Challenging Traditional Assumptions and Rethinking Learning Spaces


Tables always need to face the front. Learning an individual activity. Classrooms need to look the same each day. Learning always happen at fixed times.   These are just a few of the traditional assumptions that are examined in the article Challenging Traditional Assumptions and Rethinking Learning Spaces written by Nancy Van Note Chism  and published in Educause. Having looked at the barriers and opportunities to creating different learning spaces Nancy then provides some fascinating examples of intentionally created spaces and how they better reflect the learning needs of students today.  

By the way what do you think about the informal seating at City Campus in East Northumbria University in the featured photograph? It shows a multipurpose area for independent study in which students can choose from a variety of settings using different seats and table tops.  They can opt for different views and locations depending on their needs. The room is fully wireless enabled and the colour palette is fresh and cool, with heaps of natural light. Makes you want to go there!

The Changing Landscape of Higher Education

In an interesting post on the changing landscape in Higher Education, David Staley and Dennis Trinkle identify 10 fault lines which have the potential to create dramatic change in the university sector in the US.  These fault lines look not only at technological trends but at the wider context and environment. As the writers say ‘consider this article advanced warning of the potentially tectonic shift’….   Although this post focuses on the US higher education sector the comments have implications for higher educational institutions worldwide.

Best web 2.0 applications for education in 2011

 Todays post comes courtesy of Larry Ferlazzo who regularly talks about websites that help readers teach ELL, ESL and EFL!

Larry has been publishing an annual listing of the best web2.0 applications since 2007.   Websites, will only be on Larry’s list if they are accessible to English Language Learners and non-tech savvy users, free of charge, appropriate for classroom use and my favourite, completely browser-based with no download required.

We hope you enjoy checking out the Best web 2.0 applications for education in 2011.

SMOOC half way point

By Lisa, on January 2nd, 2012

I am going over the mid-year surveys from our Pedagogy First! SMOOC (Small-to-medium open online class), and looking for patterns. It was a Google spreadsheet survey, so the summary isn’t very user-friendly, but here it is because it has pretty pie charts [pdf]. 42 people filled it out.

An overview of what’s up:

93% believe the class so far has been a positive learning experience. This is very high!

In terms of objectives, 62% are taking the class to improve teaching skills, and 21% to increase their knowledge of online tools for teaching.

In terms of goals, 62% intend to earn a POT online teaching certificate, while 24% are following along but intend to post only occasionally.

About the certificate, 38% are earning it to fulfill their own expectations, and 24% to advance their employment options. This is despite the fact that the certificate is an informal badge, issued by the volunteer Program for Online Teaching faculty, not an accredited institution of any kind. 36% are not going for the certificate.

So far, 29% have fulfilled the entire syllabus, and 17% plan to make up missed work.

31% started off well but personal or professional conflicts meant they stopped participating. This is of the 42 answering the survey, but the original number of participants was about 90, so most people have dropped. This was expected given the attrition in other MOOCs.

In terms of community, about a fifth feel strongly connected, and a fifth feel only partly connected. More interestingly, 38% say they feel only partly connected and that’s fine – we have a number of independent learners.

The sticky post we use for each week at the top of the blog is helpful to 76% of those surveyed. 88% felt the weekly email was helpful. So it may be that doing both is a good idea.

57% participated to some extent in the Facebook group, but 36% didn’t by choice. I know that several participants are leery of Facebook because of their horrid privacy policies, but given the 38% that don’t want more community connections, 57% is pretty high!

Although 48% are happy with the colleague connections, 24% want more emphasis on commenting on each other’s blogs. This is interesting, since everyone has been encouraged to do this, and doing so is up to the participants. 21% want a Google group or more formal place for discussion (only 3 people want to use Facebook for this). If we set something up, of course, the risk is fewer blog comments, so….

Mentors have been very or somewhat helpful to 53% of participants, but 21% didn’t get help and didn’t ask for it, and 26% didn’t know who their mentor was. We might want to put out a list so that mentors feel more responsible and participants know who to contact. We relied on mentors to contact their 4 or 5 mentees, but there may have been a communication gap.

45% see online teaching as a mode of delivery, which is probably the most basic definition. 24% see it as a separate discipline. Others didn’t choose either, or believed they were combined. Only 14% saw it as a subset of teaching in general.

74% claim to have gained confidence in selecting tools for online teaching. This is excellent.

81% feel ready to build a class around their own pedagogy instead of being led solely by the technologies they’re using. Also excellent!

Concerning class design, 60% like it the way it is, with assigned readings/viewings, required posts, and participants blogging in their own space. Comments indicate participants want more about designing discussion, building community, and creating assessments, with an emphasis on reflection. 12% (five participants) wanted less work overall.

Participants have enjoyed blogging, reading the Ko and Rossen textbook, trying lots of tools, and interacting with a community. Concerns mostly revolved around participants not having the time they hoped they’d have to participate more fully, and some felt there was just too much, especially too many tools to try. Since one of the things they most enjoyed was trying the tools, and one of the biggest concerns was too many tools, these may cancel each other out.

Seven participants (17%) indicated they would have liked less tool exploration and more emphasis on the reading in the first semester. Although this isn’t very many articulating this, I saw evidence that this was a problem in other ways, including frustration with tools in the first several weeks. This was exacerbated by people needing help and time setting up their own blog. We may need to provide more time for that in the first few weeks.

The Ethics of Mobile Learning – Troubling and Complex

By John Traxler, Professor of Mobile Learning and Director of the Learning Lab at the University of Wolverhampton, England, in a guest post for Mobile Active

John Traxler reviews the development of mobile learning, take up and engagement within communities and questions whether educators and institutions know what is best for learners and how they might learn using mobile devices, services and connectivity:

A day in our home education life

by Glory Bea, HomeSchool Co-op

At the prompting of Jaime at Simple Homeschool, I’m posting about a day in our life — with a mom (me), dad, 4-1/2-year-old Esther, 3-year-old Jedediah, and nearly 2-year-old George.

Our 3 munchkins are concentrating on their own work at the table.
Wild and crazy kids playing outside
— the most important element of our curriculum!

Sometimes, our days flow so wonderfully that I can almost hear the angels singing. At other times (and almost always the same day), there is such chaos that if most people walked in, they’d suggest I send them to public school. (Gasp!)

That’s no matter, though, because I know I’m called to lead my children’s education based at home. Further, my Lord is good and merciful, so we carry on and try to do it better the next day.

And the Sun Came Up on the Farm
our “daily flow” timeline

And so our day begins, and it’s generally in line with the morning routine I posted at the blog post about Our Daily Flow.

Many days before the sun rises, our 3-year-old boy, Jedediah, finds his way into our bed for cuddles.

My husband departs for work.

The children are laughing (usually) and getting themselves dressed, well at least one of the older two.

These days, it takes someone crying — usually the babe — for me to rise. I do, then I get him from his crib, change his diaper, and get him some fresh milk.

Breakfast, Bible …. & Sometimes Mr Rogers

I begin breakfast, sometimes with a kiddo’s help — especially for pouring water and oats for oatmeal.

If the children are happy, I finish breakfast and get it on the table. If one or more are not happy while I’m preparing breakfast, I put on our old friend, Mr. Rogers. (You can view old episodes at PBS.)

We eat breakfast together, during which I read aloud at least one Bible story. Lately, I’ve been reading from Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories that I picked up at a library book sale for 50 cents. We also like to read Arch Books, Read-Aloud Bible Stories by Ella K. Lindvall, and from some other Bible story sources.

Morning: Dress, Groom & Clean Up

After breakfast, we all “do” our “morning habits.” You can see what they are in this post on Habit Cards, which actually solidified this routine for us after referencing them for about a week.

George ran off when I was getting him dressed.

I tell them we can’t do anything else until these “habits” are accomplished. They have completely embraced it, and so everything flows through this part of the day — usually.

Comparing two publication channels – academic journals and blogs

by Frances Bell, CC3.0 Unported

Henry Jenkins by Tamaleaver CC by 2.0

Journals on shelves

Journals on Shelves by Bezanson CC by 2.0


I am going to throw out a few initial ideas about comparing academic journals and blogs as publication channels, as a kick off to a writing project I’ll be doing with Cristina Costa.

Let me start by saying that it is very difficult to generalise about either academic journals or blogs as channels since they are each in a state of flux, changing and interpreted differently  by different users and audiences. This post has been provoked by recent discussion on peer review and journals within my (albeit limited) network.  The issues that interest me are:

  • development of research and writing
  • the role of peer review and editing
  • dissemination of research

Obviously, I will be collaborating with Cristina and we will both improving our review of the literature to find what is already known on the subject.

development of research and writing

Blogs can play a role in the development of academic writing.  An author can try out ideas and get feedback.  I have tried this myself  (but can’t point to the posts as they are sadly lost) on a paper I wrote for Networked Learning 2010.  Also I recall a learning developer who posted successive drafts of an essay on their blog in response to readers’ feedback (would love the link to this if anyone has it). I think the intention of this was to reveal the sometimes messy journey of writing rather than to recommend this as a method of writing.

I see writing as a process with a product that emerges from privacy to publication with more eyes seeing and commenting along the way. A tweet may take only a minute to write but increasingly this text is wraparound/trigger to click a link to another text /multimedia artifact such as a blog post or video created over a much longer period.

There are different styles of blogging and plenty of tips on how to do it and writing for different audiences is very useful for an author’s toolkit.

Writing an article for a scholarly journal is likely to be a much more lengthy process with commenting and revisions emerging from the exchanges between authors, reviewers and editor(s) not all which are ‘public’ in the sense the article itself is.  The process for rejected articles is private with no publication endpoint. Journals with a commitment to the development of their authors will try to ensure that peer review is as much about development as about selection/ rejection.  I am interested in the role that blogging and other social media can play in writing development.

the role of peer review and editing

Journal peer review can be double blind (where neither reviewer nor authors are known to each other – though it is sometimes possible for them to guess each others’ identities); single blind where the reviewers know the authors’ identities but they remain anonymous to authors.  Usually peer review remains a relatively private exchange with comments and responses sent by email.  Different levels and types of openness are possible.  JIME, Journal of Interactive Media Education conducted very interesting dialogic review  and I am interested to research into evaluations of that and similar approaches.  I do know that reviewing can help writers develop, and that editing has had an impact on my reviewing and my writing.

I was also interested in Alan Cann’s experiment with open review but  think that much more work needs to be done to tease out more and less effective methods of using feedback to develop writing. I am not at all convinced by Doug Belshaw’s linkage of transparency to better in relation to peer review (see last sentence).

Massive Courses Sans Stanford

by Steve Kolowich

Leland Stanford first planned to found an institution in 1884. 127 years on some Stanford instructors are pushing beyond the boundaries of  ‘the institution’ with several professors setting up private initiatives to provide massive open online education. This follows on from an Artificial Intelligence course in 2011 which attracted around 200 000 participants. The article describes various options being considered including establishment of a recruitment agency for technology industry rather than traditional forms of accreditation.

Getting to Know You: Change11 and Mooc Participation

The second in the series from Liz Renshaw.

Vanessa Vaile here, my current landing spot is Mountainair (isolated, rural) in central NM. Both current location and places along the way are relevant, context to what I do and how I do it. Status: retired from teaching other than some volunteer and design work; active curating content, blogging and other online and community projects.

Why did I decide to participate in Change11? I ask myself that same question, along why the others too? Why not? I started two weeks late with PLENK10, lost at sea most of the time but kept on signing up. Whatever my reasons are, “professional development” is not among them, although personal and even community or network would be. Remember Zorba’s stone?

As for “MOOC highlights,” weeks, topics, presenters, commentaries, newsletters, groups become something of a blur. Not all highlights took place in a MOOC. The best are aha moments when a MOOC moment connects elsewhere, wether higher education reform, curating open GED resources, self-paced ESL study group or community development ~ and vice versa. Those I tag, bookmark, add to reader and share appropriately.

After trying and rejecting complex strategies for managing information, I’ve simplified the process to ‘sort, tag, aggregate, read what I can and most catches my attention, comment on and tweet time permitting, ignore what I can’t’. That includes not worrying about what I will surely miss, lose track off or just plain forget. It’s still there waiting and may or may not return.

I’m still working on my own definition of a “Personal Learning Network,” its parameters and sometimes even what to call it. My network is eclectic, neither 100% personal nor exclusively “educational” (another problematic term).

Use tools: don’t be one. Social networking tools favored one mooc may not take center stage the next, Why, I could not say. Convenience and availability of apps to make them more efficient are important considerations. I live on the wrong side of the digital divide. Not being bandwidth hogs is probably the real deal maker.

Most used are: blogging platforms (Blogger, Posterous, most recently Tumblr); Google reader, sort, tag, bundle, share, search; email (forget that crap the death of email or it being where ideas go to die unless a) not web based, b) user is a preternaturally gormless searcher); Twitter – four active accounts (higher ed, personal, local, literary); social bookmarking, both Delicious and Diigo; Facebook (convenient for sharing even though search and archive suck big-time, for pages, get around that for pages with rss feed in readers; aggregators: NetVibes;;, iGoogle ~ and whatever helps sync all of the preceding. Also used but less or on the tryout list: Dropbox;; Storify; Pinterest; Twitter / social media management systems; and some used so little that I cannot recall their names.

Resonate? I am not a tuning fork. Just off the top of my head, Dave for clarity, ecology, rhizomes; George for structure, analytics; Stephen for newsletter, attitude and magpie mind; Snowden because we are both Welsh. I feel the meaning of ‘cynefin’ in my bones. All of them for “messing with boundaries, barriers, and silos” (George).

There are others in between that I am still processing and will be long after the course is over. A moveable feast. Applications are another story and another post for another time.

The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons

By Ronnie Burt on / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Lately, we’ve been hearing more and more about digital copyrights and fair use in the news and online – particularly with the whole SOPA/PIPA uproar that recently swept the web.

Also, we on the Edublogs support team have been getting more and more complaints and official requests to remove copyrighted content that users have placed on blogs.

The legal jargon with respect to digital copyrights can be confusing – especially since different countries have their own laws and regulations.

With this post, we hope to dispel a few myths and pull together a complete list of resources for teachers and students to use when blogging and working with content online.

Rule #1: You Can’t Use Everything You Find On the Web

Dexter the cat hates those that steal his photos…

This may seem obvious, but judging by the notices we have received, many teachers (and especially students) are under the impression that if it is on the web, then it is up for grabs.

Edublogs News – The International Blog Directory

Have you added your blog to our international blog directory yet? Or you can visit to find blogs to follow by subject, age, and location!

If you and your students keep rule #1 in mind, then everything else should be fine.

Rule #2: There Are Resources You CAN Use

One of the myths out there is that you can’t use any image, video, or content from another website on your blog.

That simply isn’t true, and we’ll cover our favorite sources of “fair use” and “public domain” sources at the end of this post.

It is troubling that while copyright is important to protect the hard work of others, it can also stifle creativity and hamper educational goals. Though SOPA is effectively dead at the moment, there is a legitimate need for newer laws that are built around the open and free-sharing nature of the web.

Understanding Fair Use

You might be aware that as educators, we have a few more flexible rules, called “Fair Use”, to play by.

That is, in some cases, if an image, text, video, etc. is being used for educational purposes, there might be more flexible copyright rules.

For example, a video that was purchased in a store can usually be shown in a classroomwhen the video is tied to the curriculum being taught. Otherwise, showing a class full of students a video would be considered a “public performance” and would be against the law.

The trouble is, most of the laws and rules that cover fair use and education were written well before the invention of the web.

While a textbook or curricula resource might allow for photocopying for classroom use, it most likely isn’t going to allow you to make a PDF of the document and put it on your class blog or website for students to print themselves.

The end result would be the same, right? A student would have a printed copy.

But make sure to check specific copyright restrictions before uploading anything you’ve scanned to the web!

For more, check out the Fair Use FAQ for Educators here from the excellent resource site,

What Can Be a Violation?

Here are the most common types of content that we have been contacted about and asked to remove on our blogs:

  • Images – mostly found through google image search
  • Curriculum docs – especially handouts and student activities
  • Text and quotes – copy/pasted from other websites (even with a link or attribution it still may not be legal)
  • Music – usually mp3s that students have uploaded to share on their blogs

But I Won’t Be Caught…

If only that were true.

Google makes it incredibly easy for companies and content creators to seek out those posting their work on the web.

Sadly, we are also noticing more and more “law firms” and organizations out there looking for copyrighted content as a way of generating business. They then contact the copyright holder offering their services to get the content removed (for a fee of course).

It is a ruthless (and apparently profitable) practice, and we’d be lying if we haven’t argued with a few that contact Edublogs about how they are hurting the education of students. But let’s keep on topic…

What If I Am Caught?

Little did Dexter know, but he was going on this flight anyway…

Well of course in this case a good offense is your best defense. Check your blogs and class websites for any potentially offending material. If you find anything, just remove it.

The law requires copyright holders to give you (and the host of your site, such as Edublogs, WordPress, etc.) an official notification. Take these seriously and act quickly to remove what they want if you are in the wrong. That should be the end of it.

We were recently notified about a teacher with a blog on Edublogs that had a harmless world map image on his blog that he had presumably found using Google image search. When we contacted him telling him why we had removed the image, he asked if he and his students could write an apology letter to the copyright holder.

It was excellent – turning what could be a bit of an embarrassing mistake into a teachable moment for his students! Now this teacher had a good reason to discuss copyright and creative commons with his students…

So What Is Creative Commons?

One thing to look for when figuring out if a resource (ie. image, video, text, etc.) is free to copy or embed on your blog, is a Creative Commons license.

For example, look at the bottom right corner of the sidebar of this blog. You’ll see that we license all content on this blog as “Attribution – Non-Commercial – Share Alike”.

That is fancy talk for letting you know that you are free to use anything on this blog as long as you:

  1. give an attribution or credit that lets others know where you got the info with a link,
  2. won’t profit in any way from using our content and use it for non-business purposes only, and
  3. anything you create with our content, you must use the same license.

Luckily, the website has a ton of excellent information and makes it easy to grab the license you wish to have on your own blog. If you (or your students) have blogs, then it is a good idea to choose the most appropriate license and make it visible on your blog.

In our case, we pasted the code they provided into a blank text widget in our sidebar.

Where To Find The Goods

We found our dog, Durango, wandering the busy streets of Durango, Mexico!


Creative Commons Search – Search many sites at once *Our Favorite! – Free images from photographers around the world – One free photo per day – Huge resource for avatars or small images

Flickr Advanced Search – Use advanced search filters to show only CC licensed images


You are free to embed any video from YouTubeVimeoWatchKnowLearn, etc. on your blog or website as long as it gives you the embed option.

That being said, you (or your students) can’t necessarily use parts from videos on YouTube (or other sources) to make mashups or as part of another video. Be sure to have permission to use any video that you are cutting, making changes to, or adding to a project.

Curriculum and Text

Wikipedia – Quote away (with a link back) to any information you find on Wikipedia

Curriki – An open curriculum community

Collaborize Classroom Library – A growing resource for discussion questions, lesson plans, and more

You won’t be able to add student resources from most textbook companies or purchased curriculum – so be careful and make sure you have permission before doing so!

Related Posts and More Info on Copyright

How To Attribute Copyrighted Works

Larry Ferlazzo’s Best Lists: Learning about copyrightbest places for images, and best places for audio

What Do You Think?

Have we missed any important tips or good sites to find resources that are free to use?

Let us know in the comments below and we will be sure to add it to the post!