I don’t have anything funny to say about MOOCs.

Not right now, at least. I just got home from my second to last class in INSDSG602 and I can’t believe the semester has gone by so fast! Three more classes to go and then I’m ready for my capstone, which is crazy to think about.

We  went all out on Connectivism and MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) tonight, and I was finally able to stretch my legs and talk about modern learning theory, which I think resonates with a lot of my thoughts about learning. The first article on my RSS reader was about Wellesley starting MOOCs, so it was a sign I needed to get this post out of my system.

Strangely enough, my experience with MOOCs reflects my experience with Wellesley. Going to school right down the road, I would frequently bike through town and pass the campus. Many times I would tell myself, “I should ride through, it must be beautiful”, and EVERY TIME I chose to “just bike through” I would get lost and appear four hours later completely weary and befuddled. It’s not like I’m bad at directions, it’s just my personal Bermuda triangle.

I tried a MOOC before (the Stanford AI course), but it was right as I was starting my UMass classes and after a few weeks my schedule was too tight to continue. Those first weeks, though, were black holes in my life: I would arise hours later from the computer, wondering however I got to where I was on the internet.

I think a personal goal is very important for MOOCs, or else you get lost, or over exert yourself. Neither of these are bad things, if that’s your goal, but if your goal is to complete the course, you should treat it like a marathon and not a sprint.


A roar or a murmur.

After a well-deserved break for Thanksgiving, I decided to jump back into the swing of things and talk about transformative learning, which we covered the week before. My favorite part was the activity: where we discussed with the person next to us about something we wanted to change and all the questions we should ask ourselves as to how to make that happen: who are our supporters and what is holding us back.

A big thing that stuck out to me was that they mentioned these transformative moments as these large things that occur, such as a sudden illness or a great message brought to you. But to me, sometimes those moments come in a murmur, very quietly. They could be a pattern of murmurs that causes you to change, or something that is very quiet but unsettling. I find those more powerful than the large life changing moments for me.

Upcycling ideas

I finally feel like I got over the hurdle this week. I was working like crazy with work and school and I feel that I can finally catch my breath. I probably shouldn’t say that too loud, else the Universe is listening.

2012-10-03 at 10.02.38

I got to put my robot knowledge to good use since we last spoke, as a coworker needed a motor identified to find a replacement. After taking the housing apart it turned out to be a common Mabuchi, but the only replacements we could find had a shaft that was too short to fit into the pump assembly that it needed to interface with.

I also finally got to share the Conference model addition that we’re looking to integrate into the current district model proposed by FIRST. This has been lurking in my head for a while, and to get it down on paper, albeit digital, is a huge step for us. In essence, a set number of slots in the district would be set aside for non-native teams to apply for, and upon acceptance, would give them all the rights of a district team for two years. This makes the walls flexible, gives a predictable revenue range for both organizations, and allows teams to try out districts. I honestly think it would allow for more acceptance of the district model nationwide. That’s the exciting part about getting it out there: it’s becoming more real each day, and it’s really cool when you see something you are building in the wild.

I also went back to CT for the weekend and went to an Alanis Morrisette concert with my mother. I had forgotten about a lot of songs that she played, and…you know how people associate songs, smells, or places with particular times of their life? Yeah, that happened to me. The brain is a fascinating thing sometimes.

Which of course, ties into my class assignment for this week 🙂 I had to prepare early for the class tomorrow because my group is presenting on Social Constructivism. Granted, the constructivism group just went the week before, so there’s not too much else to present, but we hope to dig deep into Activity Theory and the More Knowledgeable Other. The MKO is the entity that allows the learner to make the jump through the Zone of Proximal Development, which is the gap between what the learner can learn on their own and what they could learn with help. It doesn’t always have to be a person who is the MKO, the internet and other knowledge resources could aptly stand in.

I apparently was a huge fan of social constructivism even before I knew what it was. This whole idea of working in groups, learning from mentors, and crowdsourcing solutions through competitive robotics is essentially what Vygotsky was getting at decades ago deep in Soviet Russia.

And in the end, I guess this post is about new applications of ideas that aren’t exactly new, but are still exciting. They just get brought up again and again through an idea, or in a song, or anywhere. It’s up to us to see them, upcycle them and put them to good use.

“I don’t know how I became the de-facto ‘Gangnam Style’ guy.”

Hands up for long weekends! The Mr had Columbus Day off and I took a PTO to extend our weekend. It’s amazing how much an extra day can affect a weekend. I finally got the FRC Firehose splash site up and running – I highly recommend that you check it out. I’ll do a separate post on that process later.

We also finally hit the milestone of finishing The Year of Weddings. We had five weddings this summer, two of which the Mr was the Best Man and two in which I was a bridesmaid. The wedding before this last one I was traveling the entire week before. Apparently, the Mr was bored enough that he learned the Gangnam Style dance while I was gone. The quote that became the title of the post occurred after he was cajoled to perform it at the latest wedding. I have a feeling this is going to become just as reoccurring as  kids requesting Hanson at robot competitions just to irritate him. If you really want to see it, here it is:

*Note: I have absolutely no idea who the other dancing guy was.

Grad school is totally kicking my butt right now. I don’t know what’s so different about this semester vs the last ones, but it definitely feels different. It could be because I’m schlepping down to Dorchester for class on a weekly basis, or that the online course is far more involved than any other online course, but I feel like I’m constantly playing catch up. Last week we discussed behavioral learning – aka carrot and stick. I somehow got most focused on a quote from the book that touched upon how behaviorism was the original basis for No Child Left Behind, which then got skewed in the implementation down to the state level in that they felt that NCLB was all stick, no carrot. I don’t know if the rest of the class got my observation (by replacing the learner as the most granular with the school in this case), but I still think it’s an interesting piece to think about. Additionally, we did a behavioral piece where my ridiculously competitive side shone like the beacon that it is. We won, so that’s all that matters. 🙂

Adults and generations

INSDSG 602 – Class 4

Last class was one of those where it flew by – I was shocked when I looked at my phone! Those are the best classes. We split up into “generations” and summarized how we felt about ourselves and how other generations felt about us. I was pretty surprised that out of a class of 30 there were only 5 of us who could classify as…ugh…”Gen Y”. I can’t stand that term, probably because it feels so throwaway compared to Gen X.

When discussing what defined us, the internet was an obvious choice. Somehow, though, I had forgotten that 24 hours news and the advent of cable was such a defining point within our generation as well. I’ve never known a time without hundreds of channels, each with differing viewpoints. I remember watching OJ Simpson and his Bronco and when Princess Diana died. I remember 9-11 and when we were electing a new Pope. All of those instances would have been completely different without constant news coverage.

I’ve also grown a new appreciation for adult learning, or andragogy. I never thought of myself as teacher material, hanging out with kids all day and lecturing. My training methods definitely lean more towards the andragognous: making learning a conversation, including lots of activity, making learning relevant to real life.

I’m a spoiled adult learner.

INSDSG 602 – Class 3

Those of you who wish I would post more, you’re in luck. Part of my participation grade for the 602 class is to post in my blog about what I’m learning about. For those of you who loved my rant about discussion boards, this is actually an idea I can get behind…mostly because it feels more honest and less doing it for the sake of doing it. Maybe it will even get me back into blogging more frequently.

However, I am a tad behind in my posting duties for class because I won a scholarship to visit Dreamforce and I was out in CA all last week. So, I’m still playing catch up, forgive me.

So why do I call myself spoiled? Because I have to take the one in person class this semester and I had it easy all last year. I have to drive 3 hours round trip to “scenic” Dorchester every week as opposed to doing my classes in my pyjamas. I had to – gasp – buy real books instead of digital Kindle editions. I have to talk to people (well, that’s never a problem).

My point is, the study of andragogy, or adult learning, shows how different adult learners are from children. They have different motivations, they are coming from a different frame of mind, they work differently. We did an exercise in class the week before describing adult learners, which the prof put into a Wordle word cloud. The larger the word, the more frequently it showed up.

Wordle: Adult Learner

There’s lots of theories about how adults learn, even those which look like they’re stolen from J.K. Rowling (I’m looking at you, Illeris), but I think what stuck out to me is that we have a long way to go in our study of andragogy. Education has been around for centuries, but adult learning has only had a few decades of research. It’s also very tied to the American baby boom, as that was the first generation to create a formal need for adult learning. We see learning in general expanding from the silos of LMSs into the open world, and I think the theories around adult learning will spread out as time goes by.

And when it comes down to it, if I really want this degree, I have to be all those things that an adult learner needs to be. Motivated, experienced, self directed. I guess I can suck it up a little.