by Justine C. Tajonera
My #EDCMOOC (eLearning and Digital Cultures Massive Open Online Course) posts spring from my participation in the course offered for free by the University of Edinburgh via Coursera.org.
I had a lot of fun making my final assignment for my EDCMOOC (eLearning and Digital Cultures Massive Open Online Course) class. I combined other attempts at making a digital artefact into this final digital artefact and I was struck by my husband's reaction to it. I asked him if it was good, "Hon, do you think this will pass?" And he answered me with what I think this whole class was about: "Did you do it for the grade? Or did you do it to learn?"
Learning = Hard-earned Joy
What an amazing question! It captured the heart of learning. Many times in traditional school I did things for the grade. But there were other moments in school where I truly enjoyed, where I truly learned. And I would do those courses or classes again just for the sheer joy. In fact, I remember summers where I would glory in all the free time I had to read, just read. I would look up new words in the dictionary and I would just keep going. Those were magical days. I realize that real learning is like that. You keep going, you keep pushing at the edges because you just want to: curiosity, passion, enjoyment. I surely don't want to rob my kids of the pure enjoyment of learning. Of course, it's not all enjoyment. There was a degree of difficulty I had to overcome. And "getting it" is also a kind of hard-earned bliss that can't be matched by treats or novelties.
And that was what I got at the end of the course: a hard-earned joy. I remember those frustrating nights when one video just took forever to load and I was getting bleary-eyed with sleep deprivation. I remember trekking to a nearby coffee shop just to get at least three hours of concentration to write my blogs about the course. I remember being overwhelmed by the sheer numbers in the class and the list of tools for creating the digital artifact. I remember moments of insight that I couldn't help but turn to my husband and share what I just learned from a video or from an online essay. It was all worth it.
Going Digital With Our Homeschool Curriculum
Just yesterday, we attended a family convention conducted by the provider of our homeschool curriculum, The Master's Academy, and they introduced a new pilot project called Genyo.com.ph, an online supplemental course that includes five core subjects including our mother language, Filipino (this is something that's really hard to find online). But by then...I had already discovered IXL.com and Salman Khan's absolutely wonderful Khan Academy. My son is already enrolled in IXL and he just loves earning his medals and achieving mastery with each subject. He has a love for Math that I never had.
I think Genyo.com.ph was introduced to us just in time, especially after having attended this EDCMOOC. I could look at it all within the context of what we had just digested. We signed up right away and I'm excited to try it out with my son.
Not For The Grade But For The Learning
Taking this course has really challenged my idea of how to check for learning. Assessment and test scores have their place but they are not the be-all and end-all of learning. Far from it. Now I see that there are other innovative ways of engaging kids and really helping them learn. Now I see the importance of creating portfolios (the term that our homeschool provider uses....which is a different term for artifacts). These are project opportunities that can combine several subjects so that the student can really see how all of them can be combined for something that is important to him or to the community. Projects put things in perspective and holistically integrates different subjects into a common theme. I think this is more important and a better gauge of analysis and creation than just pure grades.
Purposeful, imaginative learning
I thought that the exploration of posthumanism and transhumanism was really important in coming back to a key concept: challenging humanity's purpose. It's not an easy question to answer. It takes whole lifetimes. It is an ongoing project and it is far from over. It is something that gives context as well to the way I am teaching my kids. It's good to always put the background of purpose in everything we do. What's the point? That's something that I want my kids to learn to ask as well.
What will get us through this shared project is imagination. That's why I really value stories. I especially loved the stories that came out in the films and Sci Fi books (I downloaded some as additional reading after the class). The best of stories are never didactic and never have a hard edged "lesson" to learn. The best of stories help us ask questions and imagine scenarios. The best of stories help us make sense of who we are...and points us to our own stories and perspectives, fortifying them or challenging them. This is what I can give to my kids: the love of searching for more stories, reading them and making their own.
I really loved this class and I will miss it.
But wait. There are still a lot of MOOCs waiting. Onwards then!
Update as of March 5, 2013: I am signed up with the CS50 Introduction to Computer Science of Harvard (EDX). I have also signed up to two more classes on Coursera: 1) Design, Creation of Artifacts in Society (University of Pennsylvania) and 2) Children Acquiring Literacy Naturally (UC Santa Cruz). Looking forward to blogging my updates on this journey.