User:Joyce McKnight

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Contact-new.svg Joyce McKnight
Employer:State University of New York/Empire State College (US)
Occupation:College Professor
Nationality:US Citizen
Languages:beginning reading ability in Spanish and French
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My Profile

My name is Joyce McKnight and I have practiced participatory community organizing for about forty years now. My main vocational interest at the moment is the creation of a loosely structured, but mutually supportive online social network of community educators and community organizers that can accomplish in the twenty-first century what innovators like Myles Horton in the US and Paulo Freire in Brazil were able to do in the 20th.

I am not sure how to accomplish this dream...but I intuitively feel that it is possible to create a comfortable, safe place on the web where those who want to make a difference in their communities can meet, relax, enjoy each good company,get some good ideas and then return to their daily tasks feeling refreshed and supported. As of 2013 it seems to me that the evolving WikiEducator and Open Educational Resources-University (OER-u)communities and/or perhaps an on-going connected MOOC such as those developed at Athabasca University and my own Empire State College have the possibility of strengthening such community building efforts.

Many years of service with SUNY/Empire State College, an early leader in the incorporation of prior learning assessment (PLA) into fully accredited degree programs, have led me to an abiding interest in self-directed learning and especially in the conversion of college-level, experiential learning into college credits and recognized degrees. Recently this has led me to consider how new technologies such as e-portfolios might become repositories where learners can gather consolidate and document information and skills obtained from a variety of sources (including MOOCs and OERs as well as more traditional venues such as employer-sponsored reading, volunteer training, and personal reading) and then use this documentation as evidence of college level learning for Prior Learning Assessment at institutions which offer PLA or PLAR credit. I envision a world in which a motivated learner could develop an individualized curriculum, document his or her learning in an e-portfolio, present this documentation to a fully accredited institution of his or her choice, and receive assurance that transferable college-level credit has been earned. Parts of this model are coming together with the inception of the OER-u and worldwide interest in the development of OERs, but it seems to me that the missing piece is what Empire State College calls "mentoring" or the assistance most learners need to plan and implement independent learning. I hope to make a contribution in this area of the OER movement and especially the OER-u.

So now you know a little bit about me and where my present journey has taken me since I first joined the wiki-educator community in 2011 and where I may be going in the future as I update this in June, 2013.

Professional Background

Currently, I am an Associate Professor/Academic Area Coordinator at the Center for Distance Learning of Empire State College one of the comprehensive colleges of the State University of New York (SUNY). Empire State College is totally dedicated to adult and non-traditional students and is a leader in self-directed online learning as well as the use of individualized learning contracts and learner designed degree programs and is a proud anchor partner of the Open Educational Resources-University (the OER-u).  As an Academic Area Coordinator at the Center for Distance Learning I supervise about ten courses in Community and Human Services, mostly in community education/advocacy,human services management, and social policy. I also teach social policy to a variety of graduate students and supervise master's level theses. My main research, writing, and teaching interests revolve around participatory community organizing in a variety of forms. I have written a comprehensive textbook on the subject (for a commercial publisher) but plan to put a series of essays into wikieducator so everyone can use and adapt them.

As I near retirement age and battle with some health problems my thoughts often turn to reflection on the journey thus far and to the legacy I would like to leave to others. My life work began in inner city Chicago in the late 1960's and early 1970's and has continually involved working with my physical and spiritual "neighbors" to improve the quality of life in rural towns and inner city neighborhoods.  My actual physical work has mostly been done in the northern US but more recently I have been privileged to participate in "real" and "online" communities around the world through social networking with students and colleagues.  In many ways my commitment to the wikieducator community and to the OER-u dream is a logical outgrowth of my life work.

Radical Adult Educator / Aging Hippie / Committed Christian / Wanderer /Wife/ Mother-Grandmother

I chose these from my many labels because I thought that some folks in our community might resonate with them.

Radical Adult Educator Many of you are also radical adult educators simply because you believe that knowledge should be openly shared. I wanted to reach out to you through this shared value. I am anxious to share time and thought with you because there are relatively few of us in the world.

Aging Hippie I am amused by this label, but it somehow fits. I still believe that together we can build a world of peace, love, and justice although I must admit that it has taken a lot longer than I ever dreamed it would.

Committed Christian I confess that I am almost afraid to make this claim because the title Christian has so often been co-opted to mean closed-minded and cold-hearted. I deeply respect all other faiths, but have found Christian values especially as found in the Sermon on the Mount to be my mainstay in life.

Wanderer I added this recently because at 60+ I feel less sure of myself and my direction than I have at other times in my life. I feel as if I am wandering, touching and being touched by others, hopefully making a positive difference but really just finding my way.

Wife/Mother/Grandmother I have been married for over forty years. We have two children and two grandchildren. I am still learning how to be in relationship with the people I love.

Who Am I?

I think we are all formed by our roots in subtle and not so subtle ways so I find it difficult to separate my professional background from my life story so here goes. I was born and raised in the US in Conneautville one of the smallest and poorest towns in northwestern Pennsylvania although I spent my girlhood summers in Algonquin Park [1]in Ontario,Canada. My father was an early conservationist and spent his life working first as a game protector, then as Fish Warden Supervisor for about a quarter of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and finally as a real estate specialist for the Pennsylvania Department of Forest and Waters where he purchased land for several state parks. I grew up loving the forests,streams,and lakes of both my "homelands".

My mother's family was from Pocahantus County [2] in rural West Virginia. They moved to Meadville, Pennsylvania [3]in the late 1930's and early 1940's to work in the booming tool and die industry there. During World War II my mother worked as an inspector in the Talon Zipper Factory and was proud of her independence and contributions to the war effort. My parents married in 1943 (rather late in life for the time) and I was born in 1949. After my birth, my mother never worked outside the home, but she served as my father's de facto assistant until his death in 1975.

Both of my parents taught me that the highest calling in life is to show love for God by loving one's neighbors in concrete ways and that everyone is a neighbor. For them, especially my father, the second highest calling in life is to have an inquiring mind, learn something new everyday and to share what you learn with others. The third is to respect Creation and its Creator by assuming responsibility for the natural environment. All of these are still my core values.

I consider myself a "hillbilly" (I can't quite bring myself to embrace term "redneck"). I often have a hard time believing that I am privileged to know and learn from so many talented people from all over the world. Venues like this one are a far cry from my limited northern Appalachian childhood in the eastern mountains of the US.

Like many who came of age in the late 1960's, my real education came from participating in the social movements of that time. My friends and I called ourselves "streaks" or "straight-freaks". We were not involved in drugs, but we embraced many hippie values as well as the more radical values of the anti-war and civil rights movements. My passion for social justice was kindled at that time and has never been extinguished.

My husband Hugh and I were married on August 22,1970 and immediately moved to a religious house in a Mexican neighborhood in Chicago where we were staff members of the Ecumenical Institute (now known as the Institute of Cultural Affairs).[4] The Institute immersed us in the theology of Bonhoeffer, the Nieburhs, and Paul Tillich as well as the community organizing techniques staff members were using on Chicago's West Side. The Institute was extremely progressive for its time. Organizing techniques it developed years ago are just now coming into common practice.

In 1974 when our son Nathan was about to be born, we left the Institute to return to my husband's home town, Corry, PA [5]where Hugh began to practice law with his father. Unfortunately, both of our fathers died soon after we returned to Pennsylvania. Hugh and a partner struggled on for 13 more years but he found the law frustrating and demoralizing and so left his practice to attend Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.[6]and enter the United Methodist ministry In the meantime, I did my best to use my community organizing skills to improve the quality of life in Corry while completing my master's degree in counseling at Gannon University [7]and giving birth to our daughter Joanna in 1980. Among other ventures, I helped create a psycho-social rehabilitation center, a group home and counseling center for runaway youth, a high school diploma program, an off campus branch of Mercyhurst University[8], and the Warren-Forest County Higher Education Council.[9] In Corry I learned that a small group of determined people can accomplish almost anything.

From the time Hugh entered seminary in 1983 until 2003 when we moved to upstate New York, we shared the lives of many wonderful people through his ministries in a variety of rural and urban settings throughout Western Pennsylvania. For the most part I enjoyed being a minister's wife although it is very demanding and sometimes heartbreaking. I was able to share life's triumphs and tragedies with many people of all ages and stations in life. I felt especially privileged to work with young people and enjoyed founding Sunday Schools and leading church camps.

Although I sometimes regret my busyness while my children were young, I have never been able to be a fully stay at home mother. Between 1987 when Hugh finished seminary and 2003 when I became a full time faculty member at SUNY/Empire State College, I worked in a several capacities mostly in higher education administration and teaching with some professional counseling, mediation, and community organizing in the mix. Along the way, I completed my Doctorate in Adult Education (as a field of social practice)and a Graduate Certificate in Distance Education from the Pennsylvania State University. [10]

My experiences as a social entrepreneur[11]working mostly with small organizations in Corry and elsewhere led me to become fascinated with the ways ordinary people join together to make extraordinary differences in their lives and the lives of others. This fascination, in turn, led to my doctoral thesis Toward a grounded,substantive theory of the control of learning in altruistic grassroots initiatives and my lifework in writing,teaching and organizing.

Most recently I have completed a textbook Community Organizing: Theory and Practice that has been on a long journey toward publication for several years now. Now that it is complete and my obligation to its commercial publisher is nearly ended, I intend to make all of my other writings available to everyone through Creative Commons licensing, at least in part through wikieducator.

At 60+ I am learning that I don't have the energy I had at twenty, nor do I seem to know as much as I did then, but the years have been good. I am still happily married to the same man, have two wonderful grown children and their significant others, and two super grandchildren. I am able to touch the lives of thousands of people through my students' contributions to their communities and through the internet I can meet many more through efforts like this one without ever leaving the Adirondack Mountains in New York State where I make my home. It is a truly remarkable time to be alive.

Education and Life Experience

For those of you who like to know about academic credentials, I have a bachelor's degree from Allegheny College, a small liberal arts institution in Meadville, PA (US) where I participated in a program of complete independent study.  (I like to tell people that I am the product of an "educational experiment".  It is up to you to determine whether it succeeded :-)). During the early 1970's I received intensive training in community organizing at what was then the Ecumenical Institute: Chicago and is now the Institute of Cultural Affairs International    As a young wife and mother I lived in Corry, PA (near Lake Erie in the US) and completed a Masters in Counseling at Gannon University. I spent several years in direct human services and participated in the creation of several community based projects including the founding of a small branch campus of Mercyhurst College (now Mercyhurst University) which precipitated a major career transition from direct human services to college administration and teaching, my primary profession since 1980.  I have a Doctorate in Adult Education from the Pennsylvania State University and am deeply committed to the social justice side of the field.  In 2007 I receive Empire State College's Altes Award for Community Service in recognition of my work connecting scholarship, teaching, and community engagement. In 2009 I received the Phyllis Cunningham Award for Research in Social Justice from the Adult Education Research Conference (AERC). For several years now WikiEducator and its global community of committed educators have been a new source of learning where I have been introduced to the world of Open Educational Resources, the Creative Commons, Open Textbooks, the OER-u dream,the creation of educational scenarios, MOOCs and cMOOCs (connected learning MOOCs),e-portfolios and other learning experiences too numerous to mention. This is all great fun for me because I believe that much of life is about being connected to others and "making meaning" together.

My Interests

My interests change from day to day, but mostly revolve around family, teaching/learning, writing, community organizing and enjoying the natural world.

The Natural World I enjoy spending time with Hugh my husband of nearly forty years as we explore the wonders of the southern Adirondacks[12]often walking with our dog Harli (short for Harlequin because she has a dark and light face and personality of the clown) at midnight or after. In the summer we love swimming in nearby Lake Luzerne [13]and in spring and fall we kayak on the many nearby lakes and rivers including the upper Hudson. We live in a "camp home" with stone fireplace that reflects our childhood fantasies of always being "at the cottage"

Writing I love writing non-fiction especially when I have the time to really concentrate rather than working in small time segments.

Knitting I relax by knitting. I especially like to create "prayer afghans"[14] that remind those I know who may be in need of a special hug of my ongoing love. Knitting these projects is my way of relaxing and meditating and staying in emotional touch with those I care about.

Participating in Community Life I believe that I not only have a responsibility to write and teach about communities, but that I need to live in common-unity with others as well. In my home village (Lake Luzerne, NY) I am an active member of the Lions' Club, volunteer as a docent at the local historical museum, am an Elder in my church, and am presently working with a few other "old timers" on a mutual support group called "Aging in Place" as we hope to grow old graciously together.

Hemochromatosis Awareness In 201l I nearly died from a rather common but rarely diagnosed hereditary disorder called "hemochromatosis" in which the body collects too much iron which in turn does massive damage to the joints and internal organs such as the pancreas, thyroid, liver, and heart. My father probably died of it at age 63 and I nearly did too. It affects mostly people of Celtic origin and is very common among those with Scottish, Irish, or Norse ancestry. Before mine was caught, it had nearly destroyed joints in my hands and feet, had changed my Type 2 diabetes into Type 1, and had begun to invade my liver. It took six months of monthly phlebotomies (the removal of a pint of blood a week) to bring my iron levels to near normal and it has taken me two years to almost recover a reasonable level of health. One in eight people of Celtic origin are carriers of the disease and something like one in 200 have the genetic markers for a full fledged case, yet it is still largely unknown in the US and doctors rarely screen for it. (I had gone to endocrinologists for more than twenty years for thyroid disorders and Type 2 diabetes, but it took my primary care physician's assistant and my gynecologist to identify the problem) I am on something of a one woman awareness campaign to save others from my suffering. I was very blessed. If it had not been discovered when it was, my life expectancy would have been two or three years at the maximum. Now my life expectancy is nearly normal but I live with quite a bit of pain, have to be very disciplined in my daily activities and find travel difficult.

I am happy to "have my life back" after the struggle of the last few years. For the most part, I try to integrate my life and work by "putting my life where my mouth is" and am glad that the wikieducator community is part of it.


I have covered many of my professional interests in other sections, but perhaps some categories will help folks with i similar interests find me.

Community Organizing My main professional and research field. I plan to initiate a connected MOOC soon which will have on-going membership, publish my many essays on the topic as OERs, maintain a blog and these wikieducator pages and generally openly contribute to the field sharing what I have learned in more than forty years of direct personal experience and indirect experience through my students.

Sustainability and commitment to a Quality of Life Paradigm I believe that we must end the era of constant growth and exploitation of our environment and work together to build sustainable local communities linked globally through intentional social networks and other connected efforts so that all of earth's resources belong to all of earth's people...including, but not limited to everyone's knowledge and wisdom.

Self-directed Learning I want to connect Adult Educators (who have been working in this field for years) with the OER movement so that all can benefit and the hard work that has already been done in field is not lost.

Prior Learning Assessment Empire State College has a forty year history of assessing and awarding credit for prior college level learning that is not necessarily linked to course cognates nor to exam-based evaluation. I hope to help enable the ESC approach to gain traction globally and to find ways to enable learners to use the Web resources to develop learning portfolios (electronic and otherwise) to use as repositories for documentation of prior college level learning.

Nonviolence and a Gandhian view of the WorldGandhi, Martin Luther King, Bishop Tutu and Nelson Mandala are among my personal heroes. I especially want to explore two Gandhian notions (1) The world supplies enough for everyone's need, but not everyone's greed and (2) Be the change you want to see in the world. (paraphrased)


Hugh McKnight and I have been married for over forty years. We have two grown children, Nathan and Joanna and two grandchildren Dylan (age 9) and Riley (almost 5). Nathan and his family live near Bangor, ME where he is a master's level social worker working in a hospital-related mental health clinic and Heather is a speech therapist specializing in swallowing disorders among elderly stroke victims. Joanna and her husband Jim live near us in Lake Luzerne, although Jim longs to return to his native Texas. Joanna is a human services graduate, my writing partner and co-author of the community organizing textbook. Jim is a technician for a local industry and a self-taught physicist and mathematician. All of our children and in-law children are making valuable contributions to society but, more important, are fine, honest, caring people we are proud to know.


My Projects

My Sandbox

My sandbox

My Reflection

Feedback & Notes from my WikiNeighbours

Re: Kindly accept our heartfelt thanks for joining this eL4C54 WikiEducator Online Workshop. Hope you shall join us for future programmes too!--Ramesh Sharma, PhD 12:11, 6 July 2013 (UTC)

(Comment.gif: Hello Joyce: Thank you so much for joining the live session today. Hope you enjoyed it. Regards,--Ramesh Sharma, PhD 19:05, 29 June 2013 (UTC))

Hi Dr. Sharma:  I am enjoying having the chance to work on my wikieducator page.  I would like some suggestions for inserting photos and for creating a sort of "book" of my various essays, mostly on community organizing and related topics.  I think wikieducator is a good repository for them.  I hope to participate in the next live session but it is our Independence Day holiday so I am not sure what I will be doing.

Re: Greetings Joyce. Happy Independence Day!! It was so nice of you to have joined the live session. Thanks for that. I like your idea of having a sort of book for your various essays. Pl do let me know how we can assist you in achieving that dream! All the best, --Ramesh Sharma, PhD 18:01, 4 July 2013 (UTC)

(Comment.gif: Hello Joyce: Its really an honour to have you in this workshop. There is so much to learn from you! Sincerely, --R C Sharma, PhD 09:43, 26 June 2013 (UTC))
Congratulations, Dr. Joyce. I visited your page and found that you have done amazing work. The energy that you seem to have and the commendable work that you have done in the Community is worth emulating and is inspiring. Best Regards, --Kalpana Gupte 14:10, 2 April 2011 (UTC)


Hi Dr Joyce and congrats on winning the UPE Award April 2011.--Agnes 13:51, 2 April 2011 (UTC)

    • (Comment.gif: Congratulations Dr. Joyce for the UPE Award. Your page shows the lot of effort that has gone into it. Great! --Dr. Gita Mathur 15:24, 2 April 2011 (UTC))

Welcome to eL4C33

Enjoy the workshop :-)
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  • Hello Joyce, I have made a few changes to the page (included your bibliography and moved your "Why OER to the top, it was great). We can continue discussion on the page itself - go to the page, then at the top there is a discussion tab - you can reply to previous discussions or add new threads yourself. Regarding your friends participation - the more the merrier - it lighten's the load. Looking forward to collaborating with you. --Sandy Causer (aka Wakalena) 22:46, 28 November 2009 (UTC)

Very nice to meet you here. WikiEducator is a very warm and comfortable community. () . If there is any way I can help you, please let me know (coloured backgrounds, margins, user pages in multiple languages). Come visit my user page. Also, just to remind you, I put up a new page on which you can practice collaborating, by using your editorial skills included in the tutorial. See: Alternative Teaching methods and add your comments, criticisms, more methods, or reflections. Just try it. Cheers, Phil. --Phil Bartle 10:44, 15 December 2009 (UTC)

  • Hello Joyce, great start! Please let me know if I can be of any help to you. --Gladys Gahona 03:39, 18 June 2009 (UTC)
  • Mafalda.jpgHello Joyce, I'm Alejandra Guajardo from Peru, I'm your WikiNeighbour!! I see you've already started to work in your user page. Congratulations! I hope you continue adding content and maybe some pictures. I also tend to involve myself in many activities... but there are a lot of interesting things out there and just one life to see all :) If you need help with your user's page or have questions please just let me know here or through my user page. Best wishes --Alejacha 02:30, 18 June 2009 (UTC)

Hola Alejacha. I am having fun playing with this and hope to include pictures etc. but it will probably evolve over several weeks as I have a lot of work backed up in my "day" (and often day and night) job as a professor of community and human services. This past week I was particularly busy developing an online course in Human Services and Social Policy that will teach our human services students how to use participatory research (popular education) to organize political action efforts. I wrote many of the readings myself which took a good deal of thought. I love having the opportunity to share my core ideas, but it does take time and energy from things I would rather be doing like this course, learning Spanish, and planting my flower garden. Thanks for your supportive comments. Joyce

(Comment.gif: Joyce, we do hope that you will be able to devote your energy to our growing WikiEducator - and the growing worldwide OER movement. What a great example, for your baby boomer contemporaries! Randy Fisher 02:42, 25 November 2009 (UTC))