Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pixels of humanity, dedication and joy in online teaching

I started teaching at Berklee College of Music in a traditional classroom setting when I was 28 years old. It was terrifying. Walking into a room to perform for students. Setting the tone and the expectations. Trying to command respect when I had no respect for myself. Trying to convey musical and technological concepts in a clear and understandable way. Trying to get through all the material  that was necessary for a semester. There was just so much to cram into their heads. My focus was on the topic, how to best convey it, how to make activities around it, how to organize it, how to test comprehension of it. I feel sorry for those students that studied with me those early years, because my focus was in completely the wrong place. I was dedicated to the material not to the student.

Dedication is an important word for me. It is one I come back to over and over. I started thinking about dedication when talking about synthesizers. My students often ask: "Why should I buy a expensive hardware digital synthesizer when a software version in the computer does the same calculations, isn't it the same thing?" This really is a great question, because I struggle with it myself. It should be the same thing. Math is math right? But, then my experience goes against this. Working with a hardware synthesizer is better, it feels better, and it sounds better. Even if the algorithms are the same, the hardware version is better. Why? How could this be so? Dedication. A hardware synthesizer has a dedicated processor, the brain of the synth is focused on a single thing: making amazing sounds. A computer processor is doing thousands of things: checking the web, drawing nice colors on the screen, calculating a reverb, listening for keystrokes, and you can imagine how many more things. Dedication is the opposite of multi-tasking. Dedication is single-tasking.

Aren't you more successful when you dedicate yourself? When you choose to focus, when you choose to succeed?

Dedication is a choice a person makes, one decides to dedicate themselves to a task. As a teacher then, my goal is to cultivate in the students a desire to dedicate themselves to the material, to the teacher, to each other, and to their society. As a teacher my dedication must be to the student. 

In my early teaching years I was dedicated to the material. My lesson plans were perfectly crafted and timed to the minute. Discussions and questions, when unplanned, were distractions from the plan, and causes of stress. This stress was obviously picked up by the students and set a certain tone in the room that was not conducive to learning. The plan was a barrier between me and my students. My dedication was to the plan. With comfort as a teacher came a shift in my focus(my dedication). I think this happens to all teachers at some point. I started to realize that there were people in front of me. I started to care for them. My dedication shifted from the plan to the people. I found an essential teaching tool: empathy.

Learning is something the students do. The teacher doesn't make the students learn. The teacher designs a structure where learning is likely. Students have already decided to learn, that is what they are there for. Learning happens naturally. I have seen students learn from personal lecture, lecture videos, books, discussion, interactive websites, and from games. If coherent information is presented to dedicated students they will learn. The main variable in a student's learning isn't the form of the delivery, it is the dedication of the student.

What has changed with online education? The form of the presentation of the information.
What hasen't changed? The need for dedicated students and dedicated teachers.

People are naturally inclined to dedicate themselves to other people. I am dedicated to all the people in my family and to my friends and I am sure you are dedicated to a large number of people in your life. In a traditional classroom teachers rely on this natural human behavior. By standing in front of class as a model of success and capability the students desire to perform for that person, they are dedicated to the professor. Because of  this dedication(and the trust that goes along with it) the students willingly and enthusiastically perform tasks they might find tedious or frustrating. At least that is the idea. I have experienced it myself. For teachers I am dedicated to I go way beyond the requirements. For those that I am not dedicated to I do the minimum. I am not sure this is the case for everyone, but for me student/teacher dedication is couched in a desire to impress. I want to impress that teacher that I am dedicated to, and I know it will take quite a bit to impress him or her. As a teacher, I want the students to impress me, and I make it known that it takes quite a bit to do so.

So, I have laid out a few things here. Dedication is key to teaching, both in the students and in the teacher. Teacher dedication to material can be counter-productive, and the form of the material is of little importance if the student is dedicated to learning. Dedication to people can be productive and useful. These are of course not the only factors in teaching, but from experience I think they are major factors. How does this translate to online classrooms and to MOOCs?

In a small online class, like the ones at I create the material once and the students choose their pace through it (within a week's time). As a class we move through the material together. Online teaching has done me a huge favor. No longer can I dedicate myself to the material, because that is fixed. All that is left is dedication to the student. The challenge becomes how to create that student/teacher dedication through a screen. Well, it is possible and it is actually easy: empathy. Just like I had to realize that the people in front of me in a classroom were people, the online teacher must realize that the people on the other side of the screen are people. Then the teacher needs to show the students that s/he is a person to.

Screens, typing, and asynchronous communication are barriers to empathy that the teacher MUST break down. All too often we use the internet and e-mail as a way to shield ourselves and who we are, but classroom communication needs to be the opposite. The personal student-teacher dedication thrives when there is true understanding between the student and the teacher. Often I feel like I am pushing my personality through the screen and pulling the student's personality off the screen.

In a traditional classroom I stand in front of the group and I set the tone. My carefully crafted teacher/performer personality sets the tone of the class. From that very first moment I look out to the students I set expectations for the students. Every class is different, and I craft my personality and the expectations based on the lesson material and the unique group of students. In the classroom, my dedication is now toward the group, the relationships, the people. 

The importance of setting the tone is even more important in online teaching because it doesn't happen naturally. Even if a classroom teacher doesn't consider the tone to the extent that I do, their personality and presence in the physical space sets the tone. In an online classroom the tone is set initially by the school,  it is like the default tone. And, if the teacher doesn't work hard at creating a unique atmosphere for his space that default will remain. In a traditional school, the tone is usually quite serious and teachers provide the contrast to that. Teachers provide the humanity and the empathy. It is the same online. But, teachers must use different techniques to set that tone, and it might not happen naturally as it does in a physical space. 

Setting a digital tone is tough at first, and runs contrary to "writing in a way that is unmisunderstandable" because setting a tone is an emotional thing and relies on emotional language and emotional language is tough to translate and can often be misunderstood. Saying: "this is a comfortable learning environment" doesn't create a comforting learning environment. We need to show that the environment is comfortable and learning. We need to teach the students how to interact within a digital comfortable learning environment.

The first challenge and what I would recommend first for new online teachers is practicing with  emotional language. So much of what is said in a classroom has a kind of emotional "meta-data" associated with it. Tone of voice and body posture inform how the information is to be understood. In a digital classroom this must be stated explicitly.

In a classroom, along with a smile and a nod, I might say: "The drums are too loud and the vocal melody needs to be EQ'd". The smile and nod say so much, they say "Loudon approves, but here is a little bit to make it better." The students hang on my every gesture to find affirmation of their work. I use that to push them harder.

Online, the smile and nod must be stated explicitly: "Great tune, I enjoyed the ride. The composition is well done and the mix is close. More attention to the drum level(bring it down) and to the vocal EQ is necessary."

This kind of emotional language is natural in critique, teachers often give written feedback, but this must be applied in all online class conversations. Class announcements in online systems go out as e-mails to all students. This is where a teacher can set the mood of the class through emotional language. Writing about the excitement of the new semester and the pride in the group goes toward creating that personal student-teacher dedication.

Creating student-teacher dedication is tougher for sure and there are more barriers like language and scheduling, but in an online system that is the majority of the teacher's job. With the material taken care of the online teacher's primary job becomes empathy. Focus on the student and support them through their time in the class. I know this can be done, and as a teacher I enjoy it much more. Communicating with students and helping them solve their problems is the best part of teaching in general. So, in an online system we get to focus on the best part of teaching.

Now, we come to MOOCs and things change. With thousands of students it is impossible to create student-teacher dedication and honestly I haven't come to terms with this completely. I think the loss of this teaching tool was the source of my stress in creating and running the course. How can I teach when the students don't have a personal connection to the teacher?

Emotional language can still set the tone. Weekly announcements that display the teacher's personality can help to create the environment necessary for learning. Frequent activity in the forums shows that a person is there answering questions and interacting with the community even when there isn't one-on-one interaction. Even though students are understanding of the massive nature of the class they still desire a figurehead, and it is the teacher's responsibility to provide that. I attempted to display my personality through weekly youtube video announcements, but I really don't know now effective they were in creating student-teacher dedication. Is this really a solution, I don't think so.

The MOOC system seems to revolve around the community replacing the teacher. The teacher provides the structure and the mood and the expectations, but students dedicate themselves to each other. They grade each other's projects and support each other through tough sections of the material. While this is a wonderful ideal how many people are really dedicated to their fellow classmates in this way? As a teacher I have struggled with empathizing with my online students. I practice it and work on the skill. The students have not had this practice. So, in addition to not having mastery of the material they don't have mastery of the educational format.

Without the one-on-one connection to students the teaching experience changes drastically. I focused on problems and details much more. The negatives jumped up and the positives remained hidden in the smoothly functioning class.

Where is the joy in teaching? it is in touching souls, in seeing the flash of student understanding, in minds rubbing against minds. How can the joy of teaching be retained in a MOOC? There is an intellectual joy, a knowledge that I helped thousands of people understand music production technology. I spread good information among the group and into the internet through the publicly displayed assignments. But, the visceral personal teaching satisfaction is missing. I hope I get a chance to try this again, because like my first time teaching in the classroom I was dedicated to the wrong things. I was focused on the format, the structure, the numbers, and the problems. Next time I will be dedicated to the students, and I have faith I can find the joy in teaching a massive class.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Is there a role for "anonymous" in a classroom?

Teaching a MOOC with Coursera has made me aware of all the anonymous posts in the system.  Coursera allows students to post anonymously on a per post basis. There is a checkbox that allows a forum post to be anonymous. I wonder about the value of this. I can't imagine an anonymous student in one of my physical classrooms.

I think, within a classroom, you should be responsible for what you say. This is a place that can teach you to be serious and considerate. All classes, beyond teaching the syllabus should teach you to be considerate, empathetic, and respectful. A class should teach you to consider what you say before you say it. Posting anonymously allows you to be inconsiderate, un-empathetic and even rude.

Allowing anonymous posts allows students to make "off the record" comments, which in a large way defeat the usefulness of a permanent record of a student's involvement in a class.

Is there a place where anonymous is valuable in a classroom?

Anonymous posts are great for critiquing the teacher in a traditional school. In that role they work beautifully. A student, when critiquing a professor, needs to know that they will not be punished for their comments about the teacher. I have received some of the best student to teacher critique in the anonymous surveys in my traditional and online classes. I thank my students for taking the time to let me and the administration know how my teaching has been.

Behave, or it will go on your permanent record!

It is a kind of cliche now: "Behave in school, it will go on your permanent record!"

As I teach and think about the MOOC I realize how important a permanent record is.

A permanent record contributes to (creates?) an atmosphere of civility.

In general people are more courteous and civil in a classroom. There are many reasons for this, but the permanent record is a major one. If a student in high school is getting into fights and being rude in class that activity travels with them. An awareness of a permanent record forces students to consider their actions before acting.

The permanent record in an american public school is quite vague. It lists the exceptional moments, both good and bad. The permanent record serves to identify the extremes, but leaves the subtleties of everyday achievements and rudenesses unaccounted for. In this role it supports the exceptional achievers and punishes the exceptional misbehaviors. On both extremes it is providing a great service, but with the data provided in an online classroom this permanent record could reveal much more.

Educational institutions provide employers with information about prospective employees. It is one of the major functions of a college degree. It is an important role, which right now is based largely on reputation. Online schools could provide a permanent record that is based less on reputation and more on the actual achievements and personality of the person.

Employers are becoming more nuanced in their hiring. They are using psychology and personality to determine who is the right kind of person for their jobs. They don't blindly trust a candidate because of a degree from an ivy league school. Instead, they think about the needs of the job and what type of person is necessary to do it best.

In a traditional school the grades from each class are largely what goes on a college's "permanent record." The student's time and participation at a college is reduced down to a single number, the GPA. Then it is the student's responsibility to record any achievement beyond what is represented in the GPA. Negative activities that don't impact the GPA are not permanent and they are never made known to the prospective employers.

Students know that their activities in college are not really permanent. Largely they are not held accountable for their actions at college, beyond their time at college. What atmosphere does this engender? Out of control parties and the reputation of the "college years" as the "party years." Is this necessary? Does this really train us to be respectful and capable members of society?

Honestly, it is quite difficult to have a more detailed permanent record in a traditional school. Teachers would need to record more of the student activities and that information would need to be logged and made searchable. Teachers are burdened enough, as are administrators.

Online colleges could provide employers with the information the employers really need. Online schools are largely communication structures. They provide a framework for a community to communicate within. Permanently track the activities of students and teachers. Make it known that every activity is logged, recorded, and analyzed. For those(both teachers and students) that are honest, caring, and helpful this will be a major plus. It would record cooperation and track involvement. There could be quantifiable incentives for community involvement (a "helpfulness quotient" calculated from "thanks flags" on comments or something like this).

Often people have great success in fields they did not directly study in. What we learn in college goes well beyond the syllabi of the classes we take. We learn to be studious and supportive community members, we learn to respect authority and we learn how to communicate professionally. These skills are often more important then the topics themselves, but these skills are currently not quantified or recorded by the school. That is how online schools, with a permanent record of all communication, can provide a new service to society. Employers know that who you are is more important than what you know, so schools should provide that information. An accurate and detailed permanent record could supply information based less on reputation of the school and more on who the student is.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Considering the world's time...

Time is a major factor in a mooc.
There are people in every timezone.
How can we be considerate?
How can we be fair?

Some of the most common problems I have seen in the forums regard deadlines.

The Coursera site does "know" what timezone you are in and automatically adjusts the official deadlines to the student's local time.

We need to put deadlines in more obvious locations than the "official" locations. Also, we must announce deadlines in e-mail announcements. So, these automatic localizations will not always function.

Students are often unhappy with deadline times which happen at awkward times of the day or on awkward days for their part of the world. It seems there is no way to make everybody happy.

When we can't make everybody happy we must look for what is fair, logical, and simple.

My first reaction is to make it easy for myself by writing all times in Eastern time and scheduling releases and deadlines on my schedule. This does have benefits. The most important is that it is easier to respond to problems in the delivery of the lesson. Say I release a week at 8:00 PM EDT, if there are problems with the lesson they may not be addressed till the next morning when I wake up and have a look.

There are numerous issues with Eastern time. The first is complicated math. Students must figure out the equation to translate from Eastern time to their local time. While that sounds trivial it can actually be quite complicated. I know that I have trouble with "time zone math" even though I pride myself on my mathematical abilities. The second issue is daylight savings time, which we just entered, and which just caused numerous people to miss an important deadline. The third issue is the 12 hour clock, by using a twelve hour clock and AM/PM the math becomes even more difficult.

How are we to be fair? The only way I can imagine to be fair is to use our worldwide time standard(UTC), and always use a 24 hour clock.. With this decided, I must reformulate all deadlines.

This actually brings up two questions:

1. If I say the week's lessons releases on Friday, what time on Friday, and in what time zone?
  • My preference would be to have my local Friday to release the content, 12:00 noon would be nice.
  • To be fair I will release it at 00:00 UTC Saturday which ends up being 8:00 PM on Friday Eastern Daylight Time.
2. If an assignment is due on Monday, what does that mean? Do they have the whole day on Monday to submit, or is it due before Monday? If we say it is the whole day, then when does the day end?
  • My preference would be to say 6:00 PM EDT, nice and clean for me.
  • To be fair, I will set any Monday due date to be due on Tuesday 00:00 UTC.
The next issue is the number of deadlines. I would like to make the policy clear and simple. So, I have attempted to combine deadlines whenever possible. I will make assignments and quizzes due on the same day, and assessments and new material come out at the same time. This has led to a simplified schedule:

  • The week's video lectures will be released at 00:00 UTC on Saturdays.
  • Peer review assessments deadline is 00:00 UTC on Saturdays.
  • Assignment deadline is 00:00 UTC on Tuesday.
  • Quiz deadline is 00:00 UTC on Tuesday.
  • Quizzes will be accepted up to one day late: 00:00 UTC on Wednesday.

To facilitate easy coordination of calendars, I have also created a Google calendar that will be embedded in the schedule page and I will include XML HTML and iCal links in the class schedule announcement.

Honestly, I have not been clear enough or made it easy enough for the community to know the deadlines. Mainly this is because I had not given it enough thought(a major mistake in my preparation). To be effective, a mooc teacher must have a habit of global thinking. This has become a major challenge for me and I am delighted to take on this kind of thinking. As the planet's population becomes more connected we will have to become sensitive to timezones and how we schedule. This is a benefit for me as a teacher of a mooc, but also a lesson that we can transfer on to our students.

In considering my solution I do find it euro-centric, and I hate to continue that tradition, but the benefits of easy math for all and a clean time/date policy are enough to convince me that it is the correct solution.

The next challenge is announcing this to the class in an "unmisunderstandable" way.

Finally, I have decided to include the students in this blog itself. I want to be open and clear and if students want to see my justification for setting the schedule this way they can view this post. So, I will include a link to this post in the class scheduling announcement.

A MOOC teacher must communicate in an unmisunderstandable way

"unmisunderstandable" it is a joke word, a double negative within a single word.
But, a double negative is not necessarily the same as the original positive.

I have always tried to communicate in an understandable way.
I am usually understood by others.
In a mooc, "usually" is not enough.
"Usually" leaves "some" behind.
In a mooc, "some" is hundreds.
In a mooc, if there is a way to be misunderstood it will be misunderstood.
So, for a mooc teacher "understandable" is not enough.
Instead, we must strive to not be misunderstood.
We must strive to communicate in an "unmisunderstandable" way.

The human capability to misunderstand is quite astounding.
This has been a unintentional running theme in the few past posts.
In a traditional class the teacher is there to correct these misunderstandings.

In a mooc it needs to be avoided instead of corrected.

Responding to a misunderstanding usually means sending a note out to the entire population.
Sending a note out to 20,000 because 100 misunderstand makes the misunderstanding seem widespread.
Sending a note out to the entire population is a chance for further misunderstanding.

How is striving to be understood different than striving not to be misunderstood?
I see it as a matter of focus.
In striving to not be misunderstood I start looking for ways that the content or form could possibly be misunderstood.

Let me point out the example that this inspired this post.

For projects the students are encouraged to create youtube videos and post a link to them for peers to review.

It is stated in the assignment that youtube videos must be made public or unlisted for their peers to be able to view the assignment.

Many students missed that fact and a thread regarding private youtube videos started, to point out the issue.

The fix is easy, if the student has their video private they just need to go into Youtube and switch it to "unlisted".

I sent out an announcement to the entire class and put it on the front of the class site:

Make sure all impmooc assignment Youtube videos are Public or Unlisted
A private youtube video is viewable only by the creator so it will not be able to be graded. If you do not want your video public I suggest you put it "unlisted" that gives you a link to the video that anyone can use, but the video will not show up in any searches. You are free to take the video down from Youtube after the assessment period is over.
Thank you,

I would think, because the wording of the title says "all ... videos" that it would be obvious that this is a general announcement for everyone in the class.
Unfortunately some students thought I was sending the video directly to them. These students were confused because their videos were already "unlisted".

Why did they think the message was personal? some possibilities:
-They may not read subject lines. People often miss important information when it is placed in subject lines and only focus on the body. Without reading the subject the message does seem much more personal.

-Poor translation. I see now that the only clues that the message is public is a function of small gramatical specifics of the english language. After being run through google translate that subtlety could easily have been lost.

-The use of "you" in my language. I tend to try to make notes personal and write as if I were addressing the reader individually. This may make announcements seem personal instead of general.

How can I avoid this misunderstanding in the future?
-At the end of the announcement state explicitly that the announcement is going out to all students.
-At the beginning of the e-mail add in a salutation like "Dear impmooc students," I had left a salutation out because the Coursera system automatically puts one in when announcements are e-mailed to students. I thought it would be strange to have two salutations.
-Explain the situation more thoroughly.

Here would be a better way to do the announcement:

This is a reminder going out to all students in the introduction to music production class. If you have submitted a youtube video for your first assignment please make sure that it is set to "public" or "unlisted" on the Youtube website. Some reviewers found private Youtube videos that they could not assess. It would be unfortunate to receive a failing grade just because a youtube video was configured incorrectly.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Turning complaints into suggestions

I am finding that often there will be negative posts in the forums. Not aggressive or vulgar, just negative comments toward the forum itself. I love suggestions. I want to improve. These comments are actually helpful as they point out how the system can be made better. I just don't like the tone they set. The solution is to add "suggestion box" forums that are monitored. If we can give the students a place to comment on the structure itself they tend to post there and the negativity is turned into positive critique. I have begone to create a pinned suggestion forum along with every major forum in the course. This has dramatically lowered the negative comments, and it is much easier to track. Many great improvements were made in the forums because of this.

For instance I made a set of DAW forums which is a large collection of forums where students can post information related to the software they are using. I created subforums for each of the major DAW's on the market.

These forums were announced in a weekly announcement and have become very popular. Immediately there were some negative comments:

"why wasn't ____DAW included? it is a great DAW they shouldn't leave it out!"

The honest truth is I didn't even know that that DAW existed! It was totally new to me.
I added that forum quickly.

Then I added a "How can I make the DAW forums better?" thread and pinned it so it stays in a visible location and subscribed to it via e-mail.

It turns out there were a few other DAWs that I didn't include, but the students used the new thread and politely asked for the DAW to be added, which I promptly did.

Mooc teachers need to include the students in the community we are creating. Show the community that you want suggestions and they will help you make them better. Do not take a "I am the authority" stance, it will not work. Instead include the community in the discussion at every point.

By including the community it its own development you turn complaints into suggestions.

Promoting real-time communication in a mooc

As they are now moocs rely entirely on asynchronous communication.
Real-time one on one communication is obviously important for education and the educational experience.
Beyond the material of a mooc, students get to be part of a global community.
Student recognition and acceptance of a global community is an amazing side effect of a mooc.
Real-time audio and video communication within the community would make that even stronger.
In response to this Google and Coursera are teaming up to add Google+ Hangouts inside Coursera classes.
The impmooc was the first class to introduce a simplified scheduling tool in the course.
I tried it out for the first time on Saturday and scheduled a Google Hangout.
Ten people responded immediately. 
In the hangout there were people from South America, Texas, Russia, and Canada. 
The world was immediately represented on my screen. 
It was a wonderful experience.

The challenge is teaching students to use the service and showing them how to use it best.
The first task was simplifying the instructions on how to schedule a hangout.
I rewrote all the scheduling instructions following the IBM globalization style guidelines.
I created a Youtube Video demonstrating how to schedule a Google+ hangout.
The video's view count is rising regularly, so people are watching it, which is good.

Since there are so many uses for this tool and it has such deep capabilities people seem to be intimidated by it. 
I think the best way to encourage them to use it is to propose a single use case to the students.
What should we propose there are so many options
  • Freeform social mingling
  • Language based mingling
  • Software study groups
  • Topical conversations
While all of these are great, I think it is best to focus on why the students are really here, to learn from the videos. 
I will teach them to create a hangout where they watch the class material together as a group. 
We can suggest numerous ways to organize groups, by language, by software, or by location.
The proposal I will give them is to create a hangout and watch the material videos together while taking notes and discussing fine points.

The Markup Markdown Language

The markup markdown language is used throughout Coursera so learning  to use it makes communication throughout Coursera much easier.

The students are not aware of how it works and their communication tends to lack formatting.
I am sure it is difficult for them to get what they want.

To teach the students to communicate through this system I have started to send short tips on how to use the markup language.
The response to these tips has been positive, and I hope the communication within the class becomes better.

The more I use the markup language the more I love it.
Here are some tips on how it is used.

The philosophy of the language is to write in a readable way using additional punctuation to create the advanced formatting features we see in a contemporary word processor.

For example this *italic* text.
would render as:
For example this italic text.

The beauty of this language is that it reads either way.
If I were to see a markup text file I would understand it and recognize the formatting without the pretty italics.

Here are the markup tips I have been sending out in my "Loudon's Latest" forum and on the impmooc facebook page:

Markdown tip: Pretty links! Put the words you want displayed in bracket"[display this]" then the actual link in parenthesis"(http://linkhere)" as in: [display this](http://linkhere) Once you try it a few times you will get really comfortable with the technique.

Markdown tip(for nice formatting in Coursera): for italics put asterisks on either side of a word like *this*.

Coursera Wiki Creation tips

Teaching a mooc requires a different set of skills than teaching a traditional class.
Working with wikis is one of these new skills.

Here are some tips on working with wiki's that I have learned in the process of creating my first wiki, hopefully it will help others.

Wiki creation has one unusual but genius aspect: Links create pages.
To create a page, create a link to the page.
Add a link inside a current page, and there will be a blank page when you click on it.

Wiki-links are unlike typical HTML links here is an explained example:
[[Musicproduction:DAW:cubase | Cubase]]
  • "[[" starts the link
  • "Musicproduction:DAW:cubase" is the link.
  • "Musicproduction" is the parent wiki
  • ":" functions like a "/" in a typical file folder structure allowing one to create nested WIKIs
  • "|" divides the wiki-link from how it will appear in the wiki. Though the link is going to "Musicproduction:DAW:cubase", it will display as "Cubase" in the Wiki.
  • "]]" ends the link.
In the Coursera Wiki headings and navigation is automatically created by using the number sign: "#"
Using a "#" will create a nicely formatted section and also add navigation at the top of the page.

The DAW wiki experiment

In the impmooc I am teaching some broad concepts.
In week 2 I cover the important DAW techniques.
The community must explore the concepts within their own software.
We need a resource that contains all the information in an easily accessible way.
The information changes constantly, so it must be updated regularly.
One person cannot create the entire resource.
A wiki is the perfect solution.

Most people can edit a wiki because there is very little code involved.
Most people do not know how to setup a wiki structure.
I created a structure and have requested the students add content to it.
In the student assignments they are asked which DAW they are demonstrating.
I will ask students to post high quality student tutorials into the correct wiki location.
The wiki will be populated with student lessons organized by DAW and technique.
I will post again to report on how the wiki experiment works.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Write in a way that is easy to translate

Fifty three percent of the impmooc community is not english native.

So, we should write and speak in a way that translates easily.

Consider this document: writing for an international audience.

The Simple English wikipedia is a good reference too.

Scanning and understanding are quicker.

Unfortunately emotion is reduced.

I will write and speak this way.

The writing is easy to edit.

And is heavily edited.

Breif even.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The power of a vocal minority and some MOOC teaching lessons learned

So the impmooc has started and we are halfway through the first week. I am getting a crash course in large group management.

The first issue I have come across is the capability of a small misinformed group to have a large presence and spread misinformation(I must say I was warned by the Coursera staff about this). In the peer reviewed assignments within the impmooc students are required to demonstrate a topic to their fellow students. They can do this in any manner they are comfortable with some options have been to make youtube videos, pdf documents, blogs, websites, powerpoint presentations, podcasts, the options are wide open. Already there have been some amazing videos and presentations.

The problem is, a small portion of the population mis-understood the assignment. They thought that the assignment required the use of video and youtube. This led to the biggest forum post that the course has had, nearly a hundred posts and votes. A student posted a very polite note addressed to me asking why I would require video and accusing me of making them spend their time on useless tasks. This immediately started a long chain of replies and complaints. I went in and replied politely, explaining to her that video was not necessary and I gave her some pointers about some other possibilities. I also explained the benefit of the assignment and why it is a good way to structure assignments in a MOOC. This person had already posted similar comments in 3 threads on coursera and in the impmooc facebook group causing this mis-information to spread in many locations.

The next day, after reading my reply she posted apologies in all those threads and on facebook, but the damage was already done. Many people read her post and continued the spread of false information. I have been running around putting out fires, calming people down and trying to right the ship.

What caused this mis-information? I think I located the cause, and it is such a small thing that I am amazed it caused such a fervor.

When laying out the assignment page I put the description of the project first, laying out the concept of teaching as a way to learn. I point out how the lesson will be presented, that it can be text or video etc.. then there was a lengthy set of instructions on how to post video. I believe, though this is hard to prove, that students skimmed the text, saw the lengthy video submission guidelines, assumed that they must make video and went right to the forums to complain. Now, later down the page there was an example of me doing a text submission, but it seems they didn't get that far down the page. In fact, in the woman's apology she stated "I didn't scroll down."

To fix this issue I have placed the video submission guidelines further toward the bottom of the page and I focused more on the lesson format by giving more specific examples of presentation possibilities. Since making those changes, and putting out fires in the forums, the complaints have gone way down. I also started numerous forums with high visibility starting positive conversations about how fun it can be to put together a short presentation. Since then there have been numerous positive examples posted and things are going much smoother.

Lessons learned:

-Consider the possibility student misinterpretation.  If something can be confused it will be confused.

-Recognize the power of a vocal minority.
A small group, even one person, can spread misinformation or ill-will quickly. Try to create forums that put the situation in a positive light. Also, a teacher has the ability to make specific posts most visible, so when posting a clear response to a complaint, pin the post so others will be more likely read the response before posting another complaint.

-Consider the "weight" of text on a page.
When a topic takes up a large amount of space on a page it may be misinterpreted as important even though it is just long. Put the important information in a clear strong location and consider putting long explanatory sections at the end or within other linked pages.

-Search for the source of a misinterpretation and fix it immediately.
I spent some time correcting people in the forums before I went to figure out what the issue was. Honestly, this time was spent thinking "what is wrong with these people, I told them they could use text!" It was an emotional and stubborn approach. This, I now realize, was wasted time and the problem got worse as I was "putting out fires." As a MOOC teacher it doesn't matter if you stated the correct thing in a way you think is clear. If it has been misinterpreted then you have done something wrong. Troubleshoot, reword and clarify immediately.

-When there is a misinterpretation and a complaint, put the correct information in a more visible location than the complaint.
Some students thought they had to make video. So I put a "pinned" discussion that stated: "Lessons can be done in text, screenshot, video, audio, blog and what else? Lets brainstorm about the possibilities" This made the correct information clear and also started positive discussion about fun ways to create lessons. This forum is now very active and positive.

-Make the students aware of the big picture
When I explain the difficulties of creating peer reviewed assignments and how my structure works the students generally agree and see the logic. Their initial response is tempered by an understanding of the big picture. I think it is important for MOOC teachers to explain the differences between the massive open class and a traditional classroom setting. Though the differences are obvious to us, the student hasen't thought it through like we have.

-Moderate your e-mail notifications carefully
The issue was amplified in my head because I continued to get e-mails on the "complaint thread." In the large scheme of things a hundred comments isn't that huge, but since I kept getting e-mails after posting in the thread I was constantly aware of the negative. I should have turned off the e-mail subscribe on that thread after correcting the source and responding visibly.

Resources of a Coursera MOOC and their application in the impmooc

Here are the resources of a Coursera MOOC and some notes on how I have decided to use them in my course.

Video Lessons

The student watches a series of short videos that cover the material. These are the primary content delivery method and they are the virtual lectures.

The videos in the impmooc were recorded in a Berkleemusic studio using two cameras and were edited by the berkleemusic staff. Many videos also include screenmovies on particular topics, these were created by be in my home studio.

My goal was to make these professional, personal, and short. In general the videos in my class are under six minutes long, some going on to 15 minutes for the tougher topics. I feel that by making short focused videos the student's can use their time as effectively as possible. Short topic based videos also allow the student to move through the material in a non-linear fashion. Since students have a wide range of skill levels the more advanced students can watch only the topics that they need.


Quizzes are multiple choice questions that are graded automatically by the system. In this MOOC the quizzes make up 40% of the student's final grade. The quizzes can be taken as many times as possible and the number of tries has no impact on the final grade. The role of the quizzes is to reinforce knowledge and for the student to self-check what they learned. Many students take the quizzes first allowing them to pick and choose which of the videos to watch. I like this approach and have even considered putting the quizzes before their related videos.

In the impmooc quizzes are used after a series of related videos. So, each week has about 5 quizzes each with 6 to 20 questions.

The system allows for many different usages and formats of the quizzes, what I have listed here is how they are used in the impmooc.

Peer Review Assignments

For me, this the most interesting and most difficult portion of the MOOC equation. Unlike the videos and quizzes, peer review assignments do not have a direct correlation to a traditional classroom.

Here is how peer review assignments work:

  • A student completes an assignment and uploads their work.
  • The student then reviews some of their classmate's assignments.

Developing a peer review assignment that is effective and engaging has turned out to be quite difficult. Here are some of the challenges in creating a peer reviewed assignment:

  • The assessor is often less knowledgeable than the one being assessed.
  • Assessors have limited free time and must assess multiple assignments.
  • The students have a huge range of skill levels.
  • International community with multiple languages.
  • Wide range of technical skills.
  • Resistance to new modes of learning.

I will let you think about this one yourself for a while, there will be a blog post soon that outlines my solution to the peer review assignments.


Forums provide a place for the students to communicate with each other. On coursera they have up and down voting and a quite robust organizational structure. Managing and organizing the forums becomes the major task of the teacher. In many ways the teacher in a MOOC is a "community organizer" focusing the forums, structuring organized conversations, and spotting common misunderstandings in the material and assignments.


Coursera provides a robust wiki structure. Each class has a dedicated wiki that can be edited by the students so that they can create a common pool of knowledge. Additional wikis can be created by the instructor for a variety of purposes. Creating a resource as a group is a wonderful possibility of a MOOC and one that I hope to explore in the impmooc with regards to examining concepts in multiple types of software.


Faculty can post announcement on the front page of the MOOC and also have them e-mailed to the students. This provides a way for the course to "ping" students, remind them that the course is still running and active. Additionally, it allows the teacher to notify the student of changes in the course that happen in response to the student forum comments.

Social(external resources)

Faculty can introduce social networking to bring the class into the student's common internet life. It becomes an interesting question on how to utilize the social networking aspect. A common critique of MOOCS is that the students don't get any personal connection to the professor, so maybe social networking is a perfect way to show the person behind the course. I also feel much of the student critique and complaint doesn't consider that there is a real person trying their best to create a great learning situation behind the scenes. By exposing more of the teacher's personality and reasoning through social networking I hope that the students will have empathy for the instructor(me).

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Blogs and Forums are two views of the same information...

Because of a recent post by the Red Gypsy Blog I have started to consider what type of information I put in each of my internet locations(Blogs, facebook, twitter, etc...). Then I got me thinking of how some of these services, like Blogs, are designed primarily promote one's self, but at the same time promote conversation. And other services like forums are designed primarily for promoting discussion and secondarily to promote one's self. But in all actuality the two structures are the same!

I post in the forum to create a topic
Others can comment on that topic

I post on my blog, to create a post
Others can comment on that post

Forums are a way to organize topics and conversations based on the content.
Blogs are a way to organize topics and conversations based on who originated the topic.

Same thing really, the difference becomes how people find it. If I am searched for on the internet, my blog posts will be found, but probably not my forum posts. Honestly though, some of the most interesting things I say online are in forums. Often my blog is just a reformatted version of what I state in forums.

I envision a technological solution: Forums that are linked to personal blogs.

I go to a forum and post there to create a topic. People comment on the topic, a discussion ensues.
The forum topic automatically posts into my blog as a blog post, and the forum discussion populates as the comments in the blog.

This would allow many people to converse together in a comfortable forum situation while simultaneously be promoting their ideas on a personal blog space.

To take this idea further, we don't really need to make a distinction between blogs and forums, it is the same structure, it is just a matter of how we organize and display the same underlying information. The more I think about it the more I realize that the current system developed from logical beginnings, but has become inefficient.

Has this idea been explored already? Is there a way to view a multitude of blogs within a forum structure?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Gamifying a MOOC 1 voluntary group wiki?

I have been reading "For the Win" by Kevin Werbach and considering how I could gamify my MOOC in some way. One big point that is made in the book is that the games or gamifying must be voluntary. So, I won't make the game aspects part of the assignment and official grading process. Instead, I can include game characteristics in the social side of the class experience. The first option that comes to mind is rewarding students for developing a music technology wiki. With so many pieces of software, and constant software development,  it is hard to collect all the important information in a single location and keep it up-to-date, but as a group maybe we can, if we all join in. This seems like a likely arena to explore motivating people with game techniques. ---One consideration is term gamifying, maybe crowdsourcing would be a better term? It seems that the two ideas are actually very closely related and maybe crowdsourcing usually(always?) contains aspects of game mechanics in motivating the crowd.

Intuitively, this seems like a good place to experiment with gamification, but is it really? 

--Hey Kevin, What does gamification do well?
Some of the things that games do well include encouraging problem solving, sustaining interest from novice to expert to master, breaking down big challenges into manageable steps, promoting teamwork, giving players a sense of control, personalizing the experience to each participant, rewarding out-of-the-box thinking, reducing the fear of failure that inhibits innovative experimentation, supporting diverse interests and skillsets, and cultivating a confident, optimistic attitude.
Werbach, Kevin; Hunter, Dan (2012-10-30). For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business (Kindle Locations 501-504). Wharton Digital Press. Kindle Edition. 
Developing a wiki is largely a challenge of: "breaking down big challenges into manageable steps."  
The completed wiki, as I see it, would easily include over 500 individual pages. As a whole that is a really big challenge, but for 30,000 people it seems a fairly small task. The first task for me as the "game designer" then is to create a structure for breaking the task into small pieces.

Designer task 1: Build the wiki pages, but allow the group to develop the content within the pages.

--Hey Kevin, do you think gamification might fit my needs?
Let’s define the process more systematically. To figure out where gamification might fit your needs, consider the following four core questions:
1.Motivation: Where would you derive value from encouraging behavior?
2.Meaningful Choices: Are your target activities sufficiently interesting?
3.Structure: Can the desired behaviors be modeled through a set of algorithms?
4.Potential Conflicts: Can the game avoid conflicts with existing motivational structures? 
Werbach, Kevin; Hunter, Dan (2012-10-30). For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business (Kindle Locations 556-563). Wharton Digital Press. Kindle Edition. 
1.Motivation: Where would you derive value from encouraging behavior?

Value would be in the future usage of a quality resource. All digital musicians could benefit from this resource. Future classes would benefit from the work of previous classes.

2.Meaningful Choices: Are your target activities sufficiently interesting?

This is a challenge. How can I make the activities(adding to a wiki) interesting. Hmmm, what if I mandated that a single person could only add a single sentence to any page? And that information should not be duplicated on any page. This puzzle/ruleset would lead to a set of brief  statements about the topic, each of which could be contested in the comments, and would stop a single person from dominating any topic. The rules of grammar would effectively control much of the game.

I will post now, but plan to edit the post to respond to Werbach's points 3 and 4...

What is your License?

As far as I can tell, a license is two things:

1. What you are allowing other people to do with your intellectual property.
2. What you expect in return for that allowance.

I challenge you to ignore law and tradition and come up with your own language for your license. This will establish your moral stance, allowing you to move to the practical with a clear guiding principle.

Here is mine, still working on it though.

Draft license #4:

Use this audio and visual information for any purpose. Loudon Stearns requests only credit.

Draft license #5:

Please use this audio and visual material for any purpose. Loudon Stearns requests only credit.

As you go through this process you will find that there really aren't many variables, and Creative Commons has done a wonderful job of creating a "complete" set of licenses. You could consider both of the licenses I have placed here to be the Creative Commons Attribution license. But, I feel they have a different tone and honestly I think they convey the meaning of the CC attribution license better. Most people I introduce to CC licenses do not know what "attribution" means. So, using it in the license name is problematic.

Language conveys more than meaning, it is also conveys emotion and intent. Draft license 4 and 5 are not very different, they have the same meaning, but I believe they convey different emotion and intent.

Starting the license with "please" sets up a level of civility, which I think is the real fundamental aspect of a license in the first place. "Please" also implies that I desire the material to be used further, which is true. #4 seems to say that I am OK with the material being used in another way, it seems apathetic toward the media. #5 also encourages further usage by calling the licensed media "material." Material, in common usage, is a building block, it is something used to create other things, which is exactly how I would like all my artwork to be considered.

In the end I understand the need for a legally binding and legally tested license, but the limit with that is it is meaning without emotion or intent. I will still place a "legal" license on my artistic output(the CC Attribution license) but in addition I will add my paraphrased version that conveys my desire and sets a specific tone.

So, I guess I have two challenges for you. Write your own license and come up with the CC license to use along with it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

ARGs ---> ARGHs

Just read "Through the Rabbit Hole" the "rulebook" for playing ARGs ("Alternate Reality Games"). I finished it and walked away knowing, uh, not much. Honestly, the book was fine, and for the uninitiated I can see how it would be helpful. Really though, I think creating a "rulebook" misses the ENTIRE point of an ARG(more on that later).

First off, the name "Alternate Reality Game" is redundant. A game is already an alternate reality, that is a central component of what it is to be a game!

From "Rules of Play" by Sales and Zimmerman: "A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome."

"system" and "artificial conflict" that adds up to an alternate reality in my book. What is a reality but a set of rules that we all live by (physics).

Then, are ARG's games even? According to Szulborski from "Through the Rabbit Hole": "Many ARG endings don't have the feeling of finality and sense of completeness that most traditional video games do. On other words, there is no blatant "Game Over" message. In some cases, because ARGs try to mimic life so closely, players aren't even sure if a game has ended or not"

So, the game requirement of "a quantifiable outcome" is missing too.

Maybe I am being too tough on ARG's, so far I have just insulted the name, that isn't fair. The truth is ARG's do have the characteristics of game play, but I think they actually fit the category of "puzzle" much better. Puzzles, again according to Sales and Zimmerman, are a subset of games with absolute correct answers created by the game designer. And in ARG's we clearly see how there are "correct" answers embedded at every step which are crafted by the "puppet masters." So much of what goes on in ARG's is solving word puzzles.

Finally, what is the motivation in creating a "rulebook" of ARG's? ARG's belong to a set of puzzles where the rules are unknown. In creating an ARG the creators decide how much instruction to give, they decide how well defined the rules are. Then an integral part of the puzzle(and often the most interesting part) is figuring out the rules of the puzzle! The fun of an ARG is being immersed in the unknown. It is getting into the mind of the creator. It is in the thinking "if I were to have created a puzzle like this, what might I have done..." It is the process of creating a hypothesis and testing that hypothesis. It allows the player to approach an unknown system(alternate reality) like a scientist approaches our well-known system(reality). Throw the rulebook out! I know if I were to create an ARG I would look at the rule book and deliberately try to break every "rule." So, you can be sure that the next "puppet master" will too.

If ARG is a poor name, what is an appropriate name for what this is? I would go with: Trans-media Puzzle or even better: mystery hunt.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

An Ulmer Analogy

Central to Ulmer's apparatus theory is a division of history into three epochs: Orality, Literacy, and Electracy.
A standard practice of his is to create analogies that connect the three epochs showing how we have developed with each epoch:

Orality: church
Literacy: school
Electracy: internet

Orality: religion
Literacy: science
Electracy: entertainment

Orality: faith
Literacy: knowledge
Electracy: fantasy

I love this form of understanding as it relates theoretical knowledge to our personal experience(John Dewey would be proud).

So, I figured if I really understood apparatus theory I should be able to make my own "Ulmer Analogy" and here it is:

Orality: Idea 
Literacy: Storage 
Electracy: Relation

Oral culture developed ideas or concepts.
Literary culture developed a way to store those ideas.
Electrate culture is developing relationships between those stored ideas.

All epochs had ideas, storage, and relationships. The change has to do with which aspects technology aids us in.

In orality the mind is responsible for creating the idea, storing the idea, and accessing the idea. Permanence of ideas is a function of social interaction, they must be passed on to someone. This highlights the importance of rhetoric. Knowledge, to be permanent must be stored in many minds. The relationships between ideas can only happen if a single person has the information to be connected. It is impossible to relate all knowledge because knowledge storage and relation happens solely in the mind. It is certain that many great ideas were lost, and those people that were considered the originators of specific ideas were probably not the first to come up with the idea. They were just the ones still remembered when the tools of literature formed.

In literary culture storage is moved from the mind to a page. Ideas become more complex and diverse. One could build on the knowledge of others and easily pick up where others left off. Relation must still be done in the mind though. All relations that could be made, were made through a human mind. And those things that were related must both reside within a single mind (for a time being at least, read from a page related then forgotten). Cross referencing, translating and map-making, these are tasks of the mind in the literary culture.

In the electrate culture relation is done by technology. Computers relate vast databases, translate statistically(google translate), and create maps automatically. Connections multiply exponentially increasing information density by orders of magnitude. This is "choraspace" the web of interrelated symbols. The extent of this is relating all knowledge with all other knowledge: the creation of a complete map of knowledge. What does that leave for the brain to do?

The mind can focus on what it has done from the beginning: creation, invention, heuristics and.. choice?

Throughout all the epochs the mind had to choose. In oral culture it had to choose what to relay, in literary culture it chose what to store, in electrate culture it chooses what to relate. I am looking for food: I relate my position to the database of restaurants. I am looking for a mate: I relate my desires with a database of others' desires.

Ulmer mentions the "symmetry of history" and the importance of looking back to look forward. We have seen three epochs, does this trend give us predictive powers, could we use "Ulmer Analogies" to predict the future?

With other analogies I didn't get the sense of a next-in-the-series, but with mine I do: Idea, Storage, Relation... Computation.

Technology has repeatedly been given the task of functioning as the mind, and it has taken on the easier tasks, in the next phase it will take on the harder task of computation. You may say, computers are great at computation, but no they really aren't. Computers are incredible at a the small subset of problems that are discrete: definable with ones and zeros. Where there is a clear binary representation, computers are great. But the vast majority of our computation is symbolic, and our symbols are complex and fuzzy. Language is a complex web of ideas and half meaningful relationships isomorphically related to reality and to other languages. Computers can't compute until humans reduce that complexity, till we discretize the concepts and choose the relations. If you study sampling(the science of discretizing) you will find that information is invariably lost in the process. So, if I were to use this analogy as a predictive tool, I would say symbolic computation would be the next technological phase that will change our concept of self and thus bring in a new "Ulmer Epoch".

OK, that was fun :) <--- smiley: an electrate artifact, signifying the importance of "body" and demonstrating the electrate person's unease with literary traditions.

Can you create your own "Ulmer Analogy?" I'd love to know what you come up with.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Experience and Education

Recently I read John Dewey's "Experience and Education". It is a great book on the nature of education. His central thesis is all teaching must relate back to human experience, and from that premise he explores(quite abstractly) how education should work.   As I read the book I considered how it would apply to my current task of creating and running a MOOC. I found that much of what I am doing aligned perfectly with his recommendations. I believe any good teacher would find that they agree and already practice with much of what Mr. Dewey sets forth in the book. What follows here is a set of notes I came up with while reading the book.

An experience may be immediately enjoyable and yet promote the formation of a slack and careless attitude; this attitude then operates to modify the quality of subsequent experiences so as to prevent a person from getting out of them what they have to give.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 208-209). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 
Both aspects of experience must be addressed in education. The experience of learning must be agreeable, and it must have an impact on future student activities. The first is accomplished by the performance of teaching and the relationship of material to environment. The second is harder, but the same thing that makes the material agreeable, relationship to the student’s life, also makes it influence the future life experiences.

the central problem of an education based upon experience is to select the kind of present experiences that live fruitfully and creatively in subsequent experiences.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 231-233). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

Instead of “teaching” the teacher is to create an experience for the student that relates to their life and brings them to discover a way to proceed through future experiences positively. What is the experience of taking a MOOC? It can be overwhelming and intimidating. So much going on at once, so many things to think about. To make it a positive experience I must guide the student through the environment smoothly. Structures must be in place to meet their questions and support their needs. I think I should lessen the assignment in the first week. There is so much new to learn already, possibly waiting on the tutorial assignments till the second week would be a good move. Introduce the complexity slowly. Give the students success first, so they have a positive experience, then move toward the harder tasks.

It is reduced to a form of words which may be emotionally stirring but for which any other set of words might equally well be substituted unless they indicate operations to be initiated and executed.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 239-240). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

Mr. Dewey is referring to a lecture based class where a stirring teacher talks wonderfully, and at the time the students may enjoy the experience, but the material doesn't stay with the students. The student's lack of a true experience limits what they retain and limits the usefulness of this type of teaching.

I believe I fall into this routine often. The truth is I am good at the “performance” of teaching that is being described here. I can talk for hours giving a great lecture and transmitting great information. But, is it becoming kowledge in the student mind? Is the information being received? How important, really, is the quality of the discourse? This book argues that the orator is much less important than the student activity. As a teacher I should stop focusing on the lecture, on the performance. Instead I must focus on the student activity, the student experience. 

I admit gladly that the new education is simpler in principle than the old. It is in harmony with principles of growth, while there is very much which is artificial in the old selection and arrangement of subjects and methods, and artificiality always leads to unnecessary complexity. But the easy and the simple are not identical. To discover what is really simple and to act upon the discovery is an exceedingly difficult task.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 260-263). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

We must question even the foundation of our educational system. It seems he is trying to find a single point to start from: a kernel of truth to build a system of education. His kernel is experience, which makes sense since it is the only thing we all share. If we are to transmit symbolic knowledge(communicate) it must symbolize something we all share, experience. Then the educational system should be built on the social structures we naturally form. Family being an important one, but dictatorships are another structure we also find humans falling into. As he describes “progressive” schools, I find myself thinking of a family model and as he describes traditional school it is more dictatorship related.

The mature person, to put it in moral terms, has no right to withhold from the young on given occasions whatever capacity for sympathetic understanding his own experience has given him.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 358-359). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

Make all teaching personal. The teacher must be personally invested in what he/she is teaching. John rarely resorts to "moral terms" in the book. I think this is unfortunate because speaking to the rights and responsibilities of a teacher is valid. I believe establishing a set of "moral responsibilities" for teachers raises their role and importance within society. 

It is, among other things, the need for these abilities on the part of the parent and teacher which makes a system of education based upon living experience a more difficult affair to conduct successfully than it is to follow the patterns of traditional education.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 364-366). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

This is a shift in the attitude and needs of a teacher. In this section we are describing a teacher that is actively focused on the dynamic needs of the students. This job is more difficult than reciting the same lecture over and over.  This goes hand in hand with the previous point of being personally invested in the material and in the students. How can this be accomplished when a teacher is already burdened? To focus on the shifting needs of the students is time intensive. Technological solutions and leveraging the power of a large class can help to solve the issue.

Every genuine experience has an active side which changes in some degree the objective conditions under which experiences are had.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 368-369). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

Class experiences, to be true experiences, must have an impact beyond the individual, and beyond the classroom. It is a mistake to cloister the classroom. In the MOOC we give the students the ability to change their environment, to build something together (wiki's). 

A primary responsibility of educators is that they not only be aware of the general principle of the shaping of actual experience by environing conditions, but that they also recognize in the concrete what surroundings are conducive to having experiences that lead to growth. Above all, they should know how to utilize the surroundings, physical and social, that exist so as to extract from them all that they have to contribute to building up experiences that are worth while.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 379-383). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

Teachers must be aware of and even embrace the contemporary social and technological environment. To connect with the experience of the student means having a real knowledge of their life experience. Again, like many recommendations in this book, numerous tasks are placed on the educator. It is difficult to keep abreast of the changing social and technological climate. I feel with the MOOC that I am setting up an experiment for other educators to learn from. It is my hope that my hard work here will be a benefit to future educators. I must take this role seriously and attempt to answer some clear questions. The nature of these questions is the next task I put forth. What am I trying to prove. What can I extract from my teaching experience that can be of clear benefit to future educators?

The principle of interaction makes it clear that failure of adaptation of material to needs and capacities of individuals may cause an experience to be non-educative quite as much as failure of an individual to adapt himself to the material.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 470-472). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

The education environment must be adjusted for each individual. Each person has different needs based on his or her live/surroundings/situation etc.. In a mooc with thousands of students how can the educational environment be adjusted on a person to person basis. At first this seems impossible, there is no way for a single teacher to guide thousands of students. The teacher must supply an environment that has all the objective elements that every student would need. Then the teacher must teach the student how to choose what serves them best. Supply videos, text, competition, social interaction, and sound. Then show the student how to pick the best method for them to learn.

What, then, is the true meaning of preparation in the educational scheme? In the first place, it means that a person, young or old, gets out of his present experience all that there is in it for him at the time in which he has it.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 501-502). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

Learning needs immediate value. Education can not simply prepare for future lessons. Education must be connected to a practical immediate need in the students current environment.

it is not the will or desire of any one person which establishes order but the moving spirit of the whole group. The control is social, but individuals are parts of a community, not outside of it.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 557-558). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

The school was not a group or community held together by participation in common activities. Consequently, the normal, proper conditions of control were lacking. Their absence was made up for, and to a considerable extent had to be made up for, by the direct intervention of the teacher, who, as the saying went, “kept order.” He kept it because order was in the teacher’s keeping, instead of residing in the shared work being done.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 576-579). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

Control should not be from above but from the whole. Social systems naturally form structures that support the group. Forcing a top-down order from above will fail. Instead foster the community and create situations which allow leaders to emerge. Teachers have been forced into positions of “dictatorship” by our current system. By removing the teacher entirely and focusing on supporting the community the group will have social experience and will self regulate.

A genuine community life has its ground in this natural sociability. But community life does not organize itself in an enduring way purely spontaneously. It requires thought and planning ahead. The educator is responsible for a knowledge of individuals and for a knowledge of subject-matter that will enable activities to be selected which lend themselves to social organization, an organization in which all individuals have an opportunity to contribute something, and in which the activities in which all participate are the chief carrier of control.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 582-585). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

This speaks to my previous point. The educator must become a designer of a self supporting educational environment.

But it is certain that the general principle of social control cannot be predicated upon such cases. It is also true that no general rule can be laid down for dealing with such cases. The teacher has to deal with them individually.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 589-590). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

An additional role of the teacher is to support those students that have pre-conditions that make them unfit for the social/experiental learning environment. I am unsure how to provide this in a MOOC. Self exclusion will naturally occur, but that is not ideal. There should be a way to identify struggling students and support them. This deserves more thought.

He must survey the capacities and needs of the particular set of individuals with whom he is dealing and must at the same time arrange the conditions which provide the subject-matter or content for experiences that satisfy these needs and develop these capacities. The planning must be flexible enough to permit free play for individuality of experience and yet firm enough to give direction towards continuous development of power.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 610-613). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

For my MOOC this is particularly difficult. The skill range will be wide, but will largely be on the inexperienced side. The material should assume no prior knowledge so the videos can support the beginner. The advanced student will be supported in the forums and by sufficiently flexible assignments. The assignments and forums must be structured to permit and encourage free play and individuality.

I may have structured my assignments too much, I will reassess the assignments and consider more flexibility and more chances to create music in their creation.

The principle that development of experience comes about through interaction means that education is essentially a social process.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 614-615). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 
It is absurd to exclude the teacher from membership in the group. As the most mature member of the group he has a peculiar responsibility for the conduct of the interactions and intercommunications which are the very life of the group as a community.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 615-617). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 
I and the TA’s need to be an active part of the MOOC community. Additionally, it is our responsibility to go to the environments where the students already connect. In this instance that would be social media. Creating a facebook page, twitter account, google plus and hangouts will show the student that I am active and involved. It is not enough that they are a part of my community, I must become part of theirs.

The teacher loses the position of external boss or dictator but takes on that of leader of group activities.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Location 622). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

This clearly states my role within the MOOC, a leader of group activities.

The particular form a convention takes has nothing fixed and absolute about it. But the existence of some form of convention is not itself a convention. It is a uniform attendant of all social relationships. At the very least, it is the oil which prevents or reduces friction.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 627-629). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

The establishing of “politeness” within the MOOC is another responsibility of me as a teacher. I have tried to set an example of professional attitude in the videos. Even more so in the assignments I require they end by thanking the person that will be assessing them. What other ways can I create a peaceful and respectful environment when all these cultures will be interacting? 

There is, I think, no point in the philosophy of progressive education which is sounder than its emphasis upon the importance of the participation of the learner in the formation of the purposes which direct his activities in the learning process, just as there is no defect in traditional education greater than its failure to secure the active co-operation of the pupil in construction of the purposes involved in his studying.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 699-702). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

I think the purpose and desire of the student is self evident in a MOOC. The student has decided to partake and the continued activity is completely voluntary. I am not sure though this is what is meant by “formation of purposes.” 

The crucial educational problem is that of procuring the postponement of immediate action upon desire until observation and judgment have intervened.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 725-726). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

Purpose and the creation of purpose is essential for an effective education. I have striven to give the student the bare facts. In the assignment they are required to consider the implications and devise an example that demonstrates the effective usage of those facts. They, in the assignments, develop a purpose for the knowledge they have been given. The assignment is the postponment of desire. Without the assignment they might move right to experimenting with their own music, while this would be one way to approach the knowledge, it would not support them and their peers nearly as well. This is a major part that divides the active participant from the inactive participant. The inactive participant may get the knowledge, the facts, but will likely be missing the purpose.

It is possible of course to abuse the office, and to force the activity of the young into channels which express the teacher’s purpose rather than that of the pupils. 
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 757-758). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 
I need to watch out for this. It would be very easy to consider my exposure and the possibilities of that above the needs of the group. I must make sure that with every decision I make I consider the group, not my desires.

The plan, in other words, is a co-operative enterprise, not a dictation. The teacher’s suggestion is not a mold for a cast-iron result but is a starting point to be developed into a plan through contributions from the experience of all engaged in the learning process. The development occurs through reciprocal give-and-take, the teacher taking but not being afraid also to give. The essential point is that the purpose grow and take shape through the process of social intelligence.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 761-764). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

Online education can be very rigid and can rigidly adhere to previous teaching methods. Using videos and a predetermined syllabus can reduce the change of give and take being described here. Much of the flexibility of a classroom is removed. In this way I think we should keep the structured portion of the class as minimal as possible. Reduce the videos to the bare essentials and focus on the community. In this aspect I believe I have mis-stepped with my course. When I started the material I was thinking of a traditional classroom and my previous highly structured online teaching practices. Hopefully the video content will not be overwhelming to the students and will give them time to really take part in the course. Too many videos and too much information is possibly my biggest fear with running this course.

It thus becomes the office of the educator to select those things within the range of existing experience that have the promise and potentiality of presenting new problems which by stimulating new ways of observation and judgment will expand the area of further experience.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 789-791). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

In choosing subjects to teach the teacher must first make a connection with the student’s life experiences. In teaching music this would mean starting with music the student already knows and possibly loves, then developing a language of sound based on those previous experiences. This is an area I may have failed at in my MOOC. There are distinct limitations on what I can use. Ideally I would play professional popular music, but there are copyright issues. How can this deficiency be solved? I will attempt to create listening rooms in the forums. Places where students can play music and analyze it based on the knowledge they just acquired. 

The educator by the very nature of his work is obliged to see his present work in terms of what it accomplishes, or fails to accomplish, for a future whose objects are linked with those of the present.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 798-799). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

What do I hope to achieve with this course? I hope to empower people to make music and to educate each other. I see the future of 101 classes like this one to be self supporting communal structures. The basic knowledge in any field is already shared by all. With a quality structure the class will be self supporting. What are the needs of this structure? That is a question I will be examining in detail as the next month goes on, and beyond!

There is nothing in the inherent nature of habit that prevents intelligent method from becoming itself habitual; and there is nothing in the nature of emotion to prevent the development of intense emotional allegiance to the method.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 872-874). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

I completely agree with this. Logical thinking and scientific method is a habit. And if we were all to adopt this habit the world would function in a much better way. This book is largely focused on teaching youth, and I support the methods he is espousing. In my case I attempt, particularly in the effect sections, to apply a scientific method. I break the devices down to their bare essentials, and expose their inner workings. From their musical usage becomes possible and perhaps apparent. Beyond the material I hope this encourages the student to take a scientific approach to working with new pieces of gear. It is my hope that they see the scientific approach I took in learning and teaching this material and they begin to apply it in their own life, even beyond music technology.

Activity that is not checked by observation of what follows from it may be temporarily enjoyed. But intellectually it leads nowhere. It does not provide knowledge about the situations in which action occurs nor does it lead to clarification and expansion of ideas.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 946-948). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

I may have fallen into this trap. In formulating the MOOC I have chosen to introduce a very wide range of topics. Particularly in the first few weeks the topics come quickly and  I may be presenting them from a point of authority: “this is a fact, remember it”. This runs in accordance with traditional practices, but contrary to what is being suggested here. I should formulate a hypothesis “I believe this is true” then test it experimentally as a demonstration before stating it as fact. It is my hope that some of this experimental learning will happen in the assignments. I must make it obvious that I want to be challenged. That the student should be constantly skeptical about what I say. The student should challenge my “facts” and devise experiments to prove me wrong. If I am proved wrong, wonderful, the teacher and the student body is all the better for it! If I am proved right, in developing the challenging experiment the student has gained real experimental and experiential knowledge.

scientific method is the only authentic means at our command for getting at the significance of our everyday experiences of the world in which we live. It means that scientific method provides a working pattern of the way in which and the conditions under which experiences are used to lead ever onward and outward.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 958-960). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

Couldn’t agree more, apply scientific method to all we do. This is becoming more an more the way. Contemporary “lean startup” models of business development emphasize testing and experimenting. Technology has made the experimental model more possible, surveying and computers make information retrieval and digestion easier than ever. This approach must be applied within the class for the students and on the class as well. The success of the course must be analyzed with the scientific method and reviewed and adapted from that point on. We must take time to establish the parameters of this experiment, the metrics of success, the methods of data acquisition and analysis, and the mechanism of adapting the course for future terms.

IN WHAT I HAVE SAID I have taken for granted the soundness of the principle that education in order to accomplish its ends both for the individual learner and for society must be based upon experience— which is always the actual life-experience of some individual. I have not argued for the acceptance of this principle nor attempted to justify it.
Dewey, John (2007-11-01). Experience And Education (Kindle Locations 968-971). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

The entire book is based on this premise. Everything he says follows logically from this beginning. To accept what he says throughout the book you must first accept this premise. I agree with it. All we can possibly know is known through an experience of ourself or is a recounted experience of someone else. To take his premise means that all we teach we must relate back to a human experience because human experience is all that we have in common, that is the common ground between humans. There is a chance of building up too many layers of theoretical abstraction which distances the material from the experience.

There is a practicalness to this method that is appealing and for the vast majority of disciplines it seems entirely appropriate. I wonder if this sort of practical approach will lead to those huge paradigm shifting moments, the eureka moments. Does a theoritical/conceptual mode of teaching and learning help us to conceive beyond experience?