In today’s post I mainly want to talk about the video project that formed the core activity for today’s MOOC of MOOCs, share some links to what I believe were the best vids of the day (plus a shameless plug for my own!), and make a case for why chaos, community, and spambots belong together.
But first, a brief note about how Stephen Downes’s HuffPo article on his “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” MOOC helped me think through a lot of the questions I had about time issues in relation to connective learning in my last post. His course used a newsletter to aggregate content and gave students some guidance on how to navigate it:
The idea of the newsletter is to aggregate everything that’s out there related to the course. This is necessary because the course (like the discipline it models) is distributed. People create content on their own blogs, photo accounts or messaging services. The newsletter is one way of bringing these materials together for easy access. Participants are not expected to read and watch everything. Even the facilitators cannot do that.
Indeed, what we have experienced after delivering a half dozen MOOCs is that we have to tell people at the start of the course to pick and choose what they will read, watch or participate in. Again and again, we have to stress that there is no central content to the course, that each person creates their own perspective on the material by selecting what seems important to them, and that it is these different perspectives that form the basis for the interesting conversations and activities that follow.
I think that questions remain about whether there might be some core competencies and knowledge that it would be necessary for everyone to establish first. A useful metaphor for me is that of an academic conference: obviously, I’m not going to be familiar with all of the sources used in everyone’s paper; however, I probably do have some basic, shared disciplinary knowledge with the conference participants.
In fact, I think that the greatest challenges to the democratizing power of MOOCs are issues of competencies and access. In my video project for the day, I talked about the ways in which my own experiences as a MOOC student (particularly @ Udacity) were informed by positions of privilege in terms of education and access, privilege that included some basic rhetorical competencies that some underprivileged learners may lack and which, as Mike James points out, can be particularly debilitating in xMOOCs that rely heavily on crowdsourcing to answer questions:
Martin Lugton’s video also explored connections between institutional and connectivist learning. He uses the metaphor of a “learning ecosystem” to think about how these two modes/nodes of learning could feed into one another in interesting and productive ways:
While lack of shared competencies and knowledge can pose problems, part of what makes the MOOC (particularly the cMOOC or “connectivist MOOC”) so exciting is the chaos involved in the whole process of trying to get your head around the Massive, Monstrous thing—and the ways that you create knowledge (and maybe even coherence) in the process. One of my favorite vids for the day is by Rosemary Sewart and makes an impassioned and convincing case about the centrality of chaos to learning:
Elizabeth Switaj’s Seuss-themed video also treated the spontaneous aspects of learning—particularly in international contexts:
In the background of the video-making and video-watching and chaotic tweeting that formed today’s “class” was an ever growing army of spambots who had discovered the #moocmooc hashtag we use for our Twitter discussions. They even became a topic of conversation for awhile, with @writingasJoe’s “Hint to the
#moocmooc spambots: try wearing a blazer instead of bikini if you want to blend in with this crowd” becoming a popular RT:
All of which got me thinking about how dealing with the spambots—and learning to distinguish them from us real folks—was an exercise in community formation. The blazer comment retweeted regularly because we immediately saw ourselves in it (and in blazers).
The fact that #moocmooc had even gotten on the spambot radar became a sign of the course’s success:
The spambots are one of the best examples of the true chaos that attends the internet generally and open online education in particular. As we rallied against the spambots—chiding them for failing to complete the video assignment—the community united against its common foe:
Which brings me to the last video I’m going to post, an interesting consideration of the difference between communities and collectives by Lee Bessette:
Not 100% certain if our attempts to distinguish ourselves from the spambots make us a community or collective, but I’m inclined to think that it has been humanizing—especially considering that we had to learn to post with specificity (and wear blazers!) to quite literally “prove we’re human.”
While the video project—and the tweeting and the spam filtering—was time-consuming, it was also a great opportunity to experience some of what I’m asking my students to go through next semester as they design a course wiki and generate their own new media content. It’s been a lot of fun but has also involved a lot of commitment of time and energy, and I hope that I can sell my students on the use-value—and the pleasure—involved in this type of new media engagement.