MOOCs everywhere, making me happy

I’m wearing my MOOC glasses now and see MOOCs everywhere I look. I picked up a Smithsonian (December 2012) and as I was reading through, I found “Class Uprising,” an article on Sebastian Thrun and the MOOC he taught with Peter Norvig at Stanford.

I wandered through TED talks on line and found a talked by Peter Norvig on the same topic–and Daphne Koller talking about Coursera (the company hosting the MOOCs I’m enrolled in this spring). I searched youtube for videos on MOOCs (or interviews)–I mention a few on a previous post.

When I got all sorts of eager about learning more, it was easy to gather all kinds of information, but that was proactive stuff. The Smithsonian article was just me subscribing to that magazine and landing on that article. I appreciate that sort of serendipity when it comes to me. This often happens when I embark upon a new quest. I used to quest in libraries where I waited for my parents to pick me up after school. I would decide to read everything I could get from a library by a certain author or on a certain topic. As soon as I decided on my topic–Russia, the occult, dogs, the French Revolution, whatever–I began to stumble onto connections to the topic everywhere: in conversation, magazines, school, television shows, films. Like rose-colored glasses which allow one to see the world as rose-colored, I have worn various lenses that narrow my vision. And it always works that way.

I loved to learn and do research. Always. From as long ago as I can remember–perhaps from five years old? I used to have a picture of me in a library at about five (might have been four); in the picture, I’m wearing a frilly little girl dress; I’m hunched over a few books with loads more piled high around me; my feet don’t touch the ground–it’s clearly a big person’s chair; my face is to the side of the camera, so there’s no sense of my happiness, but I’m pretty sure it was a happy day. I visited libraries every week of my life, nearly, until I worked and could buy books. Now. Holy cow. I’ve filled up on MacBook Pro with books and working on another. (I’ve used the equivalent of a couple of average-sized hard drives with all the books available to download and read these days. Heaven.)

I remember studying like crazy at the various libraries I visited. I never did homework or research for school. It was always for me. In fact, I was sort of lousy at “school.” I had average to low grades, never all As or Bs. Never. I was considered trouble by many teachers because I wrote all the time and read books that were not assigned (I also gazed out the windows a lot, day dreaming, and I talked incessantly disturbing all around me–or so I recall). I really really really hated school. But I liked to write and read. Eventually, the curriculum beat the love of writing out of me, but it never could touch my love of reading. (Thank goodness some instructors and peers took pity on me at the Writing Center at Boise State University, and they learned me how to write some. I said: some, I didn’t say good. It’s taken years to learn me how to write good, and then still I trip and fall, crash and burn, and say stoopid things and make typos, and generally, mess up a lot. BUT I did learn from those amazing folks, and it changed my life, even if I had to poke fun at my country bumpkin leanings at the same time.)

Now. I believe my world is about to change as I engage with/invest in/take trip through a MOOC, a course or way of learning that I think could just about be the prefect medium for me. I choose what I want to study when I want to study it (or when it’s offered–but still, there’s a lot of freedom). Everything I’m learning about MOOCs leads me to believe that it might be right for me as a professional professor. After half a lifetime of hating school, I eventually found I loved it. But it took me a long time to do that: 26 years, which includes 9 years for my bachelor’s degree; 3 years for my master’s; 14 years for my PhD. That’s a whole lot of being formally educated. When I learned, though, that I could learn what I wanted to in college, I didn’t hate education anymore and took forever to get out because I didn’t want to stop learning. I almost always worked while I was in school, but I wouldn’t have dreamed of stopping the learning process. Ever. Even while I was in the midst of my master’s degree, I took extended education classes–like a weekend trip to the So. California desert to gaze at the stars.

If there had been MOOCs when I was younger, I bet I might have stopped hating education sooner and embraced learning for the sake of learning earlier in my life. This sort of thing, available to anyone anywhere anytime, would have floated my boat, love at first sight, hand in glove, and so on.

The simple notion that MOOCs are free, and all about life-long learning, is beautiful to me. Anyone anywhere anytime, as long as they have some online access. Incredible. Everything that’s important to me can be found in that last little bit of prose, this short paragraph.

I’m already mad in love with the Open Movement, and have been for a couple of years, so this is just the next step. I was going steady with Open. Now, I think I’m about to get engaged.

Rock on, Serendipity. Rock on, Open. Rock on, MOOCs, Rock on, me.


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