Observing myself and MOOC activity

It has been 4+ weeks in #etmooc and 2+ for #edcmooc. This is a note to myself – a think aloud about participation. In the end, I am trying to discover balance. What mix of activities works for me best a digital, connected learner? And why?

I find myself generally reading/watching more than writing. And writing more than creating other forms of digital artifacts — video, Storify and the host of other forms that are made possible by digital technology. Somewhere in between the reading/watching and writing is actively participating – jumping into Twitter conversations. Commenting on other learner’s blog posts. Attending live sessions during which there is the opportunity to participate with other learners in real-time.

[Note: One of my personal learning goals is to explore creation of those other forms of digital artifacts more over the next few weeks. Both etmooc and edcmooc offer opportunities to do so. This week marks week 2 of digital storytelling at etmooc. And the final product of edcmooc is a personal digital artifact.]

But back to observations about what I actually do.

Reading and watching includes:

  • Consuming edcmooc content. I am referring here to the type that falls into more traditional academic content: Videos and readings selected by the course designers. Each week is designed to cover a segment related to the overall course topic – elearning and digital cultures. Readings/videos in the first couple of weeks have focused on utopian and dystopian views of technology in general and technology and education in particular. I have also watched a recorded Google Hangout with the course’s instructors.
  • Consuming etmooc content, which is intentionally revealed in a less “course-like” fashion than edcmooc. Someone with a point-of-view or expertise in the topic covered by each two-week segment will facilitate a discussion about it via Blackboard Collaborate. Sessions are recorded. Additional content generally emerges from the on-going dialogue and conversations held among participants in etmooc (e.g., someone points to a blog post, an article, a thought-leader).

Writing:

  • Writing for me is a reflective, sense-making practice. So in this category I only count what I write in this blog as “writing.” This is post number 9. So roughly – 1-2 posts per week. And that makes sense to me. Weekends seem best fit for writing at the moment, given my work schedule and the fact that I write a lot as part of my profession.

Participating:

  • I have participated actively (in real time) in 1.5 live, synchronous events – the original orientation for etmooc and half of another etmooc live event (I had to leave for a work meeting).
  • I have commented on several etmooc’ers blog posts. Probably more commenting than I have ever done. I find this interesting.
  • I have posted a couple of comments to the edcmooc discussion forums. Less interesting overall than commenting on blog posts. But still beneficial in terms of sharing a bit and sharpening my thinking.
  • I have engaged on occasion in dialogue on Twitter for both etmooc and edcmooc (more the former than the latter, but I think this may be a temporary phenomenon). etmooc conducts regular Twitter chats but I find these difficult to participate in due to timing (6-7 pm CT). My wife and I try to hold these early evening hours to reconnect each day – a fortunate outcome of our both living within walking distance of our workplaces. I did, however, try to participate in one Twitter chat while making dinner:

Some thoughts.

I honestly am seeing value in both types of “content” — the more structured “read this” content offered up by edcmooc and the more “let’s discover this” approach my the cMOOCers at etmooc. Both approaches overlap, actually. I don’t mean to argue that edcmooc offers less opportunity to connect with others in real dialogue. The designers of the course are actually doing a wonderful job of facilitating connections, given the constraints of the Coursera environment. But just purely looking at the type of content I am looking at more deeply – long form articles, videos, etc. — I am finding that my desire to go deep on topics is being fulfilled by both course designs.

I do, however, feel much more connected at this point to the participants in etmooc than edcmooc. Again this may be a temporary phenomenon and in large part directly under my control. But I do suspect there is something going on with the connectivist approach that increases the probability of potential connection being converted into real connection. And I further suspect that it’s because of the reliance on blogging vs. discussion forums.

To my question about mix of activities that are best for me – and perhaps, the habits that I need to develop to achieve a productive balance for learning. My self-talk tells me to do more creation – both written and “other” forms of digital artifact. Weekly seems a doable pace at the moment with the opportunity to take advantage of an opening here and there and increase the pace.

But what I am finding most appealing about the open-ness of each MOOC is that I can be continuously engaged at some level throughout the day and week. There is a tension in that attribute. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, falling behind, not keeping up with new and interesting people you meet. But the comfort is that the people are there at all times. As are their conversations (past and current) and thoughts.

Perhaps I do value connections more than content – a clear judgment emerging from my digital experience in the past couple of years. But do my activities really reflect that? Not sure. Something to work on.

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14 Comments

  1. Jeff, it’s good to know that I’m not alone in thinking the way you have expressed in this post. I, too, am trying to balance edm and et moocs… and sometimes feel overwhelmed. I find myself trying to let go of the traditional learning style taught to me most of my life, and embrace the interactive learning process posited in these moocs. I also find #etmooc more participation-based, and appreciate the chances to interact and learn with my peers. Thanks for your post.

    1. Thanks so much for the comment! It is so interesting to let go — as you say — of the traditional learning experience and trying to discover something new. And it is funny, too. I really wrote this post for myself. Maybe as a note to my future-self. Something to look back on at a future day and remember my thoughts in-the-moment. Never expected any commentary. So yes – another great benefit of connecting in this style of learning is getting the unexpected comment that adds to the whole experience.

  2. I appreciate your reflection at this point in our moocing! This statement resonated with me: “There is a tension in that attribute.” and I think it would resonate with many others too. I think we have to do a bit of digital meditation and let go of some habits, like keeping up, not falling behind.

    I feel through the digital storytelling of etMOOC, which obviously spills into edcMOOC, that somehow a pressure valve has been released. The write, write, write is like talk talk talk. We have a need to get it out. And yet a need to listen to others, which means a lot of engagement with blogs, forums, twitter, whatever. Somehow, creating something visual makes other emotions kick in and I have found I am a lot more at peace with the whole mooc thing now. It has slowed the pace and removed the monkey chatter. Yet through it, I am blogging more often and about different things and interacting with fellow moocers differently. A visual creation elicits a different response, sometimes less words are needed and I find we can all enter a different space together.

    I’d heed your own advice Jeff and give it a go! Good luck and I hope you blog about it.

    Angela

    1. Angela – As I mention in my comment above to Maha, I honestly wrote this blog post for myself. Now here I am finding such interesting insight on my own reflections. A true gift.

      I am really fascinated by the dynamics of online interactions (and connections) and your insight about visuals/digital story telling breaking the talk talk talk cycle just struck me. Slowing down through visuals.

      Funny, too, because I just had that experience in a live traditional classroom course I teach just yesterday. I used a couple of photographs as metaphors for situations the class was facing (it is a project based class – problem-based learning). And I could sense that slowing down. We write and reflect a lot in that course and the visuals just changed the pace. Broke the habit of write write write talk talk talk. Interesting.

      Owe you one. Maybe in digital story form. Thanks, Angela.

  3. gosh I wish I could get all my students to be so meta aware of how they learn! really enjoyed reading this post Jeff, it’s a great example of the kind of blogging/reflection that I really think helps… do you find this kind of stop, stock take, view of your own activity as a learner helps?

    1. Emily – yes, I absolutely find this kind of reflection as key to my own learning. In the graduate program in which I teach, this is standard practice. At least in a semi-private reflection space (i.e., just other class members and the faculty see the reflections). But what I am discovering is the incredible extra value you get out of doing this publicly. All you have to do is read all three comments on this post. Amazing to me.

      You made my day also by appreciating the meta. :-)

      1. love it! as a teacher focused on the role of language in learning, and always trying to get people learning and teaching academic disciplines to notice the language in play (in order to do it better), this is just the sort of approach I take in one of the assignments I put into courses, strategically…. and I’ve moved away from ‘just text’ to visual versions of students’ linguistic experience in their courses – I get them to document what’s going on, what they’re reading and writing and hearing (and not having opportunity to say!) in their daily life, in order to look again, and learn…. it’s been very interesting to take this kind of observational, ethnographic approach…. we all notice things that otherwise go under the radar, and find out more about what obstructs (or liberates) their learning (they’re post-grad international students doing their academic work in English for the first time)….
        as a result of this mooc, I’m thinking it’s time to ‘go public’ with our work! I won’t force that on them, but I’m certainly going to discuss it with them when classes start in a few weeks’ time, and show them what we’re doing in this space, and hopefully encourage them to take that great leap too….
        it’s funny, I felt such a psychological barrier at the start to having an open blog, after years of private blogging… now I just laugh at the absurdity of such anxiety… I am ‘getting over myself’ it seems! … and it feels good :)

      2. Emily this is the same dynamic I am going through with my graduate students. Different context, same issue. Not sure i’ve cracked the code yet but am inspired by all the different teachers focusing on attempting the same feat. Keep in touch…would love to share tactics and experiences.

  4. So helpful to read your reflection Jeff. I was just noticing that I’ve been doing less writing and more digital artifact’ing in the #edcmooc. I have it as a goal for this week to write a thoughtful blog post. We’ll see how it goes!

  5. Hello, Jeff,

    Thank you for the reflective blog on your participation in the edmooc. I have similar thoughts in relationship to how the somewhat traditional structure and delivery of content compliment the multilevel connections developed among participants. Your blog also made me aware of etmooc. I remember seeing this acronym in the blogosphere but did not know what it stood for, so I did a Google search and found the etmooc organization.

    1. It has been (and continues to be) an interesting journey. What I still find most interesting is the connections I am making – and how everyone of them contributes something new to my thinking about the course topics.

      Also btw – liked your digital artifact for edcmooc! Thanks for the comment here. See you around.

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