This is week four of the MOOC on e-learning and digital courses through Coursera. I think I have spent more time in the last few weeks thinking about the whole concept of a MOOC (here and here), reading articles about the notorious failure of one such course (here and here), and trying to feel connected to the one I am in than I have actually reflecting on the work. The videos have been thought provoking and have set me on a mental path that is pondering the roller coaster of technology in society. My brain swirls with thoughts of dystopian villainy taking over humanity while I’m still working on my students to say, excuse me when they barrel down the hall. The videos in week 2 are still staying with me as I wonder how are the futuristic premonitions actually plausible?
But this isn’t the point of my reflection. I’m finding it difficult to stay connected to the conversation. I can watch the videos, read the tomes, and then pop onto the forums or onto twitter, but it is not “working for me”. When I engage in this type of learning that prompts deep questioning, I want to be able to process in a synchronous manner. (Yes, they have google hangouts, which I should try, but even then with 30,000 people in the course? How is that managed?) I am a tremendous fan of social media with an active life on twitter and facebook, but in this massive setting, I don’t feel I am learning as I should. Perhaps it is my upbringing of classroom based learning that is making me question the experience? I wonder if this would be different for me if I was ten years old?
I want to sit with coffees and grapple with these big questions of utopia, dystopia, technology, futurism, and humanity with human beings, in a smallish group. I am re-affirming for myself that learning in a mass setting is not providing the whole picture of learning. We cannot make ourselves widgets or numbers. We have to respect the human nature of us all. Our need to connect.
This is why, though the rate of change in schools is often abysmally slow, we cannot replace the humans. We cannot take away the adults in the room and replace them with videos of Sal Khan. We cannot put an iPad in the hands of a child and say-go learn everything. Yes, we must adapt, change, integrate technology, re-think our purpose in education, grow our mindset of what children can do, provide opportunities to stretch the adults and the children, but we can’t do it all without clinging to humanity. And a massive class of thousands of people interacting asynchronously, just won’t do it.