<span class='p-name'>Digitally Literate Courses: Identifying critical friends, a mastermind group, and a name</span>

Digitally Literate Courses: Identifying critical friends, a mastermind group, and a name

This is the fifth project update for my project “Digitally Literate Courses” as part of the One Side Project challenge. In my first update, I identified the focus and goals of this work. In my second update, I discussed some of my thinking about the pricing plan of the courses. In my third update I discussed reviving my mission and focus. In the fourth post, I detailed the deliverables that will be included in the courses.

In this post I’ll describe the process I used to identify the name and names of organizational elements in the courses.

Identifying critical friends

As we build and break things online, there are many questions that arise as we share out content. In my work, I regularly share blog posts, a weekly newsletter, and weekly podcast. When I share this content out, I’ll usually gain new subscribers or followers. I’ll usually have someone retweet/reshare, or favorite the content. Somewhat less regularly, I’ll get a comment back in return.

These comments usually come in the form of reframing or resharing this to a new audience. Far less often do I get feedback, substantive critical feedback on the content and format of my work.

I appreciate the support and contact with my readership and audience, but as I build and break things online, I want to know if it is really working. Does the new layout of the blog work? Do images in the newsletter provide any benefit? Does the audio in my podcast sound horrible. The typical feedback that I receive, if there is any at all, is that it’s fine, sounds great…awesome work.

If I am to continue to grow and sharpen my skills, I need critical feedback from trusted friends. Friends that will take the time and look critically at my work. They’ll provide their honest opinion and give me that opinion from a place of honesty and love.

I also came to understand that one of the benefits in the courses that I’m developing needs to not only be the content, but the real value is in providing a social structure in which you can obtain that critical feedback on your work as you learn. Just as I need feedback from a critical friends group, so too will learners in our classes.

Identifying a Mastermind Group

As part of this critical friends group, one of the questions that I’ve had is “why would anyone do this?” Providing critical feedback takes time. We’re all busy, and time is a resource. What I’ve learned in this process is that there are people out there just like me. They’re trying to figure out what it takes to build an online identity/brand. They may be trying to build an audience. They may be trying to test out new mediums (blogging, podcasting, video, etc.).

As they learn and build, there is a need to not only receive guidance, but also see what others have built. Learners also need/want behind the scenes guidance or coaching on what to do..and what not to do. Finally, as they build, there is a need for that critical feedback to help understand what the audience might feel about the work.

To build this for my own work, and to support others in their own learning, I’m creating a mastermind group of colleagues. The mastermind group is a critical friends group comprised of like-minded individuals that exist within my personal learning network. This mastermind group takes the learning and interactions of the PLN and extends it by holding each other accountable for supporting each other in the group.

In my mind the mastermind group will support not only my work in the development of these courses, but also the other work I conduct in my personal and professional life. I will also work to help guide colleagues as they try and build their own network and digital identity. Finally, one of the key components of the mastermind group will be to support and link to each other’s work online and off to collectively and collaboratively build up a networked base.

Identifying a name

The mastermind group is still being formed by early members as we identify roles, rules, and responsibilities of the group. As I was testing the need for this group in my own work, I sent out the following email to a core group of critical friends to get some more insight into my work in the “digitally literate courses” initiative.


I hinted at this several times, but I’d like to get some quick critical feedback from you on names.

I’m thinking about calling this initiative thenext.school. Next will be an acronym for “negotiating education at the crossroads of technology.”

At this point, we’re considering the word “School” in the title.

There will be a program, or sequence of “courses” offered.

Within each course there will be “modules.”

I’d like feedback about the naming of elements in the initiative. I’m wondering what you think it says. I’m wondering if it empowers/limits us as future events warrant. I’m wondering what challenges we might have with traditional learning institutions.

Thanks in advance. Please think and be critical. I appreciate your feedback.

I sent the email above out to six people and received granular, actionable feedback that has helped me identify the naming and focus of the work. Specifically, we’ll move forward on naming the initiaive TheNExT.School. NExT is an acronym that will stand for Nexus of Education and Technology.

There was quite a bit of debate about the use of the word school in the title. Several suggested institute or academy.

The organization of School…courses…modules worked as a naming mechanism for most of the critical friends. One friend suggested learning pathways as opposed to modules. At this point I’m using both learning pathways and modules as I designed the courses. I think learning pathways will exist in the school, but they’ll help identify the ways in which learners may interact and use the materials on the platform.

Next Steps

At this point I’m developing the website and hope to have something up and running within the next month. At that point I’ll start adding materials for the first set of free modules on the site.

Please feel free to act as a critical friend and send along insight/critique of anything you see above.

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