Exploring Digital Culture

Entries by a MOOC participant

Catching Butterflies…

As the the third week of The 5 Habits of Highly Creative Teachers takes off, I am cautiously optimistic. Why you might ask?  Let me explain.  What started as the seed of an idea during participation in the Creativity, Innovation and Change (CIC MOOC) in October of last year has blossomed into a full blown professional development opportunity designed for K-12 teachers.  Currently, there are 1100 registrants, 250 members in our Google+ Community, and 50-75 posts per day.

Why cautiously optimistic?

1.  We have an international contingent of teachers from all over the world.  Clearly, there is a demand for professional development that offers a unique approach and is accessible 24/7.  Online learning via MOOCs is underutilized for K-12 teachers today.  In addition, we have been able to offer Graduate Credit through Colorado MESA University for Colorado teachers through our sponsor, Northwest Colorado BOCES. (Check out our participant map – that’s me the blue dot in Hawaii):

#create5 -  An International Community

2.   Each of the 5 Habits are explored weekly in a different module:  Curiosity, Remixing, Tribe Building, Failure, and Reflection.  Each module encourages participants to experiment, dabble and play.  We have not been disappointed with the artifacts that have been produced and the variety of technology tools that have been used.  For example, in his blog, Copy, Transform, Combine, Ben Rogers describes the process he went through during the activity.  The result shares 3 different activities and tools that he experimented with:

copy combine and transform

Image Courtesy of Ben Rogers

3.  As with all MOOCs, there is the ability to skim the surface, to stay in the background and not participate, to experience the MOOC at a superficial level.  There are those that have chosen to dig deeper and it has been rewarding to see the gems that have been unearthed during the excavation process.  In her blog, Prince Charming, Hayfa Majdoub brings us back to her childhood, “memories of the time I was innocent just acting without reflecting on consequences. Doing things as they come, without premeditation and that’s what makes the difference between who we are and what we used to be when we were kids…”  It is rekindling this creative spirit that we had when we were children that connects us to our own personal creativity.

My remix of Bang Bang

Image Courtesy of Hayfa Majdoub


This course was designed by a team spread across the United States — and in Belgium.  We have never met before.  We have used Google Hangouts, Google Docs, and SLACK, a real time messaging system on steroids that has allowed us to collaborate in the creation of this project.   We are passionate about this idea.  We were motivated to create an opportunity for teachers to come together to explore their own personal creativity so that they could work to build a culture of creativity with their students.

We believe that teachers are passionate too.  However, the constant demands of accountability to achieve success as measured by tests that are not capable of assessing creativity has sucked the well dry.  We are hoping that courses like the one offered here can rekindle this passion one creative idea at a time.

And, yet, there are concerns as to whether or not this type of professional development will be successful:

1.   Our desire to have an open course that was flexible to meet our needs was outweighed by the desire to have  culturally divergent participation. We selected Canvas as our Learning Management System knowing that their marketing would reach teachers all over the world.  We have not been disappointed.   In our first Google Hangout, we had students from China, India, and the West Indies. Canvas personnel have worked with our rebellious desire to bend their system to meet our needs. Kevin Hodgson described it as a ‘sort of’ MOOC.  We are working within the confines of a system and have had to make concessions to our desire to be part of the Open Ed Community.

2.  Connected MOOCs are built on engagement of participants.  This is much like putting kids in a playground and telling them to go play.  It takes awhile for people to feel comfortable in a social environment.  We  have a vibrant Google+ Community and a fledgling Twitter stream, but since 70% of teachers have never participated in a MOOC,  many in our community are still finding their digital voice. Discussions within Canvas, while engaging,  have required facilitation.  There are emergent voices in the crowd, we are hopeful that others will become more vocal in their participation.


Image Courtesy of NW Colorado BOCES

3.  Building a community is an elusive process, like catching butterflies in a net.  To build trust and empathy in a few short weeks is a challenge.     Dave Cormier speaks of Building a Learning Community thing-y with the Internet thing-y here.  Creating a tribe in an online environment is one thing, sustaining it over time is quite another.  The connections that are made here, if they are sustained will contribute to the success of the project.

catching butterflies

Image Courtesy of Little Grippers

4. Creating habits is the central theme of the 5 Habits of Highly Creative Teachers.  They say it takes 21 days to form a habit.  But doing so requires consistency, practice, resolve and mindfulness.  Our hope is that these habits —  curiosity, remixing, tribe building, failure, and reflection — which have been excavated during the course, will continue to be practiced until new neural pathways have been formed. Without this transformation, will the participants  be successful in bringing these habits into their classroom on a regular basis, and not be drowned out by the noise of the everyday demands of being an educator?

Just as we have ‘paid it forward’ from our experience in Creativity, Innovation and Change we are hopeful that each educator will ‘pay it forward’ to their students.. by creating a culture of creativity in their classrooms and in their lives.

Image Courtesy of Tracee Vetting Wolf

Image Courtesy of Tracee Vetting Wolf




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This entry was posted on June 17, 2014 by and tagged .

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