MobiMOOC and chaotic connectivism

We are just about ready to start the 2012 edition of MobiMOOC, an open course on mobile learning. It is an impressive lineup of facilitators and the participants are joining en masse (and the discussions are already starting). Topics include mobile learning basics (how to get started and theory), global issues on mlearning (including ethical debates about the appropriateness of the technological interventions), mlearning frameworks, augmented reality, corporate mlearning, train the trainer, ICT4D (mine), and more. If you have ever been curious about how mobile technology is being used around the world, now is the time to see. The facilitators bring a wealth of experience and represent a wide geographical range of contexts.

The free, open, online MobiMOOC course starts on 8 September 2012. Not registered yet? Simply become a member of the MobiMOOC Google Group to become a participant.

MOOCs can be daunting, chaotic spaces for those who are experiencing them for the first time. That is to be expected and, frankly in my estimation, that is where they draw their power. Bear in mind that this is a connectivist MOOC (as opposed to the Edx, Coursera variety, which stress more content and less on the constructivist elements); connectivist MOOCs are about making connections, constant interaction, tinkering with your networks, evaluation, and perpetual reflection. To learn more about connectivism, read one of the articles that kicked it all off. That is a simplistic distinction between connectivist MOOCs and their institutional counterparts and not entirely accurate (as many have collaborative elements), but for the purposes of this post it should suffice.

Participant Expectations and Preparation

For those of you who might be interested but are (understandably) trepidatious, consider this an opportunity to mix it up with some passionate people, beginners and experts alike, in this burgeoning and exciting field. I feel it is one of the most exciting, relevant discussions for our collective future that one can find. This is, in my opinion, what the intersection of learning and technology will look like in the future. Learning, while not seamless, but with less seams. Learning in situ. Learning with existing technology, ubiquitous technology. Riveting stuff.

This won’t ‘feel’ like a course you have experienced to date. It will be difficult to latch onto something tangible at times, especially considering the volume of discussion. Being selective in what interests you and responding to that is a good rule of thumb for interacting. Consider the topics ahead of time and choose a few that interest you. Consider what level of commitment you can make to participation and adjust as needed. You can still get something from the course without ever actively participating (although some of my colleagues might disagree), but you get so much more from active participation.

If you are not an expert, there is no reason to pretend like you are. Ask questions and watch how generous the group can be. If you are just coming to the field and have initial observations, share them. You would be shocked at how quickly the veterans/experts in the field often run right by those initial observations without reevaluating their relevancy. Times changes, assumptions change, observations change. Your participation matters to experts and beginners alike. I am only as strong as my network and you are all part of that.

So if when you check the discussion it is too overwhelming, pick and choose what you want and respond. Find kindred spirits, volunteer for the projects that will develop as those are the most tangible application of what you just learned. Reflect on your experiences in a blog or journal (early and often).

Remember this. Learning is a temporary degradation of one’s efficiency for the sake of increased skill/knowledge. It is temporary, but daunting. You need confidence to wade into something where you know you might not be any good (initially). For all of you joining or considering joining, learning is an act of courage and I salute you. Come and join us and see the support that helps you through. This is not the kind of crowd that will discourage courage like that, trust me.

Sharing is not only caring, it is learning

We all draw our power from this network, the one that will evolve with amazing elasticity and urgency in this course. Some of you will continue your collaboration well beyond this course (I am in my second year with MobiMOOC and I consider many of these people friends, let alone colleagues). Be open to the idea of not just mobile learning, but people. Everyone has something they can share that will provide value to you. That is not some trite cliche. It is the truth of the connectivist model. I learned more in MobiMOOC 2011 in a condensed period of time than I can express here. So share. Reflect and share. You will grow in knowledge and confidence as the network evolves.

I like to write; it is how I think through ideas (life in general, really). I recommend blogging if you feel up to it. And if you want to keep with the spirit of mobile technology, consider mobile blogging. If you don’t have a smartphone, remember that SMS blogging is perfectly adequate and has just as much impact. The tools are great, they are generally free, and they are immediate in situ reflection. Also remember that reflection is not exclusive to text. Images, videos, and audio construct reflections with great impact. We welcome them all. Explore, develop, reflect. And remember that the biggest barrier to participation is not always technology, but courage. Rely on us to help you through, but please do join.

Share with the group (#mobimooc on Twitter or via the discussion boards). Join us on your social networks; I am happy to meet and connect with new colleagues whenever I can. Here are mine. I welcome you all there. So let’s get started. It is a bold new world of learning out there.

By Michael Gallagher

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

2 thoughts on “MobiMOOC 2012: participant expectations and (open) learning as an act of courage”
  1. Thanks for this fine introduction to MOOCs in general and to MobiMOOC in particular. I particularly appreciate your fine distinction between connectivist MOOCs and the other variety.

    1. Glad to hear you found it useful, Keith! I think we need some more investigation into the differences between x and cMOOCs as neither form has taken their final shape. They are going to be evolving a lot in the coming timeframe. Thanks for the comment!

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