Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The medium is the message...

The medium is the message...
The medium is the curriculum...
The community is the medium...
The community is the curriculum!

Well, we've made it to Week 5 of Rhizomatic Learning, and this week's topic shares it's title with the course itself!  The Community is The Curriculum.  Odd, to me this would have made a perfect final week (you know every end is a new beginning, circle of life learning type of thing).  Perhaps the end is nigh and this is Dave's subtle way of telling us ;-)

Anyone, the community as curriculum poses some interesting questions for me and I'll explore the first two that came to mind (otherwise we'd be here all day).

Background of Learners

 It seems to me that courses like this one (and other highly engaging OOCs, engaging to me anyway) is that we are relying on two things from the participants of the MOOC.  The background of the learner (i.e. they aren't complete novices in the discipline), and they are self-starters.  We don't care about a certificate of completion or no stinkin' badge. We do it because we love this stuff.  Even when we're sick we engage. I'd love to be able to apply the community is the curriculum mantra to the courses I teach, but none of them are seminar style.  This mantra can work in a seminar style course, but students are scaffolded into being able to participate in that academic discourse.  I didn't just show up one day in LAK11 (my first MOOC), or CCK11 and was able to participate readily.  This was years in the making, and several masters degrees later. It was mentorship from previous professors who got me to a point where I could wrangle with the abundance of information, to filter, sort, and use it, and engage with peers.  It was also the breaking away from the shackled of academic credit that enabled this.

When I was a for-credit student, I looked for the most efficient way through an assignment.  Get the rubric, follow it to the T, and get a good grade (and hopefully some learning would have occurred in the process;) ). WIthout having to worry about grades, credits, and an investment, I freed my learning.  Now, students who still have to worry about those things are a little apprehensive about the community being the curriculum since certain learning objectives have to be met, and what they say is that they pay for a subject expert to put together a curriculum for them and help guide them through it.  This is something we see all over in our field from students, from professional organizations, and now from MOOCs (you know, the "best" professors from the "best" universities giving you their "best" material for free - BS rhetoric). To make things worse, there are some students who are only in it for the credential, which potentially means efficient at getting a grade, but not necessarily learning.

Anyway, when working with those constraints, how does one turn things around in their own classroom (assuming it's not a OOC and you need to deal with someone else's constraints)?

What about participation?

The second thing that comes to mind is about participation.  Ever since the days of my first MOOCs, I have enjoyed reading posts by people like Jaap whom I met back then in CCK11 if I remember correctly.  I looked forward to the Daily which had all of the blog posts, tweets, delicious links, and discussions happening on gRSShopper for the past 24 hours.  The community can be the curriculum, but only if the community participates.

I've been flamed (well, lightly flamed ;) not burned to crisp) in past MOOCs for really calling lurkers to carpet and not participating. Essentially consuming, but not putting anything back into fire to keep it going.  I've grown to be a little more accepting of lurkers (especially seeing the untenable nature of forums in large scale MOOCs), but the issue of lurking is still something of an intellectual brainteaser.  I too lurk.  I lurked on #rhizo14 most of last week. but there is ample content there for the community to engage with without reading my stuff, and I've established a pattern that I am comfortable with (intro post, Fb posting and reading, final post). But what happens when there are few to participate?  Then the curriculum is the view of a handful of people.  This somehow seems unbalanced.  Also, depending on the constitution of the group, you may end up with a virtual echo chamber where the curriculum might be the same nonsense replicated over and over again, with the thought provoking voices being silenced.  What sort of measures do we have when things like this happen?  If we've established that the community is the curriculum, we can't really swing the other way and take the reigns of our course again, can we?  Now, of course, there is probably a middle ground here, but the black and white approach is probably more conducive for an argument ;)

So, what do you think?

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