Definitory Power on MOOCs
Mar 09, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Matthias Melcher comments on the watering-down of the term MOOC. My observation is that the theft of any concept by commercial interests is inevitable, because this is what they do; they did it to punk, they did it to edupunk, and they'll do it to MOOCs and whatever else we come up with.

This is more interesting thinking: "I would be more interested in new methods of emphasizing the network connections of varying strengths between the concepts, instead of hierarchically organized pigeon-holes, or snap-in jig-saw puzzle pieces." I used to do this, creating gigantic concept maps, but the problem is that you're tied to the sign, word and symbol. The interesting connections are subsymbolic, beyond conceptual, but there's no easy way to bring that out.

Bryan Alexander meanwhile relates a discussion on MOOCs, but I fear this is a symptom of the media mis-messaging. He writes, "Is there a culture/discipline split in MOOC curricula? So far STEM fields seem to be the first coming on line. Not much in the way of law or humanities so far." This is true if you consider the domain of MOOCs to be Stanford-MIT, but in the real world of MOOCs we see titles like 'Connective Knowledge' (humanities), 'Critical Literacies' (humanities) and 'Digital Storytelling' (humanities) and Creativity and Multicultural Communication (humanities).

On a related note, George Siemens writes, "If I was Alec Couros, Will Richardson, Vicki Davis, Steve Hargadon, or any of the thousands of K-12 educators that have been pushing for networked/connected learning for years (in Will’s case, more than a decade), I’d be fairly irritated to have been written out of the vision of connected learning that is now emerging from DML. I don’t see any mention of the folks that have been pushing for open, social, networked, and collaborative pedagogical models on the site’s connected learning principles... Alec Couros, as an example, did his dissertation on the topic.... Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis have just published a book on the topic. [But] basically, a new initiative seems to arise out of nowhere with this brilliant vision of connected learning." Like I said; this is what they do. Total: 83
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Re: Definitory Power on MOOCs

Connectivism was a wide-open, experimental, fun place for whoever was sincerely committed to the philosophy of open learning dominated by cutting edge teachers at all levels.

While connectivism brings us closer together, it also makes us increasingly aware of our differences both culturally and academically.

The business/technology group look at it from a different perspective. Most academic institutions have increasingly given a dominant place to the fields of business, economics, technology. If you are about marketing, branding, economic dominance, it is acceptable to edge out the competition and enhance your brand position. Whoever can create the most economic spinoffs is the brilliant one - not the original mind or greatest theorist - if the game is Horatio Alger type success.

Then there are the academic traditionalists. The grey hairs began their post-secondary education with a year of survey courses that gave an overview of the roots of Western thought through the centuries. In both the arts and the sciences, there was a name and a time period forever associated with each breakthrough in thinking. Life was receiving a baton from the past, hopefully running our section of the race well and then passing that baton to the next generation. Failure to acknowledge one's sources was plagiarism - grounds for being banished from the academic community. Success is a totally different thing if life is viewed as a gigantic jigsaw puzzle and maybe after many people have created a huge pile of pieces that don't fit, by some miracle a piece that gives us a clearer vision of the whole may be added during our lifetime.



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