It was a well-attended event as these things go. I used Storify to document it, and have embedded the Storify below. In this post, I want to do three things: I want to summarize the content of the event, and offer a meta-analysis of what happened (from my perspective as organizer and participant). That’s a lot for a blog post, so I’ll use headers so you can pick and choose at will.
- Teacher Identity/Role in Moocs
- The Role of Meeting
- The Role of Network
Another cluster of participants focused on the role of network in learning. @jeffreykeefer disagreed with the notion that network has become synonymous with the nature of learning because he feels this is postpositivistic – it suggests that all students learn in the same way. He would rather networks be seen as facilitating and fostering learning; networks don’t exist without constantly moving actors.
@jennymackness points out that networks as learning is a connectivist view. I point out that I think that networks are the manifestation of connections between ideas – that networks are learning or possibly the reification of learning. @jennymackness also brings up the idea that the networks might be the traces that we leave behind us as we learn – mostly written but also multimodal. @jeffreykeefer wanted some better definition around this. @jennymackness suggests @FrancisBell would be useful to have around right now.
An Organizer’s Meta-Analysis
I’m usually a classic Type A, control-freak worrier. But the funny thing is that whenever I do something really big, like drive a car with manual transmission through Manhattan or fly alone to Norway with no adapter and no cash, I never think to worry until I’m already in the midst of it. And so it was the same with this event. My goals, even up to 2 minutes before the event, were to sit back, read the article, and enjoy great fellowship. It wasn’t until the actual “go” that I figured out that this event might benefit from some facilitation and that the obvious person for that job was me.*
So I didn’t read a single word of the article on my own (I read your clips) after reading the abstract. Instead, I quickly adjusted my role and learning objectives, and set out to encourage your streams and learn from and through the experience (and not necessarily the article). These are my thoughts on the learning.
- Learning through the Un-Journal Club vs. Traditional Journal Club
I’ve lived through so many different journal clubs in natural sciences, medical sciences, humanities…notice I said “lived through” because they were all painful, for different reasons. Some chose “irrelevant” articles; some required us to recite the main points of the article to the rest of the group (“knowing” not “understanding”); some encouraged discourse in esoteric academic jargon I didn’t understand (half the faculty didn’t understand it either but they only told me that b/c I was the only student, not each other).
My own experiences notwithstanding traditional journal clubs, can be great places for deep reads of journal articles. If everyone reads the article in advance and is dedicated to a methodical approach and a safe environment – then that article is going to get R-E-A-D and probably remembered too. I can see how those could be very engaging learning environments.
The Un-Journal Club had different strengths, and in my opinion, should be used for different learning outcomes. Trust me, I did not anticipate this. My opinion was being formed as I scrambled to figure out exactly how I was going to facilitate the event (not unlike figuring out how I was going make bus fare to a hotel in Norway).
Because we didn’t read the article in advance and because we were working simultaneously in different streams, it wasn’t so much about a deep read of the article as much as using the article as a jumping off point for our own connected learning and uniquely shared artifact. Here’s how I’m supporting that statement:
- Learning through inquiry
We seemed to engage the content of the article through the act of challenging. “Golden Nuggets” – concepts or sentences that struck us, either as “good” or “bad” became questions; they turned into requests for the rest of us to engage in discourse around the nugget.
- Learning through connecting
It might not have been comprehensive, and it might not have seemed like it to you at the time, but you guys did some serious connecting across space, time, and domains. You connected aspects of the article to past experience, future experience, experience in different settings. You connected to several different blog posts, Biesta, Illich, Bruner, Pring (ok, that last one was me).
- Learning by externalizing
There were frequent requests for clarification of the terms we used. I saw a lot of what Pring calls “stipulative definitions,” meaning we were defining concepts. We weren’t necessarily defining our terms in other ways – this probably had to do with the breakneck pace of the activity. But regardless, the requests for clarification of terms is a philosophical practice and the subsequent clarification is something Papert would applaud. We externalize our thoughts so that they can be honed in a social setting. I feel like the 140 char box was a fabulous challenge, although it could be seen as a barrier by others. There was some high levels of digital literacy at play here. The facile use of screenshots was huge. Wish I could have gotten Vine to work – video would have been a mind-blower I think 🙂
- Learning through self-organization
Ingrid DeWaald once suggested that the greater the disequilibrium in a MOOC, the more likely we were to self-organize (she was referring to chaos theory). I suspect there was a little disequilibrium going on in this event, so what happened was that most of us picked conversational partners and focused our comments in that area. This doesn’t mean we weren’t attending to the others, but look at the storify below and you’ll see it – most of us gravitated to our area of interest. We chose our individual places in the social stream. Siemens and others would say that’s a good thing. Students must be able to pick and choose what they attend to, where they participate. Can’t be everywhere, all the time.
- Learning through gathering
Gardner’s comparison of “meeting” and “gathering” really couldn’t have come at a better time. To my mind, this was most definitely a gathering. Obviously voluntary. Obviously high-energy and engaging (see comments towards the end about the espresso-like qualities of this event). I feel really good about that.
I suspect not everyone had a good time. I suspect some feel they didn’t learn as much as they should have/could have, given different circumstances. I had a great time AND learned a lot, with the caveat that most of my understanding came afterwards, when reflecting on the Storify (which I knew I was going to put together). It’s like action learning – you don’t learn while you do it, you learn when you reflect on your actions later. Or it’s like Bruner talking about going beyond the information given – it requires reflection and its enemy is the breakneck pace. Note I have allowed myself a full day to think about this event which is a snail’s pace for me.
I suspect some will really want to read the article in advance next time and, personally, I think that’s fine. But I’m not sure we will ever achieve a methodical read of an article through this format. I think that trying to do so would kill the magical streaming energy that at least some of us experienced. And I’m not sure if doing a deep read of an article is consistent with the generative, ephemeral, participatory personality of the live-tweeted event. Deep reads and critiques are very valid endeavors, but they might be better suited to blog posts, and other, more asynchronous approaches, or approaches which require (or are normed to) have people talk one person at a time. You cannot achieve that with a group in Twitter, I don’t think. Not when we are synchronous and all.
I’m looking forward to hearing what the rest of you have to say about the un-journal club and whether you want to continue in the future and with what adjustments. And as always, thank you SO MUCH. You guys are part of what keeps me going everyday.
(*I wonder how many other people starting up informal learning groups, un-courses, support groups, etc., go through the same process? How does this play into our conversation about ethics?)