Tuesday, April 30, 2013

this course has been hacked: yay!

(my t-shirt from OSCON)

Often you can tell how old a person is by the way she uses language.  For example, people who grew up in Aulde Analog Times generally associate the word hack with definitions (such as "sharp cough," "cut with unskillful blows," & "illegal/unauthorized computer access") that do not describe what we do.

We make connections and facilitate conversations that help people learn.   We build, evaluate and modify tools and media to make them work more effectively for our purposes.

You know how they say, "[So'n'so] just can't hack it?" Well, we can.

And Brenna McNamara is leading the way.  When word leaked out that a new Open Source Learning community is forming, Brenna and others started creating blogs to curate their learning experiences.  In the process, Brenna noticed that I didn't require Blogger, so she asked if she could use Tumblr.  I said yes.  You can also use WordPress, and I'm open to more suggestions that suit our purposes.  As you move through your paths of inquiry you will learn about many tools for collaborating and sharing your ideas online.  Your hub should be some sort of blog on which you can include text, pics, video, and other media.  As we get acquainted we will also explore portfolios, etherpads, mind maps, etc.

There are multiple benefits to using shared platforms--it's easier to figure things out when you know others are working on the same challenges, for starters-- but ultimately you are in charge of your own learning, and that includes making choices about where and how to curate your work.  This can be difficult, because most of you haven't been allowed, encouraged, or empowered to make these sorts of decisions up to this point.  But students who can't think for themselves after they graduate are like veal at a rodeo, so start now.  Take a lesson from Brenna and begin thinking about what you really want to achieve in this course of study and how you want to share it with the world.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

quotes for the day

I didn't post this kind of stuff often last year, but some of the current member blogs inspire me.  Check out Josh Montero's as an example.  It's a blend of academic achievement, personal interest, and pop culture/commentary that really gives you a sense of who he is and how he thinks.

So, here are two quotes (among many) that shed some light on my teaching philosophy and why our learning (slash-test-prep-slash-college-admisssions-and-scholarship-support) community will function as a network instead of the traditional one-to-many broadcast:

For I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

 The future is already here; it's just not evenly distributed.

It's important to get comfortable sharing and exchanging ideas while being mindful that each post/comment/Tweet/etc. gives the public a sense of who we are and the choices we make.  This can be a great way to establish your identity-- as people see your ideas and the way you treat others, they come to trust and value you as a resource.  Start by commenting to this post; what do you think of these quotes?  What are some quotes that inspire you?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

new member blog and (more) props to teanna

Welcome Amara, our third member/blogger-- and props to Teanna, who built her blog a few weeks ago. 

(Teanna, if you stay on this pace you can finish this course by winter and get started with college! :)

Friday, April 19, 2013

another first

Michaila Bohard is awesome.  She is the first person to create a blog for next year's course and email the URL to dpreston.learning@gmail.com.  You can see her new blog here.  (You can also see the blog she created this year for American Literature here.)

Each of us will maintain a course blog as we create a learning network to achieve our goals.  I've started a Member Blogs page so we can see a list of everyone's blogs in the same place.  (For comparison's sake, you can also see this year's member blogs here.)

Thanks, Michaila! 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

way to go teanna!

The 2013-14 course blog has its first follower.  Welcome, Teanna Silviera: you're #1!

This is a perfect an example of adding value to a network.  Following a blog may seem like a little thing, but, as the most successful NCAA basketball coach of all time used to say, "It's the little things that make the big things happen."

Teanna has demonstrated several important concepts worth noting:
  • If you don't know how to create or follow a blog, you now know at least one peer/colleague who does;
  • By linking to her blog from this year's course (Teanna is currently studying American Literature with this year's Open Source Learning cohort), you can see some of the ideas and design choices she's already contributed to a network;
  • Since we can see who's following the course blog, it will be easier to create study groups who can share & discuss the summer reading load.
More soon.  Rock on, Teanna!

a meditation on the nature of extra credit-- and your first opportunity to get some

What is "extra credit"?  Presumably, it means credit above and beyond expectation and requirement. 

But what exactly is expected and required?

Traditionally these parameters are set by an authority figure (e.g., a teacher) who doles out assignments and creates rubrics that set comparative performance benchmarks using metrics such as points, percentages, and letter grades.

In that relationship students are passive consumers: get your work, shut up and do it, accept the judgement of the authority figure, and stuff the paper in a binder/backpack, where it will remain as a private testimony to... what, exactly?

What if you could use your work to demonstrate your mastery and enhance your value in the community?  What if, instead of showing an essay to one person, you could share it with a network that celebrates your successes and helps you improve where you need it?  What if you could use an academic course to explore the Big Questions you've always wondered about (whether they're related to English or not), or pursue your own path of inquiry, or to create Collaborative Working Groups to create projects and even create business ventures?

Today's digital culture presents opportunities we've never had before.  In coming posts I will formally introduce you to Open Source Learning and help you make some decisions about how to take full advantage of the opportunities it presents.  In the meantime, with regard to credit & extra credit, think of it this way: every idea you offer the network has value.  Your contributions establish your identity and enrich others' thinking.  More/better ideas = higher value.  In this course your value will be determined by the quantity and quality of your thinking and your work product, so please begin by introducing yourself in a comment to this post.  The questions below are designed to help get you started.  Please feel free to extend the topics and include your own perspectives and questions.

1. Who are you?
2. Why are you taking this course?
3. What do you hope to get out of the experience?
4. What (if anything) gets you excited or nervous when you think about next year in general or this course in specific?
5. In your life, what do you care enough about to give it your all?* (*this doesn't have to be academic or school-related)
6. How can this course help you achieve your goals and set the stage for a senior year that blows the doors off expectations and requirements?

Be on the watch for more soon, both here and in person.  This year's seniors are putting together some live introductory experiences, and we will have a formal lunchtime orientation in mid-May.  In the meantime, I look forward to seeing your thoughts here.  Mahalo.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


If you just went through registration and you're on the blog for the first time, welcome!  This is the place where you will get all the information you need for the course.  We will also be using it as a one-stop online shop to introduce collaborative opportunities, additional online tools, and idea-sharing in general.  Please bookmark the URL and follow the blog so that you will receive updates automatically instead of having to check back all the time.* (*If you don't know your way around blogs or the Internet, have no fear-- this year's seniors and even some of last year's are planning some get-togethers before June to help, and you also probably have friends/relatives who can help.)

This course isn't business as usual.  Your senior project is YOU, and it begins here and now.  We will move together as a community to achieve the goals that will serve you long after graduation.  In the next few weeks you'll be invited to several presentations that will provide more of an introduction to the experience.  In the meantime, please feel free to post any questions or comments here, email to dpreston.learning@gmail.com, or stop by room 608 and introduce yourself.  I look forward to meeting you!

Dr. Preston