EdcMooc: #1 “Are you my people?”

11-07-are-you-my-motherA favorite childhood story, Are you my Mother? by PD Eastman tells the story about a baby bird whose mother leaves her to secure food.  The impatient baby bird embarks upon a journey to discover who her mother might be and where she would find her.  Like the baby bird in search of a “mother,” I have spent the last several years taking graduate courses, exploring different universities with  the desire to discover “My Mother.”

Unlike the mother bird is this story, my professors at Virginia Commonwealth University have not left me in search of food but have prepared a platter of delectable entrees  from the social media and adult literacy menu.  My mother, in the form of a structured learning environment, has prepared me to venture into the world secure in knowing that I can always return when lost, when in need of redirection, or to share my new adventures. I feel confident to say that I have a mother. I am now in search of my “people.”

The most significant by-product of higher education and learning is the knowledge derived from study and interaction with media tools and the ideas proposed by forerunners in the field of networking and adult learning.   Entree choices from the “social media” menu energize me as a learner.  Wednesdays night class sessions provided something new to taste and savor.  Dining adventures, while encrusted with frustration, confusion, and a wide learning curve were congenial.  My frustration rarely involved theories and tools, but rather where to continue the conversation in real-time with the real  people in my life.  Friends often ask about my studies.  The “deer in the headlights” look surfaces when the discussion involves digital media. The adage,” Tweet to connect, blog to reflect,”  asks me to consider the new ways in which I interact using the network. No longer am I tied to Facebook and the social conversations among friends. Social media is a  ripe place to hunt and feed. (My apologies to Stephanie Myer!)

During the summer of 2012, I learned about MOOCs, Massive Open-Online Courses, as a result of the University of Virginia’s controversial near dismissal of their president.  Discussion about free courses through an organization called, Coursera, became a topic of  discussion in periodicals such as The Chronicle of Higher Education.  DIY education is the basis for my philosophy, “The broader the base, the higher the tower.”   E-Learning and Digital Cultures, a Coursera program offered through the University of Edinburgh, complements the Social Media course I completed in the fall of 2012.   Teaching and Learning with Technology should certainly involve exploration and study that engages the skills learned I developed.  I was game for anything, particularly when coupled with digital literacy and global connections. Friends and acquaintances continue to express a polite level of interest in my graduate studies. Conversations quickly move to safer, more tangible topics, when puzzled expressions surface.

Two months before the beginning of the course, the organizers conveyed a hearty welcome along with ideas about media tools that we should consider for January 28th.  Connections began through Twitter and moved quickly to a Facebook Group. No formal assignments were given, yet members began to create tasks to do.   (Remember when the children who created homework were those who “played school” in their free-time?)    What has unraveled over the last two months certainly doesn’t resemble anything that I have read about MOOCs.  Where are those people who are looking for a “free” Ivy League education?  Where are the slackers who have less than a distinguished grade point average?  Where are those students who were “unable” to make it in a real collegial setting?

An editorial in the December 4, 2012 edition of The Guardian  reflects similar ideas across the pond. I responded by referencing my engagement with the members of my MOOC. The level of commitment to educational pursuits, the wish to learn, and the willingness to share knowledge is exciting!  Our collegial group transitioned from the Facebook page, to small, quad blogging groups.  Facebook is a form of media that I did not include in my Personal Learning Network presentation in at the end of  the semester. I have always considered it a private place.  What I did recognize and share with my graduate class, was the current transition of my tribe  from published writers and academics to the members of my MOOC. After several weeks of chatting and sharing, I have done what I considered the unspeakable. I have “become friends” with relative strangers on Facebook!

Howard-wolowitz-the-big-bang-theory-16865313-930-1246In the late 1980’s, the public library in my community provided a public service forum about a new idea that would soon be available to the average person, the Internet! I remember calling my father to convey my excitement over the idea of being able to use a machine to send messages to people.  I purchased my first MacIntosh Apple Computer in 1994 and entered the world of AOL Chat Rooms.  With these memories still fresh in my mind, I wondered how this new community of practice would function?  I recall how every chat room seemed to contain a Howard Walowitz, character who cornered me with a list of recycled one-liners.  I have found the members of this group to be professional, well-educated and thirsty for knowledge.  Nearly everyone is beyond busy, yet takes the time to look at a video clip, explore a social media program or read and reflect on an article. this morning I sent a message to a member of my quad blog wishing her a happy first day of the second semester!

Thirty years ago, my friends and family members would be alarmed to discover that I spend hours in front of a machine, talking with people whom I had never met.  We share ideas and a laugh.  We recommend movies to watch and programs to try. The idea of synchronized YouTube, watching videos simultaneously with people we have never met  remind me of the relationships that Russell Crowe’s character created  in “A Beautiful Mind’.”

When I refer to the MOOC that I will take, the new friends that I have made and the relationships that I have formed, I realized that I julia-child-blog-0121am like the little bird in the story. The bird,  who upon meeting the power shovel shouts, “I want my mother.”  I want to shout, “I want my people!”  My people are not the individuals in my life who are unlike me, with dissimilar interests, reading lists and social media apps.   While I recognize that many of the members of this MOOC will move to different horizons when the course concludes, I am hopeful that a few will linger and remain as “my people.” I am reminded of the relationship between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto.  The two women engaged in a cross Atlantic pen-pal relationship for years before they actually met.  Imagine how “servant-less” Americans would have mastered the art of French cooking if not for the correspondence  between these two women? Two key ideas that encapsulate their relationship, be generous when you can help someone, don’t hold back and collaborate with people who share your passion are important ideas when networking. Their writing, while confined to the limitations of the postal service, created a new way of thinking about cuisine for generations of cooks.  Who knows what the relationship between me and the networks of individuals who reside in my computer will produce?  Perhaps not a new cookbook, but certainly novel ways to connect with learners around the globe.  I’m happy to say that I think that  “I’ve found my people!”


27 thoughts on “EdcMooc: #1 “Are you my people?”

    1. Thank you, Emily! Once I finally decided what I wanted to say, it came together. I hate the idea that I edit my work in my head before I write my blog. Elizabeth says that she has heard every line in the book from her students who are procrastinating. Likewise, she says that she’s used them all, too! I enjoyed the David Bowie music selection that you included in one of your posts. Isn’t if funny how we recall books, music and film when writing and making connections?


  1. Laurie…neat post, and I am enjoying the journey (and the search) as well. The Facebook group has been fascinating, not only because of the ideas shared, but because of who is in it, who is not, and the passions displayed by those engaged. You have been a leader in the FB group and have modeled good practices…more people might be searching for you than the other way around!


    1. From one “geek” to another, thank you! You and your CTE colleagues are a marvelous resource to me as both a learner and future teacher. I started Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody” this week. I thought that it would be interesting to consider his ideas about how people organize themselves without the benefit of belonging to an actual organization and the way in which the group is organizing themselves! I have watch many of the FB threads about everyone who is and isn’t there and am collecting my thoughts. Stay tuned…


  2. What a lovely piece Laurie.
    I was thinking today about some of these concepts: in particular, our connection with strangers, or frangers as Ary has referred to them, us, in her latest post. I was remembering my own pen pals, and the intimate connections we developed over time. Our parents never thought that was odd, and in fact we were very much encouraged to have pen pals in different places, from different cultures. As teenage girls, we could offload all our concerns to our poor unsuspecting penpals! And they would do it in return. I met one eventually, lovely girl. There is just a much higher degree of immediacy in the online situation.
    On your comment about sitting in front of the machine, I have traded TV for PC. I no longer watch any television (apart from the Matrix of course) and I figure I waste about as much time on these little screens as others do on their little, if not slightly different screens!


    1. Ok, true confession time, Angela. I watched the Matrix last week with my husband. He kept asking me if I understood what was happening. Of course, I had to confess that I was confused. We have the second copy as well as Inception. I’ll work to watch both of them before the 28th. Stay tuned…they’ll probably be part of my “Another brick in the wall” blog. Oh, yeah, rock on Pink Floyd! I am still friends with a pen pal who has now transitioned to FB. Thank goodness for Google translator. I translated a long, diatribe of a Christmas letter from English into French. She never complained! One individual from our FG group speaks Arabic. I used the GT to respond, but haven’t heard anything from him as of yet. We’ll see…


  3. Oh Yes! We all are finding “our people”, group within groups, conversations between conversations. Isn’t it very exciting to find someone who has the same questions as you do or better yet, has valuable answers to your questions. Connectivism is the best thing about MOOCs.


    1. Connectivism is so new that I needed to add it to my word processing dictionary! It’s also not included, YET, in my theories of adult learning. Next to social constructivism it’s probably the most useful to me as a networked individual. I look forward to getting to know you both through the MOOC as well as your blog!


    1. Greetings from across the pond, Sandra. I noticed that you joined mid December and look forward to meeting you both through your blog and through our continued on-line conversations!


  4. Ha, Laurie, I loved that book as a child! My mother used to read it to me all the time, so it’s a really relevant jumping off point for me!
    Nice pop culture references too! 😉
    As always, I admire your blogging and writing skills and your boundless energy when exploring this MOOC we’re both a part of. I expect to learn as much from you (and our other peers) than I do from the instruction.


    1. I know that you love pop culture, Mel! Howard is a perfect example of one of the slimy characters that I met in an AOL Chat room! I am pleased that there are both men and women that I communicate with frequently. I love the interaction and the connections that I am making! I have lots of energy right now. Let’s see what happens when I start a SECOND MOOC next week. The new class is from the University of Saskatchewan and one of the members of my PLN “tribe” is a faculty moderator. How cool is that?


  5. Hi Laurie

    I really enjoyed reading your post and your reflections. I seemed to have joined the conversation late for the course. I am currently making my way through the list of blogs that people have and your post is one of the most inspiring and unique. I look forward to hear more from you in the next weeks. Myself, I’m overwhelmed with all the spaces and conversations going on at the moment in the course.
    I completely understand your search for “your people”. I think I may have also read that book as a child. I’m a serial expat (I’ve lived in 4 countries in the last 4 years) and trying to find a sense of belonging can be quite challenging. Also I spend a lot of time looking at my little computer screen because that’s where all my people are!


    1. Hi, Kimmie
      There are many, many people who feel as though they are out of sorts in terms of the course. You need to tell me which course, though, that you are taking as some of my “nodes” are beginning to spill over into several courses. I do wonder how much of this “work” and stress is self-inflicted by over zealous participants. When did you register for your class? I registered for the #edcmooc in June/July. I did not register for the #etmooc until December, I think. I would love to have more time to chat and read more blogs, but need to make sure that I don’t develop square eyes these days.

      I’ll look for you on your blog!


      1. Hi Laurie

        I only discovered Coursera in November last year and I tried one (if not the only) course running December on “How to Reason and Argue”, although I left that course last week as it wasn’t giving me what I was hoping. When I discovered Coursera I think I went a bit crazy and I signed up for several courses that all start on Jan 28 – there were just too many interesting ones. I discovered your blog through the #edumooc course. The explosion of spaces and over zealous participants was very surprising to me as I didn’t see the same scale of it in my previous mooc. Now that you tell me that people have been registering since the middle of last year, I understand how some eager beavers have been getting a bit stir crazy to start. For the course I have started a seperate blog http://learningculturesonline.wordpress.com/ as traditionally I have been terribly inconsistent in blogging.

        It’s so nice to meet you and I look forward to travelling this course together with you.




        1. I wonder, Kimmie, what it is about this MOOC that’s making people so crazy with the desire to do something? The folks in the #etmooc that I am taking are also popping off left and right. I am wondering if a few are stir crazy with the need to show what they’re learning? A few “peeps” from Australia will soon cut way back on their enthusiasm when the next semester begins. Summer break is almost over.

          There are quite of few interesting MOOCs that have surfaced, many of which are more inclusive of the general population. A good share of the ones that I saw last summer and fall were for topics that were quite technical and well beyond my reach or interest. The #etmooc is a connectivist model that is less content driven, where as several are very specific. I hope that I’ll be able to catch up, we’ll see!


          1. You raise a very good question. I have a personal interest in motivational and cultural psychology and this phenomena is quite facinating. I guess in a general class population there are usually a small percentage of people with a need/interest/desire/profile that find validation/appreciation/attention from being the super prepared people with the answers before the question is asked. That was very much me in high school LOL. Based on that theory when you scale it up to the mass that extends to the size of small cities that also drives up the absolute number of people and consequently the size of the preparatory content being generated. It’s a theory.

            As for the “peeps” down under they may just in fact be heat crazy and have spent too many days inside in the aircon 🙂 I don’t think it’s a matter of catching up since we actually haven’t started yet. We’ll make it!



  6. I have the answer Laurie and Kimmie… it’s teachers. Teachers are all nuts, superconchies! They can’t help teaching and since there are mostly educators in edcmooc, they have got carried away with the learning journey. And as for the down unders, we are all crazy, aircon or not!

    I have done another MOOC and it was nothing like edcmooc. But that opportunity to do the precourse thing has been priceless and I’m grateful for the experience. But it is very separate to the course we signed up for, in which we are not behind at all.


    1. One of the best parts of this entire MOOC experience is the opportunity to develop a collection of global “peeps!” Guess I can add “superconchies” to my new dictionary, or did that come from Austin Powers, too? LOL Everyone that I have met through this journey is interesting, excited about learning, willing to be helpful and energized about this new frontier. It will be interesting to see if our expectations of this course have anything to do with the actual program that the admins have created? I look forward to the adventure. My job this week is to find the Cliff Notes for the movies that we’ll watch. Goodness knows, I am way out of my element. This factor alone will encourage me to connect just to survive!


      1. Hahaha I was thinking that it had something to do with there being a lot of teachers and educators yesterday, but I wasn’t sure of the right way to express that. I am not actually a teacher (although for a long time I want to become one) but I love training and development – especially leadership development. I love the term superconchies. Definately going to try and add that to my dictionary too!
        Based on your comments though, I think I missed something because I’m not aware of any movies that we are watching or what precourse offering there has been. I thought the precourse stuff was just about being registered in the different virtual spaces :s

        As for the down unders – I’m one of those currently off the island and freezing my butt off in the European winter. I’d gladly take the heat over the cold any day!!


        1. Kimmie, you haven’t missed anything from Edinburgh. The overzealous group has talked amongst themselves about films that they “thought” might be incorporated. If you look at the course description, it mentions Matrix, but doesn’t give a list of films to watch. No worries. We may be way, way off in our thinking. Several of us participated in a Google Hangout last week and did a meet and greet. I assume that we’ll try to reconnect after the 28th. You are welcome to join us, if you are free. You will need to let us know where you’re located so that we can factor in your time zone. If you are on Google+, that would be great way to continue the discussion!

          Hope to find you there, Laurie


  7. In the coursera intro, it does mention the Matrix, but I think maybe it’s only the red or blue pill scene we watch. There is a list in the MSC course, I think that is what some of us have been watching. But I think once you start thinking about utopias, reality and what makes us human, it is hard to watch the Matrix and stop there. So I’ve watched a couple of others. I hadn’t heard superconchie. We use the word conchie, for someone who is conscientious, but we are way more than that!


    1. The experience has been rather utopian, don’t you think, Angela? I almost used an @, # or + symbol before I wrote your name, which is pretty evident that I am digitally engaged, yes? It’s certainly interesting to read such a variety of blogs and responses from the members of all of the different MOOCs that we are taking. The members of our “Fraingers” group certainly approach topics with a lens that reflects culture, gender and professional leanings.


  8. It has been very utopian, but I am just about to attack my laundry; my family life has become somewhat dystopian! I think what links the fraingers is the “just do it” attitude, the desire to learn and help others learn and the sense of adventure in self driven learning. There are more qualities we share too, but they are important in our connection.


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