#28daysofwriting Day 8: A new type of learner

I signed up to a MOOC three weeks ago.  Completely mad given the timing but it sounded interesting.  It is my third MOOC and the second in just 4 months.  My first one in January 2013 Elearning and Digital Cultures (EdcMooc) through Coursera and Edinburgh University was an amazing experience.  One of the most powerful things were the online discussions and the Twitter Chats. These were something completely new for me and completely re-energised my learning.  I love the immediacy of them and the variety of comments from people all over the world with different perspectives.  I am still in contact with some of the other participants of EdcMooc who I made contact with through the Twitter stream.  We formed a Goodreads book club and have a Twitter chat each month to discuss the book that we vote on and read.

collage of photos to offer an image that shows balance.  A man on a bike balancing cleaning materials with social media icons around and the words edcmooc and Finding the BalanceIt took me nearly another two years before joining another MOOC.  Partly because of lack of time, partly because the topics didn’t really inspire me and partly because I had had such a good experience with EdcMooc that I was worried that another MOOC wouldn’t live up to it.

In November, I signed up to Understanding Language, a MOOC delivered by the University of Southampton through FutureLearn.   It was an ambitious task given that it was at the end of the term, Year 10 fell in the middle of it and then I was heading off to Costa Rica.  Would I manage to complete it?  The great thing about MOOCs is that you can do what you can.  You take from them what you can.  They are free.  I enjoyed the discussions in the forums.  People from all walks of life contributing, responding, offering their points of view based on their experience in response to the videos and articles.  I was disappointed, though, in the lack of interaction via social media which had so energised me in the EdcMooc.

This month, I am just about keeping up with eLearning Ecologies, another Coursera MOOC but this time delivered through the University of Illinois.  Again, the forum discussions are the most thought provoking.  One of the discussions following the videos and articles offered last week was about “Creating a New Type of Learner”.  The discussion here was about the affordances of technology to offer new ways of learning.

classroom with students taking photos of work on the board.I absolutely agree that we, as educators, are creating a new type of learner. Well, not just us, but society. However, personality and disposition have a lot to do with how those students develop. Some of my students jump at the chance to use technology; they are photographing notes off the board or mind maps we create in groups and uploading them to eportfolios; my inbox is full of messages and google docs being shared with me and they are responding to feedback with questions at all times of day and night.

Others, though, are completely overwhelmed; they struggle with learning independently, with having to find their way around the learning spaces I provide for them. Whilst they are bright, intelligent girls they prefer to be given the information so that they can learn it and regurgitate it. My hope is that I am providing them with a framework to be resilient learners, to navigate territory they are unsure of, but sometimes it is a battle. A battle which is not always helped by parents who say, “But that is how she learns. She needs written notes. Why can’t you just give her them?”

However, someone touched on the solution in one of the posts in the discussion.  We need to encourage change with the youngest students. They are the ones who have really grown up with a device in their hands.  But I believe that teachers too are important. They need to have the confidence and the conviction to adopt new ways of teaching and learning. Their disposition is just as important as the students. We cannot force change on either our learners or our students, we simply have to sow seed, nurture and reap the harvest.

Teachers of every generation have had to fight for change. This revolution is just a little faster, I think.

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