Last year I helped facilitate the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration (CLMOOC). We seven facilitators, supported by the team from NWP, aimed to remix the idea of a Massive Open Online Course in order to learn in community about making and learning, and to explore Connected Learning Principles.

In the video below, excerpted from a facilitator’s meeting last year, you’ll hear our team (minus the prolific Kevin Hodgson and Karen Fasimpaur) talking about a need we perceived while pouring through the online discourse of participants. Since we welcomed all to our collaboration, and encouraged them to come and go as they pleased during the 6-week professional learning experiment, we wanted to continue to orient and empower participants who had just logged on for the first time. In the meeting we agreed we needed to remind participants about the different digital spaces where they could post their creations and see the contributions of others. Of course, what did we know? None of us had led online learning quite like this before. The audience for our work was visible to us, since we could see interaction online. Our audience was also invisible to us, since we knew that in addition to being readily accessible online to anyone, what we published through newsletters, a blog site, and social network spaces reached about a thousand email inboxes.

Undaunted by the ambiguity, we learned on the job and set a norm for our collaborative work: If you see something needs to be done, be a “bossypants.” We had to be direct with each other because we hesitated at first to direct each other to do things. Politeness slowed us down. In the clip below you’ll hear Paul Oh, NWP senior program associate, ask me to write an unscheduled newsletter with reminders and affirmations. You’ll hear me tease about his nonchalant delegation. Anna Smith and Stephanie West-Puckett, co-facilitators, jump in to tease, too, because one of the undocumented joys about working with NWP is luring Paul into joking around—always worth the minuscule effort it requires.

The newsletter I wrote, like everything else in CLMOOC, was a collaborative effort. While I’ve known what the word collaboration means since my youth, the experience of facilitating an online community as part of a team gave me new insight into this 21st Century buzzword. Unlike the middle school English classroom that shaped my values and teaching practices, where ideas jumped right from my planning journal into 7th grade action, nothing I did in CLMOOC went from the idea stage to execution without the influence or revision of at least one thinking partner.

Not long after the newsletter published, Elena Evtuch from Russia posted her introduction in our Google+ community. The senior lecturer from Saint-Petersburg Academy of Postgraduate Pedagogical Education joined CLMOOC hoping to learn about “distance education” and “new opportunities in education.” In that first post, she admitted that she first planned only to “lurk” before reversing course and deciding to jump in.

I hope not only learn Connected Learning through hands-on activities my own and my colleagues from other countries, but also to improve my English.

For me, Elena’s post felt like a discovery, like we had been mining for gold and found, instead, a more rare element. We wanted to welcome “lurkers,” people who read online forums and networked interaction without participating or posting. We wanted educators reading and learning even if they felt unsure about joining the community and contributing. I had a picture in my head of these “lurkers” who we might entice to stick around, but Elena’s post shattered that picture. I didn’t imagine instructors from Russian higher ed. Elena’s post made me rethink my preconceptions about the educators with whom we connected and learned. We weren’t teaching timid educators to overcome shyness or persevere in online learning, though there are probably examples of that. Instead, we were inviting a global audience to think and collaborate.

Elena’s post is a form of student work. In the screenshot of the comments below Elena’s posts, you can see the response from participants and facilitators alike.


That thread, too, is student work. As I mentioned above, we facilitators leading the MOOC had never led online learning like this before, so our work, too, is student work. Drawing from what the best of what we had experienced in online learning, we were students of our own collaborative facilitation process. Luckily, with all those groups of learners blurring the roles of teacher and student, facilitator and participant, writer and audience, the vast majority of us knew that our real measure for success was the degree to which we saw teachers teaching teachers in CLMOOC. Most of us learned that the old fashioned way, in NWP summer institutes.

There was “traditional” student work, too, the kind created by youth in classrooms. Elena posted an example from a Google Map project.

There are more then 50 maps on Google that were created by schoolchildren during two months project. As an example (unfortunately, all texts in Russian):

View Музыка 7-9. Группа №22 in a larger map

This work brings me to a vital, shared inquiry in this year’s CLMOOC, and more broadly in My NWP: How do we look closely at student work in the digital age? I’ve stolen that question from a webinar series ongoing while I write this post. I intend to follow that series in the same way we’ve invited CLMOOC participants to follow it. I bring questions to the webinar series and to CLMOOC.

  • How do we know when learning spaces and opportunities meet the needs of modern educators?
  • How do we know when learning spaces and opportunities meet the needs of modern students?

My NWP story ends where it begins, at CLMOOC. Like so many of last year’s participants, Elena is participating for the second year. As notifications on my smartphone buzz with each post in the CLMOOC Google+ Community, I look for opportunities to put into practice what I’m learning about collaboration and audience. My previous conception of My NWP shifts into something new, but not altogether different.

Joe DillonJoe Dillon is a teacher-consultant with the Denver Writing Project and an educational technologist in the Aurora Public Schools, in Aurora, CO. He co-facilitates the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration, which is hosted by Educator Innovator and powered by NWP.