Learning as Nomads and Fraingers

For 5 weeks beginning Monday, January 28th, 2013, in E-Learning and Digital Cultures, I am allowing The University of Edinburgh through Coursera.org, to observe my digital behavior. My relationship to technology as both a teacher and a learner will be subject to study, and perhaps my cyber-thoughts and actions, and those of others, will reveal results worthy of shaping the narrative of what it means to teach and learn in the digital age.

I am a life long student, learning everyday how to be a better person, striving to gain knowledge to be a better teacher, cultivating wisdom, and currently enrolled in a human project that uses digital learning spaces like never before: THE MOOC! This will be my first MOOC, so I will have lots to blog about the experience. The E-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC will essentially be one component of the main EDC course for the students who paid to earn credit for the EDC course. There are 11 students enrolled in the EDC course for credit who will be teaching associates along side the course’s 5 tutors/instructors to teach the MOOC for a five week period as part of their “exploration of micro-virtual ethnographies and visual representation of academic discourse, all in the interests of a deeper understanding of how internet cultures and learning cultures are intersecting and changing each other.”

Will they be teaching us, or will we teach them? 

There are according to Jeremy Knox, one of the instructors, 32K students enrolled in the MOOC.

What is the true purpose of a MOOC? 

What are the implications on the quality of this COURSE and all MOOCs because of their MASSIVEness? What type of interactions will I have with the teaching associates, the tutors/ instructors, if any at all, if there’s 32K of us versus 16 of them? Should I expect specific individual feedback on my contributions? I’m predicting the answer will be, NO…however, will the lack of specific feedback because of the massiveness diminish my learning gains? I say no again. From what I’ve read so far about MOOCs, this learning experience will be different because unlike traditional learning, I will be in control of the who, what, when, where, why and how of my learning. Life long learning relies on one’s metacognition. This is what teachers work tirelessly to help students develop, the ability to know if one knows and the desire to learn something new everyday. In a MOOC it is my responsibility to know if I know, when I want to know more, and if I’m truly metacognitive, I realize that I never walk away from a course mastering all the concepts; in reality, I never even come close because learning is not finite. Personally and intellectually, we are constantly growing, learning, adapting, changing…even more rapidly in this digital age. Aren’t there topics with unlimited storehouses of knowledge that make it impossible to learn all in a lifetime?  Is the MOOC experience about achieving mastery of specific concepts, and connecting people so we can help develop each others’ knowledge? Do MOOCs function as catalysts for groups of people to converse endlessly around topics of interest throughout a myriad of digital learning spaces? At what point do the conversations in these digital learning spaces cease to exist, or do they live on endlessly evolving as proposed by Dave Cormier’s Rhizomatic Learning Theory?  I believe, like Cormier, teaching and learning should constantly be in a state of flux.

by Giulia Forsythe

Will my fellow edcMOOCers play many roles as co-learners, mentors, supporters, and critics posing questions and content which will lead me to be the best “learning nomad” I can be? Or, will the EDC MOOC journey come to an end in 5 weeks?  For all of the EDC MOOCers’ sake, I hope as George Siemens, the cMOOC pioneer says, “The content isn’t what you’re supposed to master at the starting point; the content we provide you with at the start should be the catalyst for you to converse to form connections with other learners in the course, with other academics around the world. To essentially use the content as a conduit for connections.” 
I hope that the initiative to connect so many ED MOOCers have already shown by creating our Facebook group, Google + Community, our quad blogging experiment, our tweets, Flickr images, and the dozens of other digital learning spaces shared, flourishes for years to come so as Dave Cormier, the MOOC pioneer who coined the word MOOC, proposes we become “learning nomads”…as learners we make decisions for ourselves, gathering what we need for our own path
“I think we should be hoping for nomads. Nomads have the ability to learn rhizomatically, to self-reproduce, to grow and change ideas as they explore new contexts. They are not looking for ‘the accepted way’, they are not looking to receive instructions, but rather to create.” – Dave Cormier

Months before the course start, I’ve had mostly asynchronous exchanges with my fellow MOOCers…my friend-strangers, strangers I’ve friended on Facebook, as I’m calling them, and only two synchronous exchanges via Facebook chat where I had the pleasure of speaking to classmates from Australia and Argentina, an opportunity and perk to engage globally that comes naturally in a MOOC. In these limited exchanges, I’ve learned about different web 2.0 tools, read several  thought-provoking articles, watched insightful videos, plugged my own Fearlesstech4teachers Facebook page a bit all because of the course members’ initiative to share and learn.

How can EDC MOOC evolve from a course to a life long learning event as cMOOCs promise? If we as “friend strangers” choose to pave our own learning path, traveling together as learning nomads on digital learning spaces in our quest for understanding, we can create our own digital culture evolving from friend strangers to life long learning friends.

How I will use this blog? 

I will use this blog to compose my narrative about my MOOC experiences, my personal learning goals, and my accomplishments throughout what I hope becomes a life long learning event because of the connections I make. I will also use this blog to quad blog with other course members who are eager for dialogue through blogging. As a member of a quad blog, I will engage in a reciprocal teaching and learning experience.  Each week I will either have the opportunity to reflect on one member of the quad blog’s posts, and offer my comments to engage in a thoughtful, meaningful dialogue, or I will receive comments on this blog from the members of my quad. 

Who are the Friend-strangers I will travel with along my EDC MOOC journey? 
Diana Sauerwein
Chris Swift 
Helen Crump

These are the members of my quad Chris Swift, Diana Sauerwein, Helen Crump. I’ve never heard their voices, but their written expression helps me imagine their voices. Obviously, I haven’t met them in person, but perhaps we will meet virtually through a Google Hangout or other synchronous web chat.  These are complete strangers to me who don’t even live on the same continent as I do. Yet, digital culture is such that we blindly engage with  strangers in the name of learning. My limited engagement with them, thus far occurring through a handful of asynchronous exchanges expressed in writing and posted digitally on learning spaces such as Blogger, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, tells me they are teachers and learners like me with their own narratives about their relationship with technology. I hope to travel with them and others as learning nomads in what I hope evolves into a life long learning event of E-Learning and Digital Cultures.