MOOCs don’t really end: From CIC Project to Story MOOC


There is no end.  This week CIC MOOC has formally ended and yet the group and the project that we started continues.  The project Promoting Creativity in the K-12 Classroom headed up by Cathleen Nardi and teammates Melissa Goodwin, Tracee Vetting Wolf , Strawberry Olive and myself plans to continue ahead with full steam.  In addition, I have started another MOOC –The Future of Story Telling which easily blends into getting our project’s story told.  What we gain from a successful cMOOC environment has no formal ending, and each cMOOCs can be a bridge to another.

The project created for the CIC MOOC focuses on helping teachers and school districts change the way they do professional development.  Historically, PD has been seen as an isolated event done on staff development days or off campus.  It is our belief that PD for teachers should be ongoing and integrate social media platforms that connect teachers to a global network of educators so that the synergy and creativity that takes place there in PD spills over into the classroom.  Therefore, lessons learned in PD become lessons extended into the classroom and in the long run teachers’ lives become much easier because of connectivity.  In a recent blog post by Tom Whitby, he points out that with the dawn the internet, social media and self-directed learning, PD for teachers can be transformed.  However, he notes a few formidable barriers:

1.  Resistance to gaining digital literacy (Ironic! Do you see this when you look around?)

2. Being programmed to the model of Control, Compliance and Permission for PD (How many of your colleagues are all about following the rules?)

3. I would like to add a third that was tweeted at #edchat this week by Cathleen Nardi.

Like many promoters of change in the world, we did meet resistance with our project which Cathleen Nardi talks about in her blog.  So while thinking about this resistance this morning, I was grateful for a tweet from Eric Sheninger who posted George Couros’  recent insights on getting others to embrace change.

His three points/ ideas are these:

1.  Show them how your idea will save them time in the long run.

2.  Show them how your idea is different and not just more of the same.

3.  Show them that an investment in time on something different on the front end equals a saving in the long run and that can equal BETTER in the end!

In addition, as we think about moving this project forward in spite of resistance and by embracing strategies for change, the first chapter of Story MOOC helped me focus on a key point.  Christina Maria Schollerer of Story MOOC talks about Robert McKee‘s theory of the importance of good story design.  Of particular interest is the idea of the “inciting incident” which is when an idea or event comes along either by choice or accident or both and life is thrown into imbalance.  The protagonist wants to regain balance and does everything possible to restore life’s balance.  A well designed story has a hook, a hold, and a payoff of the audience’s interest.

It seems that getting others to embrace the change that we promote with our project also involves the protagonists (educators, students, particpants and other collaborators), a hook, a hold and a payoff.  I believe that the hook is there and our challenge is to maintain the hold which will lead to enormous payoff for countless educators and children all over the world.

So as I think about CIC: Promoting Creativity in the K-12 Classroom and Story MOOC, I made a visual list of some of the multiple and ongoing inciting incidents(some by choice/some by accident) and character traits that have kept this group together and push our project forward. Here are just a few for which our team gets a huge star!

Screen shot 2013-10-27 at 4.22.15 PM

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“The Treachery of Images”: The Classroom is not the Classroom

Recently I came upon a post in my twitter feed from the Chronicle of Higher Education and written by guest blogger and University of Maryland professor, Jason Farman (Coincidentally I attended the University of Maryland in 1988 for one year and took a fascinating course in American Studies, the department where he now teaches)   Reading through “A Manifesto for Active Learning“, I found abundant interesting material there that merited further reflection but over the next consecutive days my mind came back to one particular subheading and section of the blog entitled “The Classroom is not the Classroom.”  For some reason it reminded me of René Magritte’s painting called “The Treachery of Images” pictured here below.


Belgian Surrealist René Magritte’s painting of a pipe with “This is not a pipe/Ceci n’est pas une pipe” written below it holds a message for educators seeking to showcase what is happening inside our classrooms.

My question is what happens outside of our classrooms? Because, surreal as it sounds,  we now know that the classroom is no longer the classroom.

Magritte’s painting has been interpreted to mean that the pipe pictured here merely represents the actual object and is not the object itself hence the title -“The Treachery of Images,”  which implies that images are deceptive.  In a similar vein, Jacques Derrida believed that words and signs can never truly articulate what they mean.  Some people may interpret these artistic and philosophical expressions reflective of  a pessimistic or nihilistic view of the world, but I beg to differ, and would like to extend the analogy one step further.

Back to the classroom. If the signs and words (exercises and curriculum included) we use  to describe the classroom/learning process are simply images that don’t truly represent the classroom/learning taking place, where is the classroom?  The classroom is out there in the world.

Lamentably, most K-12 or university classrooms are still physical spaces where tasks are assigned, lectures given, tests taken etc… But what happens with the information garnered in the classroom and the interaction that ensues outside of the classroom via face to face as well as socially networked interactions?   And how are students able to broadly apply the skills and knowledge that are cultivated in the classroom to improve their lives and the lives of others? Wherever that happens, now that’s the classroom.

For all our love of rational measuring and metrics, the classroom and all it entails can’t be measured or captured within the walls of a little red schoolhouse or in any building for that matter, and similarly I think that is the essence of what Magritte and Derrida were getting at in their own way with their art and philosophy.  Learning and classrooms have grown weary of being imprisoned and need and want to tear down the four walls of space and the prescribed curriculum that are holding them in.   They want to merge with the world where openness and connectivity reside.

However, that means changing and making more flexible learning spaces and school hours.  It means blended learning, multi-age classrooms, PBL, personalized learning, inquiry based learning, autonomy in learning, and relaxing our national obsession with data as well as hundreds of other changes, connections and openings.

Are you ready to break down the classroom walls and let the world in?

Check out Kyle Pace’s Presentation on “Breaking down the Classroom Walls”

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Résistance: If Not Now, When?

For some odd reason I like to say the word “resistance ” in French as it has more flair and sounds so much more powerful.  But what exactly is resistance? An online dictionary gave me these two useful definitions:

Screen shot 2013-10-02 at 11.54.18 AM

The first definition shows the external, physical quality of not accepting something and the second seems to be more about how we internalize or act, in the short and long-term, in relationship to “our setbacks.” So resistance can mean resisting something that we don’t agree with but it can also mean chosing not to be affected by something adversely.  It denotes both an internal and external action.

But what happens when resistance meets resistance?  I imagine it looks something like this:


As I set out to do the Week 5 exercise called “ABCD’s of Managing Resistance,” I kept both of these definitions and the above possible scenario in mind.   In addition, thinking about resistance and its multiple meanings led me to think about the Resistance movement during WWII and its vast underground network of supporters throughout Europe.  So remembering a powerful book, I headed to my small, trusty, dusty bookshelf and pulled it out.

If Not Now, When? by Primo Levi, first published in 1982, depicts the harsh life of European Jews involved in the Resistance movement and their supporters who fought back during the Holocaust.  Their struggles and their lives are a tribute to the best of both meanings of resistance.  The title of Levi’s book was taken from a famous passage which is quite apropos in thinking about this weeks exercise on resistance.


This week I met with great resistance in trying to forge ahead with one idea that I am trying to advance.  At first glance,  it was quite daunting.  But as we were encouraged to listen,  and dig deeper into it, I moved ahead with the exercise and came up with some disputations.

As I put forth my ideas and listen to the resistance and dig deeply into it, I can’t help but think that  Hillel was onto something and for that reason Levi borrowed this passage from him to title his book about the Jewish Resistance.

What I am taking from Hillel’s passage are these three fundamental considerations which I aim to keep in perspective in getting any project, movement, or business started: the importance of self, the importance of others, and the importance of timing and action.

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Tribal Innovation: Getting beyond failure

What is failure?  Is it the inability to do something? Is it doing something the wrong way?  Or is it both?  Or is it something completely different?

What if some of our so called “failures” occur in part because our desire for collaboration is greater than our desire to sucumb to the present organizational structure of our work and the world which we inhabit?

What if some of our “failures” are merely “nonperformances” orchestrated by our subconscious in an attempt to overthrow the tyranny of the “Success=Independence” equation?

What if we need collaboration with members of our tribe to be successful and we are just not finding it? This week I watched a TED talk called ” Brilliant Together ”  shared by Tracy Vetting Wolf which led me in part to the above series of questions.


Seth Godin‘s elaboration on our need to find our own unique tribes in Tribes has proven useful to me in thinking about failure and its relationship to collaboration.  In addition, he also has a great TED talk called the “The Tribes We Lead” about leading and connecting people and their ideas.  One of his key idea is that we should identify something we want to change in the world and then step up to the leadership of setting out to change it by assembling tribes that spread the idea.  Subsequently, it becomes far bigger than ourselves; it becomes a movement. Some people may call it heresy.   Others call it Tribal Innovation!

I put together this Tapestry  which highlights a few of the key points of Seth Godin’s talk (the idea to use this digital tool was originally shared me by Cathleen Nardi) :

Screen shot 2013-09-27 at 1.17.33 PM

This week, in CICMOOC, many are posting their project proposals, while others are posting their best and worst collaborations. Reading about some of these projects is inspiring.  However, reading about some of the best and worst collaborations has made me wonder if there is a recipe for success or disaster.  I can’t help but notice that some of the worst collaborations involve power grabbing, unspoken tensions or feelings, and lack of positive group dynamics while the best of course involve the opposite.  I am grateful for all of these posts that give us the opportunity to reflect on other people’s stories and experiences as we begin to collaborate with others.

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Creativity, Innovation and Change: Spare Diamonds

One of our exercises for week 3 is to think about ways in which we are rich in resources other than the monetary kind.  Although, I am essentially an optimist and see a plethora of abundance around me, for this post, I have decided to focus only on one.

The word diamond brings up many contrasting images in my mind from the famous marketing slogan and OO7 movie “Diamonds are Forever”and Marilyn Monroe singing “Diamonds are a Girls’ Best Friend”, to the bloody and enslaving diamond trade depicted in the movie Blood Diamond.

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In reflecting on this activity, I happened upon this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson which perhaps sums up my greatest spare diamond which is invisible to most and took me a long time to see.

spare diamond

Unlike many people who are short on time, face exhausting 9-5 jobs daily with little time for reflection, I am presently voluntarily unemployed.  I have spent the past two years with ample time for self exploration, trying new things, connecting with others, taking courses and getting in touch with what is important to me.  I have been given the gift of time.  When my life circumstances first bestowed it upon me, I was not so willing a recipient.

However, after a long struggle, I am learning to “guard well my spare moments” and invest them with meaningful play, creativity, volunteerism, learning and meditation. Reading Tim Walker’s blog “Taught by Finland, ” has also encouraged me to embrace being a “human-being” not a “human doing.”

Had I not been given this gift of time, I may never have started taking MOOCs and thinking about alternatives to being a teacher.  A flip side to the global recession and changing economy as well as the heated discussions surrounding education, is that many people (educators and others) have been forced to demonetize (as much as possible) their lives and take the time to reflect on what it is they really want to do/become.

I read somewhere once, that the value of a diamond rests in its ability to be cut.   Much like the cutting of a diamond, what I do with the abundant gift of time that I have been given, rests in how I cut it or shape it into something meaningful.  In addition recently I discovered that diamonds do not come from coal, but “diamonds are still material that has been subjected to great heat, pressure and stress, and has turned into something beautiful.”    So through this sometimes stressful process of shifting my perspective of self and situation, I have discovered a wonderful resource and luxury that many others may indeed covet.  I have an abundance of time!

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Idea Journal: Ventures in the Mind and the Body

This week the weather has turned rainy here signaling the end of summer and the beginning of fall.  As the sky is turning gloomy, I am trying to thwart the melancholy that shorter and grayer days can bring.  So for the second week for Creativity, Innovation and Change, I have decided to start an experiment (I am the only participant) which involves some ventures designed to stretch me in both mind and body.  Those of us engaging in this activity are encouraged to keep the following very wise mantra in mind:


Living in Belgium ,where there are three official languages and English and other languages are spoken widely as well, I have chosen as one of my ventures to engage in daily French practice.   My other venture involves using my sock Poi that I bought over 6 months ago.  These seemingly random choices are partially inspired by my recent move back overseas and Asbjørn Skovsende’s inspiring post on Failure, Juggling and Dewey.

For this venture we are instructed to write in our Idea Journal 4 things that we failed at and what we learned.

At basic poi spinning, I have failed continuously at turns and spinning the sock poi in alternate directions.  I also have failed quite regularly at spinning the poi in split time.  Some things that I am learning are that closing my eyes, listening to music, and practicing frequently help me to get better at these basic moves. Like juggling, doing poi works both sides of the brain and promotes creativity which I think are helpful in both life and embarking on this course.

With French, I have failed quite regularly at getting the gender correct when working with nouns and possessives.  I also have had quite a bit of trouble with pronunciation.  However, I am finding that listening to to the sounds of French via music and conversations without thinking about the complexities of grammar, is useful in improving my pronunciation.  Also by simply memorizing the gender of nouns and possessives, I have improved my grammar.

We are also encouraged to share our experience with others as they may learn from us.  I can honestly say that for both of my ventures, what I am learning most is that by practicing religiously I make quite a bit of progress.


I have found numerous videos on youtube helpful for learning basic poi.  Here are just a few links:



A great mobile resource for language learning, in case you are deciding to venture in the area of learning a new language, is the Duolingo app or you can just go to the Duolingo website by pressing the icon below.


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“Digging” into Creativity, Innovation and Change

Last week the Irish poet laureate and Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney passed away, and many of us (Irish, Irish descendants, travelers, lovers of the written word, human beings etc…) were drawn to celebrate the life of this man and his remarkable craft by savouring and remembering some of his poetry which embodies so much of the harshness and beauty of life.  For quite some time now one of my favorite Heaney poems has been “Digging”, a powerful autobiographical poem to which I always return.  On the surface it looks to be largely about farming and writing; however, as always with poetry, one must dig deeper.
Upon hearing the news of Heaney’s death, I, like many others, was also embarking on pre-course activity and thinking about my creative style and possible projects for Creativity, Innovation and Change, so Heaney’s poem became excellent food for thought and led me to a brief reflection about the connection between”Digging” and the process of discovering one’s creativity.  So in this post,  I would like to share the following insights which may help in digging our way through this process.
PicMonkey Collage
(Although you may not be a fan of poetry, I ask you to bear with me and encourage you to either listen to/watch “Digging” or read it/listen to it depending on your preference.  They are both linked here and are both quite brief:)
Dig Deep and Get Dirty
Those of us who are embarking on this course as either Adventurers or Explorers, are asked to think about the CIC principles of CENTER, Creative Diversity, and Intelligent Fast Failure in our lives.  At first glance, this appears to be a relatively simple process.  However, dig deeply and the process can get a bit dirty!  For example, after posting her Life Ring in Google plus fellow quadblogger and courserian Felicia Sullivan  ponders the following, “I found one of my core areas had too much going on and was unfocused — I had not really thought about it before. ” Digging deeply means being willing to ask the “jugular questions” of ourselves and others which can be disruptive but also life changing. Like Heaney’s father and grandfather, the potato farmers making their way through the muddy bog everyday, “going down and down for the good turf” digging deep and asking the questions is hard work, and it means being relentlessly willing to get dirty perhaps over and over again as we rethink and re-imagine ourselves.
Think Local
In this course we are also encouraged to find projects that are personally challenging and based on topics that are important to us and perhaps even to our community.  Like Heaney who chose to write about something local, something very dear and close to his home and family- potato farming and turf digging, what makes this journey a challenge is to discover the unique and very personal way that we can discover and use our creativity within the community in which we live.  Knowing more about our community and our creative style can prove useful in this endeavour and perhaps after digging here and now where we live, we may start to live some of the answers. As long time friend and Feminine Business Leader  Sherri L. McLendon points out “Today, 21st century coffee houses evolve as hubs of connection and influence in the local landscape.” I wonder what other places in our community outside of museums and schools are gathering places or hubs of local connection and creativity.  Can tapping into that local flavor help us in our journey? How can our unique brand of creativity be celebrated in the service of others in our own community and beyond?
Applying Intelligent Fast Failure in our lives means stepping up to challenges and accepting failure as a part of the creative process.  Heaney’s father and grandfather showed tireless perseverance in digging. His grandfather is described as straightening up from his toil to take a to milk break and then immediately heading back out again.  We too must head back out again regardless of our failures.  As Randy Pausch said in his inspiring Last Lecture , “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
Expand upon Tradition 
Where is home? Where do we come from?  These are often difficult questions to answer.  Pico Iyer speaks eloquently about “Where is home?” in his TED talk (linked in the Idea Cloud for this course), and acknowledges the fact that for him like many of us, he doesn’t come from or live in one tradition or culture and at the same time is drawn to others.    However, at the end of his talk he states that regardless of all this moving around, there is an importance to stepping outside of our world to find out what is important to us and at the same time acknowledging a place to stand.    In “Digging,” the narrator knowingly says that he is not a man of the spade like his father and grandfather,”I’ve no spade to follow men like them.” However, Heaney did often chose to observe and write about the life and traditions that surrounded him.  A part of our creative journey is to acknowledge our roots and yet at the same time to see how our paths branch out from them.
During this process of self discovery, some of us might be able to stand and speak our truth as concisely as Seamus Heaney did at the end of his poem “Digging”:
“Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.”
However,  I suspect that for many more of us, we will simply have found another piece of our own personal jigsaw puzzle, yet it is always important to remember and celebrate each unique piece as indeed one more that we didn’t have before.
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