Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Testing Blab On a Blog

So will talk about my experiments a bit later but for now just a quick link and embed to see which one works when I publish .



Sunday, November 29, 2015

Reflections: Here's A Gift Now Wait While We Party

The title sounds weird I know but I can't think of a better one. This is my attempt to put in written words my thoughts about the experiences I had  with the two songs created by Simon Ensor's students. I decided to write about those experiences because I am finally able to decipher some of what was going on in my mind and I want to reflect on them with my #DigiWriMo friends, in particular those who collaborated on Etienne's two songs. For any other visitor, most probably, this won't make sense for now. May be later I can make it into a proper post - or not. :)

Road Trip

When Simon posted his first tweet about Etienne's song "Road Trip" I immediately jumped in. My intention was to capture the moment -- or jump in it -- to help Simon honor his students' expression. I read his request as "sing it WITH them" so I went and listened to it several times then created a couple of vocals to harmonize with theirs. But suddenly things changed, Alan and Kevin created their own versions/interpretations of the song then Ronald and Sarah read the whole thing like a poem, and Bryan created his country version. I loved what everybody was doing that when the Soundtrap collaboration started I felt really happy and honored to be invited to contribute to it, and the sense of excitement was heightened thinking about surprising Etienne and his friends with the final result. 

But throughout I had a nagging feeling or a question or something. Most of the time I didn't even know what it was. I only could understand it every time I went to my Soundcloud page and saw those vocals that I'd created to go with the voices of Etienne and his friends. Only then and for a brief moment that nagging thing became "oh what about them?" and "I wish we could do their song with them". The moment was short and got drowned by the excitement of the collaboration, the excitement of the anticipated surprise and all the other usual business of my on and offline life.

We finally had a finished song, wow, a collaborative song written in France and sung and arranged across countries and states. I think that was a taste of the elation that artists feel or that of a sports team winning an important match. Etienne's reaction -- at least in his tweets as I understood them -- added to the brilliance of the moment. I asked him if he would create a new one -- looks like others did too. I asked him because I wanted to encourage him but also because I genuinely thought that the song was beautiful and that he was talented and should continue. I thought "We can do this again and again and better every time".


When I saw Simon's tweet about Etienne's new song "Regrets" I smiled :) . I felt happy that he felt comfortable and inspired to create something for us, I was glad that he had us as audience, fans. Something was different though. This time I didn't jump to action.

I think the time between finishing the first song and receiving the second one allowed the sense of excitement to calm down and allow something else to come up. I can't say that I knew what it was or that I even noticed. All I know is that this time I couldn't jump in and do anything.

I watched the twitter chat. Someone started a new Soundtrap project for the new song, some people were invited to collaborate on it. Kevin tweeted about inviting me to add some vocals. Someone asked to be let in on  the project. I watched but still couldn't jump in. 

When Kevin invited me to contribute with some vocals to the project, the sense of excitement about a collaborative work kicked in again -- I love working collaboratively, especially with the right people. Whoa, the song sounded amazing. Kevin had mentioned what he had in mind for my part but I wasn't sure what it exactly meant until I heard his arrangement and all of a sudden it just came out. I finished my part, Bryan added some more and Ronald made some extra changes adding and editing then Kevin added a final touch. I couldn't believe how it all sounded. This song sounds so good that I would buy it :)  .  But

Suddenly, I don't want Etienne to hear the song. He shouldn't even know that we have finished it. Suddenly I know what was nagging me and I know that this time I cannot ignore it. One of the things that allowed me to get to this point is how I felt before I was invited to participate and then how I felt after I was invited after I experienced what we were able to achieve.

Before I was invited I couldn't jump in because this time I knew that the song was going to be a project. There were experts on using the Soundtrap and playing instruments. Once I was in I enjoyed it a lot. This made me think. Working on Road Trip individually then as a group to me felt like a celebration of Etienne's creativity. Our finished work was a gift to honor his talent and his teacher's intention. 

I thought that gift was like opening a door for Etienne -- not sure how to express a door to what, but may be to a new space where he sees his talent in a different way, a door to confidence is his art -- and I think writing a second one at our request was a step in that space. But then the second time around is not going to be a surprise, and to me it doesn't feel like we are honoring him anymore. yes I know that celebrating and honoring his talent may be our intention, but to me it feels like we asked him for a beautiful new thing to play with, then closed the door that we'd opened. He couldn't even  watch from the window as we had fun creating some magic with his song. We closed the door and let him wait while we had a party.

I think what we created is beautiful but we got carried away and forgot our original intention. I think that Etienne should be in on all the fun. Even lead it. If he doesn't know how to use the Soundtrap we can teach him what we know. We can always share our with him later or keep it for ourselves if it's more appropriate. I thin this time we should wait.

Ok this turned out to be longer than I intended but when I read it aloud it sounds very close to what I want to say. So it stays this way. At least for now :)

I would love for you to challenge me or question my assumptions or whatever if that's what you want. If you don't agree say so. And of course if you do agree also say so :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Peer Feedback: Inspired by John Spencer's Post

Bhargava explains it all by maximalideal, on Flickr
by  maximalideal  under
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

I was going through some of the educators' blogs that I've collected in feedly when I came across  +John Spencer 's post titled The 20-Minute Peer Feedback System. John started the post with this sentence and I immediately clicked to read more.
I believe that peer feedback is critical for students.
I cheered. :) I have seen, and personally experienced, the power of feedback when it was provided with the right intention and in the right way. I've seen it work in different contexts, learning, work etc. But, I have also watched many people get it wrong. It usually turns bad when the people involved don't know what good feedback is and how it looks and sounds like, but more importantly where it should come from and the intention that should drive it. 

So, I read the post, I started to comment, the comment became a bit too long when I began to share something about how I've been using feedback exercises, so I decided to post it here instead. 

I liked the exercise a lot, and I have used several variations of it based on the objective of the particular session. What I find invaluable for a successful feedback exercise is to 

1- discuss "Giving and Receiving Constructive Feedback, what, why and how"
2- agree the structure and criteria for the feedback in the particular session, like a mini rubric perhaps, allowing space for general impressions/feelings but always with the intention being to help the person reflect and improve and  coming from a place of support and caring.

Three flip charts later Petter realizes by jardenberg, on Flickr


Whenever there was no time for a full-fledged session for no. 1, making sure to agree no. 2 in a clear way -- may be putting it up visually as a reference for all to see  -- helped a lot. 

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  jardenberg 

I Like to do this exercise in 3s. The 3rd person sits as a silent observer (a fly on the wall) to provide feedback to both giver and receiver of the feedback (receiving is also a skill and not passive), and is usually the only one allowed to take notes. Of course this means that the exercise will be done three times so that each one gets the chance to give, receive and observe. 

Finally, to consolidate and allow all the groups to share with each other, I ask them to decide on their three major learning points (can be more but 3 seems to be a nice number). When they are ready with their lists, it's time to share. I like to capture the points in writing which of course can be done by adding to a shared document (physical or digital or both).

I need to find some good online resources on feedback or write something myself. Does anyone know of any, preferably supported by research?

Which reminds me, one of MIT's MOOCs on tedx introduced us to feedback and provided some guidelines followed by an exercise to practice giving feedback, and receive feedback on the feedback we gave :) . That was a totally unexpected but very interesting part of the course. Unfortunately at the time I couldn't continue the course, not even as a lurker, and missed on watching how that type of digital peer feedback worked and how participants reacted to it. One thing I remember well, while I am usually comfortable giving and seeking feedback in the physical world, it was scarier online. Again I suspect, it was the permanency of the written word, but more the absence of an easy way to express all the meaning that the human face and voice add to the words.

Well, I must check and see when the course is going to be offered next and plan to join it again.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Power of Connections : My Desk

This was supposed to be the first post but somehow I am still jumping around #NTPoC course trying to figure out what I'd missed and how to find my way around the platform.


My Temporary Work-Space

this is my work-space which as you can see is a total mess and not a desk. I am still using the dining table as my "temporary" work-space, something I have been doing since I returned home a year ago after around 23 years of living abroad.

As you can see this was my second attempt with the first one appearing on the screen of the laptop. I decided to take another one to make sure I capture the messiness. It is not usually as messy but  having so much space makes it harder to stay organized, if that makes any sense. :) One item that is always present is a headset that I use a lot and another thing that I have to have all summer is the fan that appears in the background on the top left side of the picture.

As for books and bookshelves, well, my books still live in boxes and every now and then I have to rummage through a box to find a book that I want (thank God I made a list of each box' contents).

A Virtual Work-Space
I would love to be able to work outdoors but haven't found a way to do that yet. So, when I need a bit of nature around me while working I log into a Virtual World, sit my avatar in one of my favorite spots in a forest or on the beach and work. I can look in on her every now and then if I need a break but I can keep the sounds on all the time so that I am listening to some relaxing nature sounds. I also teach in-world at least once a week where I can sit with learners from around the world.

A 25 Words Language

The second improvisation challenge (part of The Power of Connection Course from Next Thought) is to select only 25 words to take with me as my new language, as I go into space on a mission to colonize a new planet. The challenge was to choose the words that my new language will consist of in only 10 minutes.

I knew this was not going to be easy as soon as I read the instructions but didn't realize how difficult it was going to be. We take language for granted and I am not particularly known for being succinct. :) .

One of the things that I kept thinking about is how some of the online spaces/tools force you to communicate in as short a form as possible. Sometimes it's a hard restriction by the space/tool itself, e.g. Twitter's 145 characters, and sometimes a restrictions created by the circumstances and general norms adopted by the users, like while you're communicating with a fellow player during a video game. However in those instances I usually still have a full language with hundreds of words to choose from, abbreviate, shorten, omit etc.

Any way, back to my new created language, for which I will have no one to blame except myself if it doesn't work for me in outer space, and how I selected it.

The words are:
need, food, help, bad, good, thanks, feel, cold, heat, why, how, when, come go, must, time, contact, earth, planet, new, old.

One of the main assumptions on my mind while frantically trying to find good useful words was "many things can be easily mimed". With that in mind, I find that some words I like and some I think could have been replaced by more versatile ones. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Rhizo what?! My First look at Rhizomatic Learning - Warning: raw thoughts, messiness ahead! -1

I don't really enjoy writing (yet). But as I keep repeating, what I learn is not dependent on what I write for others to read. A way to help my self prepare for writing is put my raw thoughts in a private or a draft blog, leave it, come back and look at it, tweak it, add more, leave it, come back, organize it a bit, leave it etc.  until it looks like something that someone can read and understand. Takes time and it is hmm stressful(?).

Yesterday it occurred to me that in F2F learning I never wait for my thoughts to become perfectly organized and neat before I share them, I do a lot of thinking aloud, so why not do the same in writing? Would be interesting to see how it works.

How will it work? No idea yet. May be update this blog by commenting on it myself or , hmmm ok I put a number 1 in the heading let's see if I continue my thoughts and number the following headings 2, 3, 4 (ambitious) :). again we(I) will see.

Back ground
(may be put it in the about me??)

First reactions
What is rhizomatic learning:  Dave Cormier's video based on presentation he gave in India (find the video again and add it. I should've diigo'd it)
Rhizomes : networks are not all as simple or seemingly neat as they are depicted. Rhizomes' network if depicted/represented may look as organized or neat (ask a specialist). Dave mentions one kind of rhizomes that is harmful or a pest to garden. When he talks about his children and how they learn what is he looking for? Does he want Rhizomeatic learning to replace the existing way of learning? Rhizomatic to me may describe a way of learning which means it is the behavior of the Rhizome not the rhizome itself that we are looking at. Or are we looking at the thoughts being the rhizome?

Have we decided that rhizomatic learning is good? How?
Is it better than neat planned learning through studying?
Is it an another case of either or, so that we prefer to have rhizomatic learning?

Where does Rhizomatic fit? When things are uncertain? How did we decide that? how is that different than the existing

Education? Teaching, Studying, Learning. Differences? which one does the Rhizomatic fit in.
What do we mean by LEARNing in Rhizomatic learning and in general? K S A (I still find this very useful)?

I know I am Always Learning in so many ways. Planned, spontaneous, targeted, untargeted, studying, communicating, playing  so isn't that rhizomatic?
I keep remembering  Code yourself course that I've just recently finished. So may be it works like

Forever { check around you (until completely uninteresting or fully known go explore (if energizing and useful go learn))} hmmm I wonder if I can create a representation of this in scratch. :) Idea: will get my niece (11) in on it and create something (she likes to draw so would be interesting to see what she comes up with for learning and the different elements).

Subjectives vs objectives? Why vs? Aren't Subjectives always there even if not spelled out in writing or sometimes without even being spoken of? Some of my Subjectives are to trigger curiosity and a sense of wonder, self reflection, aha moments, surprise, need to find out/learn more, fun, enjoyment, excitement, a moment of Yesss .

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Until We Meet Again

A brief encounter but for better or worse I learn something.

Few months ago I discovered Zeega when several people from  Connected Courses mentioned it, played with it and raved about it. I love trying new tools but I have to say when I went to the site the first time I didn't get it. May be I should have just sent a tweet asking them what they liked about it, but I didn't. Why I didn't I can't even remember any more. I can guess but most of it is not really important anymore either, at least not for this post. I decided to register an account with the site, bookmark it and explore it when I had more time, not because I liked it but because I was so curious to know what the others liked so much about it. 

Few days ago I saw this tweet from +Kevin Hodgson

I opened my email and found a message from Zeega team letting me know that the tool was going to disappear soon. I wasn't attached to the tool but I wanted a chance to meet before saying goodbye.

So here is my first ever Zeega.

Until We Meet Again Saying Hi and So Long Zeega. It was nice to meet you.
► Play Zeega ►
by Maha Abdelmoneim

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Connected Barbie - A Page from Barbie's Book

I usually don't jump on opportunities to write. I don't yet (using 'yet' to keep the door to the possibility for a change open  :) ) enjoy writing. Well any way, I was saying that in spite of this fact I found myself drawn to this Daily Connect  and to Hack Barbie, may be because it's a conversation. Who knows, when it comes to writing or not writing I am still trying to figure out how my brain works.  :)

Ok so after seeing Kevin Hodgson's DailyConnect tweet I visited the Feminist Hacker Barbie Site, selected one of the pictures that fit with the conversation that was partially forming in my head and started writing. I couldn't finish it in one go, I mean "didn't finish it. Couldn't is not accurate". Oh my God, I am already editing this, supposedly, simple post lol. I'll just fast forward in my head or jump to the end skipping whatever else is there on the way, so here is the conversation that I heard Barbie having with her teacher (I gave her a name, Valerie) :)

One more thing, I don't think that there's a problem with Barbie needing her friends to help her. She doesn't have to be coder to be an amazingly intelligent girl who can do wonderful things. The problem is that the ones she's calling to help her code are all boys. If we could hack the pictures I would've changed one of her friends into a girl and that would've been it for me.

Here's the full conversation (not sure how the site works so I will keep a copy here just in case):

 Ms. Valerie, Barbie's teacher looks at Barbie's laptop and with a big smile on her face says 
Ms. Valerie: "Barbie, this wonderful! You've not only managed to fix the laptop but also to find a delightfully interesting way to solve the homework game design problem. You're a star and deserve special credit for what you've accomplished.

Barbie: Thank you Ms. Valerie. I was able to do it because of all the people that I connect with everyday. My friends and I had a chat and listening to them gave me some clues, my sister inspired me when I listened to her talking about her favorite game, wanting to surprise her and my mom and dad too,  and you Ms. Valerie, your encouragement and confidence give me courage to explore and experiment.

Ms. Valerie: I am so happy to hear how you discovered the wonderful ways of connecting for the good of all. I wonder what you want to be

With a mischievous grin on her face Barbie says: hmmm I think I am going to connect several things and be something new. computer Engineer + Psychologist + my  hobby to create games hahaha. I have plans to connect them together and make them even much more useful. 

Ms. Valerie: What a great idea Barbie. Have you thought about how and when you want to start working on your plan?

Barbie: Yes Ms Valerie I have plans to start connecting with people from all those disciplines right away, but Ms. Valerie, how about I add teaching to the mix? ( tilting her head to one side and playfully giving her teacher a challenging look)

Ms. Valerie: (laughing) ok Barbie I am in. I will be your first teaching connection. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

POTCert Week 7: Class Resources & Intellectual Property

This Post is Incomplete but I may work to complete it later. Find out more here 

As a trainer, I had some experience with copyright issues both as a user and as a creator. As a user of material and resources I respected copyright for three main reasons.

1- Being a part of a reputable organization I felt responsible to uphold their policies of respecting copyright.
2- From an ethical point of view, I felt that copying or using for free something that someone had created and was selling for a price is a form of stealing.
3- I understand people's right to make a living from their intellectual property and support the laws that protect that right and their properties.

When it comes to learning and educational material, it's frustrating to see some companies and publishers turning it into a commercial profit making business. I can accept that the corporate world can and should pay for the learning, but people in general and teachers and students in particular should not be discouraged or prevented from learning by the price tag on the learning tools.

How to reconcile these two idea?

I am grateful that more and more educators and educational institutions are creating open material and resources and I hope they continue providing more variety and higher quality OER.

As a creator there were two sides
1- The policy of the organization I worked for stated that whatever material I created while in their employment was owned by them. this didn't feel right at the beginning because it meant that I had no right to use outside or after leaving the organization. Luckily they didn't mind it much, did nothing to prevent anyone from taking copies of whatever they or other trainers created. While I was lucky that I worked for a fair employer I still don't like the idea of the law protecting such policies. I understand that they should have the right to use it even after  leave but why should I not have the right to use it too if it was created by me? I am not sure if this is a common practice or not.

POTCert Week 14: Sea of Time

The following are links to the 13 blog posts that I created for the POTCert14 course with a brief comment.


I think I succeeded in this post to make my introduction brief but contain some information about me as a person and as a professional. I tried to make personal but also include something about my experience. I kept thinking "what would I be talking about with colleagues face to face?". I've just realized that I'd published this post but never posted it in the discussion area for the week. :( will do it just to keep the course record complete.

This turned out to be too long. The original assignment was to reflect on the result the I got from completing the questionnaire about my teaching/training style. What I did was reflect on all the thoughts and ideas that all the material I went through for the week triggered and why. The required reflection is embedded there but perhaps not obvious. I usually use experiential/constructivist style but I use all the other styles including connectivist depending on the situation, learning objectives, group, subject, time etc.
So the short answer should have been "usually experiential but it depends".

I mainly felt panic then a sense of a better understanding. Enjoying being connected online, feeling comfortable experimenting and using different tools for casual and social purposes may make things easier but designing and running an online course will still require a lot of serious planning and work (duh, it works the same way on the ground). It was interesting to look at using the web vs an LMS and the shift that had happened in the availability of tools.

I learned by looking at all the material as a learner/user. Clarity, limiting the number of clicks to any destination, consistency, repetition are some of the way to make a syllabus useful and easy to use, but most important is regularly getting feedback and noticing if there are issues/difficulties that are common among students.
It takes planning and time to create a video that looks and sounds natural and good.

Tools must be in the service of the learning objectives and allow a variety of engaging activities. Researching and looking at the available tools, in my opinion, must start during the planning and designing phase. Again it struck me the difference between the availability and the type of tools in LMSs vs on the web. I tried Soundcloud and again to create an audio takes some planning and time to sound natural but good. Still don't know why is the word "facilitation" is bad.
From a blogging point of view, for some reason I like this post but I was still writing for me and co learners only (those who know what I was referring to in the post).

Community was big on my mind, otherwise what is the point of being in an online "class" with cohorts. I focused on activities that in my opinion can create a supportive environment and encourage a collaborative learning community. Another important thought was how to encourage and help learners who struggle to write or reluctant to participate in other ways.

I started writing about Copyright several times but could never really put down in writing all my reactions and thoughts, and therefore never published the post. I found it easier to discuss it, explore my opinion and voice it in the different conversations about others' posts. Now that I've visited my private post again, I still don't feel like writing much more about it. I think I will leave it at that for now and post it for the record as it is.

My thoughts about tools and about being on the web. It's important to have a well equipped tool box and to keep it always updated with the most useful. While tools are in the service of the learning they can sometimes inspire new activities. We start learning how to be in the world from an early age from family and then from school and it's important to learn how to be on the web too and while there are things that are transferable and constant, there are also some things that are at least different if not very particular to the web.

I was not very convinced of the results of the research. I can understand the findings but I don't think that they can be generalized. I am glad that there are more scientific studies about learning in general and the effects of the online environments and their distracting or otherwise effect.

Learning objectives are what should guide the course design. the availability or the lack of tools will influence the design but it should not dictate the teaching methodology. A good knowledge and understanding of what is available and the different way it can be used allows for more flexibility and creativity.

I think I sound frustrated in this post. There's no perfect educational theory nor an obsolete one and a teacher can benefit from multiple or all the theories while designing and teaching one course. 

I reflected on the concept of the Flipped Class and what educational theory it applies. Whether it's a new idea or a methodology that has always been used by many teachers just revamped, renamed and perhaps a bit modernized.
I also reflected on Open Education, what it means and on MOOCs as one of the biggest types of open. I looked at the different types of MOOCs and my own experience with them and also on what educational theory/style they represent. I enjoyed and appreciated George Siemen's post on theory and MOOCs as it was informative, balanced, fair and inclusive.

It was interesting to look at what I thought is my Personal Learning Network and recognize the different nodes. Another interesting realization or renewed conviction was the fact that I considered myself to be a resident of the web. I believe that there are many types of web residents.

To complete this post I had to go through what I'd written during the course which got me to relive or wonder about some of the reactions, thoughts and feelings that I experienced after going through each week's material and reflect on the words that I used to express them. It allowed me to re examine my opinions and my learning. I've seen the progress from writing just for the course to starting to write for the web, from writing an assignment to the tentative first steps into blogging. I am grateful to all my colleagues and to all the facilitators from whom I learned and whose posts and comments helped me clarify my own thoughts and added to my understanding.