Friday, February 8, 2013

The Rhizomagic of MOOCs: an #ETMOOC Kind of Story

I have joined #ETMOOC late, but I'm glad that I joined. This week we are sharing stories, and I've chosen two. The first is a six-word tale with image (I found the image Nature Adapting to Man on Weird Twist).

The second tale is a repeat of something that has happened with every MOOC I've joined so far, but it's still a fine story. So grab a beer or coffee, pull your chairs in close, and let me tell you what happened to me this past week.

I started digging into the ETMOOC website to orient myself into what is going on. I'm interested in educational technology and MOOCs, so I was confident that I would find something worth following. Boy, did I.

The first thing I discovered was that I had again missed Dave Cormier's talk about rhizomatic education. This is a great disappointment for me as I am also exploring the life of the knowmad, and I think Cormier has some genuine insights. Fortunately, I followed a link to the recorded archive of the talk, and somewhere along the way, I found a link to Christina Hendricks' wonderful post Etmooc: Rhizomatic Learning–A Worry And A Question on her blog You're the Teacher. That's when the rhizomagic started.

I sat in on a wonderful campfire conversation about the relative merits of rhizomatic learning. Christina suggested some initial attraction for the concept, but she also had some real reservations. Both her interests and concerns were shared by Brendan Murphy, Caleb Kelly, Claire Thompson and others. To my mind, what they were saying was not nearly so important as what they were doing: collecting themselves together to discuss an issue important to all of them, engaging in the very best of rhizomatic learning, and I could join in.

For me, this is the beating heart magic of rhizomatic MOOCs: they enable people to connect to a topic and to each other to explore that topic. It's happened to me every time I've engaged a MOOC, and I deeply appreciate reliable magic.

Recognizing the magic, however, does not mean that I am ignoring the issues with MOOCs and other forms of rhizomatic learning. The catastrophic failure of the Georgia Tech MOOC this past week and the nagging problems with assessment and certification demonstrate that we have not worked out all the bugs. Actually, I don't think we will ever work out all the bugs before MOOCs have morphed into something else, the next over-hyped big thing. But I am absolutely convinced that we are learning to use educational technologies to accomplish important goals and that what we learn will change what we do. I intend to enjoy the ride.
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