Thursday, February 21, 2013


Photo by Mike Yoder
Thundersnow, that's what's going on in Kansas today. What is it? Also known as a winter thunderstorm, thundersnow is a rare kind of thunderstorm with snow falling instead of rain. There was also lightning in the mix, even though the temperature is only 22° F (-5°C).

So far, we have 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snow, and more on the way.  The city has pretty much shut down, with schools and businesses closed. Snow day! Kids (and university students) are out sledding, everyone else is home enjoying an unexpected day off. A lovely way to spend this February day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

E-learning MOOC: Weeks 2-3

SMS from Lucca rooftop: Where is the happyness?
The Coursera stats for Week 2 stated that out of 41,622 people enrolled in our MOOC, E-learning and Digital Cultures, 16,963 were active.

By now, in week 3, there are 42,570 participants, and 12,000 of these have been active over the past week. With ''fewer" participants, the Discussion Boards are less troublesome than before, and I'm learning a lot!

I've been an active participant and am really enjoying all of it: the resources (videos and readings), the discussions, and the creative projects we can contribute to the course. I've already signed up for another MOOC, and joined a Meetup group in my hometown consisting of people taking various MOOCs from Coursera.

This week we have 4 videos to watch. One of them is called World Builder, and I thought that it was made in Europe, due to the street scenes shown in the video. So I watched the credits carefully to see where it was created. To my great surprise,  I discovered that the film had been made in Lee's Summit, Missouri, not far from my home. What's even more surprising is that my nephew was listed as the creator of the musical score and responsible for the sound design. What an amazing coincidence! I immediately contacted my nephew on Facebook to let him know that "his" video was being featured in a MOOC class from Scotland.

This odd experience seemed yet another testament to the fact that unusual connections are being made all over the world, thanks to technology and the internet, and, as a result, the world is indeed becoming much smaller.

Here's the link to the video: World Builder video


Friday, February 1, 2013

My first MOOC: Overwhelmed from the start! #edcmooc

I recently enrolled for a MOOC course offered by Coursera called E-learning and Digital Cultures. I wrote about MOOCs in a previous post,  Learning adventures: Free Online Education and MOOCs 

Thirty-three prestigious universities around the world offer courses through Coursera, including Stanford, Duke, Princeton, the University of London, the University of Melbourne, schools in Hong Kong and Switzerland, and the University of Toronto. The MOOC I'm taking is offered by the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

One of the suggested assignments of this course is to keep a journal about our experiences in the classroom and post it online, via a blog, Facebook or Twitter. I thought I'd give it a go. 

First of all, MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. The course is open to anyone, anywhere, for free, and 40,000 people have registered for this course. It's not clear how many of that number are actually participating, but there are so many that it's been overwhelming to try and participate on the Discussion Boards.

For those who don't know, Discussion Boards are an essential part of any online class. I've been teaching a course (Fundamentals of Online Learning) for an online university since 2007, and the class is intended to help students get acquainted with the online classroom. The Discussion Board helps students interact with one another, building community as well as critical thinking skills. Questions are posed, and students must respond to the questions, as well as to other students. In my classes, I rarely have more than 20 students participating on the DB, so it's fairly easy to manage and follow the various threads. 

In the Coursera class, the DB is nearly impossible to follow. With so many people participating, the posts seem more like disconnected comments, and with three pages of threads on each topic, it's overwhelming to even try. In addition, there are people posting discussions on FB, Twitter and their personal blogs.  

Videos, articles and essays are provided in this Coursera classroom, and the DB is where we discuss the topics that are introduced and explored in the videos and readings. I usually enjoy participating in discussions like this, but haven't found an effective or satisfying way to participate in the DBs for this class. But I'll keep trying! It seems the key is to enjoy the process, focus on what is most interesting, and stretch your mind. 

I really enjoy the videos and learning about various technologies I can use in my classroom. In fact, I've already implemented several new ones for the next session of the online course I teach, which starts next week. 

Here are a few online tools to create or publish with:


The main reason I decided to take the class is to see what it's like to be on the other side of the classroom: to be a student rather than the professor. I want to learn how other classrooms are set up and explore innovative ways to engage students through videos and other kinds of creative tools. There are many other kinds of courses available through Coursera, and I want to keep challenging myself with new learning opportunities.

OH, another interesting thing about this class: two of my Italian friends, who live in different parts of Italy, are also taking it. They do not know each other, and each of us enrolled independently. It's an amazing coincidence!