Friday, November 30, 2012

Learning Adventures: Free Online Education and MOOCs

I challenge you all to try a new learning adventure!

I'm back in the States now, in fact, I've been here since the end of October. As usual, once I get home, I find myself swamped with work from my two online jobs. One of them, being an adjunct professor for an online university, required me to attend a month-long online workshop during November, which focused on building community within the classroom. I found the workshop to be a rewarding experience, as it introduced me to many innovative strategies to get students more involved in their education. It was also stimulating to share with more than 70 of my colleagues all over the continent who were taking the same workshop.

One of the things that came up is making the classroom more engaging for the students. Our students are located all over the world, so there's no real-time connection between student and teacher. And since my classroom is designed and set up by the university,  I can't alter the content of it. But I can tweak things here and there to improve how the content is being delivered.  One way of doing this is to add videos, so the students have a visual representation of their teacher.  I'm excited about learning to make videos for my classroom, as it will be a creative outlet for me, and will give me a skill to use in other areas of my life, including this blog. I'm eager to see what I can implement to engage students more in their learning experience.

Another thing that I'm currently learning more about is MOOCs, or massive open online courses, which are fast becoming a trend in online education. Many top universities around the world offer courses online that anyone can take, absolutely free. By taking some of these courses myself, I can learn more about the online environment from a student's point of view, as well as the technologies that are being implemented. Here's a New York Times article that explains the possibilities:

College of Future Could Be Come One, Come All

I'm excited at the prospect of interacting with other students from all over the world! For more information about MOOCs that are currently offered, check out these links:




Before my son left on his bicycle trip to South America, he decided to study Physics during his journey. He found numerous sites with video lectures that he could download to his handheld computer, to view at his convenience. Here are his recommendations:

Khan Academy

Learners TV

Community Video

Another great resource for stimulating and free educational videos can be found on TED, which offers "Riveting talks by remarkable people."

TED: Ideas worth spreading

And finally, here's one from Britain, The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), which has great lectures on video, and an innovative way of presenting ideas through animation:

RSA Animate

Okay, you have the info, now here's the challenge: Learn Something New!!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

On the road to Mexico

Back in Kansas, a momentous event occurred on November 4, when my son Jesse departed on a 3-month journey on his bicycle. He will journey west from Kansas, across the United States to California, then travel south to Baja California in Mexico. In total, he'll go 3000 miles, or four times the length of Italy!

Jesse and I before his departure
While I've been traveling in Italy more often over the past two years, Jesse has been working to save money for this trip, and he took care of my house and yard while I was gone. His presence at home was a big factor in my ability to stay in Italy for months at a time. Now it's his turn  to travel! He's giving himself plenty of time to explore the areas he plans to visit.

Loaded bicycle, ready to go!
Some people think Jesse was inspired by my travels, but it's actually the other way around. Jesse has lived in Georgia, San Francisco and Tokyo, Japan. His interest in languages and exploring other cultures inspired me to travel in Italy and learn Italian.

On the road
He'll be writing about his adventures on his own blog:

Fireflies and Snow

Buon viaggio, mio figlio! Divertiti!