Build the Network, Learn to Think, Learn to Relate: Bring the Network to Life.

Those are just some of the notes I took at last month’s Emerging Technologies for Online Learning International Symposium.  These words are from a keynote given by Joel Thierstein, who echoed the many themes of the future of education we have heard time and again in education media. While what he said was not new, he painted a comprehensive picture of how OER, badges, and civic engagement (that’s right!) are beginning to come together in the emerging landscape of global education to provide powerful, self-actualized paths for learners to actualize their goals, both professional and personal. (He also incorporated pictures from NASA throughout his presentation, which was pretty awesome). I am especially excited to see the concepts of civic engagement and digital literacies show up as a set of competencies that can and should be effectively integrated into education today.

The conference also converged around the constructivist model of learning, stressing the experiential opportunities we now have through digital technologies to reach learners in asynchronous settings, from Telluride to Taipei. To me, this is one of the most powerful aspects of the MELO 3D project that I was in Las Vegas to talk about. By building a community from the ground up faculty, graduate students, and staff of the MELO project have become a powerful example of transformation in the classroom through open practices. The combination of two years of experience with finding and developing LOs, a strong, supportive cohort of faculty, the comfort to experiment, and strong staff support have been very effective. Faculty from this project are focused on their students in the classroom, providing them with the opportunity to engage, reflect and share in a supported environment. It’s been a great pleasure to work with the MELO 3D team and LSA over the past year and we received a lot of positive feedback from those who attended our session. I think the power of this project lies in its holistic perspective: not only do you have resources being created, but they are actively being used, assessed and updated to reflect student needs. We see the philosophies, techniques, and training that went into the development of these resources as well as the contexts in which they are being used and the learning outcomes that illustrate their impact. With this project, others can not only see the outcomes, but see and use the materials that were generated from it. For us, we have scaled this project to include work from six different disciplines. We’re not a MOOC (social is hard to scale) but we’ve become a robust community of practice. Oh yeah, and we won a few awards for our presentations at this conference. That was pretty awesome, too.

It was refreshing to see other members of the education community teaching their peers about incorporating OER, Creative Commons licensing and open practices into every day practices. Victoria Stay (American Military University) gave a thoughtful workshop on assessing OER, incorporating the American Library Association’s comprehensive information literacy standards into the assessment of OERs. Students lack research acumen, Stay said, for framing an inquiry in the digital age where information abounds and intellectual discovery is overwhelming for them:. These are both academic research and personal research challenges. While her presentation was on the advanced side of assessment, the tools  she provided to the audience will be useful starting points for many teachers looking to develop their own literacies around successfully finding and using OERs in the classroom.

Another engaging session I attended was given by University of Central Florida’s Amy Sugar and Baiyun Chen, two instructional designers from the Center for Distributed Learning at the University of Central Florida. They introduced the audience to OERs, from the Creative Commons licenses to showcasing the collection of resources they have created to serve their faculty community in Florida. Their comprehensive collection of OERs can be found on their Diigo collection: http://www.diigo.com/list/onlineucf/repository

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