Saturday, 9 November 2013

#EDCMOOC2: New blogposts from #edcmooc

Why #edcmooc
If previous education ages positioned students as (passive) consumers of knowledge, then the digital age with its automatic ease and ‘right’ of publishing and 'narrowcasting' arguably has the potential to position us and our students as producers of knowledge. Noble (02) suggests that the over-arching ‘control’ narrative of education per se is trying to wrestle that power away from students – and now from staff as well. But resistance is not futile if we overtly and explicitly develop visual and digital practices in and with our students as a normal part of our LTA.

So – this set of blogposts will be about #edcmooc – the second run. I will perhaps mention how this course is similar to and different from the first run of the course – and I will also be able to reflect and post about my experiences as a CTA on a MOOC. If you’re reading this, do make comments, do engage with me and the debate and take the arguments further…

Each week we are asked to produce images that sum up our learning
Since starting my MOOC journeys I have been sketching robots in various attitudes of menace and friendliness – and of menacing friendliness… They sum up this conflict between the utopian and dystopian modes of responding to the digital – as does the collage inspired by betrayal that I put together as part of #artmooc. They also represent the smallest tip of the amount of visual practices that I have introduced into my teaching since starting MOOCs. All students have to engage with information rich visual discourses now. The more they can read and produce their own visual messages, the more powerful they will also be in the digital education landscape.

Why #edcmooc – again?!
I did and blogged about #edcmooc last year. Edinburgh University’s Coursera: ‘E-learning and Digital Cultures’ was my first MOOC and I found the whole experience exhilarating and joyous; also completely disorientating and overwhelming; and great. I completed and passed that run of the MOOC but promised myself that I would do it again in a more technological way. I would force myself to engage with the various tools that we can use in Teaching Learning Assessment (TLA) in a digital age… However – once I finished that MOOC, I leapt into another couple of MOOCs (#artmooc, Penn State’s Introduction to Art: concepts and techniques and then #artinquiry, MoMA’s Art and Inquiry MOOC) and thought that perhaps I should just move on. But then … I received the invitation to be a Community Teaching Assistant on this second run of edcmooc – and I was hooked. I chose this as my initial MOOC experience in the first place because I wanted to explore TLA in a digital age by becoming a learner on a digital course that explored digital culture. Many birds with one stone – yay! And as said the course itself and the immersive experience that it offered exceeded all my expectations. So I had to come back to experience being a teaching assistant on a course that covered teaching and learning in a digital age – no contest.

So #edcmooc W1 – Introductions
This year the course opened with a video from the whole course team that allowed us to appreciate them also as physical beings – in the physical and virtual landscapes offered by Edinburgh University. There will also be weekly Hangouts this year instead of just the two that we had last. (The first Hangout can be accessed here: On the one hand this is just a great idea – a human way of entering a digital learning space. The team also opened up the discussion: what is a University in a time of distributed, digital and online learning? As I say to my students, ‘That’s something for us all to go away and think about…’

How to survive and enjoy a more connectivist MOOC
Here’s the advice from the Edinburgh team:
How to Study EDCMOOC
How is the course structured? 
‘E-learning and digital cultures’ is offered in two themed blocks of study. Each block is divided into two weeks, and within each weekly block you’ll find a variety of course material organised into clusters:
·                     Popular cultures: a short ‘film festival’ on the week’s theme
·                     Ideas and interpetations: theory-based readings on the week’s theme
·                     Perspectives on education: readings which extend the week’s themes into educational issues

What should I do each week?
There is quite a lot of content provided for each week. Please don't feel you have to engage with all of it. In some weeks, you might wish simply to 'sample' the films and one or two of the readings. In others, you may wish to read more deeply and engage more fully. This is your decision.

You’ll find discussion questions and pointers provided throughout the weekly content, and we've also seeded the Coursera discussion board with some of these. There's already a vibrant EDC MOOC community growing through Twitter and in the various other spaces that course participants have set up. We hope this will continue to grow in an ethos of collaboration, peer support and mutual enjoyment over the coming weeks!

You should conduct the day-to-day business of your learning in the way that works best for you. However you should aim to do at least two of the following to ensure that you have the grounding you need to successfully undertake the final assignment in week 5:
·         Contribute to the discussion forums.
·         Blog your responses to the topic, putting #edcmooc in the title. Submit your blog RSS feed so that your posts feed into our daily EDC MOOC News mashup (see below).
·         Create an image or other visual representation of your response to the topic and post it in a social media space. Tag it with #edcmooc.
·         Share your thoughts and links in Twitter, using the hashtag #edcmooc.

How is the MOOC assessed?
There are no tests or quizzes in this MOOC. The only formal assessment is at the end of MOOC, when you are asked to create a "digital artefact". This is fully explained on the
 what you need to do page. The assignment submission page will open at the beginning of W4. 

If you submit your digital artefact by the deadline, on Thursday 5 December you will be asked to evaluate the artefacts of three other participants on the course. Guidance for assessing digital artefacts is given on the ‘how to give feedback’ page.

EDCMOOC is out of control! I can’t keep up!
The scale of the MOOC, and the variety of the spaces in which discussion happens can be overwhelming at first. Please be aware that it is impossible to follow every thread of discussion, or to interact with every blog post or Twitter comment being generated. Instead, try to focus your interactions within one or two spaces which you enjoy being in. For example, you might set up a blog to record your thinking over the coming weeks, link your blog to the EDCNews (see below) and then use Twitter to publicise your blog posts to your fellow learners. Or, you might initiate a discussion thread within Coursera on a topic of particular interest to you. Or you might arrange a meetup with local colleagues or friends also studying the MOOC. There are may ways of taking part.

Last time we ran the MOOC, some key strategies emerged on how to manage it as a learner:
·         Read selectively: you are not expected to engage with every single area of course content
·         Choose one or two media streams only to focus on: you can’t be everywhere at once
·         Let go of the notion of ‘being on top of things’ – this is also impossible – instead, enjoy the serendipity of the random encounter
·         Relax, select, investigate, think, write when it makes sense to write, and write in a space that you enjoy
·         Forget traditional online teaching methods: there are around 17,000 people on this course, only 5 teachers and 8 Community Teaching Assistants… 

All excellent advice – some of which I thought had been my own unique insight into the MOOC experience - bummer!

Shape of the course
Dystopias: W1: looking to the past; W2: looking to the future
Block 2: Being Human: W3: Reasserting the human; W4: Re-defining the human
W5: Submit assignment; Assess other assignments.

The Team tend to use open source videos and publications to seed our study – so we can all access that which we need – at the click of a button. I will add some links here in this blog for you to follow up if you wish. But do not forget – #edcmooc has only just started – it’s not too late for you to join in!

It’s that journey word again!
We study popular culture alongside academic textson this course for it is popular culture that shapes and makes us. We shape our culture – then our culture makes us. W1 therefore introduces us to utopias, dystopias as narratives that may shape our approach to digital teaching, learning and assessment:
“The purpose of exploring digital and e-learning cultures in this way is not to suggest that e-learning actually is utopian or dystopian - though you may of course wish to argue that it is - but to understand how these common kinds of stories of the web, technology and online learning shape and influence our understanding of what’s possible and desirable in our own practices as learners, students and teachers.
Hand and Sandywell (2002) describe three utopian claims about information technology, and three dystopian ones. These will help you think about how our films and readings in this block are positioned in relation to issues of democracy, access and resistance.

Utopian claims
Dystopian claims
Information technologies based on electronic computation possess intrinsically democratizing properties (the Internet and/or worldwide web is an autonomous formation with ‘in-built’ democratic properties or dispositions).
Information technologies possess intrinsically de-democratizing properties (the Internet and/or worldwide web is an autonomous formation with ‘in-built’ anti-democratic properties or dispositions).

Information technologies are intrinsically neutral, but inevitably lend themselves to democratizing global forces of information creation, transfer and dissemination.
Information technologies are intrinsically neutral, but inevitably lend themselves to control by de-democratizing forces (hardware and software ‘ownership’ equals anti-democratic control).
Cyber-politics is essentially a pragmatic or instrumental task of maximizing public access to the hardware and software thought to exhaustively define the technology in question.
Cyber-politics is essentially one of resisting and perverting the anti- democratic effects of the technology in question.

Hand, M. and B. Sandywell. 2002. E-topia as cosmopolis or citadel: On the democratizing and de-democratizing logics of the internet, or, toward a critique of the new technological fetishism. Theory, Culture & Society 19, no. 1-2: 197-225. (p.205-6)

(Oh the joy of cut and paste! No wonder it seduces our students!)

The films: I focus on just two:
Seven minutes of animation illustrating the power of human beings and nature to transcend even the most de-humanising of work and living landscapes. A great watch.

New Media: - two minutes of total dystopia: a devastated landscape, ‘War of the Worlds’-like tentacles emerging from crumbling buildings… the all hearing big brother. Grim, compelling and compulsive…

The readings (more cut and paste!):
Chandler, D. (2002). Technological determinism. Web essay, Media and Communications Studies, University of Aberystwyth. Download as PDF. 
(Please note that this reading is a web essay, available from, but we are also providing it as a PDF. An alternative, web-based version is available via the Wayback Machine.) 

Dahlberg, L (2004). Internet Research Tracings: Towards Non-Reductionist Methodology. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 9/3. (a few people have noted they are having troubling accessing this open-access article, so we have uploaded it as a PDF as well)

Perspectives on Education
We were offered David Noble’s (2002) Digital Diploma Mills – but this is my Noble:
It covers the arguments in the Digital Diploma Mills article to which we were linked; but for me this is more cogent, punchy and powerful – and it has more passion. It also discusses notions of ‘education’ versus ‘training’. I love it! And it influenced our: ‘A journey into silence: students, stakeholders and the impact of a strategic Governmental Policy Document in the UK’ in Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 5 No. 4, 2009 pp 566-574 – which critiqued the UK government e-learning policy…

CTA bits
I did manage to pop in to a couple of Forum posts about the course and offer comments – I also read and responded to posts by the other CTAs: quite low key ATM. I did notice a few people bemoaning the fact that there are no quizzes and that they cannot see how this course tackles E-learning when in fact it all seems to be about (digital) Culture. Last year displeasure was expressed as: ‘Where is the teacher?’, by those who expected nice didactic video lectures to follow.

Of course rebellion, confusion and down right fear are quite normal reactions from any student at the beginning of any course. For me, it was the sheer chaos of so many people studying ‘with’ me: the thought of keeping up with the posting of all their thoughts? Over-whelming. But if you go with it – you do ‘get it’ and start to enjoy it for what it is – instead of being disorientated by what it is not. I love the fact that there are no quizzes to test that we have learned the ‘right things’ from the course. I respect that we are supposed to set our own goals within the framework of the course itself and navigate our own route, have our own adventures and make our own contacts with information and with people. I have seen that called heutagogy – which reminds me of Jools Holland and his News Year Eve ‘Hootenanny’ – so I have to shout it at people. It surprises my students. I have also read Jeremy Knox, one of our tutors, arguing that the chaos of MOOCs is part of the point: absolutely!

A couple of points from the Hangout (

There was discussion about the dystopian narratives that surround the digital. There is the invasion motif – ‘War of the Worlds’ – and the tragedy motif – that dystopia rests not with the technology but the flaws and problems that emerge from within us flawed and fallible human beings. Martians may terrify but our inner flaws are harder to tackle. Another set of positions that surround technology: technological determinism versus luddism versus technology is ‘only a tool’. Hamish interjected with first we shape our technology and then our technology shapes us – and that technology is neither good nor bad neither is it neutral… ‘That’s all folks!’

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