There’s a MOOC for That (Maybe)!

I really enjoyed the NMC video on digital literacy (University of Mary Washington panel participant mentioned digital fluency). The video led me to ask–where can faculty members go for professional development on digital literacy (or digital fluency)?

Maybe there is a MOOC for that—one that can discuss digital literacy in the context of our current society but also the meta-level understanding of how digital literacy works in the MOOC itself…a Meta-MOOC (sounds a little like a superhero)!

Nelson & Imagination


When I was a little girl, nap time was a crucial part of the early school experience. Little children, after all, needed their rest. On one occasion, however, a friend and I were right in the middle of building an amusement park with blocks. We moved our small hands as delicately, but swiftly, as possible, knowing that nap time was soon approaching.

And there it was. Cots lay stretched out before us; it was nap time. But something marvelous happened. Our teacher allowed us to forgo nap time and finish our amusement park. I can’t remember if we asked to work through nap time or if she offered us the option—either way, we continued to build. I often recall this occurrence when I’m considering a visit to the craft store (remember when you were a nap-time architect—of course you can build a miniature cottage out of clothes pins!*). I recalled the story today because of Nelson’s points about imagination. Even when people do not encourage imagination in children, they usually accept it. Can we say the same thing about imagination in adults?

When I consider computers in higher education classrooms, I wonder what would happen if we asked students to imagine what computers could do? If a student brought a tablet or laptop to class, what would happen if the professor inquired, “What do you wish this device could do for you/find for you in this [English, Education, History, Science, you name it] class?” Are our educational structures ready for the messiness, disruption, and loveliness that can come with imagining a new way to educate or imagining a new way to conduct research? The oceanic mind and imagination are inextricably connected.

*In case you are wondering, I decided to build the miniature cottage out of clothes pins. It leans a little…but so does the Tower of Pisa.

A Few Thoughts on Nelson

Point 1

The text mentions the annoyance of fake interactions, like a toll booth with a “Thank You” sign in lights (Nelson). However, I rather like the automatic “thank you” programmed into various machines—or the automated voice that tells you to have a nice day on a phone call. There are some people who could learn a little something about politeness from those machines!


Point 2

I understand Nelson’s notion of removing course sequences and his “modest proposal” for greater course flexibility. For example, when people began taking MOOCs, particularly xMOOCs, the low completion rates raised the ire of many. However, there were others who highlighted that taking xMOOCs (or MOOCs in general, for that matter) could be viewed as an exploratory act—so participants could just “stop by” courses to investigate and learn more about what interested them.

Is the Internet Your Griot?

“His excursions may be more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important.” —from “As We May Think” by Vannevar Bush

The time is upon us! We can offload innumerable amounts of data onto our technological devices. Don’t bother remembering that phone number; just pull it up on your cell phone. Or…wait for it…just give your cell phone a voice command and tell it whom to call—and bask in the fanciness of your own pants. As I read Vannevar Bush’s work, however, I began to wonder—what are the “manifold things” we do not “need to have immediately at hand”? What happens when technology fails? Can we trust our technology? Can we trust ourselves to record those manifold things accurately? And as we each toss our contributions into/onto the intricate web, will our quest to find the right questions to access that information turn into a veritable search for the Holy Grail?

I keep thinking about context. Technology does permit us to forget and find again, but sometimes what we find is divorced from its context. We know that the web can hold the stories, and even hold the contextual aspects of the stories, but knowing the right questions to ask to access that information may be a bit tricky for some.

Last weekend, I attended an amazing event called “Building a Vocal Community,” a workshop led by Dr. Ysaye M. Barnwell (some may know her from the group Sweet Honey in the Rock). During the workshop, she discussed the importance of griots—the historians, story keepers, story tellers, and so much more.

As I consider the “manifold things” we have given to the internet, and the possibility to feel both immensely connected and terrifyingly disconnected on the web, I also consider how we find and contextualize the things that “prove important” (to quote Vannevar Bush). It leads me to ask quite simply, and with no intent to disempower the position, is the internet your griot?