Flexibilty for Diversity

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This blog posting was inspired by a tweet from Michelle Franz (@lrndeveloper) this morning about MOOCs at universities.

In Thomas Friedman’s article Revolution Hits the Universities, http://t.co/D4Fya3xx  ‘Daniel’, the young man with some kind of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) described his experience in a Coursera/Penn MOOC as an opportunity to,”…work hard and enjoy being in sync with the world”. As someone who works with other educators and teams surrounding students with ASD’s in schools, this gives me great hope and inspiration.

On a daily basis I encounter teams who struggle with the idea that they know their student has a lot to offer, but they just can’t seem to provide a venue or the tools to facilitate involvement, connection, challenge and empowerment.

But small glimmers of hope are everywhere; newer technologies like the iPad are allowing communication and visual learning to become more accepted, easier and mainstream.  Regular classroom teachers are developing lesson plans and classroom models that can minimize some of the difficulties of having an ASD without separating and segregating our students.

Students with ASDs come in all shapes and sizes.  They have a variety of strengths and weaknesses and what works for one student will be either unnecessary or unworkable for another.  By making classrooms and courses more flexible, we allow for each student to find his/her place and find his/her voice. Flexible classrooms can celebrate diversity, rather than marginalizing it.

MOOCs allow for flexible timelines and flexible participation.  Sometimes interactions are large and synchronous; but for those of us who have trouble focusing on one thing for long periods the backchannels provide an outlet to ‘speak’ when we need to, or to go a little tangential if that is more interesting.  Recording them allows for a revisit if important content is missed.  For those of us who cannot find spoken language quickly or articulately when under pressure, text-based interactions are empowering.  Contributing in a MOOC can be done in so many formats, styles and venues.

I work in the K-12 system.  So how can we take the lessons being learned at the post-secondary level and use them to ensure that the young ‘Daniel’s of today don’t have to wait that long to feel like they are contributing?

Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/64469833@N00/3891761133/”>helen sotiriadis</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a&gt; <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/help/general/#147″>cc</a&gt;

Being a Contributor

I’m finding that whatever I have the enthusiasm to contribute is accepted so readily among my ever expanding PLN.  I am finding the joy in contributing my support, my alternate opinion, my questions and my heart.  So what will I contribute to ETMOOC? As much as I can.

I was in an interesting place yesterday.  For two weeks I havebeen on a very steep learning curve.  Yes, becoming familiar with how to integrate many of the tools I have already used and learning new ones has been exciting and at times daunting, but the real learning has been about integrated my private, strictly professional (ie my job) and broadly professional selves into one online presence.  So yesterday I was giving a workshop on using Michelle Winner’s Superflex Program within schools and in regular classrooms as well as a sharing session on using the iPad for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The group saw me as technologically way ahead of them and were every uncomfortable when I couldn’t or wouldn’t give specific, recipe-like answers to some of their questions.  So my role switched very abruptly from being mostly a taker to mostly a giver.  I am realizing that I need to and want to be both in all of my various roles.  It just works better that way.  I can ask the questions and reflect other people’s learning no matter what my role. Integration is my goal for the next few months anbeyond

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Haunted by Les Nessman

ImageI admit it. I’m one of those.  I build walls and compartmentalize.  Here I am in a MOOC with all of these open, free, thoughtful, experimental people who are blogging, tweeting, etc about any number of subjects.  Here I sit, painfully eking out my second blog.  I have watched and even participated in the BB sessions, commented on others’ blogs (a bit) and learned, learned, learned!

When I started this process I thought I would pick up some interesting information on technology.  Ahem. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into.  Despite often feeling like a complete rookie, I am absolutely and surprisingly (to myself) OK with this. 

My journey, I suspect, will not be about technology, it will be about building up a PLE and a PLN.  Yes, obviously technology is involved, but it is my mindset that is changing. Scary, but cool. 

I hope to banish good ol’ Les and his rules and restricted areas for good.  Thanks for sharing the journey with me.