Open Learning Irony

I learned something today. I learned that even in an open online course using an broad social media group, open learning is not a given.  I erroneously assumed that within such a structure, we would all be utilizing whatever resources we could just to learn and grow together. Open courses do not instantaneously make connected educators…. just as open education does not instantaneously make a self-directed learner.  


Of course in this group of close to 300 people, we are allowed to share funny videos, urban legends, unrelated pictures, and ask tons of questions that no one answers, but we can’t connect with each other outside of the group. Oh no. That would encourage people to spam us with educational information when we choose to click on the link and read someone’s blog. I purposely have not been posting my recent blog thinking around the course content because I didn’t want to be seen as spamming… I thought this might be a way to start a blog-to-blog conversation and add classmates to my feed reader.  And maybe the post does really seem self-seeking…. my intent was to share blogs with people, not direct traffic to mine. I was much more comfortable when I didn’t think anyone was reading my blog than I am now- it’s a scary thing to be transparent in your thinking and ask for feedback.

I need to be more patient in teaching others about connected learning. I forget that it isn’t normal to everyone. I do appreciate the kindness and humor with which the moderator commented (blacked out to protect his/her privacy). As with all things in this course, there is the possibility that age and culture is coloring the conversation… I’m older, and so posts about being nervous for a quiz feel sophomoric. I’d just like to discuss the concepts, how others are incorporating them into their classroom/life, and learn where my thinking needs challenged.  In other words, I’m a serious old lady. I’m also unsure of the nationality of the commenter, but it may be that open sharing of information is frowned upon in his/her country. Regardless, I  deleted the comment as requested and removed myself from the group as it wasn’t an effective learning environment for me.

The funny part? I found out about this network in the course discussion forums where they shared a link (SPAM!) to the Facebook group. Am I the only one that sees the irony in that?

How could I handle this better in the future? Do you limit yourself only to open networks?  

(Taking my ball and going home…. er, back to Twitter and Feedly where the conversation and thoughts run free.)


MOOC Rubric Fail

I’m very close withdrawing from this MOOC. And I hate that because I am learning many things- just not the intended curriculum. After struggling through a disjointed curriculum with global learners, I found myself staring at the “Peer Review” window with my own work in the window. You see, part of the grading process is that we each peer review the work of three other students, and then we self-evaluate. In theory, this sounds like a good process. In reality, it’s much more complex.

Rather than a clearly defined question to address, the course assignment was as follows:

In the first week it was said that a fairly high proportion of educators would like more professional development. It poses the question ‘How might you contribute to your own professional development and that of your colleagues?’

We’d like you to reflect on this question in conjunction with the suggestion in week 2 that you consider the influences on you and particularly the people who may have played a part in your decision to consider being a teacher.

The response to your chosen question could come in the form or an essay of between 700 and 1000 words, or alternatively through the development of a powerpoint presentation or a short videotape ( maximum 10 minutes) on the issue. We expect you to refer to the materials that have presented in the course, or other sources, to support the arguments that you are making. (emphasis mine) [Coursera Foundations of Teaching for Learning 2]

Now, I read this over and over. I am a smart girl. I have written many papers and essays in my life as a historian, and they do not scare me. I love to write. However, I think I botched this assignment and it makes me want to scream at the lack of clarity in this course. The topic above says both to reflect “in conjunction with” and also tells us that we are responding to our “chosen question”. So, which is it? Both, or pick one? I chose to address “how might you contribute to your own professional development and that of your colleagues?” since it said your chosen question.  And I chose to address it in a simplified powerpoint form to make it easier for the content to be understood by my ESL classmates after corresponding with them in various forums. Don’t even get me started on the whole “support the arguments” when you are sharing personal experience and opinion rather than data.

So, here I sit, with the drop-down box unchecked on a self-assessment that I feel is both unclear and also not geared towards the original question. Here are the rubric points I take issue with :  (Drop down choices are: Inadequate, Acceptable, Good, Excellent)

  1. The ability of the writer to reflect on their experiences of teaching and learning identifying key issues and influences on their current view of teaching. Use references to the course materials or to other sources where possible to connect your views to what the course has covered.
  2. The ability of the writer to stand outside their own experiences and examine them critically in light of what they have learned drawing on issues and insights raised during the course so far or from other sources they have used [Coursera Foundations of Teaching for Learning 2]

Really? Obfuscation, anyone?  If I grade myself according to the rubric, I’ll fail myself because it does not allow for anything related to professional development…. which was the primary question. Go figure. (I won’t even address how difficult it was to peer review ESL classmates and to fairly grade in those situations. I decided to just go with the intent of the essay- if I could understand them and they got their point across, the grammar and sentence structure was irrelevant.)

I knew this essay was not my best work when I turned it in. I wasn’t interested in the question(s) and felt like it was remedial work. I’d rather be doing something about professional development than talking about it. This assignment did inspire me to set up the October Tweetup at my local coffee shop and also to start the #sdlchat book discussion.  That is personalized PD in action.

So, I am left wondering what the heck I am doing in this class. Is it helping me reach my goal of becoming an expert in self-directed learning? Am I creating meaningful artifacts for my portfolio? Is it helping me as I work with independent learners on a day to day basis? Is it revisiting content that I have already mastered? Am I spending more time deciphering the content and questions than I am actually learning new material? Would my time be better spent building my own course and working with an expert mentor? Do I quit now or stick it out?

After a little introspection, I realized I am taking it to fulfill some crazy desire to have a ‘teaching certificate’ so I am seen as an educator. Not a good reason to continue, and something I need to become comfortable with as I structure my Open Master’s Framework.


5 Values for Self-Directed Learners

As I learn more and more how to guide self-directed learners, I find it very important to have an ‘exit strategy’ in mind for each of them at graduation. Begin with the end in mind, and all that jazz. Of course, a personalized educational path will mean very individualized goals for graduation. In general, there are five values that I want each student to have by the time they leave my advisory group.

5 Values for Self-Directed Learners

  1. To know your own strengths and weaknesses as a learner. Intimately. Be who you are, but be prepared to bolster yourself in some areas and allow yourself to shine in others. Understand how to manage your procrastination, etc. Know your personality type and what that means for yourself and your coworkers.
  2. To be confident in your ability to learn anything, anywhere, autonomously. Know what works best for you- and do that. Pick a MOOC or an internship or a book or a university class or research a topic to the end of the internet. Take notes in pictures or graphs or words. Record a lecture and listen to it while running. Be an expert researcher in every way possible.
  3. To understand that passionate interest does not absolve you from hard work. I love the recent quote by Ashton Kutcher-  “Opportunity looks a lot like hard work.” Just because you love something does not mean it will be easy. You will have to work hard, even while loving what you do. You may even work hard at something you hate, just to get the chance to do what you love. Take personal responsibility. Have a work ethic. Ask your grandparents what that means.
  4. To work within the system while changing the system. Know how to package your independent and personalized learning adventures in a way that works for universities and employers. Be a translator. Keep plugging away at change, but do it through your own personal excellence. You do not always get to pick how things are done, even in a self-directed environment.
  5. To network, collaborate, and value people with humility. Others invest in you because they want to see you succeed- you are not entitled to anything. Value your mentors. Thank your parents. Work well with others. Forgive. Reach out. Know when to move on. And make sure you give back when and where you can. You may think you are an expert, but there are generally others out there that are much further along the journey than you… and know more than you. Be passionate about your area of expertise, but listen. Learn from others even when you think they have nothing to teach you.

Of course, I’m still learning.  And growing. And I’m confident that this list will change…. I leave you with Ashton’s Kutcher’s speech. If you haven’t see it already, it’s worth the 4 1/2 minutes of your life.  

What are the five values you want your students to have prior to leaving your classroom? 


[3.4 Coursera FLT2]