reflectively assessing my professional goals

Etmooc – a dynamic bend in the river


Signing off #etmooc

Like the dynamic changing course and view if my local river, my professinal learning has meandered and followed a varied course. Well my first MOOC was no different. Etmooc was an enlightening experience but I believe it’s more about the people than the structure. Firstly, Cogdog and Alec’s leadership and design team clearly had a strong plan and plenty invested before novices like me wandered by. Secondly, the massive collective included such strong facilitators and contributors it made the curriculum so engaging. Lastly but not less valued is the amazing experience and talent of the Etmooc community participants. I was so motivated by these educators I tried hard to do my ‘homework’ and certainly read a massive amount of professional discourse. This ETMOOC exercise was valuable and motivating enough even as I contemplate retirement (after 33yrs) I just may go back to graduate school! If not, I’ll look for some more open learning opportunities 🙂 Thanks so much everyone for building my PLN and sharing your gifts.
Signing off @literateowl Al Smith


Password security management -a citizenship piece.

For our Citizenship topic I wandered into the sub-topic of security which IS critical and practical reality. Passwords and login practices around my world are frankly awful! People respond to my pleading like I’m a paranoid fool. Who is the fool? I think it is just as important as sex education, safe driving or street smarts- seriously! It’s part of digital citizenship. Either we ( educators ) teach it or avoid it. We have chosen to own the bullying problem and other social ills so why not digital identity safety? Anyway, here is my practical contribution. A trial in password software.
I read Dan Misener of CBC Spark, talking about the future of login security and then read his old post. I also jumped off and tried his recommended application for storing and encrypting all my passwords. Dozens ! Hundred pieces of data – easy. I bought a family license of 1password by Agilebits. I have personal IDs , school IDs and dozens of vendors and logins related to gateways for my school library so online access and management was a major chore. Add credit cards and online banking to the mix and digital business online is a worry. It is NOT just a nuisance.

It’s not just about sticky notes under your keyboard. It’s about your footprint and your day to day management. In January, my school credit card was jacked online. The bank was diligent and efficient but I was pushed into revisiting my practice because the truth became clear. Even the banks cannot alter the hazards. They are only reacting. I had a pretty good system I suppose but I felt I was still vulnerable.

Here is what I was doing:
1. I kept my school credit cards, accounts , email and services separate from home- always.
2. I have one home card with small limit, just for online
3. I used 2-3 passwords with a pattern, over and over, changing up when I could or forgot. I used ‘fishing lake names’ key numbers, and key hex char in location.
4. I stored these IDs and my PINS in a text file on a flash drive. Backed up 2 places, when I could. One location, private online. I wasn’t completely efficient nor happy.

Here is what I now do:
After installing an app on my home Mac, installing plugins for my browsers including my work PC, and installing my iPad app..configured keys.
1. I now login to 1Password with my MasterKey
2. I turn private browsing on, don’t store any logins in my computer browser cache,
3. I can access my encrypted logins from my browser’s 1Password plugins or reveal my IDs if I forget.
4. As I enter new services or logins, Im prompted if I want 1Password to store it.
You can choose to store your encrypted key file on a memory USB or store in your Dropbox account as a private file. As I browse from iPad to Mac to PC or work to home and around, I am accessing dozens of unique encrypted logins and storing vital data, from ONE safe storage place. Not leaving or losing files around is a bonus. Knowing my accounts are hard to crack is better.

It took a awhile to slowly change all my logins and make them challenging and also go through storing them in 1Password but it is a powerful utility. It will generate complex keys for you too. So far, it seems like a good made-in-Canada solution even if it takes some time to sort it all out.

We will see… Bottom line? I can find forgotten passwords. All my logins IDs, credit are encrypted , and not stored in my computers cache AND are very hard to crack- not impossible.


Obstruction FOI practice may be very prudent
I’ve been studying the topic of digital citizenship and student privacy rights rather intently of late because I’ve been trying to develop a course of action and teacher’s guide for student blogging. It’s all part of my grow plans but it stems from a continuum do Ed Tech initiatives in SD23, my role as a teacher-librarian and supporter of student technology initiatives. Just as Audrey Watters outlined so nicely, Diane Ravitch recently blogged about the growing concern of student privacy in the USA.

PRIVACYPrivacy and protection is critical and BCs FOIPPA laws provide clear and maybe oppressive boundaries yet we know there is a large digital elephant in the education room. It appears as if the rapid corporatization and Chartering in the US, which has given rise to massive information sharing by Pearson, Google et al, may have started an ugly precedent that will not be easy to roll back. In that front, we in BC should be happy about the conservative pace we’ve connected our children at school. Keeping strings attached to our FOI may be very prudent even if it appears obstructionist at times.

We need to be very vigilant about who and what genie we let out of the bottle…. protecting student content of all kinds, not just demographics or achievement, is a prudent but also very professional essential aspect of instructional design. – Al Smith , Kelowna

“What lies ahead for student privacy when private companies, government agencies, and a wide range of researchers have greater access to student data and information? I mentioned earlier the “business of education.” …. Business is booming and groups like CCSSO are benefiting. Technology startups aimed at K-12 schools attracted more than $425 million in venture capital last year.” (

In 2008 and 2011, amendments to FERPA gave third parties, including private companies, increased access to student data. It is significant that in 2008, the amendments to FERPA expanded the definitions of “school officials” who have access to student data to include “contractors, consultants, volunteers, and other parties to whom an educational agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions it would otherwise use employees to perform.” This change has the effect of increasing the market for student data.

For example, the amendments give companies like Google and Parchment access to education records and other private student information. Students are paying the cost to use Google’s “free” servers by providing access to their sensitive data and communications.

The 2011 amendments allow the release of student records for non-academic purposes and undermine parental consent provisions. The changes also promote the public use of student IDs that enable access to private educational records.

These amendments are critical to supporting initiatives like Common Core that depend on collection of student data to monitor implementation and measure success. Schools across the country will contract with third-party vendors to provide products, programs, and services in order to meet the Common Core requirements — and government agencies and researchers will be mining student information for studies and databases. The FERPA amendments are paving the way toward greater accessibility to student data while providing no meaningful sanctions or protections against breaches of student privacy. As amended, FERPA will loosen privacy protections while helping to promote the business of education. (


It Takes a Village Network

Thanks to Jacqueline van Dyk for inspiring some ideas again! It Takes A Network , 03/07/13

You write another illuminating post that just adds to my growing appreciation of how we connect. As popularized in Hilary Clinton’s book (or the African proverb, whichever is attributed) It Takes a Village, perhaps the ‘network’ is the new appropriate analogy? Both really do make sense and in some clear connections, they really are not that different.

As part of ETMOOC Connected Learning, I’ve been browsing and reviewing Godin’s Tribes and related to the TED conversation about social networks. What seems apparent to me is that as we are getting more and more advanced with our internet tools the actual internet has become so transparent to more and more that we are revisiting human conclusions that we really knew all along. We are moving full circle and recognizing that we are still about human relationships and communication. We NEED each other. Rampant individualism and competition doesn’t produce the results we were told to believe. Zealot communism produced animosities and erosion. We need community not communism. We need to network.

KSSowls_7713I’ve been doing far too much reflection these days, perhaps because I’m processing my PGP, or more likely because I’m in the twilight of my career and considering several leaps of faith- both involving the people in my life, in my network. One would think after 30+ years of teaching that communicating, collaborating and networking with students, parents, colleagues, educators and the community I would feel empowered? Well I recognize strengths and know many people but empowered means I feel I can navigate successfully toward a goal. That is a very tricky task today because the goals and routes are a moving target. Education ( and educators ) are loved and hated for that very reason, society thinks they value us but knows something is also awry. I see similar issues in health. In fact I think our entire social contract is under strain for the same reasons. Societal change has been so rapid that structures are creaking at the joints.

The entire concept of ‘education’ and its purpose is under serious attack and revision. The ‘open’ movement brought on by technological innovation and a shift of social values has people aspiring to ‘open education’ outside of the institutional restraints of credit courses, etc. is a vital example of learning for its own sake. It is in many ways a network or community that sprouted from various disruptive birth parents and nurtured by a tribe. Tools like blog hubs, Google+, Storify, YouTube, TEDx, Twitter have become just various doorways into the same big tent.  It isn’t just pure altruism but there is no coverage charge, dress code or guest list. There is no tuition or pre-requisite.  As a mature student, with a 5 page CV I cannot enrol in a my local university without an academic recommendation letter and two professional recommendation letters! Really? Don’t they want  my money? Am I a risk? Risk of what exactly?  Have they heard about open learning?

Jacqueline Van Dyk, blogs about many poignant things but her It Takes a Network addresses a program

Judy[Halbert] added, “But for that synergy of passion, inspiration, mutual support and effectiveness, the network members must be united by a strong sense of collective purpose. Again, it all comes down to relationships.”

In my personal life, I have been successful and rewarded when I am honest, communicate and give generously. When I have conflict, it is when I was deceptive, scared and selfish. Learning and teaching is no different from any other human endeavour. Build a house, climb a mountain, feed the poor – we need to build trust. It takes a village!

“…In a network of partnerships, nothing gets done without trust. We tend to engage and share openly with people we feel we can trust. As in the brain power video, we strengthen connections that work and prune those that don’t…”

I am now asking, how does one contribute to that collective purpose? I’m just another villager.  I wish I was a shaman.  Even so, I’m not sure what I would do?  How does the village find consensus? How does a series of vital networks impact the lives of people, or students that are not connected? How do we welcome our kids and families into the tent? I don’t want digital tribal warfare. We have enough tribalism as it is! How can our new skills and new tools change the outcomes? How can our ‘network’ be different from a ‘village’?

Has 3Rs literacy expired? CEET asks us in Moodle meeting…

It’s next week’s #ETMOOC topic but I just started reading the introduction today and the opening backgrounder is a thoughtful reflection. What I found illuminating is the reference, despite pop media teeth gnashing, is that our schooling system has in fact been very successful. I think our educators have adapted to social and technological change with remarkable maturity, calmness and skill. Despite being harassed in the media almost daily as a failure( which I belief to be social anxiety response to rapid change) educators are developing skills and exploring initiatives with our kids well-being in their hearts. Educators are tackling obstacles parents, corporations, institutions, and governments are struggling to find solutions.

FROM #CEETOPEN Moodle meet.

Smack in the middle of a conversation with a colleague it occured to me with a flush of embarrassment that all my critiques of contemporary education have been entirely misplaced; not so much wrong perhaps, but certainly unfairly aimed.

Contemporary edcuation is not broken. Indeed, it’s wildly, unimpeachably successful. The contemporary model was never intended to do anything more than bring broad basic literacy–the Three R’s–to millions. In that it has been brilliantly successful. Between 1870 and 1979, illiteracy rates (the percentage of the population that could not read or write in any language) in the U.S. fell from 20% to 0.6%. That, by any accounting, is a stunning achievement. Instead of criticizing it, we should be throwing education a party; a retirement party perhaps, but one where we nevertheless congratulate ourselves on a job well done. (Even so, we will want to keep the old schools around in a consulting role for a while. Our current cry for reform glosses over the fact that the educational needs of all communities are not uniform. There are many places at home and abroad where we have not yet achieved basic literacy and for that we have a proven model to deploy.)

Sadly, our current discussions around educational reform are characterized by destructive and frustrating criticism and, worse I am afraid, shameful blame–on both sides. State authorities blame teachers for failing to meet prescribed outcomes; teachers blame authorites for failing to see those outcomes are losing their relevance. Perhaps those outcomes are out of step, but it won’t do either to replace them with yet another set, even if they are called something like 21st Century literacies. Swapping “literacies” says we have not significantly changed our thinking. We have to imagine a wholesale structural change, just as we did when we invented public schooling in the first place.(CEET)

Trying to ‘make history’ is lovely literary hyperbole but the viewpoint of connected learning initiatives that move the bar forward is valid. For public education to seek a deeper mandate of 3Rs literacy now that society has significantly evolved from Industrial Age needs is a legitimate goal. Literacy as only a read and write competency is terrific old definition and aspiration, but in our information digital age, other skills that drive a civil society sure seem needed.

Forgive the crude generalization, but we might say there are just two models of edcuation: the first and the oldest, an education for the privileged that was is meant to prepare a them for politics, business and higher study. Call this a liberal education. The second, only a century or two old, a basic literacy education, meant to prepare everyone else to take a place on the shop floor. But now that we have achieved the broad literacy that is the prerequisite for a broad liberal education we can seriously talk about delivering what was once reserved for the priviledged few to everyone.(CEET)

Visit > or Twitter #ceetopen


Learner rights in the the digital era

20130217-210255.jpgSince this ETMOOC is my first experience in an open education course of any kind I’ve been wide eyed but fascinated. It’s a volunteer ProD journey that has had me more invested than anything since working with the BCTLA Executive developing programs for school libraries. ETMOOC has been an intellectual adventure and reading exercise unmatched since Graduate Studies in Ed Tech at SFU in 90s. Even at my age, Alec and friends have me motivated to learn as much as Dr. Milt McLaren did in the Year 2000 hay days. Even then we were investigating new ideas of pedagogy spawned by the invention of the web and the GUI browser! Ya! I’m that old. Bandwidth was an upgrade to a 6400 baud modem! Ha ha.

But the irony is that the hurdles we face today are the exact same as those of early Internet and computers in education. We still get confounded and distracted by the devices and the products. For years educators fought over operating systems and now we fight over tablets or one2one but the dilemma remains. How do teachers best utilize technology to advance learning? What learning should take place? I see little difference between some of the online DL courses teens take with the old ‘drill and kill’ apps kids used on Apple IIe. That discourages me. In some cases, I was doing more connected learning with Gr 7 kids in 1990 with a modem and a single computer than I do with Gr 12s in 2013 using laptops, iPads, phones and fiber optics- why?

It is pedagogy, practice, policy, people and politics that intervenes. In isolated cases we do amazing things with our students and in other ways we do those very traditional things copied for decades. Some old exercises, like socratic circles or storytelling, are valuable and should be cherished. Other things should be abandoned. I find the challenge of teaching lies in my re-assessing practice from the view of students rights. Am I serving them well? its a profession of service. if not, then what is the point? I read a piece on the learner rights in the digital age. Find the document below… Perhaps the MOOC is one of the methodologies that will evolve prevail? As the authors declare, they want their work to be ‘hacked’ , remixed and reworked… Maybe it is this spirit that drives learning in the end anyway.

“Called “A Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age,” the document proposes a set of “inalienable rights” that the authors say students and their advocates should demand from institutions and companies that offer online courses and technology tools. Those rights should include access and privacy, along with access to information about the financial models of institutions and companies offering online courses, write the authors.( HybridPed)


A Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age
Work on this Bill of Rights & Principles began in Palo Alto, California, on December 14, 2012. We convened a group of people passionate about learning, about serving today’s students, and about using every tool we could imagine to respond better to the needs of students in a global, interactive, digitally connected world.

The Internet has made it possible for anyone on the planet to be a student, a teacher, and a creative collaborator at virtually no cost. Novel technologies that can catalyze learning are bubbling up in less time than it takes to read this sentence. Some have emerged from universities, some from the private sector, some from individuals and digital communities. In the past year, Massive Online Open Courseware, or MOOCs, have become the darling of the moment–lauded by the media, embraced by millions–so new, so promising in possibility, and yet so ripe for exploitation.

We believe that online learning represents a powerful and potentially awe-inspiring opportunity to make new forms of learning available to all students worldwide, whether young or old, learning for credit, self-improvement, employment, or just pleasure. We believe that online courses can create “meaningful” as well as “massive” learning opportunities.

We are aware of how much we don’t know: that we have yet to explore the full pedagogical potential of learning online, of how it can change the ways we teach, the ways we learn, and the ways we connect.

And we worry that this moment is fragile, that history frequently and painfully repeats itself. Think of television in the 1950s or even correspondence courses in the 1920s. As we begin to experiment with how novel technologies might change learning and teaching, powerful forces threaten to neuter or constrain technology, propping up outdated educational practices rather than unfolding transformative ones.

All too often, during such wrenching transitions, the voice of the learner gets muffled.

For that reason, we feel compelled to articulate the opportunities for students in this brave electronic world, to assert their needs and–we dare say–rights.

We also recognize some broader hopes and aspirations for the best online learning. We include those principles as an integral addendum to the Bill of Rights below.

Our broad goal is to inspire an open, learner-centered dialogue around the rights, responsibilities, and possibilities for education in the globally-connected world of the present and beyond.

I. Bill of Rights
We believe that our culture is increasingly one in which learning, unlearning and relearning are as fundamental to our survival and prosperity as breathing. To that end, we believe that all students have inalienable rights which transfer to new and emerging digital environments. They include:

The right to access
Everyone should have the right to learn: traditional students, non-traditional students, adults, children, and teachers, independent of age, gender, race, social status, sexual orientation, economic status, national origin, bodily ability, and environment anywhere and everywhere in the world. To ensure the right to access, learning should be affordable and available, offered in myriad formats, to students located in a specific place and students working remotely, adapting itself to people’s different lifestyles, mobility needs, and schedules. Online learning has the potential to ensure that this right is a reality for a greater percentage of the world’s population than has ever been realizable before.

The right to privacy
Student privacy is an inalienable right regardless of whether learning takes place in a brick-and-mortar institution or online. Students have a right to know how data collected about their participation in the online system will be used by the organization and made available to others. The provider should offer clear explanations of the privacy implications of students’ choices.

The right to create public knowledge
Learners within a global, digital commons have the right to work, network, and contribute to knowledge in public; to share their ideas and their learning in visible and connected ways if they so choose. Courses should encourage open participation and meaningful engagement with real audiences where possible, including peers and the broader public.

The right to own one’s personal data and intellectual property
Students also have the right to create and own intellectual property and data associated with their participation in online courses. Online programs should encourage openness and sharing, while working to educate students about the various ways they can protect and license their data and creative work. Any changes in terms of service should be clearly communicated by the provider, and they should never erode the original terms of privacy or the intellectual property rights to which the student agreed.

The right to financial transparency
Students have a right to know how their participation supports the financial health of the online system in which they are participating. They have a right to fairness, honesty, and transparent financial accounting. This is also true of courses that are “free.” The provider should offer clear explanations of the financial implications of students’ choices.

The right to pedagogical transparency
Students have the right to understand the intended outcomes–educational, vocational, even philosophical–of an online program or initiative. If a credential or badge or certification is promised by the provider, its authenticity, meaning, and intended or historical recognition by others (such as employers or academic institutions) should be clearly established and explained.

The right to quality and care
Students have the right to care, diligence, commitment, honesty and innovation. They are not being sold a product–nor are they the product being sold. They are not just consumers. Education is also about trust. Learning–not corporate profit–is the principal purpose of all education.

The right to have great teachers
All students need thoughtful teachers, facilitators, mentors and partners in learning, and learning environments that are attentive to their specific learning goals and needs. While some of us favor peer learning communities, all of us recognize that, in formal educational settings, students should expect–indeed demand–that the people arranging, mentoring and facilitating their learning online be financially, intellectually and pedagogically valued and supported by institutions of higher learning and by society. Teachers’ know-how and working conditions are students’ learning conditions.

The right to be teachers
In an online environment, teachers no longer need to be sole authority figures but instead should share responsibility with learners at almost every turn. Students can participate and shape one another’s learning through peer interaction, new content, enhancement of learning materials and by forming virtual and real-world networks. Students have the right to engaged participation in the construction of their own learning. Students are makers, doers, thinkers, contributors, not just passive recipients of someone else’s lecture notes or methods. They are critical contributors to their disciplines, fields, and to the larger enterprise of education.

II. Principles
The following are principles to which the best online learning should aspire. We believe the merit of specific courses, programs, or initiatives can be judged on the strength of their adherence to these principles and encourage students and professors to seek out and create digital learning environments that follow and embody them.

Global contribution
Online learning should originate from everywhere on the globe, not just from the U.S. and other technologically advantaged countries. The best courses will be global in design and contribution, offering multiple and multinational perspectives. They should maximize opportunities for students from different countries to collaborate with one another, to contribute local knowledge and histories and to learn one another’s methods, assumptions, values, knowledge and points of view.

The function of learning is to allow students to equip themselves to address the challenges and requirements of life and work. Online learning can serve as a vehicle for skills development, retraining, marketable expertise. It can also support self-improvement, community engagement, intellectual challenge, or play. All of these functions are valid. The best programs and initiatives should clearly state the potential contexts in which they offer value.

Students should have many options for online learning, not simply a digitized replication of the majors, minors, requirements, courses, schedules and institutional arrangements of conventional universities. The best online learning programs will not simply mirror existing forms of university teaching but offer students a range of flexible learning opportunities that take advantage of new digital tools and pedagogies to widen these traditional horizons, thereby better addressing 21st-century learner interests, styles and lifelong learning needs. Ideally, they will also suggest and support new forms of interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary inquiry that are independent of old gatekeepers such as academic institutions or disciplines, certification agencies, time-to-degree measurements, etc.

Hybrid learning
Freed from time and place, online learning should nonetheless be connected back to multiple locations around the world and not tethered exclusively to the digital realm. This can happen by building in apprenticeships, internships and real-world applications of online problem sets. Problem sets might be rooted in real-world dilemmas or comparative historical and cultural perspectives. (Examples might include: “Organizing Disaster Response and Relief for Hurricane Sandy” or “Women’s Rights, Rape, and Culture” or “Designing and Implementing Gun Control: A Global Perspective.”)

Learning is emergent, a lifelong pursuit, not relegated to the brick walls of an institution or to a narrow window of time during life; it has no specific end point. The artificial divisions of work, play and education cease to be relevant in the 21st century. Learning begins on a playground and continues perpetually in other playgrounds, individual and shared workspaces, communities and more. Learning can be assessed but doesn’t aim itself exclusively toward assessment.

Both technical and pedagogical innovation should be hallmarks of the best learning environments. A wide variety of pedagogical approaches, learning tools, methods and practices should support students’ diverse learning modes. Online learning should be flexible, dynamic, and individualized rather than canned or standardized. One size or approach does not fit all.

Formative assessment
Students should have the opportunity to revise and relearn until they achieve the level of mastery they desire in a subject or a skill. Online learning programs or initiatives should strive to transform assessment into a rich, learner-oriented feedback system where students are constantly receiving information aimed at guiding their learning paths. In pedagogical terms, this means emphasizing individualized and timely (formative) rather than end-of-learning (summative) assessment. Similarly, instructors should use such feedback to improve their teaching practices. Assessment is only useful insofar as it helps to foster a culture of success and enjoyment in learning.

Experimentation should be an acknowledged affordance and benefit of online learning. Students should be able to try a course and drop it without incurring derogatory labels such as failure (for either the student or the institution offering the course). Through open discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of programs, the industry should develop crowd-sourced evaluative guides to help learners choose the online learning that best fits their needs.

Courses should encourage interaction and collaboration between students wherever it enhances the learning experience. Such programs should encourage student contributions of content, perspectives, methods, reflecting their own cultural and individual perspectives. Online learning programs or initiatives have a responsibility to share those contributions in an atmosphere of integrity and respect. Students have the right and responsibility to promote and participate in generous, kind, constructive communication within their learning environment.

Open online education should inspire the unexpected, experimentation, and questioning–in other words, encourage play. Play allows us to make new things familiar, to perfect new skills, to experiment with moves and crucially to embrace change–a key disposition for succeeding in the 21st century. We must cultivate the imagination and the dispositions of questing, tinkering and connecting. We must remember that the best learning, above all, imparts the gift of curiosity, the wonder of accomplishment, and the passion to know and learn even more.