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I don’t have much patience; that’s one of my shortcomings.

Though I have tried to assemble a string of devices and applications that could help me to do and to get what I want when I want it, I have had difficulty overcoming the learning curve that accompanies figuring out how to fit all the technology together to produce mostly positive effects.

As an example, I received a Kindle as a gift a year or two ago, before they became wannabe tablets. The purchaser completely investigated the options and selected a Kindle because it was the only device at the time that would play well with PDF files. Since I read mostly journal articles and dissertations in PDF format and very few romance novels…make that zero romance novels…a Kindle really seemed like the way to go.

Now, this purchase came to me at my technology infancy, if there even is such a thing. At the time, I only had my HP laptop “Old Faithful”, a mini for a back-up, and a nearly useless Windows smart phone. To be honest, that phone was actually dumber than a brick. I don’t know what I was thinking.

Enter the Kindle…

It’s sort of clunky, with a miniscule full keyboard and toggle buttons that appear friendly, yet seem to induce hostility. Still, it works. It’s functional for reading. For research – when interaction with the material is likely to increase – not so much. Yes, a user can highlight and later harvest those highlighted sections, but… I just couldn’t figure out a useful way to integrate the device into my existing process.

Instead, the Kindle became an avenue for me to occasionally read something that had not been assigned and I have learned that there is value in that. Plus, my daughter gave me a pretty skin which increased the attractiveness of the device exponentially.

Fast forward to the present. I am preparing to wrap up my graduate degree next semester and that Kindle device has been packed away for forever and a day. I lent it to my mom recently and she thought that it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but she is reading for pleasure. I would have just given it to her, except for the fact that the Kindle software itself has become one of my top five go-to applications.

With the purchase of a Kindle device comes access to an application that can provide anytime, anywhere viewing and reading. I just purchased The Fault in Our Stars by John Green after Jessi Freud recommended it in her recent blog post for The Corner of College & Allen. When selecting where to send the book, I realized that I am now using Kindle software on seven different devices! Less than two minutes after initiating a search and I can read that book on the workstation in front of me or on my Razr. Now that’s useful!

Plus, using the Kindle software on more capable devices – like a laptop or tablet – makes it much more research friendly. Now, no matter where I am – home, work, library, grocery store, campus, literally anywhere – I can access the same material via Kindle. And, it’s not just books, either! When taking a recent college tour in Pittsburgh, we downloaded several campus maps and viewed them through the Kindle app on my Motorola Razr (, by the way). So, even though the Kindle device sees little action, I celebrate the ubiquity of the Kindle application almost daily.

My rating for the Kindle application: no patience required!

In MOOCs, What is a Teacher?

What is a Teacher?  How does learning occur?  How is learning confirmed?

Certainly, an individual can learn independently from a variety of sources. In the case of formal learning experiences with defined objectives and expectations of learning assessment, however, a person – specifically a content expert – serving in the role of teacher is critical, no? This is because the teacher acts as a link between the foundation for the learner and the learning. They organize the content and devise activities for learning that align with the assessments. They watch for stragglers and pull them back into the group. We might get there without them, but it would certainly be a long and arduous process (if we did). It would be like planning a trip without a map. In less formal experiences, I think the role of teacher can be occupied by a variety of resources; but in that broader context, the learning can afford to loosen in structure.

So, what is and what is not a teacher in a MOOC or  massive open online course? We have been hearing a lot about MOOCs lately, but they seem to vary in their design and I am not sure that every MOOC follows a connectivist approach. I am familiar with the similar learning processes from #eduMOOC2011, #Change11, and #CMC11, for instance, but I am not sure how the Udacity or MITx courses – which seem to resemble a more formal learning experience – compare.

Those in which I have participated are similar in that there is a basic schedule of weekly topics with supplemental resources provided. Generally, live presentations/discussions are held weekly and recorded for later viewing. Participant discussion takes place in groups, in blog posts, on facebook pages, and more. In these MOOCs, learning is a result of the organization of the design – from interaction with the resources provided; from interaction with the presenter(s); from personal reflection on blogs and in other discussions; and from interaction with other participants. The resources are organized, but the level of participation – and of learning – is solely determined by each learner. To me, the teachers in this design are the organizers, the presenters, the authors of the content, and the participants. In this case, I am more likely to ask what is not a teacher…

In a MOOC, would we be better off asking what IS NOT a teacher?