Monday, October 28, 2013

Show your learning

I'm at the tail end of a slow period at work, so my personal educational pursuits are not coming so naturally now that I don't have free time for self-directed professional development during my day job. This has led me to feel a bit lost in OOE13. I'm feeling the lack of focus I have in this MOOC, and I imagine I may be experiencing a common feeling that turns a lot of people off MOOCs.

Grant Wiggins blogged about measuring learning ("Experiential Learning"), and it prompted me to wonder about how I measure up to some of the questions he asks. That is, what do I have to show for all my reading of articles and searching out definitions? He asks:
"What are the key indicators to look for in judging whether your attempt at experiential learning is working?"
"One of the most frequent answers is a clear and specific sense of purpose, linking the activity to the WHY? question – We’re doing this because... We’re learning this because..."
"What does this help you do that’s important?"

I need a new goal.

But much of my frustration and directionlessness may be because I'm not engaged in experiential learning. Instead of being in a classroom with a roomful of kids and 20 tablets, I'm in an office scouring the Internet for theories and anecdotes that correspond to my vision of what technology in the classroom could or should look like. I am learning by connecting, but it is interesting to think about how different my MOOC experience will be compared with that of someone like this BYOD teacher, who is most certainly learning by experience as she's learning by connecting.

Has anything been written about the benefits of MOOCs for those who are currently engaged in whatever the topic is, compared to those less initiated, who may be trying to learn before doing?


  1. I saw your post on the OOE13 page and was interested because I think I'm on the flipside of this. I am in a room with 20 students (college, so not kids), and computers (not tablets as my classes are in dedicated computer classrooms), but I don't seek out pedagogy or theories of engagement. I come at it much more from practical usage. My classes are sort of flipped (sort of is a good description) as much of what I have assigned as homework (readings and discussion forums) would instead be done in class in other schools, with the essay writing being done instead at home.

    I think seeking out theory is something I need to do more of.

  2. I agree with Cameron. The theory is something I seem to stumble across, either as "oooohhh... so *that's* the name of what I'm trying!" or "If I tweak this just a little more, I'll maybe see the same effects as mentioned in this article..." I often feel like I'm flying by the seat of my pants, instead of researching theory, carefully planning upfront and then implementing.

    I think you need a mix of the two - from experience, I can see what works well in the classroom, so I know what I can take from theory and implement. This will make learning and planning for next semester much easier. But at the same time, I need to be constantly adjusting to what works well for *my* students, which might not always match the theory... and can change from class to class and year to year!

  3. I am in a similar position to you, in that as a learning technologist, I do not have access to a classroom that I can 'experiment' on. Also, as my current job will finish in a couple of months I cannot feasibly see a time when I might be able to apply my knowledge. I agree this can lead to frustration, especially when compared to the immediate benefits that other people are seen to be getting. However the discussions that I have had with others (with Cameron about his class next year that will be fully online, with Heather about motivation), are the types of conversations I will (hopefully) be engaged in when I do get a new job so I consider this to be a valid learning experience.

    As for your question about what research has been done "about the benefits of MOOCs for those who are currently engaged in whatever the topic is, compared to those less initiated, who may be trying to learn before doing?" I am certainly not aware of any. There is currently a call for chapters for a book on MOOC research perhaps you should suggest it as something you'd like to see research into... or even put in a submission yourself with us as your research subjects?

    1. Wow, that would be a serious goal! Thanks for sharing about the book--I'll look into it.

  4. Heather and Cameron,

    I can see that theory could be useful if you have to explain your methods to parents or school leaders. But I also believe: if it works, run with it! As haleyofatkinson mentioned, we can use connections like each other to get both pieces. My frustration may also just be related to a niggling desire that's come and gone for years to be a teacher. :)

  5. Anna,

    This is a common feeling somewhere in the middle of a MOOC. I think resetting goals is a good idea.

    These next few months will have more work to do, so it will feel like you are accomplishing more.

    If you would like to read some research on MOOCs here are some of my lists .

    There is probably a lot of repetition in those links.

    1. Thanks, Brendan.

      I LOVE the evernote slideshow! It makes me want to do over my entire education that way.