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Cris Crissman, PhD
Cris and her avatar

I’m happy to be debuting this semester, ECI 509: “Creative Inquiry Through Digital Storytelling.” It’s the second online course for which I’ve won a DELTA IDEA (Innovation in Distributed Education Applications) Grant. The first was ECI 521: “Teaching Literature for Young Adults” which I’d taught since 2000 and took online in the Spring of 2010. It’s a course that’s kept me involved with teens, their books, and, of course, their technologies — digital technologies.

Not a techie by nature, I’m serious when I say that I’m working on the “edge of my incompetence,” a line I’ve heard Elliot Eisner use so well. To keep my “edge,” I’ve been exploring every MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) I could since PLENK 2010. What I’ve experienced in the open, autonomous, diverse, and connected network of the original MOOCs (those begun by George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and Dave Cormier) gave me a new lease on learning and inspired me to try and create a similar experience in networked, Connectivist learning for the courses I teach. That’s why I opted to leave the closed environment of the Moodle behind and take my classes to the wide-open Web where we can network with others interested in exploring creativity and/or digital storytelling. To accomplish this, ECI 521 and now ECI 509 have become “open” online courses or “OOCs” as David Howard of DELTA affectionately calls them. Certainly not massive but open to all who would like to participate to whatever degree they would like.

With “Creative Inquiry,” I’m charting new waters. I’ve always been fascinated by creativity and dedicated my dissertation to studying writers and why they write. I have to credit the open online course, Digital Storytelling 106 from Mary Washington University with the phenomenal teachers, Jim Groom, Martha Burtis, and Alan Levine, for inspiring me to take my interest in creativity and use digital storytelling as a vehicle for exploring it. I learned so much in this course, and I get a kick every time I see some of my projects pop up on the “slot machine” on the homepage.

DS 106 Homepage

The Ingmar Bergman minimalist movie poster and AI book cover are mine! I’m like a kid seeing my work on the bulletin board.

It seems that every three years or so — there’s a cycle here — I discover a new technology or way to use it that re-inspires my teaching. Before MOOCS, there was immersive educational environments or virtual worlds and my classes have met in the Bookhenge, a virtual sanctuary for talking about learning and teaching, since 2008. I don’t ever want to even think about teaching a course online without having a space where we can meet together. The Bookhenge gives us that space and I hope you’ll enjoy it. Here’s a brief introduction to the Bookhenge.

Finally, I have to thank my marvelous support system — Cathi Phillips of DELTA for not only guiding me through course development for two courses now but also introducing me to MOOCs, DELTA’s PJ Odom who created this first-ever mobile course site — and Bill Lovin, my tech guru who makes the Bookhenge real.

© 2013 Creative Inquiry

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