Friday, February 15, 2013

The use of story and digital story

A tentative definition of story

1. A narrative, either true or fictious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse or instruct the hearer or reader. A narrative is an account of events, experiences, etc.
2. The plot or succession of incidents of a novel, poem, drama, etc.


During our child and adolescent formal and informal education we read stories of different types and tell also stories orally. While written stories can reflect account of different cultures, oral stories reflect national culture and are transmitted from generation to generation. These stories are generally told between family members or friends in the young age mostly at night. It is specially interesting to tell these stories outside of the house when a full moon projects its light on earth.

What is interesting about story is that its use has been expanded in society not as a fictional account but as a true one. Many leaders in different fields use stories to propel themselves ahead in their career. Life stories are particular important because it can show the ups and downs in someone's life. Stories may reflect some kind of behavior that is repetitive. They can be used to predict the probability of an event. Stories are used in the medical field in order to treat a physical or mental symptom. In the professional field a resume or a portfolio is a story of different events happening in someone's educational and professional life. Science fiction stories have played a great role in the development of science since most science fiction stories have become reality. Story can play an important role in someone's personal life as an evaluation tool. Personal imaginative stories can be used to project one's personal desired future.

Stories are often categorized according to their use,  An imagined personified story lends language to animals and gives life to inanimated objects. An explanatory story can be used to explore a scientific phenomenon. From this perspective a story can be used in any human field specially in the academic field. Explanatory stories are used even in the most rigorous sciences like mathematics. Explanatory stories can be used to solve a mathematical problem and to demonstrate a theorem for example. The transfer in mathematics is very easy as a story is the account of a set of events and mathematical problems are solved by following a number of steps that can be compared to an account of a number of events. The educational implications are important for transfer from one subject to the other. A student well versed in litterature and history can transfer his story skills in mathematics and science. An educator can help facilitate this transfer by using the word story in the solution of a problem.For example some students tend to skip some steps in the solution of problems. By knowing that the resolution of a math problem is a story the student knows that he has to state all the steps of the solution to make the story coherent. A stoy has a beginning. a development and a conclusion. Otherwise the story is not coherent and nobody would understand it. Even in a fictional story conceived to amuse coherence is important. Otherwise it won't produce the desired result. Likewise if the story of the resolution of a math problem is not coherent the solution will be false.

I have been talking in the previous paragraphs about story and its use in different areas. I am going to explore different things that a  digital story can be. Digital story is a story using digits. Digit is defined as being a finger, a toe or a figure from 0 to 9. A written story written by hand couldn't be considered as a digital story?. In this sense we can say that digital story is very old dating from thousands or millions of years. The word digital has been used in science to refer to something that has to do with numerical values. Computers convert any data in numerical values. So any data made from a computer is cosidered digital. But many things like sound, pictures, writing exist before computers were born. So digital story considered as any story made using computerized technology doesn't make sense since stories have been told using different medias that  now become digitized. What is now interesting is with computer technology or software applications it is posible to create several artifacts that can relay a story. Based on the stoy of "digital" I agree with Alan Levine who writes in his blog he doesn't know what a digital story is. He continues further to say that the media is not the story. The story is what is conveyed to the media. In this sense can we say that technology has a bad effect here in the sense that we tend to focus on the digital effects of pictures, sounds, movies etc on our snses than the real value of the story?. Technology can be used to enhance the value of something not to influence the viewer to agree with the author's viewpoint or to incite people to do something without using their own will. Anything in life has its good and bad aspect. So one has to use any tool wisely exploiting the positive aspects for everyone not the positive ones beneficial to a few nor the negative aspect detrimental to everybody or the vast majority of people.

Digital story can have many educational uses as story in general. Digital story can be used to help students understand abstract concepts. In a 5th grade science class a teacher uses a digital story to explain the anatomy of the eye. Digital story using several media such as pictures, sounds, etc can be used to describe many scientific concepts. In this sense many scientific documentaries use sdigital story to explain different concepts to the public. Digital stories can be adapted to different learning styles: visual.auditory, kinesthesic.etc. Educators can use it to introduce any content. Since digital story has been used in class through documentary movies students can learn to make their own digital documentary or story to show their understanding of something learned in class. But here power of choice should be given because educaion has been viewed too dogmatic. If you don't do something exactly as it is said to be done it is not good. An educator might tend for example to tell  students to use pictures.sounds, etc to represent something learned in class. But some students might not have skills in all the media and may be more skilled in presenting something using text and pictures. Their work should be accepted as long as long as the media they used served as vehicles of transmission of their work, Several literacy skills can be developed in using digital story telling. These include research skills, writing skills and organization skills. Technology skils can also be developed with the ability of using some media devices and some multimedia authoring software. Presentation skills, interviewing and problem solving skills can thrive through the use of digital story teeling. Historical events can be analyzed from a personal and present viewpoint using digital storytelling. Stories have been part of human life since man's existence. Now we might be more aware of it. Let's use it to our advantage.      

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Introduction for ETMOOC

This post is my introduction for ETMOOC, an online educational media course. I have subscribed to this course, have been listening to lectures and read the different posts related but I haven't had time to be an active active participant. I'll take advantage of this course until its end in March while I will continue with my posts for this Open PhD.

As my introduction to the ETMOOC community I'll start by expressing my pleasure to participate in this course and to take benefit of it for my own learning and professional development. My educational background is in Civil Engineering, Math and Science, Educational Administration, Curriculum and Instruction. Having interrupted a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction for reasons irrelevant to me I decided to pursue it independently with a few colleagues specializing in open learning. People interested in the Open PhD can visit this page Doctor of Philosophy. I am an experienced educator in Math, Science and other subjects. I provide tutoring services in Math, French,ESL and Spanish at New Direction Education Services. I started Open Popular University for which I am looking for human and material resources for its development. I own 4 blogs that I update regularly and I am an active social media participant. For more information you are welcome to explore this blog and its different links. Any suggestion, possible collaboration or advice will be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Personal learning networks: tools and applications in practice

In Joyce Seitzinger's Professional learning environment she uses a four quadrant work/office model to describe four discrete functions of a PLN. The first quadrant is called Staff Room and involves high personal profile and high levels of communication. It is based on the use of microblogging tools such as Twitter where one subscribes to a number of different accounts to share the users' ideas and converse with them. This type of connections works if one subscribes to an enough number of accounts or is followed by other subscribers. The level of profile and communication varies according the individual's interests. Some people might be interested only in getting information and sharing. This is my case. I read other's tweets and links and occasionally share them. I share also information but I don't converse. I find not having time, need and not being in an atmosphere of motivation of doing so. My first attempt of conversation was to ask people to support Open Popular University in any way they can but my appeal has been unanswered. This is a permanent appeal that can be read on the site of Open Popular University and can also be accessed if someone reads my twitter profile. I believe that my twitter profile has been read by many people and so far I haven't found any support.  But I think twitter conversation is something to work on. I find also it is not easy to initiate and maintain a high level of communication in social media. We live in a solitary world and people are more concerned about taking care of their own things instead of establishing and maintaining relationships with others. Social media allow to maintain and cultivate relationships in a long distance if in the real word people are interested in doing so but in a society where even the basic institutions such as the family are in crisis it is obvious that if people are not interested in being connected in the real word the same behavior will reproduce in the digital world,

The second quadrant of Joyce's model is called Filing cabinet and it's low in profile and level of communication. It provides users the opportunities to store their content and possibly share it with others. Tools such as Diigo, Delicious and are used for that purpose. Other tools such as wikis can also be used for that purpose. In terms of collaborative tools Google drive can also be included. Bookmarking tools allow to store, categorize, share content and converse with others. Diigo has some interesting features where one can annotate some web pages and write some notes. Besides tagging content can also be categorized in lists. One can also take a screenshot of a part or a whole web page. There is also a feature that I haven't used yet where one can annotate, add sticky notes to a web page and share it in social media. I use Wikiversity to share different educational resources and use it to collaborate with others on an open PhD. Talking about Diigo what I found not convenient is not to find one's content from tags. When I click on one tag I might not find all my content. However if I type the keywords in the search box I might find all of it.

The third quadrant of Joyce's model is called Newspaper. It is low in profile and level of engagement. This part of a PLN uses push technology (RSS feeds, Google Reader). magazines, Collected magazines, Isuu magazines, blogs, etc, can be included in this category. Blogs can add a level of engagement in this category provided that readers comment on posts.

The fourth quadrant of Joyce's model is called Portfolio and is high in profile and low in level of engagement. Blogs and other authoring tools are used in this category. Using blogs, wikis and Google docs can imply a high level of profile but the level of communication can be low if readers don't comment on posts.

Applications in Practice

Staff room

It is made of people we learn from. It can be people who are family members, friends, colleagues and people met at the internet. I listen to some educational talk show radios regularly. I follow a number of experts in some social media such as Twitter, Google+, etc. I also follow some curators in I belong to some groups in Facebook and LinkedIn. I followed some experts in Scribd and Slideshare. I belong also to other educational communities where people get together to share educational resources. I subscribe to some Google groups and I receive information from people from a number of different sources.

Filing cabinet

 I use Diigo, Delicious, Blogger, Pearltrees,, Wikiversity and Collected etc to store, tag and categorize information. I subscribe also to some Diigo groups. I find Diigo very interesting and I stopped using Delicious. My level of profile is high in where I publish various magazines categorized in a number of subjects such as Open Education, Health, Science, etc. I published some educational magazines such as Open Educatiion , Alterzine, DIY learning, etc. I found some very interesting articles from topics I follow.


 I subscribe to a number of feeds in Google Reader. I list a numer of blogs I read in my blogs. I subscribe to a different news feeds in different subjects of interests. In this blog can be seen a number of different blogs I read as well as a number of news feeds in Open Education. I subscribe and made a number of lists from Twitter and Facebook in a number of different subjects. I made some magazines where I access information in subjects of interests. As I mentioned above I access many articles from topics I follow in Scoop. I subscribe to a number of different subjects in Stumbleupon and I find it very interesting and rich. The problem is to find time to access this kind of information. The most important thing is that I have to my disposal a wealth of information that I can access when I need and feel to and I can also share with others.


I use blogs to publish educational content and my thoughts. I also use them as repository of content I learn. I use this blog to publish and store content for my Open PhD. Most of all it is a place where I can share my reflections on a number of different subjects and where my thoughts are shaped. I published 4 blogs: Open PhD, Alterzine, Alteredzine and Haiti Reconstuction. I use Google Docs to write courses I teach and other documents. I edit Open Popular University with a lot of educational resources. My profile is high in Facebook where I use status updates to share my opinions in a number of different articles I read and I find it very interesting. I subscribe to a number of people and sites in Facebook. Whenever I went to my newsfeeds I find some interesting articles that I can comment and share. What is discouraging is that there isn't a number of people with whom to engage with especially when one comments and publishes an interesting article. One interesting feature of Facebook is to "like" something that someone publishes and it is very difficult to find people doing so. I try myself to model this example by "liking" and commenting on interesting content that other people publish on Facebook. Most people don't use social media to educate themselves and use it mostly to publish photos and status updates. Even when they use it to publish and access content they don't know the kind of behavior to use to make their time on social media more usefuful

Monday, February 4, 2013

Personal learning network as learning communities

"A personal learning network is a set of learning communities to which someone belongs. If a learning community equates somewhat with a course then our learning network is equivalent to a degree program. Each community is a node on the network" (Siemens,2003). In this sense one can learn a program and achieve a degree similar to a degree earned in an university by belonging to several learning communities of which each one is equivalent to a course. I believe this can be achieved by carefully choosing these communities. The problem is to find structured communities where this goal can be achieved. There are some learning communities organized around some specific subjects. For example LinkedIn  Facebook, etc have different groups to which one can subscribe. One can follow several people and organizations in twitter. One can also subscribe to different groups in Quora. One can follow different magazines curated by different people. One can also follow organizations, people in Google + and subscribe to different communities. One should select carefully these communities and doesn't tend to participate to several communities which are not interesting or for which one doesn't have time to visit and participate. One is attracted to subscribe to several communities but sometimes time doesn't allow ourselves to participate in all these groups. Another problem is that some communities are not very active. I am thinking also while writing this post to unsubscribe to some groups that are not useful or active and focus on those that correspond more to my interests. I think MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)  and other open courses constitute also learning communities. One thing that is very stressed in learning communities is communication. I find this very hard as people are not sufficiently connected to communicate, are not interested in communicating or may not find something to say. Communication depends on affinity and reality. Affinity is the degree of emotional connection between members of a community. Reality is some sort of understanding of what is being communicated. One or two of these factors can impede communication. Sometimes it is better to focus on learning and not worry about communication. I attended online courses and MOOCs and the lack of communication is a pattern. This is also true in social media. Frustration can lead someone to leave a group if this person believes that the group doesn't satisfy his/her needs for example if someone asks for something in the group and no one answers or doesn't adequately address this person's needs. Another example is if one finds oneself as the only contributor in the group while others who can be active choose to be passive or if there is no interaction and acknowledgement

Alternative ways of learning instead of courses include Communities of Practice (CoP), archives, access to gurus, self-reflection/expression forums, etc. In LinkedIn I found there is a section where one can subscribe to posts of several leaders in different fields. These leaders or gurus price highly their seminars. Following them can be somewhat beneficial. Belonging to a productive learning community can make us knowledgeable in a field of interest. One doesn't limit to the knowledge learned in the community. One has to complement this knowledge by doing further research much like one attends a course and does further research in physical libraries and the internet.

A learning network can be defined as the connection of learning communities with he intent of sharing experiences/resources and a self-defined goal of competency/knowledge. In other words one belongs to a learning community in order to achieve competency and knowledge not to be just  a reader who glances at discussions without learning something or someone who cares only about voicing his/her own opinions. The intent of competency/knowledge can be compared to a degree which is the intent of a school program. One can argue that a degree is more structured, etc. But a degree is not equivalent to knowledge. A degree is conferred in a  piece of cardboard paper after having forgotten most of what one was forced to learn to pass an exam and not to achieve knowledge and competency. In this sense competency and knowledge achieved in learning communities are worth much more than what is learned in school in the sense that one is more interested and has time for self-reflection. Some components o learning communities allow to update knowledge and provide access when it is needed. One has access to new information in learning communities and this information can be accessible any time and anywhere.

 A portfolio allows to track one's learning. It holds workshops, seminars, etc. Online seminars are also an important part of a learning community. I belong to learning communities that invite me to different online seminars by mail. I just attended some online conferences this past weekend from CO2013 Integrating technology in teaching. These seminars are recorded and if one doesn't have time to attend them they can be attended later. A personal portfolio is a proof of past learning just like a transcript is a recording of courses attended. A piece of paper or degree is a proof that someone attended some courses and passed them. A degree is not equivalent to knowledge and skill. These are learned and cannot be fully actualized in a piece of paper. A community that witnesses the production of one's knowledge can attest someone's worth. A community can attest an active participant's worth. The media (physical or online) offers the possibility to judge someone's knowledge. Some people have been recognized for their knowledge because of books they have written. Some are recognized because they are good TV or radio speakers. Now with the web many people are recognized for their contribution or the expression of their knowledge in blogs and different online spaces.          

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Origin of the term "personal learning network".

Clint in a post dated October 8, 2009 and titled "On historically defining Personal Learning Network" wanted to elaborate more on the attempt of Stephen Downes to find the origin of the expression "personal learning network". In his post Clint acknowledged Stephen's point in his article that the meaning of the term seems to evolve over time thanks to the contribution of a number of people. Clint has used the term very often and was very interested in finding a definition, He cited the definition of Daniel R Tobin mentioned in his article "Building your own personal learning network": "An important part of learning is to build your own learning network - a group of people who can guide your learning, point you to learning opportunities, answer your questions and give you the benefit of their knowledge and experiences". Clint found the definition very useful but was intrigued about finding the origin of the term.

He emailed Tobin with the link of Stephen's post and Tobin responded later. Tobin mentioned in his response that he didn't know if he is the originator of the phrase or not. He also stated how he used the term "personal learning network". "What I was referring to was my informal network of colleagues and professional acquaintances to who I could learn if I needed information i.e people who could help me learn whatever it was I was seeking. When I started using the phrase, I wasn't particularly thinking about this in the sense of a virtual P.C based network. In fact in 1998 there weren't many websites and discussion boards that could be used for this purpose".

Clint continued to dig further and and discovered a 1999 article written by Don Digenti ( Collaborative learning A Core Capability for Organizations in the New Economy, Reflections) which uses the term "personal learning network" along with the acronym "PLN".

The first paragraph in this document where the term "personal learning network" is introduced contains a reference to a 1998 unpublished manuscript by Digenti called "The Learning Consortium Sourcebook". Clint said he couldn't find the work that might be the source of the term "personal learning nework". He concluded that the term may be originated in the work of these two authors around 1998-1999.