how the #slnsolsummit impacted me… a new life in the twitter stream???

I had started my college career in computer science (back in the day) – working on a terminal attached to a mainframe (yes, I am that old) – programming in a hefty, syntax laden language.  I didn’t stay with computers at that time, but instead transferred to education, yet I have always been drawn to instructional design and creative endeavors.  My first masters is about 30-40% instructional development, and my current doctoral work includes a set of “allied” courses all in media, technology, and instructional design.  I even plan to earn a CGS in online learning along the way to my doctorate in literacy.  Anyway, I recently became more involved in the instructional design side of my interests and have been enjoying the opportunity to  intern at SLN.  The opportunity allows me to explore the world of online design and issues related to higher education – to  get a taste of the bigger picture that is online teaching and learning.  I intend to teach online as some point, hopefully in the near future, but I would also love to work designing instructional environments and have returned to studies of that sort recently too.  But, I’m off-track; my point was going to be that I haven’t been very connected in my relationship with media (as described in Alec Couros’ presentation).  I spent 10 or 11 years homeschooling my daughter due to her special needs, and have been so busy between work and the return to grad school, that I really haven’t developed the kind of relationship with media that Alec shared.  My use is primarily utilitarian and the sort of exploration described by Alec had always seemed too frivolous in comparison.  So you can imagine how I must have felt to have my eyes opened to how this more recreational side of the internet could be such a powerful educational space, not just a play space (although it is a very playful way to learn), how it could really enhance overall quality of life.  I just might decide to explore and interact with media in new ways.  I think that might be the key take away for me –  the realization of the dynamic movement of life in the twitter stream.  As I watched the group create a notes document in real time, collaboratively, during the Unsession, and as I experienced the interactive add on of having a twitter stream open during Anne Derryberry’s presentation, it dawned on me how very much media mediated interaction has changed the very flow of life.  I felt like I could see a flow of tweets floating on the air through the passage of time; I could see how the opportunity to engage the twitter stream is fluid and very much in the present; I could see how sending an email would be too late.  I was swept up by the sense of movement and speed within the twitter stream (and here I am using this metaphorically for all kinds of e-mediated interaction) and think it might be time to join the plugged in community, get the data plan, monitor my twitter and FB accounts,etc….. to be connected in the moment, not later through more static forms like email or forum posts.  Even as I blogged furiously all weekend about this summit, I felt that it was too late.  Hopefully, my thoughts will be read and engaged by others.  I will probably never know.  But as Alec Couros pointed out – it is better to gift and share one’s thinking with the world.  I don’t know for sure, but this experience – the SLN SOL summit – may have changed me in a big way.

diving deeper into the #slnsolsummit… part 6 – Sean Duncan on affinity spaces and gaming culture…

As I look back at my notes jotted down quickly during the summit, I am realizing that much of what I was thinking at the time I have already expressed within the previous posts.  The topics and thoughts spawned by each presentation were furthered by, and/or answered by subsequent presentations.  However, in the moment I recall thinking that this presentation had addressed many of the thoughts I was having during the other presentations, bringing out important nuances that I felt were very important, and that were tumbling around in my head.  Sean Duncan spoke about the nature of affinity spaces (as envisioned by Gee) and the nature of interaction within the gaming culture associated with games.  He connected to Lave as well; I believe he was referring to Lave’s thinking (with Wenger) about Legitimate Peripheral Participation as a learning space.  Sean noted the essence of affinity spaces as meaningful communities, interest driven, and participatory.  The idea is to avoid using gaming and badging as simply a technology, a vehicle, a gimmic, but rather initiatives need to be aimed at creating the experience, the culture, the essence of affinity spaces.  I think this is critical and it was something that kept surfacing for me throughout the summmit, so I was thrilled to when Sean put it out there.  When he began to talk about determining how people interact within affinity spaces and the nature of the culture and how it evolves around the game, I became intrigued and began once again to think of studies that might be possible.  I could see a cross sectional or longitudinal study that could focus on a descriptive account of the essence of affinity spaces; it might even be possible to theorize relationships within an affinity space based on analysis across descriptive accounts of the evolution and sustenance of several affinity groups.  I would find that fascinating and potential informative for designing educational spaces that could be seeds from which affinity spaces may organically grow.  I did not have a conversation with Sean at the summit in which I could share my thought, but perhaps he or someone else has already thought of it or will see it here.  Food for thought and a reminder to me nonetheless.  Affinity spaces are much bigger than the game itself and have a multi-faceted life of their own.  I wonder though if trying to design them for education will succeed or fail.  I wonder if something of the essence is absent when intention gets involved in the process.  I wonder if things like badging will help support and sustain participation or if incentivizing these spaces will harm the intrinsic motivation that drives these spaces in their organic form.  Hmmm…..  so many thoughts.

diving deeper into the #slnsolsummit… part 5 – the IITG panel presentation…

The IITG panel shared its current project on scalable collaborative infrastructures for immersive environments in STEM – basically how to create environments that draw on gaming principles to promote learning in science, technology, engineering and math.  More information should be available at The presentation touched on the impact of immediate feedback, acknowledging achievements via badging, and the phenomenon of emerging self-generated affinity spaces.  Also mentioned was the draw and deeper learning associated with trying on identities associated with the topic within the game space.  This aligns with, and brought to mind, ideas put forth by Vygotsky, Dewey, and Gee.  I won’t get into that today though.  The presentation prompted my thinking and I began to wonder what consideration had been given to date on the visual aspects of the interface; how would it be created to engage learners?  What special effects would be embedded?  Was graphic design being looked at as a key variable?  I wondered about the socio-cultural aspects of engaging the learner as well; how would the environment ( the contexts, the scenarios, the characters, etc…) be relatable to learners?  What would the connections be to the learners reality?  How would a relatable match be planned for?  It has been shown that often in education we consider a narrow definition of the student, of what counts as literacy, what counts as learning.  We currently are driven in education by a testing and accountability philosophy that focuses on measurable standards.  How do we connect to the multiplicity of student backgrounds and real world experiences?  Will immersive environments be appealing to only some students?  I worry sometimes that ideas from gaming are utilized as a gimmic to hook learners, as an artificial motivator; I think that sort of implementation would fail to really get at the essence of Gee’s ideas on how gaming can inform instructional planning, how learning principles embedded within gaming could be authentically harnessed for intentional learning purposes.  I wondered if this panel’s plan was to create one content specific game environment or a more global learning environment in which characters (avatars) would be created and maintained across content quests.  I could see that as having great potential.  Students could develop their characters and acquire abilities along the way; they would have to rely on fellow students and the abilities they have acquired to succeed in the quest.  The quest could be a problem based scenario that would require varied kinds of research into the topic area; fellow questers would have to gather and share information to help solve the posed problem, developing concepts, vocabulary, and deeper meaning along the way – a truly constructivist endeavor.  It will be interesting to see how this project develops and what choices the panel makes along the way.

diving deeper into the #slnsolsummit… part 4 – Alec Couros on personal relationships with media…

This session was exciting, entertaining, and inspirational.  Alec Couros spoke on the topic of personal relationships with media and the informal education people can acquire on the internet.  Like Eric Stoller’s presentation, this presentation was highly visual, lots of video clips to make points come alive.  I was impressed by the possibilities, by the creativity, by the playfulness, by the self-actualization and satisfaction that can found through our relationships with media.  Alec shared some really well done remixes and parodies as well as stories of people collaborating playfully across the internet and others learning from YouTube how to videos.  The pieces shared were thought-provoking, humorous, and transformative.  His main point was that people can, and are, learning a great deal informally over the internet. People are creating and interacting within Personal Learning Networks – a personal web of multiple connections to information and individuals across the internet, from which we can better ourselves through sharing what we know and learning from what others know.  Alec used a phrase I had never heard before – “gift culture”.  I don’ t know if he coined it or borrowed it, but it basically refers to the idea that it is better to share information and reach others than to control information for personal gain.  By sharing what we have come to know freely on the internet and making our learning visible to others, we can impact and influence more people; our ideas can become bigger than our own capacity to grow them.  They can be taken up by others with similar interests who might be able to further them and share them with others who may be able to do so as well.  Who knows where an idea shared will lead and to what end it might serve for humanity.  I think Alec’s presentation underscored a societal – global – interdependence.  I think it made me consider the value of social connection and generosity in boosting one’s quality of life, in boosting the quality of the human experience overall.  I came away with a sense of shared journeys through life, of an openness that transcends one’s local space.  It’s hard to put into words, but it is sense of joy, optimism, and potential, of creativity, exploration, and discovery, of growth and self-satisfaction, of connection and reaching new heights, a sense of possibility.  Profound possibilities.


diving deeper into the #slnsolsummit… part 3 – Eric Stoller on student affairs…

Loved Eric’s presentation!  Loved the image laden format for the slides!  A picture seems to convey so much more than text and bullets.  Loved Eric’s snarky and playful manner.  I think it really allowed him to touch on tricky topics, make poignant points, and be well received.  His presentation focused on the need for collaboration and integration of efforts between student affairs and online learning programs.  He emphasized that the prize to focus on is student success; he sees advising as a key to that success; he notes coordination of financial aid and career services as other important features.  He suggested a generalist of sorts who could help students across these domains – academic advising, financial aid navigation, and career services.  He suggested that the online community forge the way to bring the student affairs community into the tech revolution, to begin the process of integrating the efforts of the two communities.  I especially appreciated his mention of higher ed’s narrow definition of “student” – this I think is critical.  I am interested in opening up new world for marginalized populations – my area is literacy, but the idea for me pervades society, in this case the world of higher ed.  I firmly believe that the students who fall outside of the narrow definition of a higher ed student need a sherpa into the world of higher ed.  For many, their life experiences, even their educational experiences, do not match the discourses and practices expected in higher ed programs.  As Bourdieu would say, these students do not have a habitus that serves as capital within those social fields.  Wow!  That’s a mouthful!  In a nutshell, there is a misfit between what they know and have experienced and what is being asked and expected of them.  For many, there needs to be a bridge between the two socio-cultural worlds and a guide to help students cross.  I think it would be beneficial for advisors to become sensitized to the experience of students who exist outside the narrow definition of “student”, students who are crossing into uncharted territory, perhaps even cross class boundaries, perhaps the first in their families to go to college.  It’s a foreign world for them; they don’t necessarily have the background knowledge and experience to succeed even though they clearly have the intelligence, resourcefulness, and diligence needed.  I would like to encourage Eric and others to keep bringing that issue to the table.  I was so moved by this thought that I was compelled to drop Eric a quick note about it.  It was a little disappointing that, on this day, this important point wasn’t one of the points that was noticed and questioned further by attendees during the Q&A, perhaps it will be noticed and developed further as an area that may be addressed to successfully boost and bolster students on their higher ed journeys.

diving deeper into the #slnsolsummit… part 2 – Greg Ketchem on Learning Analytics…

Greg Ketchem’s presentation focused on the potentials of learning analytics:

  • monitoring student participation, especially at-risk students
  • providing adaptive learning, individualizing instruction based on learner’s unique level of attainment or skill array
  • assessing prior learning and pre-requisites, allowing for targeted refreshers when indicated
  • customizing content presentation for varied learners’ learning styles and preferences
  • improving courses based on analytics data and trends.

During this presentation I felt myself wander off on flights of fancy, considering how cool it would be if learning analytics could be harness in real time to match students with optimal learning contexts (environments, activities, content presentation, practice questions, prompts,etc….).  If learning analytics could be synced to work with a nonlinear course designed through learning activity menus based on learning style theory and multiple intelligence theory – universal design theory.  In essence, the course would be created as a set of if-then loops (yes, I am dating myself with such programming terms), that connect to pre-determined learning activity menus, then pre-course surveys could help set the student up with content presentation preferences and learning activity matches that might best meet their unique learning needs.  For example, perhaps each module could be set up as a grid with learning styles across the top and intelligences down the side (see Silver, Strong & Perini for an example).  Learning activity options could be planned for each of the boxes in the grid and presented within the the LMS interface using principles of UDL.  Students could be guided to the most appropriate matches along the way.  This is of course a rough thought as it rolled out of my head while listening to Greg.  No doubt there are lots of bugs in this thought, but perhaps it’s a seed idea that sparks further thinking for others.  I have a real interest in serving multiplicities of learners through multiplicities of modalities based on multiplicities of ways of being, ways of thinking, ways of interacting in the world.  I want to open up learning potentials for everyone and promote greater access and improved quality of life for greater numbers and varieties of individuals.  I think we need to promote celebration of diversity in all its forms and genuine appreciation of people for who they are, for the shared human experience we live.

diving deeper into the #slnsolsummit…part 1 – the OER Panel presentation…

There were several sessions at the summit that really sparked my thinking; in some cases, I was even compelled to make contact with the presenter to share my thoughts.  Below I share some of that thinking.

The OER101 panel shared how it developed and is implementing a MOOC on creating and using Open Educational Resources.  They have set it up as a non-linear, self-paced series of pursuits on concepts related to Open Educational Materials.  They shared their logistical process of collaborative course development and their conceptual thinking; they explained their choice to use badging throughout the course and the choice to keep the course open ended – that is, start whenever you want and keep going as long as you want; there is no official start or end date.  Surprisingly, there is interaction embedded within the course and the opportunity to form social networks within the course.  These are fluid and variable opportunities.  During the presentation, I began to wonder about the great opportunity this particular MOOC has to study the dynamics of a MOOC.  It is a large course, between 500 and 600 participants, but a fairly small MOOC really.  Large enough to make a quantitative study feasible  aimed at demonstrating statistically significant relationships, yet small enough to be manageable.  A mixed methods study would be designed to examine both the quantifiable relationships between different aspects of the course and also the qualitative participant experience of the course. It would be quite interesting for example to design a cross sectional, mixed methods study including first a survey study of the course participants to identify key  patterns of interaction within the course, that would be followed by purposive sampling of the pool of participants to engage in an interview study, a  more in-depth look at the experience of the participants as they moved through the course, tapping the quality and nuances of the experience.  It would also be possible to analyze data collected on the MOOC at one point in time, but then to examine participants at different stages in the experience – those having just joined, those having completed one or two pursuits, those who are near completion of the course, those who continue to return and participate even after completion.  In this manner a flow or cycle of the experience can be depicted without actually spending the time to complete a longitudinal observational study, which by the time it was completed would likely be outdated as technological innovations and improvements seem to move too fast for such time-intensive examination.  I think it would be possible to theorize a life cycle for a MOOC.  It seems that there is a great opportunity here for research that might answer the question of the utility of a MOOC design for more instructional programming.  I was fortunate enough to get to speak with Mark McBride briefly about the possibilities for study of OER101.  You never know if your thoughts will help someone with their thinking about the things that matter to them, but they have no chance of sparking anything if they aren’t shared.

brief and broad before diving deeper into #slnsolsummit…

This entry will briefly comment on most of the sessions at the SLN SOL SUMMIT.  My intent is to dive deeper into a few of the sessions that really sparked my thinking in separate posts that I will generate over the next day or two, but here I’d like to comment on the many other fine presentations from the summit and encourage any viewers/readers to check out the sessions that sound like a good fit for their areas of interest.  Session recordings can be found at

SUNY Chancellor, Nancy Zimpher, spoke about the recent SUNY initiatives entitled “Power of SUNY” and “Open SUNY” focusing on a vision that moves beyond filling up the enrollment ranks in SUNY’s system, by creating a more seemless coordination between campuses in order to promote and facilitate Access, Completion, and Success for a wider range of students.  She mentioned several initiatives that have been in place aimed at these goals that I hadn’t been aware of previously.  The general idea seems to be a focus on “systemness” that would allow for greater flexibility and efficiency in supporting students into successful career placement.  It sounds like a very ambitious vision with many admirable goals – reduction of financial burden, increase in experiential learning, flexibility of credit transfer, and coordination of degree audit and advising.  This will likely be no easy task; I wonder how individual campuses will respond.  Will there be buy-in or resistance?  Will issues of autonomy arise with the centralization needed for “systemness”?  Will students and faculty find these efforts facilitative and supportive?

David Lavalle (provost) and Carey Hatch (associate provost) followed-up on the chancellor’s message by addressing some of the details and questions about the vision as they pertain to online programming – such as coordination of degree audits, financial aid issues, logistics of collaborative degrees, consolidation of support resources, movement to a consistent platform for instruction, and shifts in local autonomy.  Clearly, it’s a very complex network of departments and issues to address in order to create a dynamic system.  I will be interested in seeing how it evolves.

Lori Palmer, SLN Help Desk services, shared and demonstrated the recently piloted Live Chat Concierge and Student Commons available to some students.  It appears to be a central location with links to supports that students may find helpful as they travel on their higher ed journey.  The inclusion of a Live Chat space to confer with a help professional seems to be a successful experiment.  This feature is now available for prospective students (if I heard that correctly) at It might be worth a deeper look when I get some free time.

John Sowash, a certified Google trainer, presented overviews of several Google tools for educators, including tools for collaborating on documents, surveying participants, sharing and managing collaboration, rating and ranking questions submitted in real time, web conferencing and recording meetings, researching scholarly literature, mining data for trends, and other tools for discipline specific applications.  Clearly Google has alot of tools to offer, but there does seem to be some question about which ones are worth investing time in, and how to ensure the tools will persists, and how to coordinate smooth integration of tools with other tools and platforms being used.  I wonder how faculty find the time to investigate all of these options given their required workload for teaching, advising, and publishing.  How might technological curation be made more convenient and efficient for faculty?  Perhaps we need to think about that aspect as well as how to ensure smooth and efficient student experiences.  Hmmm….

A wide variety of attendees shared information and ideas from their programs during the Unsession.  Many interesting ideas and thought-provoking comments were made.  Notes generated during the session can be found at

Jim Groom presented on the concept of Openness and designing for open educational experiences.  He indexed the very important socio-political aspects of educational initiatives and commercialism, then dove into ideas related to getting students’ work out into the public spaces and making it more authentically theirs to own and share.  He talked about providing domains and web space for students to keep beyond their courses (and presumably beyond their degrees); he talked about e portfolios and the importance of the learning  context for the learning itself; he talked about tools outside of the LMS.  What I found potentially powerful was the reach that could be attained through more open cyberspaces for student work, such as receiving feedback from a well-known, well-respected professional.  The impact of that sort of thing could be far greater than feedback from instructors or even peers; widening the audience increases authenticity and opens up a wide range of potentials.  I wonder though about the wide range of problems that can be raised as well especially when connected with the responsibility of academic institutions to protect students.  Would these option pose any real threat, or would any criticism that arises be simply over-protection?  I think fleshing that out a bit would yield some interesting debates.

Rebecca Petersen of edX spoke about the start-up she is part of and the MOOC movement.  She identified several pros and cons of utilizing MOOCs for educational purposes.  She spoke to issues of management, universal design, teacher presence, auto feedback, gaming elements, community, student satisfaction, assessment and credentialing, and tech support.  It sounds to me like there are some excellent benefits for self-education and life-long learning, but I wonder how tenable MOOCs will be for formal programs with verified credentials.  How can such large numbers of students be “verified” as having met course objectives?  How to ensure quality and integrity of the degree at the end of the line?  What role might that play?  I wonder if perhaps the initiatives in prior learning assessment and credentialing can be married with MOOCs to try to address such issues.  Hmmm….

Karen Vignare shared international initiatives in the area of agriculture focused on Open Ed Resources, Open Research Data, and Active Learning.  She talked about a MOOC called Metro Ag, the FSKN (Food Safety Knowledge Network), and AgShare.  I found these to be interesting efforts, even though not  within my range of professional interest; I found  value in exploring ideas related to the state of these sociological issues surrounding the basic needs of us all.

Anne Derryberry shared her perspective on badging and gaming as a way to document and credentialize “off-transcript” learning and demonstrate self-development that may be relevant to sought after workplace skills.  She explained the hierarchy of badging as a process for such – that individual badges are part of clusters within a course or program, that these clusters may be part of a larger system of badges that represent some larger learning outcome, and that these systems can be managed through a badging platform.  At this point, to me, it sounds like another layer of work superimposed upon the learning.  I’m not sure how well it will be taken up.  I am interested in watching that evolve or fizzle out.  I think badging could serve a very useful purpose for documenting informal learning and practical skills that people have developed, but I think it would be necessary to find a way for the system to carry clout, to be substantial, to serve as capital, to mean something beyond the setting in which the badges were earned.  I think it needs to be more respected and portable than it currently seems at this point in time – definitely something to watch.

I hope  this brief survey of the summit will be useful and perhaps a little thought-provoking.  Perhaps it has helped to guide a viewer/reader to some information on their topics of interest, and perhaps encouraged them to view the sessions at the link provided earlier in this entry.  As for me, the sessions that most provoked my thinking in my areas of interest will be shared in the next few entries to be posted over the next day or two.

the first of many on #slnsolsummit….

I just returned from the 14th annual SLN SOL SUMMIT.  I was sponsored to attend the event by SLN and am thrilled to have had the experience!  The summit is an annual gathering of the SUNY online learning community of practice, a form of professional development, and an invaluable networking opportunity.  It facilitates the establishment and evolution of professional learning networks as well as professional practice networks and supportive communities of instructional designers.  The summit this year included presentations by the all of the following people and groups, and the recordings of the sessions are available at  I highly recommend a visit or two to this site to view the sessions:  (I apologize in advance for any misspelled names below.)


  • Nancy Zimpher (chancellor of SUNY) on the value of a college education and the importance of Access, Completion, and Success
  • David Lavalle (provost) and Carey Hatch (associate provost) on the move toward Systemness within the SUNY system
  • OER Panel on the recently launched OER101 Mooc about Open Educational Resources and related matters of importance
  • Lori Palmer (SLN help specialist) on the Student Commons and Live Chat Concierge
  • Greg Ketchem (FACT/LATG) on the state of learning analytics and their utility for enhancing online learning programs
  • John Sowash (Google trainer) on the variety of tools for educators available through Google’s apps for educators


  • Eric Stoller on the need for integration and collaboration between student affairs and online learning program implementation
  • Varied attendees sharing out about their programs at the Unsession
  • Jim Groom on what it means to be Open
  • Rebecca Petersen (edX) on the edX start-up and reimagining education with MOOCs
  • Alec Couros on people’s personal relationships with media, self-education, and the concept of gift culture
  • Karen Vignare on what openness means on an international scale within the field of agricultural education


  • IITG Panel on a grant funded study of gaming designs for scalable collaborative creation of immersive environments for learners
  • Anne Derryberry on badging, badging systems, and badging platforms
  • Sean Duncan on organic affinity spaces and the value of exploring how they work and how they might be designed for purposive instructional outcomes

Thanks to all of the presenters and event organizers for making this a very enjoyable and educational summit.

While I greatly enjoyed all of the presentations and certainly learned a good deal over the last three days, I have highlighted the three sessions that resonated most for me and my interests – the need for seemlessness and collaboration that assists online students in their successful immersion and completion in higher education, the nature of more and more people educating themselves through information and/or technology shared and explored on the internet, and the life and organic evolution of interactions, inquiry, and discovery within online affinity spaces.  More on all of these and each of these days of learning in upcoming entries.  Find out what others had to say by searching #slnsolsummit on twitter!