Contributors Posts by Justin Reich

Justin Reich


0 275

Well, it’s been a wonderful journey thus far, hasn’t it?

Thanks to everyone for an incredibly rewarding semester of class sessions and for a stimulating project Faire. From my conversations with you since, I know that many of you feel like your colleagues asked thought provoking questions and forced you to refine and clarify your thinking. I’m very sad that time didn’t allow me to personally visit with all of you, but I’m certainly willing to meet with anyone in the days ahead to discuss your work further.

You have two final tasks ahead. The first is to complete and submit your projects, along with a reflective essay. The second is to submit a reflective essay for your participation in our online networked community.

Logistically, both can be accomplished at the Canvas site. Scroll down to the bottom for the assignment submission spaces. Prompts for the project reflection and participation reflection are online.

I want to share one further piece of advice. In discussing projects with many of you, I’ve frequently found myself recommending a kind of “three-part” structure for projects, especially those of you that built a thing. The first part is an “Executive Summary” of some kind. This short document/post would briefly set out the context for the project and then highlight the most important insights. The second would be the main media or document component– the research, the slides, the course, the presentation materials, etc. The final piece would be a longer document that explains the work more holistically– provides more background on develop, on methods, and ultimately details the most important findings from the work. That structure isn’t the right answer for every project, but I keep coming back to it.

Part of the point of that structure is to give people a short hook into your work, one that both summarizes the project and highlights the most important findings. Then present the project itself. Then, if someone says, “wow, this is awesome, how do I learn more,” there is a longer document providing more background.

The other thrust of my feedback to folks has been to pause and reflect on the key insights from your work. Many of you are still in the weeds of your thinking, focused on details and particular pieces. As you figure out how to communicate your final project, I’d encourage you to ensure that the most important insights from your design or research are stated clearly and boldly.

If you have any questions, please let me know. Otherwise, have a wonderful holiday break and good luck wrapping up your work across your courses.



0 623

I am incredibly excited for our upcoming Project Faire.

We will meet in the Gutman Conference Center on Wednesday evening.

We will have set up time from 4:00-4:20. At 4:20, we’ll have a brief convocation, then half of folks will staff their stations whilst the other half wanders. Then we will switch. (People can briefly leave their own stations, during their time, to view the projects of others in their cohort).

The class will be open to anyone, so please encourage your colleagues to come and visit.

We’ll have two shifts from about 4:20-5:00 and 5:00-5:40. Then we’ll take a short break, and in the last hour of class, we’ll try to wrap things up for our time together.

Here’s what we’ll do for the final activity. I will invite each of you to give a brief final reflection on the semester in the form: “I used to think…. but now I think….” The prompt encourages each of us to reflect on one specific way that our thinking has evolved this semester. Ideally, the statements will be pithy, so we can hear from everyone. Be brief, don’t feel like you have to explain everything you say, and don’t feel like you have to be original; the weight of repetition can be useful in this exercise.

So between now and Wednesday night, as you prepare for the Faire, please think about your “I used to think… but now I think…” to help us bring closure to a wonderful learning experience together.



0 377

What a fantastic week in class! I’m so grateful to you all for your creative contributions to our discussion, and for playing with me and with the Unhangout team. Many thanks to Tressie, Katherine, and Grif for bringing the session to life.

Next Week

Next week we’ll be exploring issues of Openness and Equity. The only additions to the syllabus are that I have posted the prompts for the  Project Reflective Essay and the  Participation Network Reflective Essay, and you should read them. Both can also be found in their respective sections of the T509 course site.

We will have two optional sessions for the third part of class next week. Doug will be giving a session on how to turn a blog site into a portfolio site as well, and then the rest of us will be offering consultations as you make final preparations for the presentation faire.

For the Final Week

Just a heads up that our presentation faire will be in the GCC. Each student will have a table and/or wall space for a laptop and displaying visual materials like posters. The class will be split in half so for the first part of class we will have half the students manning their stations and the other half on the move. In the second part of class, we will switch. For the final part of class, we will remain in the GCC and have a final course reflection.

After all of the creative energy this week, I am very much looking forward to learning from you at this terrific culminating event.


0 1000

Next week, Massive goes open and online!


There will be no class in G-08. Rather, we will meet at 4:10pm at

The room will open around 3pm. Feel free to come chat or just log in, test, and go watch cat videos. You should be logged in by 4:00pm so that you don’t miss a minute. You will need to log in using a Gmail address that supports G+, so your Harvard email won’t work.  Please log in from a space with good internet with a quiet background where you can talk. We recommend wearing headphones. More details for participating in an unhangout are here.
If you have log in difficulties, tweet me at @bjfr or email me at [email protected] or text me at the number that I’ll send you by email.


Any of your friends, family, colleagues, or enemies are welcome to join us online in the unhangout for class. Forward the unhangout link to anyone who you think would be interested in participating in class:


Your assignments for this week include a few short readings, a talk from our special guest pessimist Tressie McMillan Cottom, and an assignment. You need to post by Tuesday at midnight a dramatic rendering of a worst case scenario for large-scale learning technologies in education. Poems, videos, skits, stories, fake news articles, or any other genre accepted. Put up on your blog, or on Twitter, or email me by midnight on Tuesday. We’ll use the best of these to kick off our discussion.


More details on the agenda for the session are at



0 266

I don’t have much to say. Pretty much just spamming your inboxes and feeds because I started this weekly thing and feel compelled to see it through.

Last class was great. Thanks for the pizza, Art!

I added one reading to the syllabus, and I clarified that you only have to watch the talk part of my talk. Though the Q&A is pretty good, especially Berkman founder Charlie Nesson’s comments at the end.

I also removed the peer review of the rubric updates. The teaching team will take a look at them, and I’m satisfied by the conversations we are having in update groups.

There are fewer posted office hours, but you should feel free to email me or the teaching fellows if you need someone to lend an ear.

Carry on, all!


Thanks for a great class on Wednesday, and thanks to those who have visited me during office hours. I’ve found the conversations about your projects inspiring and thought-provoking. I hope that others will take time to met with Chris, John, Doug or myself in the days ahead. (If you have any trouble signing up for office hours in Canvas, just shoot any of us an email.)

Looking ahead to next week:

Panel on the Future of Higher Education: We have a blockbuster panel for next week: edX President Anant Agarwal, Harvard Vice Provost Peter Bol, and MIT ODL Director Sanjay Sarma. The topic, “The Future of Higher Education.”

Let’s begin crowd-souring some questions using the question tool:

Also, as an experiment, I’m going to ask that people put away laptops and devices during the panel. It make for an unfriendly view from the dais. If a couple students want to volunteer to take notes to share, that’s fine.

Readings- I added Anant’s TED talk to the syllabus.

Survey- If you haven’t yet, please take the mid-course survey.

Final Project Description Rubric- For Wednesday, please resubmit your updates project description and rubric in the Canvas assignment under Week 8.  Simply revise your draft with new rubric criteria, new expectations, and an update on your progress.

Project Updates- This week and next, for lab/section time, we’ll break into groups and discuss project updates. If you can bring something “prototype-y” to show people. An outline, a wire frame, a rough cut, a draft, that will enrich the conversation.

That’s all for now. If you have questions, let me know.

0 303
Mid-Course Survey
Colleagues, I’d welcome your feedback on how class is going so far and what we can do better to improve our shared learning experience for the second half. Please complete this anonymous survey to share your ideas.

[As Lucas points out in a well-thought out blog post, a determined adversary can probably identify at least some individual students in an anonymous survey. I promise not to attempt to do so. Which is exactly what you would expect a determined adversary to promise. But no, really, I won’t.]

Last Week

Thanks for the rich discussions last week in class. Blended learning proved to be a good way to weave together a number of themes that we’ve discussed to this point. I’ve uploaded Julia’s slides and your various discussion group notes to the syllabus.


On the social front: many of you may be away for Columbus day, but this weekend is one of my favorite Cambridge events: Honk! Festival of Activist Street Bands. Brass bands from around North America, come to Davis Square on Saturday and then have a parade to Harvard Square on Sunday. In past years, it has been super fun. If you see me dragging around two little girls, please say hello.

For Next Week:
We’ll be learning from folks at HarvardX and MITx about how software platforms and online courses are produced, and for those that are interested, we’ll do a brief after hours tour of HarvardX offices and studio.

Readings are modest, so I hope folks take the opportunity to make substantial progress on your projects. I’d encourage you to post an update to cement your thinking, and on 10/22 and 10/29 we’ll spend some class time in small groups discussing our progress. The more concrete work you can share, the more valuable that time will be.

As always, I’m grateful to you all for your insights, our conversation, and all that I’m learning with you.


Week 5 Wrap; Week 6 Preview

1 495

This one should be pretty brief.

Catching Up: If you have missed any work for the past two weeks– the IRT quizzes, the peer review, or (gasp) the project proposal, get it submitted ASAP or reach out to me.

Syllabus Update: I’ve updated the syllabus from the past weeks with a few additional lecture videos and resources. I did notice walking around yesterday that a few of you seem to take terrific notes during class. If you ever want to post them or scan them into the syllabus, just send me the link (or add it to the doc in a comment) and I’ll add it. A few course videos seem to be lost at HGSE IT, but we are trying to get them published.

I also added a few rabbit hole readings for next week. Unlike previous weeks, the required readings for our discussion on blended learning trend towards the celebratory and our guest speaker is an advocate. So put your hackles up. The readings I’ve added, many my own posts, are more critical.

Due Wednesday:  Revisions to your participation rubric are due on Wednesday Oct. 8, and should be delivered by tweet or email.

In Class: We’ll be joined by Julia Freeland of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, and I provided a link in the syllabus for you to read some of her stuff. In the latter part of class, we’ll self organize into some discussion groups to think about take-aways as we wrap up our under-the-hood section.

Have a wonderful weekend!

ZOMG! I have so many thoughts for you. I’ll try to be concise with the essential ones. They are in order of descending importance.


Remember that by Friday at 11:59pm you should submit your Project Update/Deliverables/Rubric. You will have a chance to change and update in October, but be as precise as you can now about what you might do. You need to do this on time because the subsequent peer assessment depends upon it. If you are in a group, every member of the group should submit an identical proposal, so that everyone gets asked to complete two peer evaluations.

An Important Clarification about the November 19 Presentations

I have not yet adequately described the format of the presentations on November 19. I’ll add it to the syllabus, but for now, let me describe here. Basically, the presentation format will be a kind of poster faire. We’ll break into two groups, and half of people will wander about talking to colleagues and the other half will staff tables with posters, laptops, and so forth. You will have a chance to have lots of short interactions one-on-one or one-on-few with the teaching team, classmates, and guests. So you won’t get up and do a 5-minute presentation in front of everyone, rather, you’ll get a chance to share a nugget with lots of small groups. After an hour, we’ll switch who is presenting and who is wandering. So that may be helpful as you think about what your presentation criteria should be like. Think about something that people can do or see.

DUE Wednesday

Then, on Saturday at midnight, you should be able to log into canvas ( and access the two peer projects to give feedback on. The rubric for giving feedback should automagically pop up for you, but if you have questions, please let me know. Please complete this feedback by Wednesday.

The rest of readings and assignments should be both modest and straightforward. Thanks for experimenting with the peer assessment system with us.

Follow up from last week’s class

1) An Apology- First, I’m very grateful to those of you who described your difficulties in finding and completing the quizzes. I apologize for making light of the fact that some people didn’t do them, when it was in fact my fault for not being more clear in both the description of the activity and the syllabus. You should be able to go back and do the questions. Hopefully, it’s a lesson in how different people interpret and experience the same platform.

2) Why did we study IRT- I’m not sure I explained to my satisfaction why we studied IRT, and there are several reasons. The first is simply that I’m trying to design the course so that we immerse ourselves in a variety of modalities, and IRT lent itself well to a video-quiz-discussion-classfollowup format. It was a good topic to xplore in an xMOOC kind of way. Second, I wanted you to understand that when you hear people talking about “adaptive testing” in computer-aided instruction, that it’s not techno-babble beyond the realm of human comprehension. There is a logic underneath it that isn’t so hard to conceptually understand, and if you understand how it works and what it’s doing, you can understand what it might be good for an what some of the problems might be. You might understand better for instance, why the opportunity to more “efficiently” test student proficiency might be a good fit with a vision of personalization that tries to optimize individual paces and pathways through content; or you might understand better why a teacher can’t just build their own adaptive testing system–since it depends upon large items banks normed on many students. Third, I also wanted you to ask a question that Lucas asked “Is modern technology necessary for IRT? It seems like an old idea that intelligent tutors have just made more accessible.” IRT is indeed older than some of you, dating back to the 80s–and it’s been used (and adapted and improved) in intelligent tutors like Cognitive Tutor for many years. Khan Academy’s use of adaptive testing is a continuation of past efforts, not a new initiative.

I hope you understand IRT well enough to articulate something like “IRT is a statistical toolkit that characterizes uses qualities of test items. By creating measures of difficulty and discrimination of test items, we can compare test items, compare test takers who take different items, and we can be more efficient in using items to precisely characterize student proficiency.” But as will discuss next week, there are certain kinds of items that lend themselves better to large-scale assessment than others!

We will continue these discussions into next week, as we think more about self-assessment, peer-assessment, and machine-learning.

3) Personalization If you were thinking, “Gosh, this weekend I totally wish I could listen to Justin natter on for an hour about Personalization in education” I added this to the Rabbit Hole viewings for last week, Personalized Learning, Backpacks Full of Cash, Rockstar Teachers, and MOOC Madness.

4) Thank you I’m having a lovely time getting to know you, getting challenged by your thinking, and hearing about your projects and interests. Thank you! See you Wednesday.

0 330

Dear Colleagues,

Thanks for another terrific class last week, where we explored Connectivist-inspired learning environments and wrestled with who we thought might be best served by these different spaces. Two themes stood out for me. The first was equity: what kinds of social, intellectual, technical, and financial capital does a student need to take advantage of a new technology innovation? The second was the relationship between technology innovation and broader reform: what kinds of technology innovations can advance learning in our current ecology of education, and what kinds of innovations require broader reforms to be impactful? Chew on that!

By the end of today, you should have sent me your first participation rubric, either by sending me the Word doc, or posting it somewhere and tweeting or emailing me the link.

For next week:

First, on Tuesday, I’ll be giving a talk on MOOCs at the Dalai Lama Center For Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT with Jonathan Haber (who took 4 years of college courses through MOOCs in a year last year) and Sanjay Sarma, the director of the office of Digital Learning at MIT. It’ll be Tuesday, 4:30-6:00pm, 4-231. Monks and MOOCs, should be a trip. You are all invited.

To study the Learning Management System, we must go into the Learning Management System

By Wednesday, you should view the four videos that John Hanson courageously and kindly prepared on Item Response Theory in canvas, at and you should complete the accompanying questions. There are some other readings and viewings: a few pages from Holland on MOOCs, an anti-LMS manifesto from Jim Groom, and then a terrific video from Sonia Livingstone about her anthropology of a school recently implementing an LMS. Pay close attention to student and family feedback! Finally, spend 20 minutes over two days using Khan Academy–be sure to get an account and login so you can see how it tracks your data.

Finally, by Friday, you should submit your first project proposal/deliverables/rubric. It needs to be submitted in Canvas, so we can use the peer review tool the following week to experience peer assessment.

Really enjoying getting to know you all through your contributions, sharings, and project ideas.