Rethinking the “c” in MOOC

Aha!  I have had one of those Eureka moments and now I get it!  (Sometimes it takes me a  while to get with the program).    @courosa had it right from the beginning when he said in his first post about ETMOCC that the experience would be somewhere between a conversation and a course.  What does that look like?  That is our challenge and I truly believe that what we see unfolding is just that and for each of us it will  mean something different.

Academics (especially those of us with roots in science) love to label things and fit them into categories while in fact the thoughtful integration of educational technology and media into our teaching and learning “practices” allows us to do things we were not able to do before and to have experiences that we are not quite sure how to “experience” let alone  describe.

Let’s try to forget the categories – let’s try to forget the labels and debating whether or not this is a connectivist MOO-Course or some other kind of MOO-Course – this is not a COURSE and it is not even really what we would consider a traditional CONVERSATION.   What it IS is an experience that lies somewhere between that traditional version of a course and a traditional conversation – because it is happening in a space where we usually lurk and hoard – and now we are being challenged to collaborate and curate and filter and share.

Let’s try to forget the labels – I can not help but think that those of us participating in this “experience” are truly pioneers – just as our fore fathers were pioneers in physical spaces we are pioneers in this virtual space.

Let’s pause and reflect on the definition of pioneers:


[pahy-uh-neer] Show IPA



a person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others.

one who is first or among the earliest in any field of inquiry, enterprise, or progress: pioneers in cancer research.

one of a group of foot soldiers detailed to make roads, dig intrenchments, etc., in advance of the main body.

Ecology . an organism that successfully establishes itself in a barren area, thus starting an ecological cycle of life.
1. We are among the first to enter and settle in this space  – we are trying new tools (just check out what’s going on in Google+), going into spaces (blogs and google communities and twittersphere to name just a few) – thus opening them up for occupation and development by others
2. We are among the first or among the earliest in this field of inquiry (where the information is too big to know (David Weinberger) we are pioneers in the thoughtful use of educational technology tools and media (as Donald Clark so aptly describes in his TED Talk – pedagogy has changed more in the last 10 years than in the last 1000).
3. We are one of a group of “digital foot soldiers”  determined to make roads and dig intrenchments in advance of the main body of teachers and learners and administrators
I could write a lot lot more about this  – but –  my first meeting of the day beckons me.
There will be more to come about this – and for those of you who read this – what do you think the “c” in ET-MOOC is for you? How would you label  “somewhere between a course and a conversation”………………

After discussing the tweet with @chrstophHewett and @wilthatman in the #etmchat last night – I have been thinking about it all day.  This post articulates much better than I ever could some of the thoughts that have been running through my mind. Thank you!

It does not matter is the learners are in virtual or in physical spaces “failing to provide the space your learners need to achieve is to fail those learners who need you most to succeed”….

Experiments in the world of moocery

I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattling around my head for a few days.

A quick apology

I’ve been thinking about technovice’s and how they might be coping. About MOOC completion rates and complaints of being lost. In thi spost, I want to talk about problems, and solutions, and pick out some people and practices for praise. It’s complicated, difficult, and layered. For that I apologise in advance. But I think the content may speak to some of the things that are at the heart of the educational experience.

#etmooc ideals

Etmooc a noble, idealistic and hugely positive attempt to connect educators with ideas, and create the skills necessary to network intelligently and generously in an envioronment in which this generosity is the currency of knowledge.

But here’s the…

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Setting my thoughts free…

I have been doing a lot of thinking about how to make my learning visible….how do I set my thoughts free?  I think a lot about what I learn and so I figure that if I can set my thoughts free ….then my learning will be visible.  Does that make sense to anyone other than me?  What would setting my thought free “look like”?

Fellow ET moocers – if we have not heard from you – please call home!

Well my good intentions turned out to be just that – good intentions. I created many blog posts in my head – but none of them made them here – I came up with many thoughts for this space – but that is all they ended up being – thoughts – none of them captured here in cyberspace.

Tonight I am wondering about those etmoocers who have not yet tweeted or blogged or followed @etmooc. There are 1600 people who have registered – but  “only”  about 600 have joined the google community and just over 800 are following us on Twitter – so where are the others? what are you doing? Fellow ET mooc-ers – please call home! Let us know where you are – but since it is not likely that you will be reading this blog – you will never know that I am wondering about where you are and what I can do to assist you to find a space and a place and to join the conversation on this new planet – ETMOOC.

I have been “infowhelmed ” this week – infowhelmed is a word I learned while moderating the inaugural #etmchat . There was so much to read and think about, so many links to follow and post to read that I could not “turn” my brain off to sleep – I just simply could not find the switch!

As the orientation week in ETMOOC ends – I see it is 11:59PM on my computer clock – I have already learned too much to articulate here (unless I plan to not sleep tonight) and I close the week thinking about this post by Stephen Downes @oldaily:

Stephen (one of the fathers of the MOOC movement) writes at : Consequently, when I have been asked in the past what number a course needs to attain in order to be considered ‘massive’, ………I provide the figure of 150, Dunbar’s Number, as the cut-off line.

Now to be clear, this would refer to *active* participants, and not merely the number of people who signed up. Thus for example the course that has 170 active blogs *does* qualify, while CFHE, which had 83 blogs, is on the cusp (it would need another 70 people active on other platforms, such as Twitter or Google Groups).

Why Dunbar’s number? The reason is that it represents the maximum (theoretical) number of people a person can reasonably interact with. How many blogs can a person read, follow and respond to? Maybe around 150, if Dunbar is correct. Which means that if we have 170 blogs, then the blogs don’t constitute a ‘core’ – people begin to be selective about which blogs they’re reading, and different (and interacting) subcommunities can form.

There is no doubt that ETMOOC is massive –  there are well over 500 active contributors and it has not even really started…. and so the learning continues as I look on from the edges and look  out from the inside.  There is no place I would rather be.

E.T etmooc and me

I have been thinking a lot about ET these past few days – not ET as in educational technology, but E.T. the extraterrestrial alien –  as I think I am experiencing a bit of what he must have felt when he found himself stranded on earth.  This was prompted by a tweet by @alison seaman  which said “#etmooc confessional: I almost set geo location on @etmooc acct to “Somewhere between a course and a community”. Still tempted to do that..”.  It got me thinking about what etmooc is for me –  at this stage (and it hasn’t even really “started” yet) I am stranded somewhere out there in cyberspace, as I try to connect my traditional notion of a course with the conversation and collaboration that the C in MOOC has already come to mean to me.

I wonder how I will ever be able to process/manage/filter/ all of the information that is already coming at me from the blogs, tweets, hastag, posts, collaborate sessions and other channels.  Today I tried to read the Introductions in the Google+ community – there are almost 500 kindred spirits hanging out there – my goal was 25 (as I was eating my lunch at my desk).  I think I managed to read and comment on 6 (I kept clicking on all of the interesting links in each introduction post/video/ – the list of creative tools used is endless.  the Information in the google + community is already too big to know.  This course exemplifies what David Weinberger’s writes about in his book: “Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That The Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room is the Room”

The word that best describes my learning is divergent – it is moving  in diverging directions involving many different people and  aspects –  which which hopefully lead (it already has)  to novel ideas as I seek to continue to thoughtfully integrate and model the use of educational technology and media in my teaching and learning; a journey which began in the late ’90’s.  I will use this space to document those ideas and highlight  some of the links and resources that I stumble upon.

How will a divergent learner fare in a connectivist MOOC? I will try to document that journey here – hopefully time will permit and I will overcome my struggle with blogging which I have always viewed as talking to myself “out loud”.