The scene from The Wizard of Oz my subconscious most often references is when Dorothy & Co. awake as snow falls to counteract the effects of the Wicked Witch’s poisonous poppies. Like the travelers, I hear little voices singing, “You’re out of the woods, you’re out of the dark, you’re out of the night.”
The MOOC MOOC is coming to a close, and the earworm chorus of high-pitched, optimistic voices is firmly in place. The experience was interesting, stimulating, and even exciting, and I think I “learned” a great deal. But it was an intense experience that might have been even more so had I only the MOOC MOOC to think about.
As I emerge from the thickets of the MOOC MOOC, it’s pretty clear that my learning was not about “how to teach a Massive Open Online Course,” although I guess I could tease that content out of the experience and materials that were modeled for us. Nor was it, at least for me, about whether MOOCs are good or bad: Are MOOCs the future of education or merely an interesting experiment that captures the technology and anxieties of our moment in an interesting and probably fruitful way? Probably somewhere in between.
What I did learn, as I see things in this early stage of digesting the MOOC MOOC experience, is what MOOCs are and what the learner experience can be like. I think I also learned what MOOCs can be and what they can do. I learned that there are passionate believers in the cMOOC (Connectivist) approach and those who disdain the more common so-called (at least within the MOOC MOOC world) xMOOC (giant online academic course with familiar trappings) model. I learned that there are plenty of folks ready to jump on the “all of education as we know it is a crime against learners” bandwagon and a bunch of people with healthy skepticism about education that is too massive in scale and too online in nature—people who prefer face-to-face interaction and the yeastiness and warmth of real-time, viva voce communication. I learned that a Twitter feed rolling at the pace of the odometer of the Starship Enterprise is on the ragged edge between representing a helpful hashtag PLN and just making me want to close the laptop and go for a walk; just way TMI—and I don’t mean Three-Mile Island.
Where will I go with my learning? Well, I feel relatively confident about injecting myself into conversations about large-scale online learning, and I can speak with at least the knowledge of experience about yet another LMS (in this case Instructure Canvas, tidy and flexible from what I could see as a consumer) and a few more online tools. I believe that I could put a course together in either the “participant pedagogy”/Connectivist milieu or the more conventional mode; I am feeling vaguely empowered to contribute to one of the potential MOOC experiences presenting itself in the independent school world, Fred Bartels’s planning document for a MOOC on “IndependentSchools and Information Technology.” (Soon to be upgraded, I read; Fred has been a fellow participant in the MOOC MOOC and is generating a few more ideas on this evan as I write this.)
I think I will also incorporate the word “connectivist” into my vocabulary, although I may not prove to be as rigorous or doctrinaire a Connectivist as some of the MOOC MOOC organizers. I like the term in its insistence on the idea that knowledge and information exist by and for collaboration and that education is as much or more about connecting—people and ideas—as it is about, say, constructing understandings or the transmission of expert knowledge. I’m not sure yet that Connectivist learning leaves Constructivism entirely in the dust, nor am I convinced that there are not places where expert knowledge can be helpful to an enterprise, even a learning enterprise. You may not love Khan Academy, but if you need a quick tutorial in solving for x, it’s easy one-stop shopping.
What’s next? I still have to complete the Edutopia-IDEO-Riverdale Design Thinking MOOC, which I observe to be becoming a bit less Mas time goes on: the first exercise on Week One generated 35 pages of content, while the Week Three exercises just winding down have yielded considerably fewer. The try it-post-respond model seems a bit too familiar, and I find myself a bit prickly over their insistence (it’s a “rule” of brainstorming there, for instance) that I “be visual.” I do my best, but somehow I’ve gotten out of the habit of drawing little pictures to illustrate my ideas. My spouse and kids would tell me I need play more Pictionary or Draw Something. Anyhow, I’ve got two more weeks to access my inner sketch artist.
Am I glad I participated in the MOOC MOOC? Yes, very. Will it have a lasting effect on my thinking? I suspect so. These are the questions that matter to me at the moment, and I am satisfied with my answers. If Hybrid Pedagogy rolls out a similar venture in the future, I would recommend it. (Speaking of which, I am enormously appreciative of the thought and energy that the organizers put into the MOOC MOOC—it was a tour de force in every way.)
And I’m signed up for a Coursera course that begins in fall. Time to experience the full force of a college-taught xMOOC.