Among the great lessons I got from my mentor Barbara Ganley was the idea of doing the same assignments assigned to, and along side, your students. In teaching writing at Middlebury College, she completed (and blogged, and syndicated blogs in 2001) the essays she assigned to her students. This too was an ethos I picked up in my early ds106 teaching at University of Mary Washington in parallel with Jim Groom and Martha Burtis. You may not be able to do all the work, but when it happened, I found it always helped tune assignments and it was more present to be in the creative mix of those class/communities. As Terry Greene noted, we are halfway through the Ontario Extend medium sized Open Online Course. Much of my time as half of the “Parts and Services” department has been organizing the content inside the edX host, updating mid-week as we added optional extras and small stretches, and spending a lot of time reading and responding to discussion forum posts (though I am way behind his stat of almost 1000 posts). I had the (maybe crazy) idea for the most recent module, Curator (we have the module content available outside the mOOC), to do the complete module myself, and being in the mix. While I could have blogged my bits like we see quite a few participants do, I opted for the secondary approach of keeping notes in a long sprawling Google Doc, which ultimately is what I submitted as “evidence” to get my badge. And I do have my badge. Somewhere. I was not in it for the badge, but wanted to go through all the steps. It can be a fair bit of work to do this 12+week experience, especially running on your own motivation. I likely overly documented my stuff but it ends up like blogging. The flexibility of Extend is sort of a choose your own level of participation; you can do the basics and get a badge. Or it can seed ideas that emerge later. And I don’t think the outcomes happen just by doing the activities (like by doing them I become a Curator), it’s more what you do with it later. Some miscellaneous notes on the module: I tend to think of content curation in the broad sense of the resources mentioned early (e.g. the Content Curation Primer from Beth Kanter or the stuff from Robin Good whom I’ve followed like forever), where you create many inputs for web content, filter, organize, and share. As my notes say, I am still doing social bookmarking as my main habit. The module is a bit aimed more at course content finding, getting people to look at collections of OERs and finding a few to organize. It’s not bad, and certainly valid for teachers.
  • Likewise, I was not clear why the module started with Creative Commons- not that it’s bad to introduce participants to it, as a number seemed to be new to hearing about it (still shocks me, but, shrug). And as usual it starts with explaining the licenses, which I always think is the wrong way in. I saw some discussion posts that seemed to indicate people thinking if something was not licensed, you could not use material (a good old fashioned link to copyrighted but web accessible content is kosher) (and also, copyright does not preclude reuse- you always have an option to request permission). I tossed in my usual stuff about always attributing and thinking of it as gratitude.
  • The Consider this activity is good jump in (it asks people to find open licensed image they can reuse) but they only suggested as places to look being flickr and Unsplash. As I added in notes and in the forums, there are quite a few more places to look (never overlook how much is in Wikimedia Commons).
  • What was good was I saw a lot of excitement over participants finding useful content, and collections thereof. It’s been a long time since I even visited MERLOT- heck I remember it from the days it was a project at CDL. It’s still quite excellent.
  • Even with the clunkiness of the edX forums, I’m impressed with the back and forth discussion/commentary by people active there. I’ve been doing some tracking of activity, and see an increase over the past few weeks from an average of 5 to 8 to more than 10 as and average number of posts per week (maybe we need to factor Terry out of the stats?) This is a big change from the previous iteration where the format was more choose your own path, syndicated blogging and twitter, and a goal to have more connectivity among participants. We have been trying to nudge them also to connect in Slack but the word we get is that many prefer having things in one site.
Mostly, the experience gave me more appreciation for what we are asking people to do for the modules. I did find that some of the instructions we had for the activities needed some more clarity on steps –this was where we had people contribute to a collaborative padlet. I do like the way a lot of the modules use some collaborative tools for the work, hopefully it generates some ideas for them how to use them for their own teaching. I think I will retire with my one badge. Do you ever do your own assignments?
Featured image by pixel2013 from Pixabay 
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An early 90s builder of the web 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.

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