Finally caught up with the MOOC. Well not quite: I didn’t catch Nancy White’s presentation live, but looked at it, and the DTLT event as recordings. Nancy‘s presentation was hyper-interactive, with dozens of participants contributing via the whiteboard (usually all at once) … as such it was a bit frustrating to follow as a recording. later in the day she joined a smaller group for the DTLT chat, and it was this conversation that I found most stimulating (particularly the first 15 minutes on social artists, though the discussion of visual communication and sketchnoting was interesting on a different level) .
The start point for the chat was the idea of the social artist (a concept from etienne wenger) as someone who brings learners together, understands the commonality they may have and therefore facilitates learning (although interesting, not much was said about the complementary concepts of the transversal, who understands the inherent structure of an organisation/network and can therefore get things done and the social reporter, who has a formal role of spreading ideas within an organisation/network (my paraphrased definitions)).
I was sitting thinking about the ideas of a social artist (and how they might apply in different educational contexts) when I was stirred from my thoughts by a comment from Tim Owens which resonated (I think he said it came, in turn, from Jim Groom as part of ds106) that highlighted the importance of commenting on other people’s blogs as a way of stimulating ideas (a behaviour of a social artist).
I noted something similar in one of my Week 4 summary posts – that I am a great believer in commenting on other people’s posts rather than starting my own. In this way we build on each other’s work, rather than restarting anew. It also leaves an idea in its original context, rather than wresting it away to a new location.
Anyway, while I was sidetracked by this thought, the conversation moved on and I was stirred by a second comment, this time from Zach Dowell, who was discussing the change mooc saying that it ‘feels like a network I am not part of‘. This is an understandable sentiment, and one which I can recognise from my (non-)participation in previous moocs. Moocs can be daunting, especially if you aren’t in from the start as the course does quickly gain an identity/tempo which can be hard to align yourself to (think of it like a juggernaut, as an individual, you are not going to be able to re-direct it). I think the preparatory material created by the organisers this year certainly helped me reflect on my expectations and consequently I feel I have managed to stay engaged throughout the event so far. I’ve not worried when I fell behind, not tried to read everything, not even worried with carrying out the tasks suggested by the facilitators. Instead, I set my own personal goals, and have focused on engaging and responding to each of the topics presented. From this perspective, I have managed to engage with others (comments on blog posts) and move forward my own thinking (making semi-coherent blog posts on topics I haven’t focused on specifically for years). By not worrying whether I am part of the network, I think I have become ‘part of the network’. I feel I am achieving something.
In the past, I have said that if I were running a mooc, I would put a lot of effort into the initial establishment of learning communities (no, I’m not trying to over-formalise the course here) as I think peers become key to learning when some of the other sources of extrinsic motivation (synchronous/f2f courses, accreditation at the end) are missing. Two ideas I would consider are (i) to get people to explicitly articulate their learning goals and then group (or develop a tool to allow individuals to discover) others with similar goals (ii) to find ways to connect people together during the asynchronous parts f the course (e.g. have a live chat window below a recorded elluminate session to allow me to connect with others who are listening to the same recording at the same time as me). Thinking about the concept of the social artist discussed today, I wonder whether these ideas are mechanisms whereby technology plays the role of the social artist, creating a locus for learning (like the comments section of a blog post) and bringing learners together.