because #thoughtvectors

Yep. That’s me. Failing at a MOOC yet again. Did you (did anyone) notice how I started out right…then just f a d e d   a   w   a   ……???

I was in the MOOC where the term all started way back when. I didn’t finish that one either. I’ve tried again and again. I even signed up for a programming MOOCy thing with the best of intentions to learn Python. Hahahahahaha.

I pledged in my last post to stick with #thoughtvectors, and look at me now…here I am again, the abject failure at yet another MOOC. Well, not completely. But you get what I mean.

I started #thoughtvectors thinking this time would be ever so different. After all, I CARE(d) so much about this course. I respect the faculty so much. I have read the readings already…some of them more than once:

Augmenting pic







I WANTED to engage fully and be an encourager to the first timers. I started off so well. My little blog had not seen so much action in such a long time. What could go wrong?

Well, at the end of the course, I was on the sidelines (basically) lurking…again. I won’t try to elaborate on why. It will just amount to excuse making.

But… that’s really not the point of this post.

I want to (try to) capture some things my participation HAS brought me to – and then some other things very closely intertwingled (with the deepest respect for Ted Nelson). It is (some of) my own ‘associative trail’, if you will of my lurking and observing the course.

Thing 1:

Reading is at the heart…

It started when one of the #thoughtvectors faculty (I am so sorry I do not recall which one exactly. MANY thanks to you….whoever you are!) in the first hangout mentioned How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren. I bought it. I am reading it. It is one of those things that makes me feel sad that it took me so long to look at full on: how woefully ill-prepared our students are by what should be their basic education for reading (and understanding) at the level we expect in college. (But this post is not about education failures).

Then, Alan Kay mentioned how important basic skill in reading is as a foundation to building an understanding of computing and the computer and how they work and why.

Then Ted Nelson talked about the small vocabularies he has observed and his own thinking about why that is so.

I think I am stuck on this because I intuited a long time ago that facility with words/language were tied to so much of what we deem to be ‘success’ in life. Not the least of which is educational success. You see, growing up in the deep, deep south – where language facility is not all that valued….and traveling ‘up’ to Atlanta once and being made fun of for my drawl made me resolve to eradicate as much of that ‘bad’ language from myself as I could…that signifier of ignorance. I understood at a deep level that I had to learn to be good with words and to speak better. Mostly what I know how to do now is self-taught. I won’t even start trying to chronicle the failings of my early schooling along these lines. (Remember where I grew up. Enough said). I still struggle with my own self-perception of inadequacy (cue all the imposter syndrome angst you want here) with precisely those skills because of those early humiliations. Fast forward to now when I am realizing again how important reading and writing and facility with language truly are. Thinking is highly intertwined (‘intertwingled’) with words.

More on reading:

Thing 2:

Teaching and learning as personal, reciprocal soul-making.

In my last post, I tried (briefly) to say some things about my observation and experience of ‘the personal’ in #thoughtvectors. And, about the importance of joining soul and role (HT Parker J. Palmer). This is not new territory for me. I tried to write about it some back here:

Cue Mike Wesch at Pasadena College in May:

The critical importance of the teacher and presencing as a pedagogical practice is something I have been thinking about for a long time.

I have just begun to explore “Theory U” via the Presencing Institute as a framework to inform my own understanding of the importance of ‘presence’. So what? What does that have to do with #thoughtvectors? Well, I’ll note things like Gardner talking to his students from his own back yard and from within library stacks (which alas, because I procrastinated so long I cannot find now to show you how very personal and ‘present’ that makes him. REAL to his students even in their online course). And Bonnie Boaz reflecting on her experience with remaining ‘present’ in spite of great distance from her students during the session….which brings me to…

Thing 3:

The open enactment of reflective practice

All I can say is, folks at VCU are ‘living MY dream’ that we would ALL be as thoughtful and deliberate about narrating our daily practice as they were/have been. For example, go to the blog of Enoch Hale and browse around…especially note his recent writing about assessment. The narration of practice and work and thinking started before and continues after #thoughtvectors. (And to be fair, there were several others who did the same….who did and continue to do that as a matter of course. I should also note that although I have great intentions, I just don’t capture my thinking as often as I should for it to function as a narration. Here’s a small noteworthy example How to write an inquiry/research question from another #thoughtvectors section lead by Jessica Gordon. I am omitting other equally important posts by ALL of the folks involved with #thoughtvectors. Singling out just a few should in no way minimize the efforts of all of the people [including the students] who were a part of this amazing experience this summer).

The point is that we should all be paying attention to how this extends the reach. Looking for effect size?  Here it is…laid out for us all to see and learn from and with. Statistically significant? Just consider for cone moment all of the ‘new’ nodes created by virtue of this effort.…which brings me to my final thing for this post:

Thing 4:

Having the discipline to work in the open.

Yes, it takes discipline….not good intentions. You have to work at making a point to push work out into the open. Especially teaching practice…which is a thing that in the past was closed and private and shared only in the confines of one classroom. Consider for just a moment what we have all learned by the opening and sharing of #thoughtvectors? What a potent testament to the difference ‘open’ makes!

Okay, I have been tinkering with this for weeks.

I’ll apologize for the long rambling mess of thinking here. I have to get it out though…because…

Since I started this post, the formal course part of #thoughtvectors closed. A new semester started here and for all of those good folks involved. A new MOOC is being spun up by an amazing group (including some from #thoughtvectors)- Connected Courses. I’ll make absolutely no assertions/promises/statement of intentions to play along this time – as I find my own plate quite full these days. I will for sure be an informed and curious lurker at the very least. Who knows, I might even write some too.

Whew. I’m tired of myself now for taking so long to write these closing thoughts.


4 thoughts on “because #thoughtvectors

  1. A great feature of truly OPEN courses is that anyone at all can benefit, even those who only stumble across individual posts. And you can make the course whatever you want it to be, limited only by the interests shared between yourself and other participants. Lurking is good, especially with the fantastic group of people behind

  2. The fact that you’ve written this wonderful piece shows you are far from failing. I’m consistently struck and encouraged by a conclusion many of us in connectivist MOOCs reach: we haven’t failed if we learned/accomplished what we wanted to learn/accomplish in a MOOC–this level of learner-directed exploration is an under-acknowledged and richly rewarding part of the process, and we would all be better off if we incorporated methods of recognizing it into our assessment process.

  3. Paul, Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting! Yes, the whole #thoughtvectors experience was truly amazing in so many ways. I AM disappointed (in myself) for not completing all parts. But you are quite right that I did learn and found the conversations I did participate in (and that continue even now a year later) so important. I look forward with much anticipation the next iteration of the course to be spun up at VCU this fall.

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