Open & Networked Teaching:
 A Transformative Journey

         WIAOC 2009
        Dr. Alec Couros
who is this guy?
open courses
shifts in edtech                         Group growth
   Individual growth

key questions
•   what is k?
•   how is k acquired?
•   how do we know what
    we know?
•   why do we know what
    we kn...
forms of openness
     open education
                               free software
       open source software
open content, access,
publication, accreditation
                             available knowledge

social reading
personal learning
my blog, my hub
photo sharing
video sharing
connecting via music
spontaneous pd
social networks
slide decks
designing 4
social affordance?
open invitations
open invitations
distributed conversations
sharing by default

day in the life
expert visits

Private     Public

Closed      Open
professional learning
searching 4 metaphors
contextual, authentic
sustained community             benefits
            transformative experiences

         gained technical skills

“I was able to go out and learn
  throughout the entire week,
   the entire year, and I’m still
    learning with everyone...
“The course ... has been the most profound pd experience
    I’ve ever had. It forced me to critique & review my
I can haz pln   adapt
Don’t limit a child to your
own learning, for he was born
  in another time. ~Tagore

Open & Networked Teaching: A Transformative Journey
Open & Networked Teaching: A Transformative Journey
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Open & Networked Teaching: A Transformative Journey


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This slides were developed for a keynote presentation for Webheads in Action Online unConvergence (WIAOC09) online conference, presented May 23, 2009.

Please contact the author ( if you'd like the original (iWork 09).

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  • I first want to thank the organizers of this conference for inviting me. I am truly honored to be part of this event. I have been thoroughly impressed by how smoothly things have run, and by the excellent presentations so far. And by looking at the other talented presenters, and the audience here, I am truly in great company.

    Photo Credit -
  • Of course, I want to encourage the conversation in the room. But if you’d also like to take some of the conversation outside of these walls, I’d like to point out the official tag of the conference. That way, we can all easily track the comments, conversations, and feedback related to this session and others.
  • Now, I know there are a few of you in this room that I have connected with via Twitter or other technologies, but I suppose the question for many of you is, “who is this guy”. I want to thank the VP for the warm introduction, but would also like to offer a bit more of myself. I feel that this is important as identity is an important notion throughout this talk.

    Digital identity, and how the network defines us, is an important, emerging trend.

    I define myself as a family man, a life-long learner, a teacher, and a risk-taker. I’ve worked in all educational sectors in my province, K12, technical, university, and correctional. In occasionally podcast with the Edtech Posse with some friends and colleagues in Saskatchewan. And I’ve been an advocate for openness for quite a few years now.
  • I’ve come to be known by my open courses. I currently teaching two open courses; one graduate, and one undergraduate, both related to the use and integration of technology in teaching and learning.

    When I talk about open courses, I am meaning open access and open teaching. When I first tried this back in January 2008, I had 20 registered students, but we ended up opening up the course to whoever else wanted to participate. Soon, we ended up with at least 200 others that became part of the course in casual ways. The experience really opened up my eyes to the possibilities of bridging formal and informal learning, and the power of personal learning networks.

  • So what I want to offer now is a bit of a journey of how I ended up here, as an open advocate; someone who teaches, learns, and lives in the open. And I hope that this experience will give you some insight into the benefits of openness, and connected teaching.

    Photo credit -
  • Looking at our relationship with knowledge is a crucial first step to this journey.

    If you go back to through the history of technology, you will know that we come a long way. And you can probably remember early instructional games on platforms like the Apple IIe, things like Math Muncher or Oregon Trail. And of course, there were many instructional machines created specifically for education well before this time.

    “Student pushes one of four buttons to give answers and his score appears on paper slip at upper right. Teaching machines, expected to boom in the next decade, usually operate on the principal of repetition until the pupil understands. They aim to speed up the learning process and relieve teacher of much paper work in the classroom.”
  • Teemu Leinonen wrote a post a “Critical History of ICT” where he provided a history of where ICT has been and where we are headed. Another good colleague of mine, juxtaposed his knowledge of the field upon this and really pulled important pieces. Ideas of moving from individual growth, toward group growth, and of course a tendency toward constructivism and social learning.
  • So it begins with knowledge. I’d like to ask you if you can identify any of the ppl or institutions on this slide. And then, we’ll talk about some of the relationships regarding knowledge.

    - Percy Schmeiser
    - Jamie Thomas - sued for $220,000 (single mother of two)
    - John Locke - “When a person works, that labor enters into the object. Thus, the object becomes the property of that person.”
    - Vandana Shiva, physicist & seed activist, who wrote the book “stolen harvest” and spoke of the effects of patenting genetic blueprints.
    - Gregg Gillis (girl talk) - he produces mashup-style remixes in which he uses a dozen or more unauthorized samples to create new songs.

  • - What is k? A subset between truths and beliefs? Contextual and relative knowledge? Absolute knowledge? One of the biggest shifts in education, distinction between ‘knowing that’ and ‘knowing how’.
    - How is k acquired, and how do we know what we know? What is our relationship with knowledge (professors, teachers, researchers, students) Again, incredibly important questions for education especially when much of our edu-gibberish focuses on the “most effective pedagogies”. Direct instruction, inquiry-based learning, modeling, constructivism, learning, skills - all common lingo to educators.
    - Why do we know what we know? Continues up on the last two questions, but moves to the more political realm re: knowledge and control.
    - What do humans know? And how do we test for that?
    - Who controls k, how is k controlled? See next slide.

    Key question: How much control do students have of their own learning destiny?

  • And this is where openness comes in. In general, openness is a world view very different than what we’ve seen in the 20th century. And, it’s multi-faceted. It’s epistemological. It’s technical. It’s philosophical. And I really do think that it is necessary in the 21st century, in our age of information abundance and educational opportunity.

    There are many forms of openness. While some are much easier than others, I will talk mostly about open access and open teaching today.

  • These are some of the books I’ve read lately, and over the years. If I were to tweet, in the 140 character limit, of what these books generally tell you (no disrespect to the authors of course) it would be ...

    @all 1.Age of schooling ending. 2.Social networks bring new possibilities re: informal group learning 3. Technologies/media influence & empower.
  • If you think about the term broadcast, you’ll see that it was a term that midwest radio people started to use as it had agricultural roots ... broadcast meant simply the broad casting or application of seeds. The broader the cast, the greater the reach. Of course, the world doesn’t quite work that way anymore, since about the eBay generation or the discussion of the long tail. We don’t need the broadcast local ... narrowcasting is very useful. And the idea that Youtube uses “broadcast yourself” as a motto is a bit misleading.

    Thing started to fall into place. Knowledge shifting. Information no longer scarce. Tools free & easy to use.

    Photo credit -

  • And things have begun to explode on the educational scene regarding open learning. The first step, the content, is the low-hanging fruit of open education. There is an abundance of good educational content available, and many projects underway.

    We years of hoarding content in our classrooms should be over ... and I welcome an era of good, open, transparent content.

    Recent reports of the DOAJ where there are now almost 4000 open-access journals available, almost 800 new journals in 2008.

  • The importance of social reading cannot be underestimated. Although much you see on these sites would be noise for the typical classroom teacher or professor, there is much to gain in reading this way ... and eventually, more of these tools will be used in academic research. The methods are important.

    Photo credit -

  • I have been a blogger for more than 5 years now, which I think is considerable for the medium. The blog itself has been pivotal to my career and professional development. I highly recommend having a professional blog and personal domain.

  • I participate in a project called 2009/365. As you notice, there are over 200 people that daily take and post a photo of their day. This has been a wonderful project for many, and a way for me to learn to be a better photographer while learning more about those in my network. A great piece of professional learning.

  • I share many of the videos that I create through sites like Youtube and These include both personal and professional creations.

  • Music is also something that has been important to me. Through services like, I share my music with others. This becomes another form of social bonding.

  • There are a number of other more intentional communities that I participate in. Communities like EdtechTalk feature weekly sessions that people can participate in to discuss and share the latest developments in technology and education. Classroom 2.0 is a Ning group (somewhat like Facebook) that connects educators across the world with support and PD. Ustream is a tool that we are using today, and I often share or view sessions being broadcast spontaneously from different parts of the world.

  • On Facebook, I am connected to over 1100 people. These are old friends, family, current students, former students, and professional contacts. I use Facebook to provide a lifestream. It aggregates many of my activities into one place. And, it is a place I use often to communicate with professionals and students.

    It is often a bit surreal to speak to professionals down the hall, or across the world, while managing chats with high school friends, family, current and former students. It really challenges you in some ways to create a much more wholly consistent self.

  • And because I am a regular presenter, I share all of my slide decks through a service called Slideshare. These are very easy to post, and you can also view many other presenters from other people who have shared. And, these can be shared in this service under a Creative Commons license scheme.

  • The next section of this presentation looks at how we can design for openness. These are some of the steps I took in my own courses.

  • What does each of these spaces imply for learning?
    What are the limitations of each? What are the social affordances?

  • Social networks have always existed. However, it is only recently that we have technological affordances to connect to more people and groups, and to leverage existing and future relationships.

    This is my dad, peer 21, in 1956. This is one of the very few photographs I have of my dad before the age of 40. I have thousands of photos of my kids, before they have each turned 1 year old.

    I’ve often looked at this photo and thought, what if this photo had been taken in the Facebook era? This singular, isolated photo would come alive in a sense, becoming a link to many other rich experiences, lives of individuals, lifestreams. The affordances of social networks give us a sense of richness and detail where we have only previously assumed so or imagined.
  • Media have always been important influences on our social structures. In Understanding Media, McLuhan classifies the lightbulb as media. However, the difficulty in understanding the lightbulb as media was that it seems devoid of content.

    Question: Which is a more social form of media - the lightbulb, or the iPhone?
  • And this was the trailer created for my Grad course. To advertise a course to Twitter and one’s blog was very new at the time. I wanted to create a brand around my course, and around the model of open teaching. And I think, in some ways, I succeeded. However, this was due mostly to the hard work of my students and those in my network that embraced these learners.
  • When you move toward an “small tools loosely joined” approach, how do you keep track of student work? Also include “student group” in Tweetdeck.

  • New research shows that students are much more public more than they are private. Also, they tend to share things in different ways than our generation. What happens when sharing is by default? What are the implications for your teaching and learning environment?
  • What about designing for mobile devices, open vs. closed?
    Advantages or disadvantages of designing for each?
  • Note how messy the setup ... not for the faint of heart.
  • What is the impact of these visits content wise? Philosophically? In terms of connections for the course and students? What does it say about how one should interact? Who benefits? How does the group benefit?
  • And it is incredibly important that students are supported throughout the experience, always being aware of where they are on the spectrum from private to public, from closed to open.
  • - professional learning does not always have to be support by the institution, not always schedules, beyond just-in-time toward always-on PD.
    - educators as continuous learners
    - minutia and presence as social bonds
  • One of the metaphors I threw around and wrote a post was the network sherpa. I’ve heard learning concierge, navigator, etc.. All metaphors have limitations.

    But the metaphor is not really import. The search is. We have to continue to rethink, through analogy, metaphor, and practice, the emerging shape of teaching and learning.
  • And of course, the assessments are of importance. In a model like this, to say the least, assessments are tricky ... and will continue to be tricky. How do you assess so much of what is going on in a distributed format?

  • First, we wanted to make sure that the assignments were meaningful to students. Students created a webfolio. They introduced themselves (to the web) via Youtube videos (when ready). They use social media to learn social media. In most cases, they would then take this directly into their practice.
  • If students were interested in particular topics they learned about, we’d find someone that would help us learn about it. We had enough flexibility that would could do those types of things. We weren’t restricted to a very tight curriculum and that is a wonderful affordance. Here, an expert is giving us a tour of Second Life.
  • We also mentored classrooms in the undergraduate course with Dean Shareski.
    Over 30 classrooms to choose from.
    And of course, students also worked closely in their own communities.
  • And some of the benefits coming from the research include:
  • And here are a couple of typical quotes straight from students re: the class extending well beyond the typical time-served model of education.
  • And here is one from last year re: transformation. There have been many of these. Posted through formal interviews, and things we see through Twitter. I also recently received an email from a student attesting to these same things, and she took the class more than a year ago.

    Photo Credit -

  • These are things we can do ... the personal learning network as a way of guiding much of this change is real, and it’s now. And I believe if you form one, you will have very little option but to move toward openness yourself. The experiences are truly transformative.

  • Open & Networked Teaching: A Transformative Journey

    1. Open & Networked Teaching: A Transformative Journey WIAOC 2009 Dr. Alec Couros 05/23/09
    2. #wiaoc09
    3. who is this guy?
    4. open courses
    5. toward openness
    6. knowledge
    7. shifts in edtech Group growth Individual growth Objectivism Cognitivism Constructivism (Leinonen) (Schwier) Social Learning
    8. key questions • what is k? • how is k acquired? • how do we know what we know? • why do we know what we know? • what do humans know? • who controls k? • how is k controlled?
    9. forms of openness open education free software open source software open educational resources open content open access publication open access courses open teaching open accreditation
    10. influences
    11. broadcast/narrowcast
    12. open content, access, publication, accreditation available knowledge how we view learning - institutional & informal
    13. social reading
    14. personal learning
    15. my blog, my hub
    16. photo sharing
    17. video sharing
    18. connecting via music
    19. spontaneous pd
    20. social networks
    21. slide decks
    22. designing 4 openness
    23. social affordance?
    24. lightbulb vs. ipod
    25. open invitations
    26. open invitations
    27. distributed conversations
    28. sharing by default
    29. locked-in/locked-out iphone vs. g1
    30. day in the life
    31. expert visits
    32. support Private Public Closed Open
    33. professional learning
    34. searching 4 metaphors
    35. assessments
    36. contextual, authentic
    37. student-driven
    38. outreach
    39. sustained community benefits transformative experiences gained technical skills media literacies move toward openness empathy toward new literacies greater community
    40. “I was able to go out and learn throughout the entire week, the entire year, and I’m still learning with everyone.” “The best part of the course is that it’s not ending. With the connections we’ve built, it never has to end.”
    41. “The course ... has been the most profound pd experience I’ve ever had. It forced me to critique & review my practice. I never knew how important social networks were. Now, I couldn’t be a teacher without being connected. It’s drastically changed my view of education.”
    42. I can haz pln adapt
    43. Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time. ~Tagore web: twitter: courosa google: couros