AECT 2016 Presentations

Some links to slides from my AECT presentations this year …

AECT reflections

This is a post about AECT, and yet also not a post about AECT.

Recently (is 2 weeks ago recent?) I attended the AECT annual convention in Las Vegas. AECT was the second academic conference I attended, and over the last 20 years I’ve attended more often than not. When I was a graduate student, I was excited to meet faculty at other institutions and see presentations by the people whose work I was reading. I also developed my confidence as a presenter, and made several friends. And then, over the years, my participation and attendance faded. I was still there, and still presenting, but during the last 5-7 years I’ve done what I call “drive-by” attendance. I show up briefly, give a few presentations and support my students, attend a session or two if time allows, and then head out. I’ve stayed for one or two nights, and missed most of the events.

This year was no exception. I arrived in Vegas Wednesday morning, and flew back out Thursday morning. While there, I (c0)presented 3 papers, met up with a collaborator who lives abroad, and had dinner with a dear friend and a few others. Along the way, I checked in with my grad students and exchanged greetings with old friends.

It’s not that I don’t like AECT. I do! But as a mid-career academic with a lot of stuff going on and a mom of a young child, I’ve found it difficult to travel much and I’m often just plain exhausted. And that’s where I’ve been for the last few years.

But this year as I flew home from AECT, I found myself wishing I was staying another few days. For all sorts of practical reasons I couldn’t, but I really wanted to just attend, just hang out, just socialize with people in my field. I’d like to find a way to get more involved again, although I’m not sure what path to take with that at the moment (and admittedly my plate is on the full-to-overflowing side).

I’m going to keep this in mind as I plan my calendar for 2017. AECT will be held close to home (Jacksonville). It would be easy to just jump in and out — but this time I’m going to plan to attend. Really attend.

I’m also thinking about what keeps me so busy and overwhelmed all of the time, and how I can adjust my commitments so I’m not rushing around from activity to obligation all the time and instead can find some time to actually take in the moments.

Dusting off this space

Cough, cough … is this thing on? Ah, yes, it seems to be.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written in this space, and there are many factors at play. To list a few:

  • I’ve spent my time doing other things. (Obvious, no? I was going to say that I’ve been really busy, but isn’t that a trite thing to say? Aren’t we all busy? Don’t we all simply make choices — even when we find ourselves in times when we feel we have little choice — about what to do?)
  • I focused my energy on tasks that would lead to promotion (and blogging wasn’t one of them).
  • I was struggling to find my voice in this venue and determine (a) why I would post; (b) for whom I would post; (c) what I would post; and (d) how frequently I would post.

Some of the things I’ve been doing during the last few years include a lot of reviewing and editing, not quite enough writing, and plenty of teaching and mentoring. Along the way I’ve jotted down hundreds (maybe thousands?) of words on notepads, representing ideas that I’ve had. I’m starting to revisit those notes, and exploring where I want my career to go next. Why? Well, I earned that promotion to full professor (point #2 above) and the result (after a happy celebration) has been a period of exploration. I have more than 20 years left before retirement (supposing I retire “on time”), and I want to do something worthwhile during that time. My mentors suggested that now is the time to figure out how I want to make a difference in the world. I’m definitely seeking that path right now, although it’s not yet sufficiently well-formed to post a road sign on it.

I’m not entirely sure I have all of the answers for what I’m doing right now, or even what I’m doing on this here blog (see point #3 above), but I know now that I’m posting for me, and for anyone else who wants to join in and read or have a conversation. I’ll probably collect some of my thoughts-in-progress, observations, experiences, questions, artifacts, etc. and share them here. They won’t all be well formed, but that’s part of the point of a blog, right?

SMOOC is about to begin! We’re so excited!

Join us! The MOOC starts 3/24 and lasts for 4 weeks. You can join for all or just part if you prefer.

Module 1 (Week 1): Curation
Module 2 (Week 2): Social Media Lessons
Module 3 (Week 3): Personal Learning Networks
Module 4 (Week 4): Privacy and Ethics

Guess Who’s Taking My MOOC?

The Social Media for Active Learning MOOC starts in less than a week. I’m so excited! People are hearing about it (we only started marketing last week) and signing up.

I was surprised when I found out who one of the participants was — and that she really wants to participate. Want to learn more? Watch the video.


(I’ve started making a few little videos, each about a minute long, about different elements of the MOOC. If you would like me to make one of these videos on any particular topic, feel free to leave a request in the comments.)

Eek! A MOOC! (The why and how of it)

So, I’m about to embark on a MOOC adventure on the instructor side of the fence. It’s not unexpected. I’ve been thinking about doing a MOOC for a while, and I have a really important reason why: my students.

(An aside — to find out more about the MOOC, click here. Or to enroll in the MOOC, which is on Social Media for Active Learning and which will be active from March 24 – April 20, click here.)

My graduate students in Instructional Systems at FSU kept asking why no one from FSU was doing a MOOC. They indicated an interest in being involved in the design and development of a MOOC. They were interested, plain and simple. And while I couldn’t answer for the university or other faculty regarding other MOOC initiatives, I could decide to offer a MOOC … with their assistance. 🙂

Thus the idea for the Social Media for Active Learning MOOC — which we’ve been affectionately calling SMOOC — was born. I offered a seminar during the Spring 2014 term on Open Learning and MOOCs. I determined the topic for my MOOC (gee, it conveniently aligns with my own scholarly interests and expertise). I began to design the MOOC. And then, as the Spring 2014 term began, the students began to work with me on developing the MOOC. When it begins in two weeks, they’ll be the instructional support team.

The process of developing a MOOC as a course project has been an interesting one, and I’m sure to write more on that later. In the meantime, I’m busy with finishing touches on the MOOC itself and opening it up to enrollments. Everyone keeps asking if it will really get massive. I honestly have no idea — either how we might define “massive” or whether it will reach that level of enrollment. I’m not sure that it matters. It’s been a great experience for us so far, and I’m confident it will be for our MOOC participants as well.

So, if you’re reading this post feel free to join us, and feel free to spread the word:
Social Media for Active Learning (web site — or enroll here)
Course Dates: March 24 – April 20, 2014
Brief Description: A 4-week professional development course designed to help instructors, trainers, and instructional designers learn how to better use social media to support learning, whether in an informal networking sense or by embedding social media into more formal learning contexts. Designed in a modular format for maximum flexibility — each week a new topic.

Book Review: Networked

This time last year I was writing a book review about a book that I think all folks working in educational and instructional technology should read (in addition to any other number of fields). The book? Networked: The New Social Operating System, by Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman. I must confess, I had already picked up the book to read during my late summer vacation. As I read part of the book in August, and knew I wanted to assign it to my doctoral seminar (and I did make it a last-minute addition), I was asked to do the review. I readily agreed to the review since I was already reading and enjoying the book. I read the remainder of the book while traveling in Thailand during early September, which made the book even more interesting to me: away from my family, my home, my local friends and colleagues for the week but still online no matter where I was, I found myself relying on my online network more for interaction than I normally do.

A year later, I find myself referring this book to others again and again. I had the opportunity to hear both authors speak about networked individualism recently at a conference (IR14), and the experience reminded me once again of why Networked is such a relevant and important book.

With the permission of the publisher, I’m sharing my review here. The full reference for the review is:

Dennen, V. P. (2013). The making of the networked self. [Review of the book Networked: The new social operating system by Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman]. Educational Technology, 53(1), 59-60.

The Making of the Networked Self

Checked two personal and three professional email accounts, replying to and forwarding various messages. Tweeted a reminder to some students.  Followed URLs from a few other tweets and bookmarked two of them in Diigo – one for personal use and one shared with a class. Wished happy birthdays to four people on Facebook. While on Facebook, shared a photo of my daughter with family and friends and looked at someone else’s wedding photos. Updated a profile with additional contact information. Phoned my husband once and texted him twice.

These are the activities I engaged in between 8 am and noon on a recent morning, during brief breaks from writing. When I take a break, a top priority is checking in and interacting with my network, which consists of family, friends, colleagues, students, and a few people I have never met, at least not in the flesh. Each of these people serves a different purpose in my life. Some know each other, and others do not. Some live around the corner, others live halfway around the world. Regardless, I connect with them all, and most of them are likely no more than a few degrees from being connected with each other. I am a networked individual. We all are.

Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman tackle the phenomenon of the networked individual in their new book, Networked: The New Social Operating System. Specifically, they situate networked individualism within larger social and cultural trends, exploring the nexus of three revolutions: social networks, Internet, and mobile. The authors are well qualified to assess these trends given Rainie’s experiences as the Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Wellman’s work as a sociologist who focuses on social networks. It is their thesis that these revolutions have come together to push networked individualism into prominence. Networked individualism both reflects and affects the choices that we make every day about what we do, when we do it, and with whom we do it. It encourages us to simultaneously express ourselves, sharing what is unique about us, and align ourselves with others, finding points of commonality. We are not simply members of a group or community, but rather we are people whose identities are defined from a combination of our individual traits and our affiliations.

It would be easy to point to communications technology as the driving force behind networked individualism. However, Rainie and Wellman suggest that the tail is not wagging the dog in this instance. Rather, they argue that a variety of factors have led to a lifestyle in which Americans and Canadians have come to embrace both the technology and the dispersed yet interconnected collection of people they know or might come to know through their everyday activities.  In their argument against technological determinism, Rainie and Wellman explore trends that predate mass consumption of Internet and mobile technologies, such as car ownership and women in the workforce, showing how over the last several decades North Americans have increasingly expanded the geographic bounds of their relationships, spent less time with neighbors, and outsourced household tasks.  They tackle the concept of networked individualism in five realms – relationships, families, work, creators, and information – and by the end paint a comprehensive picture of contemporary North American life and how it got to be this way.

As someone who has studied both communities and networks and who has experienced the occasional struggle to distinguish the two, I found the concept of networked individualism timely and refreshing. The term community is grossly overused and misinterpreted in today’s culture, applied to people who may have no more in common than an account on the same social networking site or a receipt for the same product. One reason for this word choice is clear: “community” sounds warmer and welcoming than “network.” However, Rainie and Wellman give us what feels like a satisfactory compromise between the terms in networked individualism, highlighting both the manner in which everything and everyone is rapidly becoming interconnected and the ways that some individuals are thriving in this system. As networked individuals, our worlds are not full of cold, uncaring bits and bytes. Rather, for those of us who learn how to navigate and cultivate these networks, the reward is often the presence of a caring, just-in-time safety net with the manpower and expertise that we need or, failing that, the ability to locate and activate manpower and expertise swiftly.

Maintaining a network, which requires managing relationships, information, reputations, trust, social capital, and boundaries, is a regular task for networked individuals. Rainie and Wellman suggest that this work, along with the time it consumes and the benefits people may reap from it, is in itself neither a good nor a bad thing. It simply reflects the reality of the times in which we live. Successful networked individuals are able to find the sweet spot between networked life and the offline world. They learn how to maintain their network and engage in online reciprocity without allowing it to overwhelm other parts of their lives.  Online and offline worlds are largely integrated for these people.

In contrast, people who chose not to participate in maintaining their networks may miss opportunities for interaction, support, and advancement. Hopefully they do so as a matter of personal choice rather than from an inability to participate effectively in networked life. The Johnson-Lenzes, whose story is shared in the first chapter, learned first hand as they experienced medical and related financial struggles that a network of both nearby and far-flung people with a variety of relationships and expertise can provide the support needed in an emergency and its aftermath. However, the time at which the emergency strikes is too late to build this network.

Rainie and Wellman note in their final chapter that the future is not predictable, but networked life continues to evolve. People will increasingly find themselves faced with issues related to privacy, information management, the ubiquitous presence of technology, and the growing integration of physical and digital spaces. There are various paths down which these issues might lead society, and the authors suggest a few of them, not all of which are appealing. I finished reading this book with the thought that it is incumbent on educators who are already savvy in this realm to help shape the direction of networked individualism going forward. As the authors state, “The foreseeable future holds the prospect that individuals will be able to act more independently with greater power to shape their lives, if they choose to do so and if the circumstances will enable them to do so” (p. 302). Educators can help people better understand the choices they may have and more easily find circumstances that will foster their success in a networked world.

Networked provides an engaging and accessible overview of the ways in which social networks, the Internet, and mobile technologies have converged to affect everyday lives. By synthesizing current research with stories and anecdotes from the lives of real people, the authors have opened up this field to new and inexperienced readers. At the same time, they make substantive arguments and insights that will appeal to those practitioners and scholars who have played an instrumental role in framing and studying the contemporary shift toward networked individualism.