The Siren Call of the Shiny

In education we are consistently pulled by the “shiny.”  In addition I believe the public and educational administrators are even more strongly attracted to the siren call of the “shiny,”  and demand that educators do the same – putting even more pressure on educators to develop what feels like Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)- an inability to stay focused on any one “shiny” for an extended period of time.

What is the “Shiny”?

So what is the siren call of the “shiny”?  It is jumping on the latest bandwagon/craze/trend/technology/ideology without looking at, understanding, making a conscious decision to do so.  When we as educators or instructional designers let the “shiny” drive our design, the resulting education becomes flat, misaligned, and in need of constant updating.

In a presentation by Ruben Puentedura on the various models in education there is one point where he talks about the “oooo shiny model” that focuses on technology.  But anything that catches our eye  – a specific strategy, a textbook, a classroom set up, etc., could be considered the “shiny” in this context. (You only need to watch/listen for about 30 seconds. I really do like his SAMR model.  I would recommend listening to this entire presentation [both part 1 and part 2] or some of his other shorter presentations like his SPARK PDX 2014 talk.)


Best Practices

I was in the process of reviewing entries for an award for Best Practices, when these thoughts came crashing together.  I was looking at an amazing course, with real life impact, for a group of people I love and appreciate.  I could see how it would benefit not only the intended audience, but the educators and other people in the participant’s lives.  The research, however, was non-existent.

Actually what I should say is that the connection to research was non-existent.  I know there is research supporting many of the aspects of this course, but the author of the submission entry did not make those connections, in fact there was no reference list at all.

So what makes something a “Best Practice”?

Why?  Why did you think it would work?  What evidence do you have to back up your choices?

I believe one of the hallmarks of good teachers is the constant improvement of their instruction.  This does not mean that they respond to the siren call of the “shiny.”  Instead they stop and evaluate the new “shiny.”  They ask critical questions, and do a bit of reading, conversing with colleagues, and lots of thinking.

Some questions they may ask…

  • What is the purpose of this tool?
  • How does it work with my current curriculum?
  • How much of my time will this take?
  • How much time will it take for students?
  • Could this help with the current problem I have (in week 2, that one concept, etc.)
  • Does that purpose fit with the goals of my course/topic/unit?
  • Will this enable me or my students to do more/better/faster? (This is where SAMR comes in!)

So, as you see the new and emerging tools, ask lots of questions.  Stretch to find ways and tools to redefine teaching an learning.


Dissertation Defense in T-16 days

I just sent out the final draft of my dissertation to my committee.  There will still be some minor edits, and there is the presentation to continue preparing, but this degree is winding down.

I picked up my graduation regalia last week and still can’t quite believe that I am almost done.

I’ve been counting down since the week before spring break – it was the 4 week mark until my defense date on April 14th.

I’ve been telling people that I’m done, completely done with degrees.  (Those who know me just smile and nod knowing that I won’t ever stop learning.)

Quote from Michaelangelo "I'm still learning."

I do not know what is on the horizon, but I do know that there will be new doors and opportunities ahead.

Now to get back to working on the presentation…

Dissertation Proposal…check

Friday (9/16) I successfully presented my dissertation proposal and have permission to move forward.  (Which explains why this blog has been so quiet – all my writing has been focused on my dissertation research.)

Some Background

I have done the work.  I have searched (and continue to search) the literature.  I have written and rewritten over 100 pages (which is now whittled down to about 50).  I have had my dissertation adviser changed twice, and my committee reorganized three times.  With all this change there have been many different preferences and explanations I have had to provide throughout the entire process leading up to the proposal date.

All this change made me unusually nervous.  I have given many presentations.  I have managed classrooms of 40+ students.  I have presented to large auditoriums of people.  But all the change throughout this process made me uneasy.

Some Realizations

I am a Teacher.

When I finally moved into what I call “teacher mode” the presentation went smoothly.  I am a teacher at heart, and it is evident in the success I find when I’m in “teacher mode.”

This realization came first during a point with lots of questions. After quick short answers of “yes” to one question and “no” to the other, I proceeded to expand upon the yes and build to explain the no.  At the conclusion of my explanation I turned to the one who asked the second question (the one with the “no” response) and asked if there was something still bothering her.  She looked at me and first said, “How did you know I had another question?”  Internally I responded “Because I’m a teacher.”

But really, how did I know?  I knew because she had asked one of the initial questions and while I knew the one question was fully supported, this second question had the potential to still be muddy.  I knew because I could see it on her face.  I knew by the look of the other committee member that the other question had been thoroughly answered.  But as a teacher, I knew I need to make sure I followed up on her first question to ensure that I addressed the question adequately.

The Citations…

In preparing for this presentation, I knew that I need to demonstrate that I had thoroughly reviewed the research.  The foundation of my study needed to be constructed of previous research.  However, I struggle with remembering names and including them naturally in a conversation. (This is not unique to research – my sisters will always win at the “guess the name and artist on the radio game”.  I may know every single word of the song, may even know how to play it, but struggle to remember the artist and title.)  I don’t struggle as much in the writing, but definitely in the speaking.

In creating my presentation I made sure that I included the citations on the slides (they would be my “cheat sheet”).  At the beginning of the presentation I made a conscious effort to include the names, but it was when I let myself talk about the concepts in “teacher mode” that the connections became more clear.  One committee member said, “I wish you could have recorded that so you could hear how well you made the connections.  Those connections need to be equally clear in your chapter 2.”

Now to just put my “teacher mode” into my writing.

Exploring My PLN – Blog Post #9

There is an ebb and flow in adding to my PLN.  Depending on a project or a research strand a certain topic may rise to the top of the reading list.  I took a look at my PLN and discovered some things about how I access information.

 Visual of My PLN


There was no scientific analysis of the data.  I was simply looking for trends and patterns.  I will admit that my access in Feedly has not been as frequent, as I have been reading more research.  As such, I probably should have included Mendeley.

Adding People, Organizations or Businesses

As I looked over the people, organizations and businesses I thought about how they came to be in my PLN.  Here are some stories….

Meeting Virtually

Several people I met virtually, in an online class, or a webinar.  I’ve added these people because I connected with them in a different virtual space, and although the class or meeting is over, I wanted to continue that connection.

Meeting in Person

Several people I met in person, often at conferences.  We shared our social media information and I continue to watch what they are sharing.

The Friend of a Friend of a Friend

Many of the people in my PLN I have never “met.”  Rather I saw a connection, or one of the people I already followed shared an insight from this person and I decided to add them directly to my PLN.

Meeting After the Fact

Joining an organization can strengthen connections you have already made virtually.  When I attended the AECT conference in Fall 2013, I discovered that the people I had found online and added to my PLN were also at this conference.  It confirmed to me that I had joined the right organization.

Do You Need to Constantly Build?

I would say no.  Even as I explored my PLN, I noticed that there are some feeds that don’t really grab my attention.  I discovered some dead RSS feeds that needed to be deleted.  There is no way to read absolutely everything, but if you take time to find people that share information you need or are interested in, it can help you continue to learn and grow as a professional.

Blog Post 7 – Choose Your Own Topic

I know, not a very interesting title, but it is the topic for Blog Post #7.  If you have been reading, you know that I am currently teaching a course (HRD4407/5507) on Technologies in Human Resource Development.  I have chosen to focus this course on the creation of a Professional Learning Network (PLN).  You could also call it a Personal Learning Network, Personal Learning Environment or a Personal Learning Ecology (as I did here).  I purposely selected the term “professional” to emphasize how social media can be used in a professional setting.

At the heart of a PLN is social media.   This is a broad term and most people simple equate social media as Facebook.  But there is more to this social media.  From an article in 2011, Heidi Coehn, a marketing professional gathered a variety of definitions of social media.  But for me it is about the connection between the individual and the tool.

A Brief, Very Brief History of the Internet

In the beginning there was information. The Internet was a place to find information, it still is a place to find information, but in the beginning only those who could write fancy code could put information on the Internet.  (This would be Web 1.0).

Then there was writing or creation for the masses.  Some incredible people made it possible to “write on the web” without knowing the fancy coding.  The Internet became a place where anyone could create and share information. (This would be Web 2.0).  You see lots of references in education to Web 2.0 tools.  There are still great tools available and more every day!

Then there was connecting. (And you guess it, this would be Web 3.0.  Although there are many who would argue that it is really still just Web 2.0, but that is another discussion.) Now, not only are people able to create and share, they can connect and broadcast.  The tools that were created allow people to follow others using tools like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

So the Internet has moved from a read-only resource to a mass creation and sharing to connecting and broadcasting. Which leads us to the emerging learning theory of connectivism.


In midst of these new tools for connecting, George Seimens presented a learning theory called connectivism, which is based on connecting (see the Web 3.0 connection).  The basic principles of connectivism are:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

(Seimens, 2004)

If you are interested in learning theories, you should go to and read the article.  Better yet, make sure you are logged in to your Diigo account.  Then you can experience how social media tools can change the way we interact with information.  Throughout the article are highlights and comments from other Diigo users.  Not only can you read the article, but you can see what others feel are important based on the highlighting and you can see their thoughts and additional insights based on the notes they add.  And as you start reading the comments you realize they are all from the same time period – looks like a group, perhaps a class co-read this article.  You and I were not there for the discussions, but we do get to see some of the virtual learning footprint they left behind.

What Does Your Virtual Learning Footprint Look Like?

As you create and build a PLN, you are able to explore the virtual learning footprint of others.  As you create and comment and share your learning you too are creating a virtual learning footprint.  Does this matter?  Well, if you’d like to know how that one person you admire achieved and grew, perhaps they left a virtual learning footprint you can explore and learn from.  As you move forward always working towards that next goal, do you ever stop and reflect on how far you have come?  If you have left a virtual learning footprint you can look back and see.  Or you can be reminded of why you are in school, again, or why you took that second job when you didn’t really need the money.  These can be powerful reflective moments that help keep you on track.



Seimens, G. (2004) Connectivisim: A learning theory for the digital age. Retreived from

LinkedInGroups, Twitter: Finding Cool Stuff

As we, my students in HRD 4407 / 5507 and I continue to grow our PLN, the task at hand is first to find a group on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Groups

Joining a group on LinkedIn allows you to see what others are sharing in the group on LinkedIn.  You can see what topics and especially who people in your group are following on blogs, twitter and other social media.

Two groups I have joined on LinkedIn are the Instructional Designers Group and the Moodlers Group.  Instructional Design is the area of my doctoral degree and there are so many different areas of employment for instructional designers.  This is a large group (67, 519 members as of 6/4/2014).  I do not expect to connect with or “get to know” all of them, but I do like what people in this group share.  As I was looking up the group to link in this blog post the article below was shared – which I thought was appropriate considering Michell’s blog post on identity, privacy and social networking

A tale of two doctoral students: Social media tools and hybridised identities

The Moodlers Group is much smaller with 1,788 members, but as Moodle support is a large part of my job, I thought it would be valuable to connect with others using Moodle.  This group tends to have discussions on best practices in implementing and supporting Moodle.


The second task is to find someone new to follow on twitter and then to look at who s/he is following.  I enjoy seeing who those I want to learn from are learning from.  There are some amazing learning paths and connections as you explore who is following whom in social media.

I happened to be looking up a book by Douglas Rushkoff – Program or Be Programed.  I really needed to find it on Amazon and place an order, but being lazy and since the Google search page was open I simply searched the title of the book, knowing there would be an Amazon link in the results list.  At the top was Douglas Rushkoff’s website, and it occurred to me that this would be a good person to explore his website and possible blog.

On the book page, at the bottom I found easily identifiable social media links.



So, I click on the twitter icon, logged in to my twitter account and “followed” Douglas Rushkoff.

Once on the page below, I can see that there are more than 27,900 people following him, but he only follows 317 people.  I can also see that he recently gave an “astoundingly refreshing keynote” at the BEA2014 conference, based on the first tweet listed.

There are also some suggestions of people Twitter thinks are simliar to Douglas Rushkoff and recommends that I follow them too.




But the second step of this task was to see who he is following, who are these 317 people.  In the six people that showed up first, there is an artist, a book publishing professional, an optimist, a software artist, the office of creative research and the 18th chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.  As Douglas Rushkoff is a “media theorist,” it does not surprise me that terms like “artist,” “publishing,” and “creative” come up in the descriptions.  Of these, I too added the Office for Creative Research to those I am following.



There are so many ways to find people to add to your PLN, follow the paths, search with key words and explore the profiles.  Add to your own profile, the keywords, phrases, descriptions and ideas that best represent who you are and who you want to become.


Selecting a Wiki Tool

In selecting any technology it is important to understand first what you want to be able to do.  I will admit there are some cool tools I run across and then wonder how I could implement them in a learning context.  But I have found that having an objective in mind before hand allows me to sort and filter and evaluate the usefulness of the tool.

In designing the summer section of HRD 4407 / 5507 – Technologies in Human Resource Develoment I needed to revise some of the assignments in the course due to the lack of availability of some of the technologies (See The Constant Change of Technology or The Death of SlideRocket).  I’ve written about searching for tech tools for eLearning (see Finding the Best Tools for eLearning) and that is the process I followed as I selected the various tools for this course.

Selecting Appropriate Technology for eLearning

Learner Analysis

The first information I sought was about the students who would be in this course.  This would be a combined undergraduate / graduate course.  Those enrolled as undergraduates would be  at the end of their program while the graduates would just be at the beginning of their degree.  While the name of the course is looking at human resource development, there would still be many students who would not be headed into a career in human resources.  Understanding this variety in the students I took a step back and used a very broad definition of technology in HRD.


One of the biggest limitations in this course was that it is a six week summer course.  The timeline for this course would be quick.  Knowing that I would have a variety of technical skills, we needed to jump into using the technology quickly.  It would also be important to provide tutorials and keep things focused.

Course Objectives

I left this step out of the previous post, but this is what should always guide the selection of technologies in a learning environment.  The course was redesign around the concept of a Professional Learning Network (PLN).  This is a overarching concept that would apply to all the students and would get everyone in using technology tools, especially social media in a professional context.

The previous course design incorporated all the student reviews of individual technologies into an ebook.  The current course retains the objective that students will become an “expert” on a specific technology.  However, in order to incorporate another social media tool, this one project was moved to a wiki format.  The content would remain the same, it would be available publicly and would incorporate a useful technology tool that is used in many work environments.

What is a Wiki?

A wiki is a freely editable webpage.  It is one of the first tools that moved the internet from a read-only resource created by those who understood servers and HTML, to a creation resource created by anyone with appropriate access.  You can read more about wikis on one of the most well know wikis – wikipedia (

Selecting a Wiki

In consultation with the previous instructor of this course she recommended two wikis – PBWorks and Wikispaces.  I created an account (free education account) on each system.  This allowed me to see the interface and available tools.  After a brief exploration I paused and created a list of what features I wanted in the wiki.

  1. Easy interface
  2. Helpful support resources
  3. Easy to add users
  4. Free
  5. Logical navigation

Both options fit most of the items on the list.  I could have also search for a comparison like this WikiMatrix or sought out a discussion like this Wikispaces vs. PBWorks, but I did not at that time.  In the end, wikispaces had some impressive tools that supported the use of a wiki within the educational setting and the interface was intuitively easier to navigate.

I am looking forward to watching our class wiki evolve.  As with many eLearning projects there is a need for some project management.  In order to meet the needs of a graduate program, moving this project to a wiki also provided the opportunity to guide the graduate students in project management.  I have provided some vague guidelines, but the wiki page template recently posted in the course was co-created with the graduate students and the organizational structure of the wiki as a whole is in development – headed up by the graduate students.

Wiki and PLN?

A wiki is a wonderful tool in a PLN.  It enables professionals around the world to co-create a resource.  One node in my PLN is  Ning is a tool to create communities – it combines blogs, profiles, wikis and social media tools into a space all their own.  And even though this community began in New Zealand, I have found it useful in my PLN.

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