Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Substance not popularity, reflection and boredom, not pace

I read with interest Frances Bell's post on Binaries, Polarization and Privacy in which she highlighted the divisive and binary nature of voting and such systems online that favors popularity over complexity and substance in online environments. Of course network theorists, such as Barabasi, have more than ten year ago shown that this development is inherent in online network forming: preferential attachment is one of the main characteristics in network forming: it is the person who gets most votes, the person who has been on the network the longest, the person who is most popular, who gets the attention, not necessarily the person who has something profound to say.

In an educational sense, this is problematic as it would be more important for people who have something valuable to say, and this might be something that is critical of the view point of the majority on the network, or a different point of view altogether, who would stimulate thought processes and debate on the network. In a learning environment where the voice of instructors is heard less and less, for instance in MOOCs, the emphasis should be on collecting the serendipitous, the slightly different to ensure a critical engagement with resources.

I would also like the incorporate here some thoughts on pace. It seems to become more and more valued to do everything fast, presumably as we have less time to give attention to each happening and piece of writing or video, but I wholeheartedly enjoyed this piece by Popova that harks back to reflections from some of the great minds of the past on 'boredom' and its importance in 'getting your act together' and being creative and making connections between information by taking the time for reflection. If there ever was a time in which boredom and reflection is important, it is today!


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What MOOCs might have been...................

Well, I have not used my blog for a long time. A new job and sitting back to see how the commercialization storm that took MOOCs by surprise would unfold were my excuses. I have decided that I would not be true to my own principles and ideas of education and learning that involve active participation and human interaction if I would not do exactly that, participate and interact.

How did my change of heart come about? This morning a final draft student thesis landed in my inbox. It was a total surprise, it included many of my own thoughts, advanced on some of those thoughts, spun my own data around and it made me realize that what is at the heart of the original MOOC  development, connecting and sharing with other human beings, is as valid today as it was when I took part in one of the first MOOCs as a student on 2008. That experience blew my mind away as it lifted my educational experience to a global level and involved sharing with people who I considered experts and forward thinkers in the field. It flattened the hierarchy of power in educational institutions with the click of the button.  That is for me the essence of the MOOC!

I can no longer be quiet and sit back. It is clear that the highjack of the MOOC concept by some has opened up access to learning for some (especially already educated people). It is debatable if the xMOOC commercial development has done and will do anything to advance the essence of the original MOOC development: opening up access to education and learning for ALL; sharing of the learning experience and resources between young and old, advanced technology users and experts in the field and novices; advancing models of learning that take advantage of emerging technologies; creating technologies that will enhance this non-hierarchical connectivist learning; creating learning and knowledge commons structures in society, to name a few issues, but we will see.

My first reaction when xMOOCs appeared that used the same old, same old, top-down course (infra-)structure that we were used to from institutions was: how dare they distort something really good to something pretty mondane, just at a large scale, and then to make money out of it? Of course it is because they could. That's the beauty of humans with technology in their hands, we can create, build on something else and make it into what we want it to be.

I still wish they had called it something else, or perhaps the original MOOC should not have been called a MOOC, but a COOL (Connectivist Open Online Learning) event.

Anyway, Anna, you have made my day and guided me back to the origin of MOOCs of connecting, creating and sharing. Thanks!