Connected Learning Spaces with CI Keys

All I need in order to teach is the students. I can design the rest.
-Teacher Educator 1992

Playground Parts
image by Jerry Bowley

When I was earning my teaching credential, one of my instructors said the above quote to our class and it has stuck with me. Her comment helped instill in me a my longstanding belief that teachers matter.  Through years of teaching in K-12 and higher education, I have fought back against the idea of there being a single curriculum or a single textbook that will improve learning for all. I have always believed the curriculum and methods should be fluid and responsive to the individual differences of the learners and teachers. I brought this philosophy with me as I leapt into the world of educational technology. Unfortunately, I was hit with a wall of products and tools, mainly the LMS, that wanted to force the way I taught. The tools reminded me of scripted curriculums that were mismatched with learners needs. The tools attempted to overly structure my teaching in a manner that didn’t  allow me to be responsive to students in the online environment. They also kept my teaching behind a closed door when what I really wanted was to be teaching on the playground. As a teacher educator, I wanted my students to be able to return to the course content after the course was over. I didn’t want access to the ideas and resources developed during class to go away just because the artificial end of their learning experience had come. This past year, our team at CSU Channel Islands (CI) piloted a project that addressed many of these concerns. We removed barriers, took away locked doors and created an open space for educators and students alike.

I am referring to our CI Keys project, an effort to provide connected learning spaces for faculty and students. We began this effort after being insprired by Jim Groom’s Keynote, Reclaim Learning, at the Emerging Technologies 4 Online Learning Conference (April, 2014). In the fall of 2014, we began CI Keys as a pilot providing domains and web spaces to members of the CI community. Our goal was broad, provide an open, online space for faculty and students to explore, develop, and create with no barriers. We wrote no rules, we merely opened the door to the playground. The first year of the project has been an overwhelming success. Faculty and students alike are enthusiastic about the freedom and flexibility CI Keys has provided. Removing the structures and constraints of the tools we normally offer has allowed for ideas to flourish. We have seen program sites pop-up as well as e-portfolios, open courses, student project sites and more. The below quote from a faculty member at CI summarize what many are feeling. This instructor used WordPress via CI Keys to develop an open, connected learning space for her courses. In the quote you get a sense of how personal and interactive her course was after moving into the unrestricted, online environment. “I love and hate that much of my course this semester is a ‘one-time’ event … since I want to recreate the positive experience my current students are having, I won’t just copy the course materials and update, like I might in Blackboard. …I have students that are so excited about blogging, creating a digital identity, and the course site, they have said the course has come alive for them.” 

At the closing of our first year with CI Keys I am filled with wonder and excitement about what Year 2 will bring. Thank you to those that continue to inspire and support our efforts!

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