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A Constructivist MOOC's Impact on our Site

Written by Jenn Cook
February 15, 2014

I began participating in CLMOOC in June 2013, and soon, my Summer Institute co-facilitator joined me there. By the time we were ready to begin our Summer Institute in July, we were so engaged in CLMOOC that we decided to incorporate the principles and the assignments into our Institute. There were nine teacher participants and two facilitators, and we took parts of the CLMOOC and mixed them together in a way that made sense to us for a three week Institute: Digital Intros and Tools, Hacking and Repurposing, Systems Thinking and Connected Learning. 

We were happy to discover that quite a few of the teachers in the SI had savvy tech skills: a library media specialist, in particular, and a handful of younger teachers who were all over cool apps and embed codes and ways to edit video and link Vines. Everyone got on board the digital express right away, even though a couple teachers were vocal about not having any prior knowledge to put to use. The HIVE effect took hold every day during the SI, though, a busy buzzing table, alive with power cords and screeching delight because “It worked!” and “Come look at this!” We helped each other; it was a digital workshop (see photo above). We were witness to the fact that the digital world brings a whole new kind of wonder into the classroom. It also brings all the secret tech experts out of the woodwork! Who knew?

CLMOOC also brought back to our site the idea of teachers as artists, as creators, designers, players, laughers, makers, builders, thinkers, problemsolvers. It reminded us, like MIT’s famous Lifelong Kindergarten, to see our teaching “in the spirit of the blocks and fingerpaint of kindergarten.” http://media.mit.edu/ There is just simply not enough play in schooling and formal education, so we seek alternative spaces where learning can interface with laughter and silliness. 

Since our Summer 2013 CLMOOC experience, we have had several events at our site that have featured the principles of connected learning. We held our Summer Institute Renewal Meeting, for the first time in over two decades, somewhere besides our college campus. In a city rich with art outlets, we decided to visit the “Locally Made” exhibit at the RISD Museum in Noveber for a full-day fieldtrip excursion. In addition, Digital Composition and Hacking/Tinkering were proposal categories on our Call for Proposals for our annual Spring Conference in March, which this year features 4 digital sessions and 3 sessions on creative hacking/repurposing in the classroom. Finally, we are in the beginning stages of planning a partnership with our local National Parks Service Memorial here in Providence, the Roger Williams Memorial, which feels like an extension of CLMOOC simply because it is rooted in and local community and an urban green space and it is connected to local and national history and story. Additionally, we look forward to our 2014 Summer Institute and more MOOCs from the NWP. I feel a shift at our site. We are looking outward more; CLMOOC helped us reimagine, redefine our community and our resources. It has also infused our site’s culture with something new, exciting, limitless, and malleable. 

Karen Fasimpaur, in her excellent post about CLMOOC, http://digitalis.nwp.org/MOOCs, describes it as this: “Wanting to emphasize this effort as a connectivist peer learning experience, they called it a massive open online “collaboration” rather than a “course. Designed for educators, #clmooc was focused on the ideas of creating things and the do-it-yourself ethos of the Maker Movement. It was open to anyone interested in making and creativity and learning, and the entire experience was grounded in Connected Learning principles.” Connect. Collaborate. Create. Make. I can feel how these principles and practices introduced to us by last year’s #clmooc have transformed our site. We were waiting for the right kind of inspiration to come along, and I think this is it.