Wednesday, August 15, 2012


We are not half way through our first μMOOC!

The topic of today is participation, deliberate participation, in education and learning. This is something near and dear to my own heart, and something I've commented on in at least one (if not more) MOOCs. Without participating, in my opinion, you can't really learn. Of course, there are degrees of participation, and even in online environments there is only a finite amount of participation possible.  In physical environments the limit is time-based, how much time you've got with your interlocutors.  In online environments, the limit is participation-saturation.

You can only participate so much before you start seeing stars and there is a point of diminishing returns. You can post something, but if no one reads it and comments back (or heck, even if they don't comment back, to see in your analytics that x-many people saw what you wrote), then the exercise doesn't have as much educational oomph as it would have had if you had an interlocutor.

As an aside note, I liked the cooking contest analogy for learning.  You get your ingredients, your space, and your tools and you have to make something.  No recipes!  It reminds me a lot of learning objectives:  Given x students will be able to demonstrate y, in z fashion.  When we give recipes for students to follow they tend to think inside the box, and they don't break out and use their skills and tools in new ways to solve ill formed problems. Some basic combinations may be good (i.e. here's a basic souffle) but no need to get a cookbook out.

Some questions for the day:

How does the rise of hybrid pedagogy, open education, and massive open online courses change the relationships between teachers, students and the technologies they share? 
In my opinion, we tend to put the teacher on a pedestal.  This is bad for teachers and learners.  From a learner's perspective once they graduate from whatever educational endeavor they are in currently, they will look for that authority figure.  Even worse, if they anti-authoritarian they might throw the baby out with the bathwater by dismissing teachers entirely, and this is something to be avoided.

From a teacher's perspective, the pedestal is also onerous because it prevents the teacher from failing.  By being placed on a pedestal, you have reached a pinnacle (which is impossible as we are all human and therefore not infallible). When a teacher is not allowed to publicly fail, own up to it, and save face, the teacher is constrained into existing models that may (and sometimes indeed are) ineffective.  By taking the teacher off the pedestal, putting him in a more knowledgeable other category and allowing him to publicly fail, publicly learn, and publicly save face, we will have a better educational experience, and I think, better educational outcomes. I think that technology can facilitate this.

What would happen if we extracted the teacher entirely from the classroom? Should we? 
Learners don't know what they don't know.  A teacher's value isn't in lecturing, or even assessing.  Sure, some lecture is fine, and someone needs to do the dirty work of assessing a learner's knowledge; but the teacher's forte is in being that more knowledgeable other, that person who is, for all intents and purposes a subject matter expert (not on a pedestal though!)  Without sounding disrespectful, no teacher means that we would have the inmates running the asylum.  This wouldn't be bad if we viewed it from a societal, tribe, context, where there is a balance of individuals and everyone learns from everyone else. In a classroom context however, there is little incentive for those more knowledgeable peers, who are not instructors, to go into a course that they have outgrown. A course doesn't lend itself to a teacher-less learning experience.

What is the role of collaboration among peers and between teachers and students? What forms might that collaboration take? What role do institutions play?
Let me start at the end, and say that institutions just (in my opinion) facilitate the places and spaces where learning takes place, makes sure that they are clean, have power, and aren't double-booked.  They play a necessary ancillary role in the learning process, but they are like the technicians that are in the background that make it all happen, but seldom get the credit ;-)

That being said, the collaboration in a course will be a 3-way collaboration among peer learners, tutors (more knowledgeable others) and teachers (SMEs, more knowledgeable than the "more knowledgeable others").  If this were a party, it would be a flat floor (or a beach, I am more partial to the beach party idea), so that everyone is on the same level.  People will collaborate with people that they are naturally inclined on interacting with, but you will have games and activities that will force you to play with others as well.  The SME can create some games, but everyone will be empowered to create activities that enhance learning...errr...I mean the beach party. At the end, people will be exhausted, but happy.  OK, beach party analogy is now over ;-)
blog comments powered by Disqus