Thursday, 20 February 2014

Publishing My First Ebook Chapter

EVO sessions finished last week. So far I have been giving you weekly updates and, as far as those go, I am still stuck in Week 3, but today I would like to do something different. I am going to put together my EbookEVO artifacts, because it makes more sense to do this in a single blog post. EbookEVO was one of the best EVO sessions I have ever attended. The course taught us, step by step, how to write a chapter of an interactive e-book. What I'll try to do in this post is show you just how brilliant the whole idea was. This is my way of saying "Thank you" to the moderators.

The goal of the workshop was for us to complete our chapter. I finished mine and a lot of other people got there as well. I have to admit that I was worried at the beginning of the workshop. I thought it would be much harder than it was and that I might not get to the end. Now all I want is to write more chapters.

My two collaborators, Sneza and Milica, finished their chapters too. The three of us are planning to finish the whole book. Here's Sneza's chapter and here's Milica's.

And this is how the course was organised:

Week 1 was devoted to introductions. 3-2-1 was a popular introduction format in this year's EVO. It is a nice way to introduce yourself and (if you are an old EVO participant like me) maybe reveal something that others haven't heard yet. What was refreshing about the 3-2-1 introduction in #EbookEVO was that we were given a choice of tools and told to use one of them and create a 3-2-1 digital story about ourselves. Here's mine:

Kudos to the moderators for the inspiring questions. I swear that my saying I wanted to be a travel writer had something to do with the topic I chose for my chapter. I didn't plan this, it just happened.

Here's what was in store for us in Week 2:

During the second week, you will:

  • evaluate the current content in your textbooks
  • evaluate various ebook designs to determine how you want to design your e-textbook
  • decide what you would like to include in your e-textbooks
  • map out the content you have to cover in your curriculum
  • outline your e-textbooks
  • evaluate your peers' outlines and provide feedback
  • discover basic design elements and tips from experienced authors
  • attend a live online session with moderators

While I was outlining my e-textbook, I started daydreaming. What would the perfect textbook for the new age be like? Surely not something static or linear that you had to read from cover to cover? Here's my dream e-textbook(with apologies because I have already shared it in this post):

Week 3 was the mind-mapping week. We got into more detail with what we wanted to include in our chapter and then we mapped the chapter out. I was surprised to find out that I had a very clear idea about what I wanted to include in my chapter. Here's the mind map. A really bad side of Popplet is that it is not embeddable (even though the website claims it is). Here's the Jing capture, hope it does the trick:

In Week 4 our goal was to complete a part of Chapter 1 and post it for peer feedback. I used Storify:

Yes, I know that Storify doesn't really look like a book. I wonder if that matters. We don't read on the Internet the way we used to. Isn't a wiki really a book? Doesn't the same go for a blog? Maybe the Storify isn't as appealing visually as some other tools, but doesn't its functionality make up for that?

And I would like your honest opinion on this because in Week 5 I remixed my chapter and created a Glossi.. I am leaving the Glossi for the end of this post because Blogger refuses to publish any text after my Glossi ebook. Is this Glossi's fault, or Blogger's? I don't know, but here I am trying to republish this post for the third time.

Glossi does improve the visual design of my ebook, but it lacks the functionality of Storify. And, speaking of functionality, my own personal favourite is still a wiki.

Here you are - the same materials, three different tools. Which do you like best? And why?

I owe special thanks to the Wonderful Words moderators, who have provided me with the tools I needed to create vocabulary exercises for this unit.

Photo on Flickr by mcamcamca

I feel empowered. Internet is full of open educational resources and authentic materials that can be adapted to every student's needs. The OERs can be put together like Lego bricks. Each one of them can be taken out when it is no longer needed, or reused and remixed on another occasion. Ebooks can be offered in different formats, depending on the teacher's personal taste, the students' computer skills, or the ways the materials are going to be seen (in a computer lab, at home computers, or on mobile devices). I still have so much to learn. My ebook writing journey has only begun.

Thank you, #ebookevo team. You rock.

Photo on Flickr by Caro Wallis

And now, here's my Glossi:

Tags: #ebookevo, #evosessions, #TEFL

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Week 2 - On Badges, Enforced Independence and Dream Ebooks

As Week 4 begins in my various MOOCs, I am still still catching up on Week 3, while trying to blog about Week 2. We were busier than usual at work during "week 2". It was the end of the term and we had exams. I was tempted to jump straight to Week 3, but then this story that I am telling in installments would have been missing a chapter. Even though I didn't manage to do much homework that week, interesting things were still happening.

In Rhizomatic Learning, Dave Cormier posted the following question:

Learning rhizomatically is the goal, but how do we get there? The position of teachers is based on whole set of power structures that create a reliance on the teacher for setting objectives, assessing progress and giving direction. How can we take people who've spent their whole lives believing that this is 'learning' and MAKE them independent?

As I have said, I didn't do much work during week 2 week, so I didn't post my answer to this question. However, I spent a lot of time thinking about it. Can you enforce independence? Isn't it a paradox?

I keep meeting the same people over and over again in my various MOOCs. They move across platforms effortlessly and they are constantly participating in new MOOCs and communities of practice. These people somehow manage to navigate multiple platforms and cope with information overload. They have obviously reached the level of independence that is required for online learning. They share resources, post their reflections, notes and mind-maps and often create a course-within-the-course. With Coursera courses you learn most intensively not from the lectures, not in the forums, but in student-created Facebook groups. Some of these students have their own blogs, others Tweet or bookmark. When a MOOC doesn't meet their expectation, they simply walk out. Once the MOOC finishes, they continue to share in their Facebook group.

After 6 years online, I think I can safely say that I am one of them. I don't remember how I reached this level of independence. I am not sure it can be taught. Self-taught perhaps. Can it be enforced? Well, you know the joke involving a lightbulb and a psychiatrist.

The lightbulb has got to really WANT to change.

Still, there are some things that good teachers do that can be applied to a MOOC:

  • Good teachers model the behaviour they want to see. Al Filreis recorded his ModPo videos as round table discussions because that was the behaviour he wanted to see in the forums. Denise Comer used a pseudonim to write and submit essays in her writing MOOC, exposing herself to the infamous Coursera peer reviews. She then reflected on the activity and showed us how we could benefit from any kind of review we got.
  • Good teachers create an environment in which it is safe for you to experiment and make mistakes. As one students said in Al's webcast when he put her on the spot: " The worst thing I can do is be wrong."
  • Good teachers leave you some autonomy. If I want to do my homework in my blog or in a Facebook group, that should be acceptable.
  • Good teachers don't spoon-feed you information, they let you find some of it on your own. 
  • Good teachers are humble. They will let you teach them what you know and they will give you the credit for that.
  • Good teachers plan carefully, so that they give you the best possible course. Despite this, or because of this
  • Good teachers are willing to improvise and make on-the-spot changes of curriculum, platforms, or any other element of the course. 
  • Good teachers use the platform so that it suits their needs and the needs of their students. Read how Al Filreis used Coursera to create something amazing.
I could go on and on. I have seen a lot of great teachers during these six years online. I have seen quite a few that were not so great, but I learnt as much from them as I did from the first group. The online world changes so quickly. What worked yesterday might not be suitable tomorrow. Which is why I have created the Relearner badge I started this post with.

We learnt about badges in MultiMOOC, thanks to Jim Buckingham who gave this inspiring lecture:

The whole topic of open online badges is new to me. One of the reasons why I am fascinated by them is that they give you credit for studying what you want, even if it is just a single unit in a course. Instead of getting a certificate for the whole MOOC, you can get a badge for the unit you studied. Badges are transferable, so that you can share them in your eportfolio, on your website or on any one of your profiles.

I would like to learn more about badges and this is something I am leaving for after EVO is over. There are a few online courses that teach you how to use badges. I intend to go through one or two of them (there is a great one on P2PU). In the meantime I have joined Credly and created the "Relearner" badge I started this post with. Relearning is one of the topics of my next blog post.

Relearning is something I am practicing in EVO. One important lesson I learnt in Mobile Assisted Language Learning in Week 2 is that what's really mobile in MALL are not the devices, but the learners and the resources. I was one of the first teachers in Serbia who got hooked on CALL, but I am late with mobile learning. I only got my first Android device in November. Since then I have had to relearn a couple of things.

In Ebookevo we worked on the visual design of our ebooks. We got to daydream a little and create our dream ebooks. Here's mine:

Two weeks later, as I am struggling with real ebook tools, I have realised that there is no tool that could create such an ebook at the moment. Still, one can always dream. And I know that one day they will create a perfectly interactive ebook. When that time comes, we will have to relearn the way we read.

Tags: #2014evo, #ebookevo, #evomlit, #evosessions, #kolaracebookevo, #rhizo14, #TEFL, #multimooc, #learning2gether, #mooc


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