Monday, August 10, 2015

Unit 5: The Power of Imagination

Welcome to Unit 5 of the Power of Connections. This is the final unit of content in our learning experience, and our focus is on The Power of Imagination. Our goal is to discuss ways that we might re-imagine our institutions through the lens of student engagement.

We have a fun lineup of content, including another great interview clip with Kerry Magruder. We also have:
We also have our second and final Twitter chat this week on Thursday at 10:00 AM CDT. We would love to have you join us if you get a moment. It's sure to be a fantastic conversation. Here's a link to the activity from our last Twitter chat (
See you online.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

UNIT 5: Reimagining the University Through the Eyes of Galileo

In this interview, Kerry Magruder talks to Rob about the many interdisciplinary possibilities for learning, and uses Galileo as a model for how we can redesign our university experiences.

Unit 5: Who’s Your Duck?: A Conversation About Facing Our Institutional Challenges

Rob: I’m looking for a rubber duck.
Stacy: Excuse me?
Rob: A rubber duck.
Stacy: I’m not having trouble with your pronunciation, Rob. I’m just not sure what you’re talking about.
Rob: Have you ever heard of "rubber duck debugging?"
Stacy: No.
Rob: It’s a term people use sometimes in software programming. It comes from a story about a guy would carry around this rubber duck and debug code by forcing himself to explain it, line-by-line, to the duck.

Stacy: Are you trying to be "meta" with this?
Rob: What do you mean?
Stacy: Think about it. We’re having a dialogue about a guy having a dialogue with a duck. A dialogue within a dialogue, with a duck thrown in for good measure.
Rob: Ahhh… got it. We’re using a dialogue to improve our presentation of information and, as an example, we’re describing a story about a guy who has a dialogue with a duck to debug code.
Stacy: To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I would have used a duck if I wanted to talk things through with another person.
Rob: Not a good enough listener?
Stacy: No, I’m pretty sure the duck would be a fine listener. I’m just thinking of Animal Farm. I’d probably feel more comfortable with a pig.
Rob: Hmmm... I shouldn’t be taking this personally, should I?
Stacy: You should be so lucky.
Rob: Very funny. If I were choosing a new partner for dialogue, I’d probably go with… well… you know, I guess it actually depends on what I’d be talking about.
Stacy: Agreed. I wouldn’t want to dialogue about cooking with my pig, for example.
Rob: I would think not. Let me think for a second. Hmmm...Okay, I definitely know who I would want to dialogue with if I were trying to talk about teaching ideas or reimagining the design of the university.
Stacy: I bet I know. Kerry Magruder, right?
Rob: I guess that was pretty easy. In my mind, it would go something like this.

Stacy: Yes, Kerry would be fun. But this brings up a really good point. So many times, when we’re trying out new ideas or trying to make changes, we don’t have that perfect person to dialogue with.
Rob: That’s right. That’s why I think we have to "imagine" them.
Stacy: Like "rubber duck re-designing?"
Rob: Exactly. We need to find someone or something, living or inanimate that we can talk to, share our fears with.
Stacy: Seriously, I like this idea. It always helps to have a conversation, to talk things through. I’ve given class assignments where students have to create their own HTML, for example. One technique I recommend when they have issues is to read each word/line aloud - you can often find little errors that way.
Rob: Going back to the rubber duck debugging example, it can be also really helpful to describe what you think something is going to do (what it’s supposed to do or what you want it to do), and then observe what it actually does. The gap between the two provides important understanding.
Stacy: Of course. Teaching something forces us to see it from different perspectives.
Rob: And, talking out loud about our ideas and worries inevitably reduces our anxiety.
Stacy: Okay, so you’ve mentioned Kerry Magruder as a real person you would like to share ideas with. What about other types of characters for your dialogues?
Rob: Great question. I might go with a western hero. Maybe Butch Cassidy or Rooster Cogburn.
Stacy: Interesting. Very interesting. I was thinking more along the lines of Spock and Data.

  1. What solutions have you used in the past for "talking through" your ideas and/or concerns when there was no one physically available for you to talk to?
  2. What characters or objects would you choose to share your ideas with?
  3. Think about the advantages and disadvantages to talking to an inanimate object or a character that is not really "there?"

Unit 5: Trading Spaces

This week’s improv comes in two variations. Feel free to complete only one version of the improv or both.

Variation 1

The eight images below represent possible learning spaces for a re-imagined learning environment. You have been appointed as the Chief Learning Designer for your institution and may select any three of these spaces in order to create the ideal learning space. You may combine them in any order. Post your selection in a blog post or comment, along with your reasoning.

Space #1

Space #2

Space #3

Space #4

Space #5

Space #6

Space #7

Space #8

Variation 2

You have been appointed as the Chief Learning Designer for your institution and have inherited the learning spaces pictured above as part of the institution’s initiative to build the ideal environment for learning in the 21st Century. You have also been given enough budget to add one more learning space to complete the initiative. Find or take a picture of the "last learning space" and post it in a Twitter post with the #NTPoC hashtag and "The Last Space" reference.

Unit 5: Extending the Improvisation

Hopefully, our "Trading Spaces" improv has helped stimulate some creative thinking regarding how we think about our institutions as well as how we might re-imagine them. This is also a new improv variation to consider when creating student-creation prompts for students.

As we did in Unit 4, I would now like us to think about how this completion improv might be modified and/or reused in different disciplines, courses, or situations.

For example, this improv makes uses of a set collection of images as a foundation, and then asks participants to complete designs using those images. What value do you see, for example in having students contribute the initial set of images?

What are some other possible applications you see? What modifications would you make to the current improv model that might make it more effective? More fun and engaging? Are there similar improvs or completion activities you have used or participated in previously? If so, what did you like about them?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Also, feel free to link to any Web resources, personal blog posts, or other social media sites that you want to share with the community.

Unit 5: Creating Open and Engaging Artifact Challenges

There are many great model sources for student-creation activities and artifact challenges. For example, we can look at the wonderful work of Dan Meyer on modeling in mathematics education, or the fabulous catalog of artifact activities from DS106.

Naturally, these types of activities fall into a number of different categories. Key differentiators include:
  • Does the activity require creation of content or creation + analysis?
  • Do participants need to learn or use an unfamiliar tool for the activity?
  • Does the activity require mastery of a new learning concept?
  • How much time does the activity require for completion?
  • Is the activity complex or simple?
For those new to creating artifact challenges, or those simply looking for a broad range of easy-to-adapt improvs, I really like the Daily Try activity that Alan Levine is facilitating as part of the UdG Agora project. The great thing about the Daily Try is that, while many of the activities are fairly simple, they generally lead to genuine reflection. Another great aspect of the Daily Try is that all of the participant work is aggregated via Twitter tags, which reinforces community sharing.

Here are a couple of examples of Daily Try activities that I have completed.
For this Artifact Challenge we would like for you to design your own Daily Try. Your contribution should consist of two parts: 1) a description; 2) an example. You can look at any of the #agoratry examples to get ideas for how to do this. Please note that these can be either simple or complex, and can veer more toward a specific discipline.

You can create your Daily Try as a blog post and provide a link inside a #NTPoC tweet or as part of a comment below.

Unit 5: #NTPoC Twitter Chat -- Thursday, August 13 at 10:00 AM CDT

Join us for a live #NTPoC Twitter chat on Thursday, August 13th at 10:00 AM CDT. To tune in, simply follow the #NTPoC hashtag activity from 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM (CDT), and add your own tweets to the conversation.

Our Twitter chats for the course are limited to an hour in length, and we use the following format to help make our collaborative conversations cohesive (or at least less chaotic!).
  • We will use 6 different questions as prompts for our chat/discussion. We will start with Q1 and then, after 10 minutes have passed, we will move on to Q2 and then keep repeating that pattern until we have covered all 6 questions.
  • The questions are listed here (so you can think about them in advance), but they will also be posted as tweets (e.g. "Q1- What does good student engagement look like to you?").
  • When you participate, put A1, A2 etc. at the beginning of your tweets. This will make it easier for people to know what questions you’re addressing.
  • Don’t worry about "keeping up" or "getting lost" in the chat. This happens to everyone! We’ll create a Storify version of the entire conversation (like this one from an #OpenTeachingOU Twitter chat in the spring) so that you can go back and catch up on anything you might have missed.
Questions for the Twitter Chat

Q1 - What online tools do you use to engage with your own Personal Learning Newtork (PLN)? What tools do you use for teaching?

Q2 - How can you envision using these tools as a lens or model for reimagining our institutions?

Q3 - How could these tools be used as a lens for reimagining more traditional digital learning environments such as LMS platforms?

Q4 - What is the biggest obstacle you see to creating interdisciplinary learning experiences?

Q5 - How would you design a hub-of-connections platform for linking tools, content and learning activity at a school or university?

Q6 - What is the key component when it comes to designing collaborative learning communities?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Daily Announcement: Examples of Designing for Engagement

Happy Friday, everyone.

It's been another fun week of looking at student engagement. As part of that activity, I thought I would share a couple of examples that have been created this week. The first two are from Laura Gibbs and are nice reflections of her experience in designing activities for student creation.

Meanwhile, I have continued to "learn our loud" about student engagement by participating in the Daily Try activities that are part of the UdG Agora Project. Here is my latest improvisation response.

Finally, as we start gearing up for next week and our discussions on "The Power of Imagination," I want to let everyone know that we are going to have another Twitter Chat. So, if you can, get it on your schedule now. We'll be chatting on Thursday, August 13 at 10:00 AM CDT. I'll be tweeting more information about this beginning Sunday.

See you online!


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Daily Announcement: Designing for Engagement and Collaboration

G’day everyone! I think everyone will enjoy this week’s (Unit 4) completion improv but, more important, I believe it is the type of framework for which you will see many possible applications. As you’ll likely see, there are so many ways we can create incomplete problems or structures that can help participants work out their personal understanding or ownership of information.

And speaking of working things out, I wanted to share a new post I’ve written that discusses a modeling framework for doing collaborative design work on courses (for any environment). This is a visual approach to learning design that supports the nuances of connected or engaged learning models, and that may be helpful to those who don’t already have their own language or processes developed for this work. I see this as being particularly useful when it comes to helping others translate their learning vision into online or hybrid environments.

Also, Laura has posted her thoughts on an essay by Adeline Koh, and I think her observations make for great conversation.

So much important stuff here in +Adeline Koh 's essay; I would ask same question about online: why is all our online training for faculty conducted face to face...? If faculty haven't learned how to learn online, then how on earth can they teach online effectively...?

And here's a quote Laura pulls form the article.

Why is it that although as educators we largely understand that there are valid criticisms of the lecture format, that we continue to reproduce that format whenever we meet professionally? Think about how every conference you go to has one keynote or more, or about the countless number of times you’ve listened to academic papers read out loud — sometimes without the speaker even looking up. Why is it that we teach our students in one way and teach each other differently?

I look forward to seeing your improv contributions!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Daily Announcement: Completion as Creation

This week is all about student creation as a way to facilitate student engagement. In the Dialogues section, Stacy and Adam provide valuable insight into why student creation is important (as well as how to design for this kind of activity), and our improv this week focuses on completion exercises. Completion improvs are particularly useful because they offer a low-risk way to get students to participate and have fun with creation. They are also great for encouraging collaboration and networking.

Speaking of completion and creation, you should definitely check out the work Alan Levine is doing as part of the UDG Agora project. His "Daily Try" challenges provide a wonderful portfolio of possibilities.

Finally, I've posted my presentation -- text, images, and video -- from last week's keynote address at the Big XII Teaching and Learning Conference. Whether you're just now joining the course or you've been reading and playing along since the beginning, this should provide a good foundation for the #NTPoC philosophy and approach to learning design.

See you online,


Monday, August 3, 2015

A Daily Improvisation from Alan Levine: The Daily Try

Alan Levine has created a great online activity as part of his involvement with the UDG Agora project out of Guadalajara.

His site, The Daily Try, is a SPLOT, and presents a fun completion improv every single day. Even better, he uses a Twitter hashtag for each improv and aggregates the responses on his site. It's creative and it's collaborative. What's not to like?

Alan's on Daily Try #66 at the moment, but I thought it would be fun to share a few of the prompts that I enjoyed.

1. #agoratry5: Share Something Interesting from -- I shared a series of lectures by one of my favorite authors, Jorge Luis Borges.

2. #agoratry14: Explain your profession to your mom. Make it fit in a tweet. Good luck -- The kicker here is the part about explaining it so your mom will understand. My answer was, "I tell stories about teaching to help people teach more effectively."

3. #agoratry9: Google your own name. Find the most interesting doppleganger -- Well, thank goodness for a good doppleganger. It turns out I can really sing after all!

4. #agoratry63: Make a photo that metaphorically represents contrasting ideas --

There will be another Daily Try tomorrow. I encourage you to give it a whirl!

Daily Announcement: Welcome to Week 4 of #NTPoC

Happy Monday, everyone, and welcome to Week 4 of our Power of Connections learning experience. This week, our focus is on student creation. We'll be looking at how we can foster student ownership of the learning process, and how we can facilitate student engagement through creation activities.

A great place to start in this Unit 4 topic is with our dialogues on Fostering Creativity Through Student Ownership. This includes video interviews with Stacy and with Adam Croom, the Director of Digital Learning at the University of Oklahoma. They both share great experiences related to student creation and its importance in promoting learning that engages.

Also, you may want to take a look at the script and slides form my key note presentation last week at the Big XII Teaching and Learning Conference. My topic was "student engagement," and the presentation should serve as a good recap of the different ideas we have been sharing in this community.

I look forward to seeing everyone online!


Unit 4: Classroom Creativity Manifesto

A few years back, the founders of Holstee came together and penned how they wanted to define success. This included broad life statements like "When you eat, appreciate every last bite," "Getting lost with help you find yourself," and "Do what you love and do it often." In 2009, the teamed up with designer Rachael Beresh, to transform their thoughts into what would become a famous letterpress poster, called Holstee’s Manifesto.

Since then, this poster has been mimicked hundreds of times and, chances are, you’ll find some variation of the idea in your local home decor store. Side note: the idea of the manifesto has been playfully mocked. There’s a slew of generators that incoherently pull together strings of rhetoric.

For this artifact challenge, construct the Creativity Manifesto for your classroom. If you wish to design it online, you can use an web-based editing tool such as Canva. If you want to be a little more simplistic, take advantage of a rich text editor that allows you to change font size and styling or simply draw it out on a whiteboard and snap a photo. Consider the following when completing the project:

1. How have the constraints of the medium that you have chosen to design with affected your end product? For instance, if you used a whiteboard and only had one color, you might have found yourself making different statements big and bold. If you had multiple colors, the size may have not mattered at all to you.

2. What are some of the broader life principles students take away from what you teach? To what degree have you integrated your own life lessons into the learning experience?

3. Are the ideas that you have identified with your manifesto juxtaposed with traditional learning objectives?

4. Please share your Creativity Manifesto test and/or image in a comment, or provide a link if you’ve created your manifesto on a blog or other external site.

Unit 4: Extending the Improvisation

The sample "completion" improvs for this unit are designed to demonstrate the creativity and versatility inherent in this particular improv model. These improvs are incredible flexible and work particularly well as group activities.

As we did in Unit 3, I would now like us to think about now is how our completion improv examples might be modified for reuse in different disciplines, courses, or situations.

For example, instead of having a text with missing words, we could easily offer a design with specific elements removed/hidden, or a code sample that is missing a number of functions (where multiple function solutions could be used, but with different results). The idea is to allow participants the opportunity to complete the construct in a creative manner without worrying that they might be suggesting a "wrong" solution.

What are some other possible applications you see? What modifications would you make to the current improv model that might make it more effective? More fun and engaging? Are there similar improvs or completion activities you have used or participated in previously? If so, what did you like about them?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Also, feel free to link to any Web resources, personal blog posts, or other social media sites that you want to share with the community.

Unit 4: The Power of Completion

In Unit 3, we talked about "addition" improvs, which focus on expansion as opposed to constraint. A particularly useful model for "addition" improvs is one in which the user fills in gaps or missing components. Such completion improvs tend to be really effective for collaboration and personalization because:
  • They are fun and simple, and a good way to get participants excited about improvs in general.
  • They are "open" and yet have clear structures.
  • They are extremely low-risk in terms of getting a "wrong" answer.
  • They tend to work well in group and individual activities.
  • They adapt easily to any discipline.
A common completion improv can be found in the many cartoon caption contests run by magazines (The New Yorker still does this – scroll down to see the current caption contest). I have a number of variations I like to use in my courses and presentations. One of them involves showing a video clip but erasing the audio before the "punchline" is delivered. I then ask participants to fill in the missing punchline or dialogue to complete the video.

Here is an example of this type of completion activity. Listen to the first part of the video clip and then imagine what the two people might be saying once the audio disappears. When you’ve got something that works for you, post it in a comment.

Another of my favorite completion improvs involves presenting participants with a text that is missing some of its words. The participants are asked to fill in the blanks with the words or phrases they think are the most relevant.

This activity can be done with any kind of text or string (I’ve used advertisements, short stories, e-mail, technical descriptions, and HTML code). In the example below, I use a poem by Lisel Mueller, and ask participants to fill in the blanks with the words that make the most sense to them. Feel free to try your hand and post your suggested words as a comment.
Imaginary Paintings


A strip of horizon and a _________________,
seen from the back, forever _________________.


An old-fashioned painting, a genre piece.
People in bright and dark _________________.
A radiant bride in _________________
standing above a _________________,
watching the water rush
away, away, away.

Lisel Mueller. Alive Together: New and Selected Poems, Louisiana State University Press, 1996.

(You can see the full poem with the poet’s actual text here.)

Unit 4: Student Creation and Personal Taste

I recently sat down with Adam Croom, the Director of Digital Learning at the University of Oklahoma, to discuss student creation, its benefits in learning, and how we can encourage faculty to incorporate student creation into their courses. In the course of our conversation, Adam spoke several times about the importance of personal taste and how it should be factored in to our thinking about student creation in our courses.


1. How do you grade creative assignments? Can you think of techniques used in creative disciplines, such as writing, studio arts, and architecture, that can be adapted to other disciplines?

2. Do you have activities/assignments in your courses that are not graded? Do the students complete these assignments even though there is no grade associated with them? How do you assign credit and get the students to fully engage if there is no grade?

3. How can we encourage students to bring their outside interests/hobbies and non-related skills into a course?

Unit 4: Fostering Creativity through Student Ownership

I recorded interviews with Stacy and Adam Croom this week (Adam is the Director of Digital Learning at the University of Oklahoma), and the biggest theme that emerged was student ownership – getting students to take greater ownership of their learning. I asked both of them how they facilitate student ownership in their teaching, as well as the benefits of student creation in general.

Stacy Zemke – Helping Students Take Ownership

In my conversation with Stacy, she talks about the different ways she designs her courses to facilitate student ownership. Her ideas include: 1) having students participate in the construction of the course syllabus; 2) allowing students to define their discussion assignments; 3) Asking students to post content to Wikipedia.

Adam Croom – Involving Students in the Creative Process

Adam is a big fan of encouraging student creativity and getting them to be participants in the process of invention. In the video below, he talks about the challenges and rewards associated with getting students to construct new forms of knowledge.


1. As I think about these conversations, several questions spring to mind. Feel free to chime in with answers, or to add your own questions to this list by posting a comment.

2. How can you balance the need to teach the content that is "required" for a course while, at the same time, giving students the freedom to design/create their own experience?

3. What are some ways you’ve added creative activities to your teaching? What worked well, and what would you change?

4. How can we adapt creative processes from specific disciplines (for example project critique from Fine Arts, or discovery based science labs) and integrate them into the courses of other disciplines?