I can't start any reasonable conversation about media-enhanced learning without beginning with a careful look at self-directed learning. Yes, we are all students in life's classroom, but in more focused and deliberate sense, we can actually be whatever we choose, just by self-directed, self-taught, self-disciplined learning. Besides a wild world of high quality, free education, our own desire and drive to evolve and satiate a hunger for knowledge and accomplishment means there is no ceiling on where we can go with learning. Amazing, really.
I've been reading about MOOCs (massive open online courses) in the context of technology and what criteria universities are using (reputation? expertise? jazzy gimmicks? technology?) to garner attention, since the financial playing field is even when things are free, and I am excited to craft a post on this soon. But in the meantime, I want to show you this TedTalk compilation on MOOCs; more specifically, I want to point out the first talk of the seven.
Shimon Schocken says and does some pretty fantastic things in his 16-minute talk on "The self-organizing computer course," something he and a colleague devised out of pure curiosity. Here's what I love about Shimon Schocken:
1. He has us at, "He never went back to school ..." He starts his talk about complex computer technology (and by "technology" I don't mean Facebook and word processors; his students actually build the darn things) with a story about his grandfather--a school drop-out-turned-department-store-mogul, and with this simple tale, he has us. Truth be told I couldn't tell you any significant details about his course, but I can tell you a great deal about the value of self-directed learning, and the roles curiosity, tenacity, and maybe even a little lunacy play in one's success as a decent human being, and that is really the point.
2. He uses plain plain language, except when he doesn't. By gently weaving his historical tale in with details about the technology and its ability to empower people of all ages and skill levels, he commits himself to a certain consistency of plain language because if he deviates too much, he will leave us behind. So he keeps us close the whole time, throwing out just a bit of vernacular here and there (supplemented with helpful PowerPoint slides and even an iPad) just when he knows we can handle it. Brilliant.
3. He scorns grading for the fun it takes out of failure. Despite being a professor with no shortage of active grey matter, he stands up for individuality and creativity by denouncing the act of grading (our obsession with data) because it takes all the fun out of failure. "Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm," he says, quoting Churchill, and the combination of his story, accomplishment, and open-mindedness about self-directed learning seals the deal.
Anyway, see for yourself. I guarantee, even if you aren't into his course, you will come away with something.