Should teaching/learning be this fun? Heck yeah. Yesterday, my blog brothers Jim “Click” Groom and Howard “Embed” Rheingold launched the first live session for Connected Courses and open connected course about teaching open connected courses (see recursion).

The first two week segment we, the Connected Brothers, are running is the “Pre-course” meant to onboard people, to have them set up their blog space and connect it to the course hub, but mainly to have them just start connecting.

And they have- the twitter channel is lively, and we have as of right now, 104 blogs connected in. I have to say, this round of getting the blog signup pumped into Feed WordPress is getting a much higher success rate than my earlier efforts. It still takes some manual banging on the pipes, but its going smoothly. Of course all the known kids are snortling about the way grandpa syndicates, but hey, we go it flowing.

We discussed in the video, but is worth repeating- the WordPress / FeedWordPress Syndication hub approach we are use in ds106 and on Connected Courses and I have been building in other places is just one means to create a connected courses structure. Other ways this has been done:

  • The original Canadian MOOC style (cMOOC) of CCK08 onward using Stephen Downse’s gRSSHopper
  • The far reaching success of Jonathan Worth’s PicBod and Phonar courses has really simple interaction via WordPress blogs and using the comments as the communication channel (later using a Google+ community)
  • Lisa M Lane has used almost every platform for the Program For Online Teaching course including WordPress, Google Sites, and Google+ (I think, correct me Lisa?)
  • FemTechNet is truly a network across multiple platforms, from blog sites to Google+ to Facebook groups

It’s not the platform that matters, it’s the connected design.

Our theme of Blog Talk, we played with a bit of shtick as a knock off of NPR’s show Car Talk:


And my brothers played it up well, mostly staying in character. While it looked like we were having fun, there is something important about the “liveness” of an event like that, what Jim sometimes called “eventness” that you lose when your online course is based on prepared videos. It does not truly replace the live nature of an engaged class discussion, you do not have all of the body language clues, but you can create some of that energy through a tool like Google Hangouts and a twitter back channel.

We come back on September 12 at 2pm Pacific, and will talk more about blogging, domains, and if anyone want to drive their blog in the garage, we will give it the 10 point inspection (free!).

As included in the end of the show, we give staff credits (again, imitation=highest form of flattery, ok NPR?)

  • Graphic Critic- Phyllis Steen
  • Personality Coach – Luke Warm
  • Printing – Dot Matrix
  • Strategic Planning – Kaye Sera
  • Howard’s Wardrobe – Lotty Rheinstone
  • Code Genius – Gene Hackman
  • Translation Services – Somtin Wong

And do not forget- don’t blog like my brother!

See youse next week,


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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


    1. It’s been great watching POT Cert shape shift, grow, add. test features. etc from the beginning. Lisa models what can be done with apps and free platforms at hand.

      Laura Gibbs at OU is another. Although her online courses are small, content is open. This year she re-tooled her homemade course platform, compiled her own un-textbook and found new uses Ino reader features — all blogged

      Recently, as part of OU’s Domain of One’d Own, Laura started a new blog, Anatomy of an Online Course,

      As someone who has done farm/ranch work, repaired busted you-name-it, (and driven a lot of junkers), I stand in awe of their inventive duct tape engineering. Just following both of them is a course in how to build an online course with whatever is free and at hand.

    1. Hi Roland- I’ve done now maybe 7 sites as aggregation hubs using WordPress. You will find the writeups at

      This again is not the only route. It is really easy to create a hosted hub with a service like Netvibes, which has a way of creating a dashboard for a lot of things. A new option on the scene that Laura Gibbs has been demonstrating well is Inoreader, a new feed reader that seems to have picked up the features the Google abandoned in its own (dead) Reader [moment of silence, damn you Google, damn you].

  1. Count me in for the huge connected brothers fan club.

    Now that I’ve connected my blog and am part of connected courses in action, I finally get what this “domain of one’s own” fuss is about that you guys have been ranting about. I got in in theory but now I really get it. Yeah, yeah, I know – experiential learning and all that. I love how the blog syndication process enacts through the tech integration the social and learning theory that we are all about. Meeting people where they are, building networks effects, peer-to-peer learning, emergent reputation etc etc. It makes my anthropologist of technology heart go pitter patter.

    So one question I have is about the attention management and segmentation as this thing starts to scale up. Given that this is all feeding into one twitter hashtag and one aggregated blog feed that’s becoming a bit of a firehose, what are strategies for managing attention? I see that there are some categories attached to the feed (thanks @corousa) based on participants, facilitators and organizers.

    Any tech tips for the equivalent of filtering, tagging, up voting, following etc? Help me tune my feed Link!

    1. Thanks Mimi- your Connected Brothers Fan Kit should be in the mail. Just be careful with the grease gun.

      It does seem one of those many things that does not really make itself meaningful in the talk and writing about it, but experiencing it directly. That said, it gets messy and uncontainable.

      Some strategies I can suggest, but also keep in mind they might not apply across the board of all kinds of connected courses:

      • Give up keeping up and following everything. No one can do it. When you start, the syndication flow firehose might be something you can monitor by scanning, but as you notice, it keeps getting turned up to 11^11. This is a challenge as a teacher/facilitator where you feel responsible to be aware of all that is going on. But that is what the connected participants provide for you, it sheds the responsibility from one or a small number of leaders and spreads it out. Let the participants help you filter. That said, it differs on course. When we teach ds106, we give high priority and attention to the activity of our registered students (usually one section size), and then secondary to the open. It’s a different from many MOOCs and even this course because in the way we do it, the experience for the registered students is into strictly replicated for the open ones.
      • Columnize the Tweets I almost never look at my twitter activity on the web site. It’s insane. Something I learned from Alec ( was a way to follow thousands of twitter accounts but not read them all. It’s the Shirky approach of using filters. I live by Tweetdeck, where I can segment by twitter into meaningful slices by search term- so I have one for #ccourses but could easily add more for combining the tag with specific keywords that interest me, like “#ccourses AND pedagogy” etc. My own strategy is I have a list of people who I find I’d rather follow their tweets above the nose of others, so I have a list of maybe 100 accounts that seem to provide regular quality tweets (people like Jim Groom, Maha Bali, etc).
      • RSS Reader FTW Despite various death reports, the hatchet job of a beautiful tool by Google, my RSS Reader is the single most important way to get sense out of the firehose. Like Alec suggested, you can get RSS feeds from the categories set up on the site, though that will still be a lot to muddle through. We could (and can) add other kinds of filters, but I did not figure out other ways we could have grouped feeds (could be by region? by people at the same institution?) In the site this is a matter in Feed WordPress of adding categories to certain blogs. There is a new tool called Inoreader that looks like it has many of the features Google killed; like making batches of feeds, and marking them as favorites. Laura Gibbs a University of Oklahoma is doing some neat work with that pushing content to her blog and a wikispaces site.

        But there is something I forgot to add to the site that I will do today- a link that generates an OPML file for all syndicated sites. This is a file format that is an index of all feeds. This can be imported into an RSS Reader so the feeds are collected at the group level (all syndicated blogs) but are also broken down by source, so it allows me to scan, say all posts by Mia Zamora or Kevin Hodgson). So when I am teaching ds106, I make a feed collection of just my student blogs. The reader allows me quickly to see what is new, who posted it, and I can scan posts. For ones I want to comment, I can click on to do that (As an aside, one benefit of having students use wordpress is you can also subscribe to the comments on a student blog. I built an entire site to aggregate comments on the VCU Thoughtvectors site (a limit on blogs, other platforms do not provide RSS feeds for comments on a blog).

      • Other Filters I’ve experimented with other approaches, to more limited success. We can add a plugin to the site that allows “thumbs up” or favorite voting to posts, which might allow us to filter up content. The things is, not everybody reads the posts on the site, and the uptake on the few sites I have done this is minimal. Another thing admins on the site could do, and I thought might work for our units if the facilitators took this on, is to edit syndicated posts and check a category box for “featured” so we could collect featured posts as we go. It’s a manual step, and is essentially curation. But it hinges on people taking on this task. We might be able to find a way to collect all favorites #ccourses tweets, this might be a useful signal too.

      So there are some technical approaches we can try, I would not say all will work for all courses. I generally see mine as those airplanes built as you fly them, whereas your commercial MOOCs are usually pre-built models. But the key is accepting that the participants themselves will help in doing the reading, commenting, and messy curating.

      It takes a lot to give up that responsibility of monitoring everything, but it can set you free of Keeping Up Anxiety.

      1. This is unbelievably helpful. Maybe you need to consider a call-in format for blog talk to take on these thornier tune up problems for people just starting to look under the hood.

        This advice reminds me of what my buddies told me when I was about to attend my first SXSW. Common advice was to not overschedule or try to do a lot of advance planning to meet people, but to just crowd surf and trust in the power of serendipity in an already-curated crowd. It was the best advice I had, but one that was not part of my natural disposition as someone who prides myself on a very disciplined approach to managing attention and time.

        Maybe to the degree that the ccourses facilitators have time we can start to edit a greatest hits reel. I would put this comment of yours, and Alec’s tips forward as a candidate for elevating as “sticky” content on our site somehow… I am guessing I’m not the only one who is going to struggle with these issues.

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