Monday, June 24, 2013

MOOCs: Passion Driven Learning

I think all teachers have a basic commonality in that we want to make a difference, empower our students, open their thinking to explore the what-ifs and how-'bouts, change our future by impacting our kids' present.  We signed up for this gig with a bigger vision.  We wanted to attach our life to something that we felt had meaning: kids.  According to Dr. Scott Garrigan of LeHigh University, you can reach and teach more kids in a semester online than you could ever teach at a traditional school setting in a lifetime... in fact, 5 lifetimes, provided you start when you're 20 and retire at 70?  If you were a teacher who taught 200 kids at a time, it would take 250 years to teach 100,000 students.  In Fall 2011 at Stanford University, the first MOOC enrolled 160,000 participants!!!!!
     I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Garrigan present this morning at #ISTE13.  His topic: How will the MOOC Explosion Effect K-12 Schools and Students?  Okay, I know this is a bit of a deviation from the this blog's norm, but it is Sch00lStuff and since I teach in a blended learning environment this MOOC stuff interests me.  Why? There is a lot to glean about teaching and learning from these online courses.
Let me back up...
What is a MOOC?  A MOOC is a massively open online course.  Basically, it's a class that is offered by a university at no charge and in which, participants are awarded no credit.
Where do you find a MOOC?  There are major providers of these free online courses: Coursera, edX, and Udacity
What kinds of classes are offered? Really, really hard ones covering a variety of topics...including my favorite, teacher pd

     So, why do so many people enroll in tough classes....for no credit?  Simply, they want to LEARN.  People are willing to challenge their thinking, master material, try hard classes, IF they think the topic is interesting and there is no risk.  In these courses, students are able to learn about what they WANT to study...for free with no risk of failing...since the courses are not for credit.  The classes are for real though...there are due dates, assessments, and opportunities for collaboration.
     My first thought was what if passion of interest drove learning in K-12?  Many of us are reading Dave Burgess' Teach Like a Pirate where we are exploring our own 'P'assion as teachers and thinking of ways to bring our whole self into the classroom, but WHaT iF the kids' 'P'assion drove instruction?  I know some are exploring the 20% time/ free time, but I am not sure this is even that.  I think it is bigger.  I think it is maybe like Utica Junior High's Teach Like a Pirate Day,
where Principal Ryan McLane asked, "If kids didn't have to go to class, would you be teaching to an empty room?" Except maybe, it is not just a day.  What do kids want to learn? What do kids need to try?  Maybe it is like Jane McGonigal's thoughts at the #ISTE13 Opening need a place to practice being an entrepreneur, become a published author, engage in meaningful activities with a purpose and goal in mind.  Maybe a school's goal could more closely align with Jane's vision, "where we make it as easy for our students to save the real world, as it is to save the world on online games."  Where are educators providing opportunities for kids to practice this?  
     In  Disrupting Class, Clay Christensen states that educators "teach all students in the same way."  My concern, being at a small private school with understandably limited course offerings (on a limited budget with limited number of faculty members) is that not only that we are teaching them all the same way, but we are teaching them all the same things.  The current structure of school is very complex and I am not sure how to allow more flexibility in learning while still meeting accountability standards.  It seems like if we could combine Jane McGonigal's idea of Gamefication with the course choice afforded through MOOCs, it would be an ideal online world, but then on the practical side...what about the kids that need to see a caring adult face-to-face everyday because they don't have that at home or those who need to hone social skills through interaction with their peers or even those who just need to eat and the classroom teacher is the one who brings bread and peanut butter each day to meet their physical needs?
     So, let's skip the virtual Utopia.  How do we offer passion driven courses at school? Do we offer an elective hour?  Saturday school? Summer camp?  Do we connect high school kids with the MOOC catalogs?  Let kids teach kids?  Let kids teach teachers?  Finally, how do we incorporate the 8 lessons learned from online teaching  to improve all teaching?  I do not propose to have the answers and I am not even sure I am asking the right questions (#tlap -Dave Burgess), but I am thinking.  Maybe, that is what being around so many inspiring #ISTE13 educators makes you do.
     So, help me all of you people in the blog-o-sphere...what is your school (or just you) doing to offer students passion driven learning opportunities?  


Ryan McLane said...

Thanks for the mention. So many people thought the kids would blow off TLAP Day and it would be a disaster. They could not have been more wrong. Kids tell me their parents care out their grades. The kids actually care about learning something interesting.

Cindy said...

I have shared your TLAP day with everyone I know. I am so inspired! Thank you for sharing the details on your blog.