The key words and ideas from this week’s reading rattle around in my brain like coins in a jar: discourse, collaboration, technology, Internet, Knowledge Age, shared, participatory, MOOC, new economy, learning networks, capacity, learning. I’ll admit: I was overwhelmed by the amount of reading, but it certainly was worthwhile, informative, and provided plenty of food for thought.
Throughout this week’s reading (and everything I have read since the beginning of this course, really) the word “discourse” and collaborative efforts associated efforts with discourse jump at me from every page...and here it is again in this week’s Essential Question.
MOOCs: O.K., so I’ve heard of them; I noticed the acronym attached to the website title for this course; and I have heard them referenced in articles. However, I must be one of only a few people currently alive who is not familiar with a MOOC. A simple Google search for “MOOC” returned over 2.6 million hits. I didn’t fully understand the significance of MOOCs until reading this piece. For a few years now, I have firmly believed that technology, when used as a carefully-implemented tool, has the potential to level the playing field for learners and change the face of education. The promise the MOOC model has to significantly change education forever is simply astounding. Wow. In addition to the text, I found this Prezi by Alyssa Martin to be very informative and interesting.
Distributed learning in online courses is made possible -- no, it is made remarkably simple by a wealth of advanced web tools that allow participants to fully engage, no matter what their level of education, the tools at their disposal, or the circumstances from which they participate. A creative, business-savvy student in the far reaches of rural Alaska could easily build a slick website and market a unique product, idea, or even thoughts online...and could compete with a highly privileged, highly educated teen in any urban center in the world. In today’s world, it’s about intellectual capacity, creativity, and the ability to use discourse to one’s advantage. “The Internet, especially in recent developments of connective and collaborative applications, is a cognitive extension for humanity” (McAuley et al., 2010, p. 33). Holy cow, that’s a string of words to chew on...and the resulting understanding is that the Internet brings us together to think as one. Wikipedia; MOOCs; Pinterest. They’re all examples of people coming together to create and share resources and knowledge that are, in turn, accessible to all. What a concept!
In my small, rural school district, we are in the process of reviewing text materials for adoption. We need new resources that are aligned with the Common Core/Alaska’s new standards, and, as a result of the fear that education may be straying too far into the land of screens and online, we are inviting every publisher on planet Earth to send us crates of their latest and greatest textbooks. Even for our tiny Alaskan district, we could easily spend $100,000 on a single content area adoption. And in two years (if not earlier), the textbooks will be outdated and there will be a new latest and greatest "update" available. In light of the work that we are doing with traditional paper textbooks right now, I was struck by the observation about MOOCs: “How can a lecture recorded last year be used again this year? Wouldn’t we have to continually deliver new lectures to reflect knowledge growth?” (McAuley et al., p. 44). In a MOOC environment, learners are worried about information being outdated after one year. Textbook reviews typically happen every SIX years, and in reality, actual textbook adoptions and purchases may happen much less frequently than that, meaning the content students are encountering in their “learning” environments each day are wildly outdated and perhaps even irrelevant. Why, then, are educators so hesitant to embrace materials and resources that are current and easily accessible...and, in many cases, free? (Harasim, 2012).
As an English teacher at heart and as someone who loves to read and write, I believe that the world belongs to those who can wield words, craft messages, and creatively convey an idea or concept. The teaching of writing across the content areas and at every grade level is more important now than ever (NCTE, 2004). Han and Hill (2006) conclude that “in the asynchronous discussion, individual accountability and participants’ interdependent relationships coexist” (p. 45). These relationships are built on the written word, making the ability to convey thinking, ideas, connections, and new knowledge through writing essential to learner efficiency and satisfaction in online learning. The emphasis on discourse in online learning experiences is huge – and students who are unable to transfer their thinking to words on a screen, in this case, will be at a disadvantage in the online world in which they will communicate and learn, regardless of where they live.
Han, S., and Hill, J. (2006). Building Understanding in asynchronous discussions: Examining types of online
discourse. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. Retrieved from: http://sloanconsortium.org/sites
Harasim, L. (2012). Learning Theory and Online Technologies. New York: Routledge.
Martin, A. (October 7, 2012). The History of MOOCS: 2008-2012. Retrieved from:
McAuley, A., Stewart, B., Siemens, G., and Cormier, D. (2010). The MOOC Model for Digital Practice.
Retrieved from: https://oerknowledgecloud.org/sites/oerknowledgecloud.org/files/MOOC_Final_0.pdf
on January 28, 2014
National Council of Teachers of English. (2004). NCTE beliefs about the teaching of writing. NCTE Guideline.
Retrieved from: http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/writingbeliefs
Siemens, G. (August 10, 2005). Connectivism: Learning as network creation. Retrieved from: