost? A bunch - but I don't have a total. Nevertheless we got through it with her work study grants, some scholarship awards, my part-time work teaching online in addition to my full-time librarian job, some help from my dad...and some federal loans. I'm glad to have that financial episode concluded!

I know adding info to posts after the fact is not a great idea, but I saw this and wanted to tack it on here...
NASFAA National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators put out their consumer testing of financial aid award letters report. No clear winners

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A librarian lurking in a MOOC

I'm paying attention to the discussion fora on Duke's English Composition I course taught by Denise Comer and offered through Coursera. I'm looking for places that an embedded librarian might intervene. Why? I'm interested in the role that information literacy plays in MOOCs in general. More specifically I'm on board as staff librarian with ( is being used as one of the resources for the Duke course. What other information could include in order to help students taking MOOCs? Here's a few things that I've answered:

How do I copyright my work? This was not the "how do I cite work and avoid plagiarizing" - but "how do I copyright works of fiction that I myself have written?" I explained how it's done in the U.S, but I'm not certain this student was a U.S. citizen.

There was a question about how to search for open access resources. Another student helped out with that and I chimed in as well with some ideas.

How do I find recent research on child development? I explained how to find some research using open access services - and made some suggestions about finding recent articles if you are affiliated or near a library.

How can I find glossaries for various academic disciplines - specifically social work? (In the case the student is a non-native English speaker.) I listed some sites and explained how I identified them.

What about political correctness and academic writing? I turned up an interesting web site from University of Leicester and asked the students to take a look to see what they thought about it.

I'll try to keep track of whatever else gets "librarian" answer from me.

I've let the Duke librarians know that I'm in there being nosy. Any other librarians embedded in their MOOCs and answering questions wearing their librarian hat?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spotify Pandora

Every once in a while I try Spotify - but there's something disappointing about the experience for me. The screen is cluttered with too much extraneous information - and once again today, Spotify was busy advertising artists not currently of any interest to me. Grrr. It really doesn't have a clue what I listen to? So I switched over to Pandora and signed in - and it had already created a fado radio station for me with Mariza as the first artist - the very person I was just listening to on Spotify. Second artist up - Amalia Rodrigues. Good listening!

Education for other people's children

When considering interesting/novel/new forms of education - online learning, MOOCs, etc..... Steve Gilbert likes to ask if what we are proposing is only "good enough for other people's children?" Are we recommending modes of education that we'd want for our own children? Or is what we're recomming only a "good enough" option for students who can't manage to participate in that type education we have traditionally thought of as "best? I'm pretty sure that Steve is thinking of traditional college-age students who may be well-served by the traditional, residential, liberal arts undergraduate education. There's an implication that this is the standard and that there's only one "best." But I think the time to consider that environment the "best" or the only way to get a "real" education has been over for a while. There are too many other options that have been used successfully by many students. (Also, not all students attending the traditional bricks and mortar schools get great grades or go on to be high achievers.) What about the children of those running for profits or online universities like UMUC or consortia like the Western Governors University? Are those leaders encouraging their children to attend an Ivy League university or a traditional liberal arts residental college? I'm not sure that matters one way or the other. While children of the leaders of Western Governors University might select a traditional route, other students select WGU - and get what they need. Straighterline may be a cheap, quick way to get some credits and not provide the full undergraduate experience, but cheap, quick credits can be just what some people need. Those students are someone's children, but it's possible that they are already adults in their own right. At UMUC this term I have quite a few retired and soon-to-be retired military (both female and male), a man who's currently in the State Department, another man who was in the Bush administration in various capacities, some single parents, some who are mid-career and need that advanced degree to switch gears or to move ahead. There are a few traditional age students who like the flexibility of online learning, but they are outnumbered by the adults. These UMUC students are not living the unencumbered lives that some of us were lucky to have as undergraduates. I think perhaps we need to ask this question: How can we deliver education to students who are not just like our children?