Reflecting or objectives?

In the final week of the #OpenEdMOOC, I learned some connections that I had not been aware of: How openness is also related to learning analytics and algorithms. I had been familiar with the idea that algorithms must be transparent (mainly via K. Zweig and her algorithmwatch.org) and I participated in the ‘data donation’ that took place before our federal election in September and attempted to get this transparency. But I had not thought about how companies would be tempted to abuse student data when they are trying to sell their ‘secret sauce’ of learning — although I had been skeptical against such recipes before.

At least now, this MOOC paid off for me, and it was the first one after a long time that I did not drop out before the last week. So I want to share what I noticed about my own learning and motivation and reluctance.

There were elements that motivated me to reflect and engage, and there were elements that put me off. The latter ones often included a task, or an objective, or the big final project, and I was surprised about myself how often the edX platform with its rigid goal-directed framing, increased my reluctance to ‘obey’. For example, the ‘prompts’, the ‘due dates’, the ‘next’ button, the ‘activities’, and in particular the size of the ‘project’: a 1 hour lesson. (I did not mind writing the three little essays in CCK08 despite I was not a for-credit learner because this felt like just the right size for voluntary engagement.)

I don’t doubt that such tight pacing, or ‘lock-step’ walkthrough, across a wide field of content might be useful for some at-risk learners. But I think many adult learners do not like such a tight prescriptive style, and for workplace learning such formal structures are even more unpopular.

But even worse: I noticed that for me, such MOOC ‘objectives’ (“Detail how…”, “Describe how…”) actually inhibit reflections in the sense of: What struck me as susprising or salient or resonating?. Because, for the latter, a ‘broad vigilant attention’ is needed (sorry for borrowing once again from McGilchrist), while the guiding objectives switch off this kind of attention and turn over to a ‘narrow focus’ kind of attention, to follow the tip of the teacher’s pointer stick, so to speak. So, the well-meant suggestions for ‘activity’ may just put off from reflective activity — and maybe this is why reflecting is so unpopular among pressed students?

Image: adapted from Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing (under CC-BY-SA) and Rodin (Public Domain).

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One Response to Reflecting or objectives?

  1. Pingback: #OpenedMOOC Week 6: The Triumph of the Immaterial – Jenny Connected

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