Notes, Quotes & Reflections about Geoffrey Canada’s Keynote at #BbWorld14

Geoffrey Canada, educator and activist took the closing keynote spot at Blackboard World 2014 last week. You might know him from his engaging TED Talk on “Our Failing Schools: Enough is Enough!” Perhaps you know him for his inspiring work with Harlem Children’s Zone or by watching Waiting for Superman. Or maybe you read one of his books: Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence or Reaching Up For Manhood. For those at BBWorld2014 who never heard of him, maybe they will remember him for a compelling, passionate, provocative closing keynote.

This was his first public appearance since retiring after 31 years with the Harlem Children’s Zone, and he started with a short reflection on the way his work has spread and influenced education. “All I ever wanted to do was save my kids…but the ‘my’ kept getting larger and larger,” he explained. Then he got into it, launching his main talk with the following quote:

“I’m convinced that if we don’t do something radically different, we’re going to preside over the decline of our country.”

“When I stared, I went to Detroit and found out that it was worse than Harlem.” And as he learned more, he wondered, “How big is this problem?” “I discovered that as a nation, we’ve developed a strategy”…a toxic one, designing a system where many kids don’t get an education. What do we do when places produce kids who are unemployable? “We lock up all the guys.” ‘We incarcerate more people per capita than any place in the world bar none.” “We created an industry around incarceration in our country that is rivaling education.”

What does it take to education kids coming from poverty? He explained that it is difficult, but we can do it. We invest in kids from the beginning, carefully measuring how they are doing so that we can do something to help them. We stay with them through high school and college. Canada claims that this will cost $5000 per child above what we already spend on education. Right now, Canada pointed out that the average cost per child is $30,000 per year, but in some places it is $60,000 to over $100,000. He described this to argue that, when put in perspective, this $5000 is not that much. “People scoff at this modest investment, but we don’t seem to worry that the cost of incarceration is so much more.”

“We see an American tragedy unfolding, and those of us in education are part of the problem.” Canada used a couple of illustrations to explain that we see problems elsewhere and don’t think they will impact us. Perhaps it is a problem in another part of the country or with a different demographic. Yet, Canada argued that this education problem “is an American problem.” He saw a report that 75% of American kids can’t qualify for the military. 30% of the kids don’t graduate high school. 30% can’t pass the entrance exam. 27% are so obese that they can’t qualify. “We let this happen to our kids.”

Canada then went on to explain a few things that need to change.

1. “If you are a teacher and you can’t teach, you should probably find another job.” and “If you are a barber and you can’t cut hear, get another job.”

2. Canada argued that we should expect of each kid what we would or do expect of our own. If we want our kids to graduate high school and go to college, what about having that goal for every kid? “When you walk around Harlem, almost every kid in my zone goes to college, ” Canada explained. “This is about normative behavior.”

3. “Let’s stop teaching to the middle and start teaching to the student.”

4. “We need to hold everyone accountable for the work they do, and we need to use real data. While this is controversial for some, this is how you improve things in education.”

5. Kevin ended his talk by reciting one of his poems, “Don’t Blame Me”, a poem that calls us to take responsibility and take action to address this crisis in education…not to piont the finger at someone else, but to do something.

 

11 Features of Learning Organizations That Nurture Learner-Leaders

I seem to be reading more school mission statements stating that part of their purpose is to nurture young leaders. What does that look like? What does it take to do this? What does it mean for a school, community or learning organization to honor the learner, to hold students in high regard? I had a one-year executive leadership fellowship a few years ago that was transformational. The ideas, relationships, community, and coaching were all significant in my formation as a leader. As I think back on the experience, there was one feature that was more striking than anything else. I felt deep respect and honor from the mentors and coaches. They did not tout or highlight their expertise (although they had ample) or draw attention to the fact that they likely had superior wisdom on matters of leadership (although they certainly had more than at least one fellow). They had clear and high expectations, but there was also a refreshing openness to each of us taking our own paths.  In fact, it was communicated that this was the only way to become a leader. Great leaders know humility and followership, but there is also a part of leadership that requires the confidence to take steps on one’s own, even when there are voices of dissent.

So what about young people? How do we begin to nurture compassionate, humble, confident young leaders? What are the traits of an education that empowers learner-leaders? What sort of “features” lead to such development? I’m sure that there are many, but here are eleven to consider, things that we want to make a part of any learning organization that aspires to help with the growth and development of learner-leaders.

Voice

There is a time is listen and learn, but there is also need to develop and discover one’s own distinct voice. Too many strict rules, regulations, and instructions; and it makes it hard for a learner to discover or develop that voice.

Steven Covey shared four questions that lead to the defining of one’s voice: 1) What are you good at? 2) What do you love doing? 3) What needs can you serve? 4) What gives your life meaning and purpose…and what do you think you should be doing?

Learning organizations that honor the emerging learner-leader create space and opportunity to explore these questions. This often means teachers who are confident enough in their own voice that they don’t feel a need to constantly use it or let it dominate the learning space. It means inviting learners to have, develop and use their voice within the learning community…as much or more than the teachers.

Choice

It is hard to learn the consequences of your choices if you don’t have any choices. Not only is choice a great way to help learners see and take ownership in their own learning, but it is the only way to develop a sense of true responsibility. How can you be responsible when you have no choice in the matter? That is less about responsibility and more about compliance.  With this in mind, learning organizations committed to the learner-leader are places where learners have significant choice in the how, what, when, and why of learning.  This doesn’t mean that teachers fail to provide advice, redirect, point out some of the realistic non-negotiables in some contexts, and offer words of wisdom. It does mean that learners are becoming increasingly empowered to make important choices about their life and learning.

Strength

There is time to work on addressing one’s weaknesses, especially when they are holding us back from doing that which we believe we are called to do. However, great leaders build on their strengths. They are often surprisingly lopsided people. We certainly want to address or protect any Achilles heels before going into “battle”, but discovering, refining, and learning to use one’s strengths is a central part of schools interested in helping nurture leaders. Kids need to know, have humility, but also take pride in their strengths and those of others. As it stands, many learning organizations only value a select set of strengths, leaving out the chance to celebrate and nurture many strengths that are great assets in the rest of life.

Authentic Feedback

If we are really about nurturing true leadership, then we need to get at things that are authentic. Math can’t just be about taking tests and solving abstract problems. It has to also be about solving problems in the world with math. The same is true about writing, speaking, studying history and social studies, and the like. When learners are working on authentic problems and issues in the world, then feedback can become more authentic as well. Feedback is not just about grading someone, but it about helping them accomplish goals that are important to them and/or others in the world…helping them to refine and improve their work because they want to do so.

Failure

In most schools, failure is something to be avoided at all costs. Failing on an assignment is a character flaw. It is something to hide or about which one must be perpetually embarrassed. What about the importance of failure, the blessing of failure, and even failure as a badge of honor in some places like startup communities? A person who failed at a startup is sometimes seen as a great asset, not someone with a dark cloud or curse on them. Failure has to be completely reconsidered and reimagined in places that want to nurture strong leaders. Otherwise we risk developing people who spend hours trying to cover their tracks, point fingers, and not be able to suck the wonderfully nutritious lessons out of that wonderful and terrible gift called failure.

Questions

Many teachers note that there is no such thing as a stupid question, and yet there is rarely room to formulate, ponder, explore and answer personally developed questions in learning communities. Leaders learn to ask, consider and passionately pursue answers to questions. Where do we have space to nurture this in learners?

Behind the Curtain

Teaching and learning is not a show for students to watch. It is a participatory event. Why not invite students behind the curtains, involving them in everything from lesson planning to assessment, curriculum design and development to space design. Let them not only be audience members but actors, producers, directors, stagehands, and playwrights.

Patience

We are talking about young people. Education without patience is little more than a strategy to strain out those who can most benefit from it. I am referring to patience with learners who are struggling, growing, exploring, experimenting, not getting it, regressing, finding their way through awkward changes, messing up, trying to figure out the rapid changes in themselves and the world, testing boundaries, and trying on roles. This doesn’t mean tolerating anarchy or not setting up boundaries, but it does mean recognizing that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Different learners will develop different knowledge, skills and character traits in different ways and at different times.

Depth

The 45-minute course schedule has to go if we are going to be serious about this. School is almost the only place in life where all our life activities are carefully broken up into small chunks. The only time to actually go deep into something is outside of the learning organization. Leaders must discover what it is like to go deep into something, to spend hours, days and weeks lost in a question, project, or problem. This helps develop perseverance and character. Survey learning doesn’t have the ability to nurture these same traits.

One of the more important insights of a leader is to know what is important and what is not, and to invest one’s time and energy heavily in the things that are most important. Why not give learner-leaders a chance to practice this?

Self-determination

The freedom to act on one’s own,­ not just by compulsion, is critical for leaders. This does not need to mean that one ignores all authority, but it does mean empowering people to see themselves as having the freedom and capacity to take responsibility for their own life and choices. Without this we might have compliant followers, but we don’t get leaders.

Leadership and Followership Opportunities

Of course, there is an important eleventh trait as well. These learning organizations that are committed to nurturing leadership provide chances for them to experience what it is like to follow and lead, taking time to reflect and debrief these experiences. Amid this, they experience each of the other ten traits as well.

5 Predictions About Educational Credentialing in 2024

I am doing a bit of consulting later in the week, and one of my tasks is to make a few predictions about education in 2024. My part of the day is focused upon alternate and micro-credentialing. With that in mind, here are five predictions. I don’t necessarily like all these outcomes, but based upon the trends, I see many of them as highly likely, especially as they relate to adult and continuing education; and education for trades and regulated professions. What do you think? As you read this short list, you may be surprised about how much does not seem to be directly tied to credentialing. That is because, at least in much of American higher education, credentials and assessments tend to shape and direct much education practice.

I’ve always seen assessment as a bit boring until I started to recognize how it has become the most powerful aspect of many education environments. Change or add a given assessment or evaluation practice and you can quickly see a transformation in an entire system. Look at the conversations about Common Core in K-12 education. It was when the use of assessments started to take root that the debates become most intense.

Do you have any predictions of your own?

1. Unbundled Education – Education will become increasingly unbundled and aggregated across networks and contexts. This will give way to increased grass-roots educational initiatives, the capacity for learners to self-blend learning experiences from multiple sources and organizations, and cross-organizational credentials. Highly regulated sectors and those with strong centralized professional organizations and standards will be most insulated from some of this. It will lead to significant turmoil and disruption in many higher education institutions.

2. Networked Learning will become a fundamental life and work skill. While the most regulated industries will be more insulated, there will be significant conflict between democratizing and authoritarian models of education and training. Regardless, a fundamental aspect of lifelong learning will be the development, maintenance and ongoing expansion of a personal learning network. Related to this, we will see massive formal learning networks within geographic areas, specific fields and professions, and other distinct physical or virtual communities.

3. For many professions and trades, competency-based education and assessment will largely replace assessment of readiness through traditional letter grade systems, GPAs and similar measures. Systems like traditional letter grades will be phased out with the emergence of more accurate and granular measures of learner progress and competence. This will impact both initial training and continuing education.

4. Depending upon the context, alternate and micro-credentialing systems will replace or supplement letter grades, course, credits, and degrees (but the most regulated industries will be more insulated from this disruption). These emerging credentialing systems will have features like expiration dates and detailed information about the criteria met to earn the credential.

5. Educational experiences will provide significant learner control and/or learner-specific adjustments of time, place, pace and learning pathway. As part of this, adaptive learning and robust learning progression designs will replace many industrial or one-size-fits all models of education and training. For better or worse, with the maturity of adaptive learning tools, there will be a renewed and invigorated battle between the  “science of teaching and learning” and the “art of teaching and learning.” Learning analytics and big data will drive the design of high-impact, competency-based individualized learning experiences.

6 Design Experiments in a Mildly Massive Open Online Course

A little over a year ago, I led my first MOOC, Understanding Cheating in Online Courses. It got a fair amount of media attention, likely because it made for provocative article titles…things like, “MOOC Teaches How to Cheat in Online Courses With an Eye Toward Prevention.” There were also articles in the BBC News, Venture Beat and the New York Times. Those articles tell a bit about the what and why of the MOOC, but they don’t really get into the design side of things, giving you a glimpse into the design decisions that shaped this experiment. I shared a few of these thoughts at conference earlier this year, but I thought I others might be interested, so here you go.

First I should explain the goals of the MOOC. There were six of them.

  1. 1.Increase attention to academic honesty issues and have a great conversation with people about a topic that is important to me. Yes, I created a MOOC to build a community around this topic, so that I could learn more about the subject.
  2. 2.Equip people to mitigate against academic cheating, but in a way that was not all about policing and punishing.
  3. 3.Add depth to the current discussion by looking at it from an interdisciplinary perspective (the philosophy of cheating, psychology of cheating, from the perspective of the cheater, etc.).
  4. 4.Challenge existing beliefs and myths. Many talk about cheating as a simple moral issue. I tried to broaden the conversation to think of it also as a design issue.
  5. 5.Promote a design approach to academic honesty.
  6. 6.Experiment and play with the affordances of open learning.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 10.37.46 PMAfter meeting a number of times with my design team (a few instructional designers, a digital media specialist, and our director of online technology), we decided upon six features: collective knowledge generation, a mix of public and private spaces, live events, a design that welcomed and encouraged self-blending, pre-established but emerging schedule, and whimsical but meaningful digital badges. Each of these were selected to build community, foster a highly personalized experience and self-directed, and to honor the unique affordances of a MOOC…doing things that can’t be done with other courses as easily (like collective knowledge generation).

Collective Knowledge Generation – This is one of the affordances of a MOOC. If you have hundreds or thousands of people gathered together around a topic of shared interest, you can actually leverage that group to generate meaningful content that benefits the entire community and beyond. That is what we did. For example, we started the course with an online discussion, where participants shared cheating stories that they’ve experienced. In a matter of a week, we had probably one of the largest collections of informal cheating case studies in existence. And we learned about how students are cheating through those stories. There is no way that I or any other single instructor could have created a better and more varied collection of examples.

Then we followed that activity by making it even more personal. We had a “cheating confessional.” People had a chance to anonymously share a time when they cheated, why they, and how they cheated. It personalized the topic, reminding us that the proclivity for cheating is closer than we like to think. It didn’t condone cheating, but it did make it a bit more personal. This activity added even more cheating case studies from which to learn.

Throughout the class, we also created a cheating lexicon in Google Docs. At any point in the class, participants could add a new term that they learned in the course, also adding a definition and source. The group edited one another’s work and we developed an ever-growing lexicon of terms.

Then at the end of the class, students had the option of doing a “final project” where they came up with a proposed project or plan for mitigating against cheating in their learning organization. Those got posted to the class so we could learn from the wonderful ideas and how plans varied from one context to another.

A Blended of Private and Public

This was an open course in that anyone was welcome to join. However, it was not entirely open. First, we capped enrollment at 1000, so not everyone who wanted to attend was able. This was mostly just a limit put in place by the provider that I used. Beyond that we also elected to host some course discussions in the password-protected learning management system, where only other registered participants could read them. Given the sensitive nature of the topic, this was done to give people the freedom to share and be a bit more candid than they might want to be on the public web.

Alongside that, we had plenty of openness. There was a Twitter stream (#cheatmooc), public weekly content and live events that anyone could access…whether they were registered or not. We also made some of the collective knowledge resources public to the world (like the Cheating Lexicon).

Live Events – As a way to build rapport and to collect great lectures on the topic, we offered weekly lectures on the topic for the week, open to the world. We recorded all these and made them public to the world (in fact, all the course resources are still freely and publicly available at http://online.cuw.edu/programs/open-courses/understanding-cheating-in-online-courses .  Most of these were done using Google OnAir along with a Q & A through a simple chat tool. We encouraged the presenters to be personal…even a bit informal in the live events. They were rich with amazing content, but we tried to run them a bit more live a great living room conversation.

Now here is an amazing part of the live events. I initially planned on presenting all these myself. Then, with the great media attention, a number of amazing scholars reached out and offered to help. So, we had leading thinkers and companies in the field giving these talks (James Lang presenting on what was at the time his forthcoming book called Cheating Lesson; Tricia Bertram Galant, Teddy Fishman, Proctor U, Software Secure, TurnitIn, etc. It was a wonderful and impressive collection of people who gave us a rich and diverse look at the topic.

Plan for Self-Blending

A core affordance of a MOOC is that students don’t need to do what the instructor tells them. They are in charge of their learning. They choose what is valuable and what is now, whether to persist, when to pay attention and when to take a break, which resources to read or watch, which activities seem valuable, and when to go find or create a new resource. We designed the MOOC to honor all this, treating it as a distinct affordance of a MOOC.

As such, we took a lesson from Howard Rheingold and used co-learner language. I described myself as a co-learner and tour guide, not an instructor who calls all the shots. Resources were offered, not required. It was a buffet instead of a prepared meal. They choose what goes on their plate and what does not.

To help provide structure, each week had a provocative driving question, content that explored that question, and suggested activities/experiments that helped participants grapple with and explore that question. Amid this, we added enough resources and activity options that there were many paths to answering and exploring the driving question. The learner got to choose how to explore the question, how deep to go, etc. We also included learner contributions to these resources. So, if a learner went out and found a great resource, we edited the course to include those treasures.

A Pre-Established but Emerging Schedule

This course was a learning community, not an instructor-led dictatorship. So, we wanted the shape of the course to be informed by the interests and needs of the participants. We had pre-developed weekly learning objectives and driving questions. We had pre-developed weekly readings and resources. We had pre-developed weekly suggested learning missions and events. Yet, we revised, added, and removed based upon what students wanted. For example, two of the live events were not even planned beforehand. Students requested a topic, so I went out and found the best people I could to speak to it. Fortunately, they were willing to help us out. I also adjusted many resources and added new suggested activities by watching and listening to the learners. In a sense, this was an adaptive design.

Digital Badges

This course was my first time implementing a digital badge system. With the wonderful help of Credly.com, it was pretty easy to do. We did a ton of reading and research on the concept of digital badges and then we just gave it a try. Our badges were not competency-based. They were meant to recognize contribution to the community and conversation around a given weekly driving question. We assigned points to each suggested activity. If a learner earned 100 or more activity points in a week, they got the badge for the week. Each badge represented a “role” for the week, as students were invited to approach each week by trying on roles like philosopher, psychologist, instructional designer or cheater. We had badges like the research assistant, the cheating psychologist, the cheating philosopher, the cheating investigator, the teacher, the instructional designer, and the cheater (which had a sub-title…”this badge was not earned honestly). We tried to be whimsical but substantive in this design, and a number of people were able to use them as evidence of professional development for their employers.

As another experiment, we had an “exemplary contribution” badge that was distributed to 1-3 people each week, as surprise recognition for their wonderful addition to the community for that week.

Note that the entire badge design was about recognizing and encouraging contribution to he community. They were less about recognizing learning and more about celebrating an individual’s commitment to building knowledge from which others could benefit.

This was a wonderfully rewarding experiment in creative instructional design, digital age communities of practice, and how to leverage the affordances of open learning to give voice to important issues in society. It was far from perfect, but I consider the items above to be largely a success. It was a joy to see the great media attention to this important topic, countless blog posts written about it by participants, and dozens of academic integrity projects implemented in k-12 schools and Universities based on participant work in the MOOC.

Notes & Quotes from The Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know Were in BB Learn #BbWorld14

I attended “The Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know Were in Blackboard Learn” this morning, led by Jim Chalex (Senior Director of product Management for BB Learn). For those who have been using Learn for quite some time, perhaps much of this is familiar. For people newer to the LMS (like me), it was an impressive and helpful overview of new features and enhancements of existing features. Everything below is part of the “Learning Core” package.

10 – Date Management

When you are teaching a course for the second time, what do you do to get ready? One thing is to adjust the dates for the new term/section. Date management automates much of this process. It gives you a list of dates to review and adjust from the last term. This is much faster than if you had to recreate dates for everything.

9 – Student Preview

You know what the course looks like as a teacher. What will it look like for the students? Student Preview helps you answer that question, including a preview of what grades will look like. You can do anything that a typical student would do. You can even take a test, add discussion posts, etc. When you exit the student view, it gives you an option to keep that student data. So, if you took a test in student view, you could keep the data from it and then see how the score shows up in the teacher view.

8 – Blackboard Store

Students need materials…easily and in a timely manner. This feature integrates the text and resource purchasing process right within the context of Blackboard Learn. The student can see the required materials, and BB promises competitive pricing.

7 – Delegated Assignment Grading

What if you need more than one person to be involved in the grading of the course. What if there are teaching aids, or you want to set up peer graders, or even bring in other guests to grade or give feedback on student submissions? This tool allows you to explicitly define who will be the graders for each assignment. You can even specify which submissions they can grade (like the entire class, select students, or select groups). In addition, you have the option of making the submissions look anonymous to the graders. After all this, you have the choice of reconciling the final grade, like if you had multiple graders for the same assignment. You can even add a grader mid-stream.

6 – SafeAssign Integration

BB has had a built-in plagiarism detection tool. Now it is much more integrated in the workflow. As you create assignments, you can build in SafeAssign review as part of the submission workflow. Now rubrics and multiple assignment attempts, for example, work right in SafeAssign. In other words, SafeAssign is now a fully built-in plagiarism detection solution.

5 – Inline Grading

How do we make grading faster? Word documents and PDFs now show up right in the submission itself…no need to download (although you can still do that if you want). You can annotate the documents right in the browser, and your other feedback options show up right on the side of the submission. This sidebar works for grading pretty much anything in Learn.

4 – Test Power Features

For STEM fields, you can now develop calculated/formula questions with significant figures…important for chemistry and related disciplines. Another enhancement is test exceptions. Maybe you have a timed test. What if you need to make an exception for a single student who needs a special accommodation? Now it is extremely easy to do this. You can make feature exceptions for people or select groups.

For high stakes tests (midterms, finals, etc.), there is often a proctored environment. To support that, they added IP address filtering. You can define where a test can be taken…like only at a computer in a specific lab on campus.

Access logs are also enhanced. What if a student is taking a test and has Internet problems? The logs let you know exactly what a student did or did not do, allowing you to validate a student claim about what happened.

3 – Portfolio Assessment

Portfolio capabilities are already built-in Learn. However, the way students created the portfolio was clunky and not aesthetically pleasing.  It was also not integrated into the environment. They have redone the portfolio to make it aesthetic, easy to use, and integrated with the grading and other features. Students can also pull assignments out of a course and put them into the portfolio with ease, working well for a more program-wide portfolio instead of one just tied to a single course. In addition to this, they created a feature in assignments where you can require students to submit their portfolio in the course! All this is part of the learning core.

2 – Learn Outcome and Activity Reporting

You now have the option to define learning outcomes on a program level and align them to most anything. This can drive curriculum mapping and performance reports, reports like how students in a given class are doing in terms of meeting the program level outcomes.

There is detailed activity reporting to track group activity and drilled down student-specific activity on pretty much everything in the course.

1- The Retention Center

Everyone is taking about retention and persistence. It is a critical part of what we do. The retention center provides a straightforward way to figure out which students are struggling and need a potential intervention (or just a little nudge). It lets you see patterns of behavior (like missing due dates, not logging in, poor performance on a grade, inactivity in the course, etc.). There are default settings, but you can also adjust it to determine risks levels of different students. And when you find an at-risk student, you can also connect with the student right from the same screen.

0 – Publisher Integration

Learn is working hard to make it really easy to integrate resources from publishers like Wiley, Pearson, Cengage, and McGraw Hill…all deeply integrated with single sign-on.

 

15+ Resources: Learn the Why, What & How of Teaching Digital Collaboration

Tony Wagner identified “collaboration across networks” as one of the seven survival skills for this age. How do we help learners embrace the power and possibility of collaboration, cooperating and networking in an increasingly connected world? The following 15+ resources offer insights into the why, what and how of teaching encouraging and nurturing digital age collaboration.

How Technology Can Encourage Student Collaboration – This essay is a great starting point for exploring the topic of digital age collaboration. It provides a compelling reason for it along with practical examples.

Using Wikis for Collaborative Learning – This article provides a solid introduction to the idea of digital age collaboration, focusing especially upon the idea of wikis. While it is an older article, the concepts continue to apply today.

Using Wikis for Learning and Collaboration – This article also gives a good introduction to wiki-based collaboration. It includes a helpful list of suggested tools and books for further study/reading.

Teaching Students to Collaborate Using Google Docs (video) – This short video provides a practical example of how one teacher helps students learn how to use technology to collaborate.

Randy Nelson on Learning and Working in the Collaborative Age (video)- This video provides important advice on what sort of collaborative skills (and attitudes) we want to cultivate in our learners.

Teacher’s Guide to International Collaboration on the Internet – Helping students learn how to collaborate with diverse people across networks is a critical 21st and 22nd century skill. This web page provides a collection of some of the best resources for building international collaborations in your classroom using technology.

Free Tools to Collaborate, Hold Discussions, and Backchannel with Students – These two sites provides a long list of collaboration tools and technologies (20+ on one site and 101 on the other). Some of these tools may not be the best or most current, but they illustrate what is possible.

The Online Collective Essay – This blog post provides several specific ideas on how to leverage collaborative writing projects with students.

Reflections on Digital Age Collbaoration (video) – This short video introduces the idea of collective knoweldge generation in the digital age. It also briefly introduces the dark side of digital collaboration.

Peeragogy Leraning Handbook – This electronic text (with multimedia) represents an approach to teaching and learning known as peeragogy (sometimes paragogy), leveraging peer-to-peer interactions for learning. It includes a large number of essays. Consider at least reviewing the article on technologies, services and platforms (http://peeragogy.org/resources/technologies/ ). However, you will find short articles on motivation, assessment and resources for further reading. Note tha the site include a link to a Google+ community where you can interact with the authors and others interested in this topic. -

Group Essays – this guide from Duke University provides tips to students when working on a group essay. It also serves as a helpful guide for teachers who are considering creating a group essay assignment. This deals more with the process and pedagogy and not the technology. Combine the ideas from this resource with some of the ideas from the more technology-oriented resources to great a digital collaboration idea. -

What is collaboration? – This short blog post and table show the differences and features of four related but distinct terms: networking, coordinating, cooperation, and collaboration. You can use this as a guide to decide what sort of student-student interaction may be most useful for a given lesson or educational goal.

Collective Sharing and Generation of Knowledge – This is a helpful site in better understanding what we mean by “collective knoweldge generation.” The site includes background information, instructional videos, and a number of examples. Use the table of contents on the right side of the following page to navigate. Note that a number of the links to not work any longer, but those that do remain useful illustrations of how to leverage wikis for learning. -

Student Created Wikis – This page includes links to a number of student-created wikis, providing helpful examples of how wikis are used for student learning and collaboration.

 Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age – In this 2004 essay, Dr. George Siemens proposes a new learning theory that he calls connectivism. It is built upon the idea of collaboration and collective knowledge in the digital age.

Helping Students Develop Personal Learning Networks – Collaboration is not just about completing an assignment together. It is about developing a network of people who students can use to help them learning over and extended period. This is where the idea of a personal leaning network can be helpful. These articles provide tips and background on student personal learning networks, and how to help students develop such networks. – http://www.pearsonschoolsystems.com/blog/?p=2050#sthash.NNZ62uSL.dpbs , http://etale.org/main/2013/11/22/helping-students-develop-personal-learning-networks/ , http://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/2010/08/15/10-ways-to-help-students-develop-a-pln/ ,

Notes, Quotes, & Reflections from Jay Bhatt’s Keynote at #BbWorld14

One of the keynotes at Blackboard World 2014 was CEO Jay Bhatt. I’ve not always resonated with the vision of top leadership at Blackboard and Jay is new. Regardless, I resolved to go into the session hopeful and with an open mind. Here is what I heard, thought and concluded.

Jay started with a series of statistics to describing the changing state of education.

  • In a study conducted in Project Tomorrow, Blackboard learned that one out of every four students reported being motivated to learn because the like their school/classroom environment.
  • 75% of young people are using mobile devices.
  • One out of three feel education is preparing them well for jobs.
  • Our education system is not producing enough graduates with the right skills.
  • 57% of employers say they can’t find enough entry-level employees.
  • 100 million more learners worldwide are coming into our higher education institutions. We have a capacity problem.

In view of these things, Blackboard is committed to reimagining education, putting the learner in the center, and redesigning to embrace education in a more holistic way.

So, what does this mean in practical terms? What is Blackboard doing that was not done before? They are doing plenty, but I was most interested to hear about their commitment to corporate citizenship, to being an active participant in the global education community, conversation and challenge. With that in mind here are the ten activities caught my attention.

1. This means contributing to the education sector with a social good in mind. A specific example is their investment in MoodleRooms products, but contributing much of their work back to the Moodle open source community. Embracing the culture of open is an important part of reimagining education.

2. They are founding members of the Badge Alliance, a movement dedicated to exploring the promise and possibilities of micro-credentials. If you read my blog, you probably know my own interest and involvement with this group. I look forward to the good work that we can do together in this area.

3. They acquired MyEDU and are integrating it with Blackboard Learn. This tool demonstrates Blackboard’s commitment to putting the student at the center. This acquisition creates a space for students to display their work, showcase their skills, add new work experiences and associated competencies, and share this with prospective employers. When students leave the University, they still have their MyEDU account. This is a very different type of acquisition motive than some that I’ve experienced in the past. These strike me as smart and missional moves to expand their influence and impact in the education sector. These are the sort of acquisitions that I support and commend.

4. Blackboard is partnering with the American Council on Education to explore new models of learning around competency-based education.

5. The are working with Project Tomorrow and the Chronicle of Higher Education to better understand learnings in higher education.

6. The are being active and intentional about having BB team members writing, publishing and speaking about reimagining education.

7. They are intentionally using their industry position and voice to help give voice to or amplify the voice of promising practices among Blackboard clients.

8. They are offering TipTxT, an anti-bullying tool for free to k-12 schools.

9. They are investing in thought leaders and innovative programs that benefit education, everything from support for Sugata Mitra’s work to the ACE Fellows program. Yes, these are good decision from a relationship marketing standpoint, but these sorts of choices are also signs of a company that recognizes the distinct responsibilities of functioning in the education sector.

10. They are boldly and persistently chanting a commitment to student-centered education. This is not popular in all parts of education. What this tells me is that Blackboard stands for something educationally. It is a company with an educational mission and educational convictions.

Yes, Blackboard continues to develop a fine selection of technologies and services, but that is not enough for me. As a person committed to the social mission of education, I want to invest in and partner with companies that share such a mission. As I’ve noted in other articles, educational businesses are part of the education sector…a sector that has a social responsibility, not just a financial end. I am delighted to see the emphasis of a Blackboard that agrees with such sentiments.

As I briefly said to Jay Bhatt a few hours ago, “I am one of your most challenging converts to Blackboard, but what you are doing, what you are talking about, what you are emphasizing. That is what is winning me over.” I see a Blackboard that I can be proud to partner with in this good and important work of reimagining education. I see a Blackboard that is willing to support and help amplify my work and my organization’s work to reimagine education, to help build networks and communities toward this end, and to provide leadership in developing next generation products and services that will allow us to prepare students for high-impact life and learning.