Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ How This Course Works

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jun 10, 2010

Originally posted to the Critical Literacies course blog, June 1, 2010. A revised version was posted for PLENK2010.

Welcome to Critical Literacies 2010, the course about thinking. We are your facilitators, Rita Kop and Stephen Downes.

Login and Password

When you signed up for this course, you received a login and a password. This login should would anywhere in the course (please contact us if you have problems).

If you have forgotten your password, please go to this page to retrieve it:

The course home page is:

How this Course Works

Critical Literacies is an unusual course. It does not consist of a body of content you are supposed to remember. Rather, the learning in the course results from the activities you undertake, and will be different for each person.

In addition, this course is not conducted in a single place or environment. It is distributed across the web. We will provide some facilities. But we expect your activities to take place all over the internet. We will ask you to visit other people's web pages, and even to create some of your own.

This type of course is called a ‘connectivist' course and is based on four major types of activity:

1. Aggregate

We will give you access to a wide variety of things to read, watch or play with. There will be a LOT of content associated with this course, everything from relatively basic instruction to arguments and discussions to high-level interviews with experts in the field.

Every day you will receive an edition of ‘The Daily', which will highlight some of this content. Normally it will arrive first thing in the morning (if you are in North or South America), but not always. The Daily is created fresh each day – it is not prepared content. So delivery may vary

You are NOT expected to read and watch everything. Even we, the facilitators, cannot do that. Instead, what you should do is PICK AND CHOOSE content that looks interesting to you and is appropriate for you. If it looks too complicated, don't read it. If it looks boring, move on to the next item.

2. Remix

Once you've read or watched or listened to some content, your next step is to keep track of that somewhere. How you do this will be up to you.

You can keep a document on your own computer listing all the things you've accessed. Or, better yet, you can keep a record online somewhere. That way you will be able to share your content with other people.

Here are some suggestions:

- create a blog with Blogger. Go to and create a new blog. Or, if you already have a blog, you can use your existing blog. You can also use Wordpress ( or any other blogging service. Each time you access some content, create a blog

- create an account with and create a new entry for each piece of content you access. You can access at

- take part in a Moodle discussion. We have set up an instance of Moodle you can use. Your user ID and login will work in Moodle. Once you login you will find discussions related to the course and you can post about the content you've accessed. Access it here:

- tweet about the item in Twitter. If you have a Twitter account, post something about the content you've accessed.

- anything else: you can use any other service on the internet – Flickr, Second Life, Yahoo Groups, Facebook, YouTube, anything! use your existing accounts if you want or create a new one especially for this course. The choice is completely yours.

3. Repurpose

We don't want you simply to repeat what other people have said. We want you to create something of your own. This is probably the hardest part of the process.

Remember that you are not starting from scratch. Nobody every creates something from nothing. That's why we call this section ‘repurpose' instead of ‘create'. We want to emphasize that you are working with materials, that you are not starting from scratch.

What materials? Why, the materials you have aggregated and remixed online. These materials are the bricks and mortar you can use to compose your own thoughts and understanding of the material.

What thoughts? What understanding? Well – that is the subject of this course. This whole course will be about how to read or watch, understand, and work with the content other people create, and how to create your own new understanding and knowledge out of them.

In a sense, the critical literacies we will describe in this course are the TOOLS you will use to create your own content.

Your job isn't to memorize a whole bunch of stuff about the tools. Rather, your job is to USE TE TOOLS and just practice with them. We will show you the tool, give examples, use the tools ourselves, and talk about them in depth. You watch what we do, then practice using them yourself.

Think of every bit of content you create not simply as content, but as practice using the tool. The content almost doesn't even matter – what matters is that you apply the tool.

This will seem awkward at first, as any tool does. But with practice you'll become an accomplished creator and critic of ideas and knowledge. And that is the purpose of this course!

4. Feed Forward

We want you to share your work with other people in the course, and with the world at large.

Now to be clear: you don't have to share. You can work completely in private, not showing anything to anybody. Sharing is and will always be YOUR CHOICE.

And we know, sharing in public is harder. People can see your mistakes. People can see you try things you're not comfortable with. It's hard, and it's sometimes embarrassing.

But it's better. You'll try harder. You'll think more about what you're doing. And you'll get a greater reward – people will see what you've created and connect on it. Sometimes critically, but often (much more often) with support, help and praise.

People really appreciate it when you share. After all, what you're doing when you share is to create material that other people can learn from. Your sharing creates more content for this course. people appreciate that, you will probably appreciate the content other people in the course share with you.

So, how do you share?

First, use the Critical Literacies tag in anything you create. Our course tag is: #CritLit2010

It is especially important to use this tag in and in Twitter. That is how we will recognize content related to this course. We will aggregate this content and display it in our newsletter. Yes – your content will be displayed in the Daily. That's how other people will find it.

Second, if you are using a blog, Flickr, or a discussion group, share the RSS feed. We will offer a separate post on how to find your RSS feed if you don't know how. But if you know how, please tell us your feed address.

You can use the form here:

Then, when you post something to your blog or forum, use the #CritLit2010 tag. That is how we will recognize that the post is related to this course, and not about your cat or mountain climbing in the Himalayas.

You can either place the tag in your post, of you can use it as the post category. Either way works for us.

If you're doing something completely different, send us some email. We'll figure out how to add it to the mix.

We'll do the rest. We have aggregators standing by, ready to bring in your content and your work to everyone else in the course. Join in. Take part! Read the daily, remix and repurpose, and tag it so we can feed it forward.

When a connectivist course is working really well, we see this greate cycle of content and creativity begin to feed on itself, people in the course reading, collecting, creating and sharing. It's a wonderful experience you won't want to stop when the course is done.

And – because you can share anywhere – you won't have to. This course can last as long as you want it to. And when we offer CritLit 2011 you'll be welcome to come back and join in the fun again.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Jul 24, 2024 9:34 p.m.

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