Tag Archives: connected courses

To be or not to be cartoon characters. In a Greek tragedy.

It started with a tweet (mine)…

I swear it was only minutes before Simon Ensor @sensor36 published a post with enough substance for a PhD – or at least a 3-part TV series. A cartoon program.

Simon says:

Then there was Tania suggesting in a tweet that tweeps such as @Bali_Maha, @dogtrax, @sensor63  et al in her PLN were ‘cartoon characters’ – if she had not met them F2F or should I say 3D?

So is that my friends what we are to one another – Cartoons – (on)line drawings?

Now Simon thinks in colour:

Like a canary to a black and white cat that was a red rag to a bull.

He also believes in getting straight down to (serious) business:

Existential questions

1) Are our online ‘friends’, ‘follows’ ‘followers’, akin to Loony Tunes?
2) Are our offline ‘friends’, ‘follows’, ‘followers’ not akin to Loony Tunes?

I will pause here before the ‘cartoon preamble’. Simon has muddied the waters (in my head) with his cartoon world/real world questions. I’m propelled back into my early childhood when I wished that my world was the cartoon world. We all knew it was much more fun. Cartoon worlds were more colourful, more exciting, funnier – and risk taking was never a problem because even if you ended up falling off a cliff and being squashed into a flat pancake upon landing, you would always, always be able to stretch yourself out and back into your normal body shape. And with a cool sound effect.

Simon is playing with my head. He should not tempt me into going down the rabbit hole into fantasy land. Mixing realities. Switching worlds.

So now, we’re up to Simon’s

Cartoon preamble.

I can quite accept that @dogtrax or should I say Mr Hodgson K. qualifies as an honorary cartoon character.

His lifetime achievement to cartooning in itself would merit such an accolade.

I am not sure that I am quite yet ready to take on the caricature mantle without a fight.

Simon, how can you resist the lure of the cartoon reality? You, whose prose is poetry, references labyrinthine, whose playfulness is akin to the Dadaists.

But, yes, I will play your game.  I see it’s four rounds and then you’re out.  Or so you think you are. You concede defeat and accept the cartoon character identity. You have chosen wisely.  You have chosen the cartoon reality. No more ‘He he he’ as part of the Queen’s court which was as taken with Boy George’s superficial mask as the people who insisted they saw the king’s finery in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes‘.

Round one.

The strange case of Culture Club.

I can boast quite openly that I once met Boy George F2F (3D) outside the Mud Club in central London, while driving a London cab.

Boy George was undoubtedly a larger than life character, dressed to the nines, painted in broad strokes, armed with an infectious laugh.

He was surrounded by acolytes, disciples, hangers-on, groupies, and various fawning clubbers, similarly attired.

They appeared to be infected with George’s laugh.

“Ho ho ho ho.” (George)

Micro-second later

“He he he he.” (Queen’s court)

I am quite sure the boy George had more depth than this vignette.  There was no apparent desire among the performers to go beyond the make-up.

Well done. You have not been fooled into thinking the pantomime of school is real – surely you must choose the cartoon world again. You will never again be able to be that teacher operating the Cambridge textbook franchise.  You will never again be the teacher conducting the masked chorus who played out the lesson scenario to the last letter.  Surely your cartoon avatar had already escaped down the rabbit hole or up the Magic Faraway Tree into magical lands.

Many of the my 3D colleagues are unknown to me, they remain line-drawings.

Yes, you are losing control here; worlds are colliding and changing places. Can you feel it? You admit to have a more lifelike exchange with unseen friends online than in your 3D pantomime life.  You/we all speak the same Cartoon language.

And in Round Four you have a strong inkling that brings you closer to your unreality. Your blog is the Tardis, and you are all the Doctors.

You have one voice, you have another voice. (Some voices have trouble throwing off the old voices to take their place).  Time and place matter not. Your voice, your identity do not reside in one body, are not located in the 3D world.

I sometimes feel that a distinct voice, that is evidenced in this Touches of Sense blog, has become a distinct character.

There are times when I feel distanced from it’s mannerisms, its annoying ways with words.

You are ready for the new Doctor.

There are times when I feel that I shall introduce a new character to stem its irritating flow.

CARTOON character.

Do not despair of your identity breakdown. In your last hours as a 3D  entity of the pantomime world, you are having brief flashes of revelation.

I am reminded of Maha’s reflections on how she feels at times as catalogued as an ‘exotic’.

I am reminded of Susan’s reflections on her various incarnations.

I wonder if despite ourselves we become characters in others’ performances.

And there it is:

CARTOON character.

You are reborn. You throw off the skin and step out of the world you’ve been taught to accept as the real one.

OK Tania, I accept defeat. I am a caricature.

Do not think for a second that you are accepting defeat. On the contrary, you have returned home. You are where you belong, in the Cartoon World, the colourful world, the exciting and funny world.

This comic metaphor has become too complex for the cartoon @sensor63.

He accepts the mask.

He is one of the Connected Comic Characters.

He must live with it.

Oh the tragedy!

And it’s a genuine tragedy you now inhabit. Your comic tragedy has a speaker and a chorus and everyone is in costume. Everything is brightly coloured. You have many lives and you live your fantasy life.  We are all there too – Maha, Kevin, Susan and the others. Me.  In our cartoon world.

But who is watching us play out our online lives?

Going back to analyse the water #ccourses

Photo by Aleksey Myakishev

We’re in the 4th unit of Connected Courses: Diversity, equity and access. I thought I’d look back at some of the previous questions and objectives from which  we’ve been making meaning together. Only now have I realised that each unit has a ‘design touchstone’, and while I was investigating what this could mean and how these linked to each other, I decided to re-familiarise myself with the first one: Water.

I watched again the video of the speech given by David Foster Wallace to Kenyon College’s 2005 graduating class.  The video starts with the story of two young fish swimming along when they meet an older fish swimming the other way.  The older fish asks ‘How’s the water?’, and after they’ve passed him, one of the younger fish asks ‘What the hell is water?’

A rough summary of the message would be that the most obvious and important realities are often the ones that are  hardest to see and talk about.   Foster postulates that a Liberal Arts education is not as much about filling you with knowledge as it is about teaching you how to think – not in terms of the capacity to think (which we all have ) – but in terms of the choice of what to think about. He mentions that we often live unconsciously, that is, not questioning where our belief systems come from, and he encourages us to have a critical awareness of ourselves and our certainties.  He talks about our default setting which positions us as the centre of the universe and suggests we do the hard work to rid ourselves of this hard wiring which leads us to interpret everything personally by learning how to exercise some control over what and how we think, and being conscious and aware enough so that we choose what we pay attention to and understand how we construct meaning from our experiences.

I feel that I need to go back and revisit readings many times to have the ideas and issues float to the top of my consciousness where they are in view and so that they don’t sink to the bottom and get forgotten.  Connected Courses has enabled me to construct meaning in conversations with people and in the solitude of my own thoughts. I’m beginning to feel as if I’m conscious of the water.

It’s interesting to note that although Connected Courses  is designed for faculty within higher education who are looking at developing online, open courses,  so far the technology part of constructing the courses has been in the background. This is a valuable lesson for schools introducing new technologies to support teaching and learning. In Connected Courses we started with the why and we moved at our own pace supported by the network of participants. Expertise has been distributed and sense making has not only been in the form of text; participants have shared creative responses which have included drawings, comics, songs and other audio, slides and video and more.  Some people have tried new things!

We’ve been given the opportunity to construct meaning together, and  given choices about how much and what we focus on.  My opinion is that this approach has enabled me to look more deeply into selected things.  I haven’t felt rushed or forced in any way; I’ve had choice and control.  At first I may have felt intimidated by learning in an academic cohort, but now I feel energized. It’s been fun!

Feel free to look at what I’ve collected so far in my Connected Courses Pinterest board.

The issue of trust in open networks #ccourses

Photo source: George Balanchine’s Apollo – David Ingram & Traci Gilchrest – photo by Peter Zay


It’s such a vast concept. Galactic even.

Unit 2 of Connected Courses raised these questions:

In the quantum learning space where interest is a key driver, how do we employ the same dynamics in our teaching? Or, how do we leverage the power of open? How do we maintain trust and a sense of security in open networks? How do we build our networks? What is social capital? How do we enable at-large learners to engage in our courses? Where should we teach our classes?

I started my pre-thinking by focusing on ‘trust’ as a general concept in my own understanding.

My reflections over the last week or so have been fuzzy, but now I think it’s time to attempt some kind of personal definition of trust in open networks, especially if I’m advocating these spaces to teachers.

Trust – we can talk about this from so many perspectives.

One of the difficulties of trusting in people you connect with online is the problem of not seeing them face to face, or not hearing what they have to say on a regular basis as we would with people we work with daily. I think we read visual clues about people without even thinking about it, even though some of our assumptions are not always based on scientific observation.

It’s also very difficult to read tone in text. You don’t always know for sure if people genuinely mean what they say, or if they are saying what you think they mean. This relates to people you know well in real life too. I go in and out of being sure that I know where people are coming from, especially online, and that’s part of the whole trust issue in open networks.

I usually stay away from self promoters while being aware that I may be coming across as one myself. I suppose I keep some sort of distance from people who don’t give back, that is, share things others have said without giving something themselves. This is not trust with a capital T: you don’t fear these people but you might not want them in your inner circle.

So, to state the obvious, to trust someone you have to know them to some degree. Trust is knowing someone well enough to make a judgement that they are someone you are willing to interact with.

Having said that, I ask a question: how do you know someone online?There is no simple answer, and I still don’t know. Maybe I rely on instinct?

Perhaps I warm to people who have similar interests? I’m in awe of people who have superior or expert knowledge, and so I trust them enough to learn from them. I think trust requires an openness, and a transparency, so that I can peek inside the person a little.

Who do I trust to be in my inner circle? (Haha, inner circle sounds very mystical and elitist). How can I trust that what they share is credible? Of course, it’s up to us to evaluate what others post online but I think that once you have a clear picture of their background and credentials, you can trust their shared knowledge. That’s why it’s important to provide a reference point for people in the form of a short biography, blog(s), Twitter handle, Google+ profile or similar.

So, turning the issue of trust around to me –

How can people trust that what I share with them is good quality and worth looking at?

This is a very important professional question for me: How can I build my trust as a teacher librarian who regularly shares online resources? Trust is at the core of everything that I do, and it’s been instrumental in the way I have developed my digital profile. I’ve made myself transparent online, which means interested people can check my bio, blogs, google+, twitter, etc.

My personal professional blog hopefully shows I’m serious about education. I’ve provided opportunities for people to contact me if they want dialogue through email and comments in many of my networks. When I share educational resources, I’m open to talk to teachers if they have any queries.

Why do we want to be trusted online? Some people might think it a strange question. They might think it’s nobody’s business but their own who they are even if they have an online profile. What if people want to be on Facebook, for example, so that they can see what their friends are up to but don’t want to reveal much of themselves?

I think that what you gain from a connected community will determine how much you get from it. To be accepted and considered a valuable participant requires trust, and then a continued demonstration that you can be trusted, for example, to behave respectfully, not to take over at the expense of community balance, to listen as well as contributing, to make an effort to contribute as well as taking from others.

It’s important to be yourself, to add value to the community, to share your unique perspective. If I’m hoping to be accepted as a valuable member of a community, people should be able to trust that I won’t be lazy and just piggy-back others. That is to say, it’s okay for me to retweet and share others’ stuff because I’m in awe of it or excited about it and want to share with others, but I also need to balance that out with my own contribution – and often that just means sharing my unique perspective on things.

From my observations, the best connected networks consist of people who are not afraid to be themselves, who push past the platitudes that sometimes make sameness in online communities undesirable or boring.


Yes, I admit, I’m guilty of being lazy sometimes, of sharing of others’ resources without the value added comments, and I will try to add value each time with my own perspective, by sharing Diigo annotations, adding my perspective to retweets (although word restriction!), doing the hard work of research and deeper reading to get to the deeper observations which add to the group’s understanding.

Some people might say, I don’t have anything to add that is unique, and to these people I would say:

Trust in yourself. You do have something to add that is unique, and this enables you to become someone real online. In my interaction with people through Connected Courses, I would say there are many people who exemplify this online. Maha Bali stands out for me through her open, encouraging and accepting online interaction, but there are also many others.

Lastly, I think that trust goes hand in hand with being interesting.

Everyone is interesting because there is something about all of us which is unique and which others may be interested in, but it’s important to bring that part of yourself out. I connect with people online who give a little extra detail about themselves because it enables me to picture them eg playing an instrument, cycling, getting worked up about something they care about. Sometimes photos are useful in providing a little window into ourselves. Howard Rheingold gives us many insights into his life and his interests through photos. Of course, it’s up to you how much you want to share about yourself beyond the educational context. I could trust someone online and interact for the purposes of educational exchange but they don’t become real for me until they paint a little more about themselves.

But that’s another thing to think about in another post.


Hyper-connected learning – using Diigo to share reflections on a post reflecting on another post

Photo http://realidadestatica.tumblr.com/post/21361359191/roads

So I’ve been using Diigo for quite a few years now – especially to save and annotate what I’ve found online and want to keep, and to be able to find it again later and share it easily.

What I haven’t done very much is use the annotation tool to share with others in a group. I’ve shared things with groups but – you know how it goes, you’re in and out of groups over the years, so you’re not really a part of the group in a meaningful or ongoing sense.  I admit that I try to engage in too many things on too many platforms at the same time, and recently I’m feeling the loss of a network of people I connect with in a deep way.

Since joining Connected Courses, the excitement of finding so many interesting people thinking and writing openly in blogs and on Twitter has blown my mind a little, and I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know people in this way, saving their blogs to Feedly, following them on Twitter (#ccourses) while growing a larger network, and reading their blog posts about the why of teaching.

Today, while reading Maha Bali‘s response post, Why read this, why read that, to Mimi Ito’s post, Connected learning = abundant opportunity + terror + hard attentional choices + productive tension (brilliant title, don’t you think?), I was happily disappearing  down the rabbit holes of her hyperlinks, when I stayed a bit longer in her link to the Diigo group for #ccourses, and I had a forehead slap moment. I was reading and getting excited by what I was reading, highlighting what spoke to me, and annotating my thoughts in Diigo – to myself! D’oh! How absurd was this scenario? I was part of Connected Courses, reading the same things as the very large cohort – why wasn’t I annotating to the group?

Okay, so that’s been said and I’ve added some annotations to the group for this post. And now I wait until I feel a tug on the line I’ve thrown out, bearing in mind that most participants live in a different time zone, and the interaction may not be in real time.  But potentially, Diigo is another way to feel connected in sharing ideas about a post or article – apart from Twitter, of course.

So I’m thinking that it would be very cool if we could use Diigo for something meaningful at school. Although I’ve tried a couple of times to get teachers interested in Diigo,  and nothing came of it, I might have another go following my renewed enthusiasm. And I’d also like to use Diigo for a class of students to analyse a text in small groups. That’s the kind of peer learning we need more of.

In the meantime, I thought I’d use my highlights and annotations as a way to populate this post, to share parts of Mimi Ito’s post and my thoughts as I’m reading. So what I’ve done is opened the Diigo annotations tab in my annotated version of the post, and copied the transcript of what I’ve highlighted and commented on.  A pretty easy way to throw content into your blog post if you ask me.  I think it should make sense – if you realise that I highlighted phrases and not whole sentences, and in some cases just words.

Here it is – my highlights of Maha Bali’s post about Mimi Ito’s post. This kind of reading and annotation practice is very rich even though it might seem complicated. To give a bit of background, Maha Bali is remarking on Mimi Ito’s statement that she finds reading books easier than wading through tweets and blogs. My annotated comments are in green. There are too many highlights to include all of them, so I’ll be selective. I’m going to add some thoughts as I go and these will be in red. You would probably have to read both posts for the following to make sense.

  • that she found reading books (quickly, i assume?) easier than wading through tweets and blogs; whereas I clearly did the tweets/blogs things quite comfortably but found reading books “too much”
    • I feel the same as Maha, easier to read and respond to blog posts than read a book on my own – with nobody to talk to and no way of sharing my thoughts. Claustrophobic.comment byTania Sheko
  • Anyway, it made me reflect on why I, someone who LOVES reading by all accounts, have a strong preference for reading blogs/tweets over books/academic articles in MOOCs. There are many reasons,
    • This is something I’ve been thinking about for ages but feeling like I’ve failed in that I’ve lost the enthusiasm for reading books, or maybe don’t have the focus stamina any more. Thanks for writing this out, Maha, I might do my own blog reflection.comment byTania Sheko
  • Mimi’s point that a connected learning experience “welcomes people with different dispositions and orientations to learning”,

I love this aspect of online learning – it often reveals surprising treasures from students who are too shy to have a voice in class.

  • In terms of learning: Is the MOOC about experiencing connecting? Or about reading about it?
  • the MOOC is about reflecting on connecting,
  • My first PhD supervisor was big on encouraging me to read diverse articles not single-authored books

It’s the diversity of the ‘chaotic’ stream of shared information and ideas in Connected Courses that excites me.

  • My second supervisor (who replaced the first) was big on me reading original works by e.g. Marx, Foucault, etc.
  • I also find reading translated works really difficult and find it a better investment of my time to first read more contemporary (or at least, more education-focused) interpretations of the “greats” works, before reading the original. It helps me read it better

Thanks so much for saying this! I always feel guilty when I don’t manage to read a challenging book list. What you do is a much more productive way of managing things.

  • I do not value the book-authors more than I value the blog-authors
  • can interact with them more regularly
  • more accessible, easier to read quickly

We should revise our separation of authoritative information especially as many authors are also bloggers.

  • 2. Attention issues
  • Philosophical approach to reading
  • This is particularly funny because I keep not finding time to read the”attention literacies” part in Howard Rheingold’s Net Smart, as I get ‘distracted’ into reading different parts of it (i’ve probably read half the book already, just not in order).
  • And that’s why I voice these things in MOOCs, because I am pretty sure that courses about connection want ppl to feel they can participate.
  • So basically, I hope to engage with these readings “my way” (so not deeply with each entire book, unless it draws me in, but with parts of it)
  • hope that blog posts by other people & the hangout will fill me in second-hand (you see what I am doing here, don’t you?)
    • Very clever. I think this method wards away the guilts and also sustains engagement in the course. The alternative would be to give up and feel defeated if you couldn’t do everything.comment byTania Sheko
  • P.S. some ppl may say that w blog posts u have no guarantee of quality vs a book recommended by the facilitators. However, there are many ways to gauge a blog’s quality, incl knowing the person, seeing it retweeted often or with many comments – and it takes v little time to skim it to decide to read deeply;

I think that evaluating blog posts is an important skill, and definitely, with all the information online, some of it from experts who also publish in peer-reviewed journals, or books, that it is important to encourage students to discover what experts and professional people post online, and evaluate these as they would anything else.

  • lovely quotes from Mimi’s post:
  • Connected Courses is a veritable cornucopia of ways of participating with no central platform.
  • colliding through a loosely orchestrated cross-network remix, immersive theater where participants are all experiencing a different narrative.
  • hybrid network, more like a constellation that looks different based on where one stands and who one is.
  • a site of productive tension that is characteristic of connected learning.

I agree with Maha; these are exquisite quotes. 

  • Connected learning is predicated on bringing together three spheres of learning that are most commonly disconnected in our lives:
  • peer sociability
  • personal interests/affinity
  • opportunities for recognition.

That is, for us in Connected Courses:

  • our personal interests and expertise
  • reciprocity and fun in the social stream
  • institutional status/reputation


Thanks Maha and Mimi for your insightful reflections. I’ve had fun thinking about things in this connected way, and hope to make headway into a more connected way of reflecting using Diigo groups.

Why I teach #ccourses – Unit 1


Photo source

This is my Task 1 post for Connected Courses Unit 1: ‘Why we need a why’ which will be added to the collection here

Why do I teach?

Well, for starters, most people wouldn’t think that I do teach.

“What do you teach?”

“Well, actually, I’m a teacher librarian”.

“Oh, so you’re in the library”.

(Here we go again…)”Well, I’m not always in the library. And although I’m not a classroom teacher, I am a teacher but my role is very diverse”.

“So you take library lessons…”

(Ugh! Library lessons….) “No, I’m lucky to be able to support teaching and learning in a lot of different ways. I teach skills – information literacy skills, digital skills, critical thinking skills -”

“Aha… “(blank face)

Me thinking: Forget it.

So even before I answer the question “Why do I teach”, I should preface this with a deconstruction of ‘teaching’. Why does it have to be limited to teaching ‘subjects’ – content? Why does it have to be based on specific disciplines? Surely it’s not all about standing at the front of the classroom and commanding authority, of pouring information into students, and covering curriculum. Why are you not considered a teacher unless you are swamped with marking, exhausted by writing reports? Truly, it seems that being deflated by these things is what proves you’re a ‘real teacher’.

What about learning itself? What about the skills in between the subject content? Collaborating with teachers and co-teaching – filling in each others’ gaps? Having the time to think about authentic differentiation? Thinking about thinking. Playing around with social media platforms and authentic audience, encouraging peer feedback, asking the hard questions about the credibility of online information – isn’t all this teaching?

I used to teach English, German and French, and some Russian, and in the last 8 years I changed my teaching role to that of teacher librarian – school librarian or library media specialist in some countries. It seems that the role is so elusive that it’s not consistently defined.

So, why do I teach? What I love about being a teacher librarian is that there is so much freedom in the role, and so many opportunities to learn, to share learning, and to explore different ways of sharing ideas and information. I realise that I love teaching when I have the opportunity to keep learning especially from others, and when I’m a part of students’ learning. And although I’m very busy because I’m coming from so many different directions, I don’t have the weariness of subject teachers under the pressure of an ever expanding curriculum and brain numbing paper work (my impression only). I get to relate to students of all year levels regardless of their subject choices and I am privileged to be able to focus on learning itself while supporting teachers and students.

When my first born son was in preschool he was a questioning force to be reckoned with. His passion for learning was so wonderful to behold, and such a contrast to much of the disengagement I’d seen in teenagers at school, that I started thinking about how I could preserve his sense of wonder and thirst for learning. There is no simple answer to this, and although Montessori helped in the preschool and very early primary school years, going back into mainstream education as a very bright child was not the most positive experience, and almost damaging in some ways – certainly in a personal and social sense.  A primary school psychologist told him to ‘dumb down’ so that he would fit in, and I’m sure he is not alone in following that inevitable path to becoming a less switched on student so that he didn’t stand out. I don’t like to think about how unhappy he must have been. In later secondary years, and also in early tertiary (he is now in second year Masters), the passion to learn came not from school/University but recreational time, and my perception is that he kept himself ‘sane’ by following personal interests – thanks to the internet. Interestingly, his Arts degree (Politics and Psychology) morphed into a Masters Degree in Urban Planning – his formal education finally matching his personal interests.

So back to the question: Why I teach?

I think that people who love teaching love learning. I love being in the business of learning – my own learning; supporting the learning of students, supporting teachers in their role as learning facilitators. Being in the company of people sharing ideas, creativity, and debate. My role in supporting teaching and learning is very fulfilling. Usually I have the satisfaction of knowing that I’m essential to the classroom teaching going on in the school. Occasionally I’m disheartened by teachers who tell me they have everything they need in order to teach their subject, thank you very much. The teachers I see engaging students are the ones who love learning and are always looking for new ways to teach.

I think that learning is not always easy, and that lifelong learning really needs to be taught, or rather, practised. The learning process should be the focus at least as much as the content, if not more. The process should be made transparent to enable shared metacognition. I’m concerned that we are failing our students in terms of teaching them how to learn. Some are better at working this out for themselves than others. Without this support, many students will lose their self confidence and turn away from learning. I hope to play a small role in preventing this from happening in my school. My hope is that I help students to embrace learning, to learn from and with others, to never be afraid to admit they’re lost or confused, to learn the resilience and discipline they will need to keep learning in their careers and in life.

Task 2