You’ve got the wrong “C” – the MOOC post

I didn’t want to write about these things but the hype doesn’t seem to be subsiding, although slowly others are starting to criticise them. This, this and this are recent examples of such criticisms and I’m sure there are many more.


See the problem is that these things, are still just courses, plain old boring and irrelevant courses. The adage of 21st Century Learning (aside: don’t hassle me about using that term) isn’t “I want to learn something I guess I better find a course to enrol in,” rather “I want to learn something, who can I learn with?”


Think of your passions, think of the things you’re great at, I bet the mastery you have developed wasn’t learnt in a course. The people running these courses, I bet they didn’t learn what they’re teaching from a course (and if they did I bet the course sucks even more!) Do we really believe that while we don’t need courses to learn, others do? Does a course teach the necessary life-long learning skills that are required in a world that is constantly changing or does it make us even more dependent on those running the courses?


See the “C” they should have used is community.


The ability for self-directed learners to learn with others in learning communities – that’s where the innovation is. That’s where the new opportunities lie. That’s where the magic is. And that’s where our priorities and educators should lie.


And while we’re talking about innovation, massive might be massive when we’re talking about courses but it is certainly not massive compared to other online self-directed learning, Udacity’s numbers don’t compare with learning happening on Twitter and Facebook. And open? There is far more about openness than being free. Courses by the very nature of their closed curriculum aren’t open. These courses aren’t the kind of open that we need. These courses aren’t the kind of open that learners want. They are about control. They are about owning the learner. They are about owning the curriculum. They are about owning the assessment and about owning the accreditation. They are about control, simple control, and the exact opposite of open.


The sooner MOOCs go the way of learning objects, for that’s where their origins lie, the better. Learning objects were found to be hollow, and unable to deliver on the promises that were made about them. The sooner MOOCs follow suit, the better.

Plans and projects for 2013

If it is not too indulgent I thought I’d share my plans for 2013.


For those who don’t know this year marks a big change for ideasLAB. After four years of strong association with Victoria’s Department of Education and Early Childhood we are seeking to establish a more autonomous structure. At the moment we’re exploring our options, with moving to a not for profit structure being the most likely outcome  at this stage.


For me this meant resigning from the Department, after 11 years both as a teacher and with ideasLAB I finished in December. I’ve had a great time these last 11 years and have learnt a lot. I’ve updated the home page of my website to showcase some of the major projects I’ve been working on over the last year. It is still a work in progress but if you’re interested please check it out.


As we sort out the structure of the lab and our ongoing structure, I will undertaking additional personal work. I have a number of things already in the pipeline, some of which I have detailed below. Therefore, if you have a project that you’d like to work with me on please get in touch, big or small.


So what do I hope to achieve this year? Here a few of the more interesting projects that are in the works.


The End of Offline Learning: How the Modern Learner is Leading the Learning Revolution

The book I’ve been promising for the last year is still not finished. It is sort of close. I’m really happy with both the content and the flow, I just need to finish it. Hopefully soon I’ll be making an appeal for beta readers. When it is done it will be self-published and available as an ebook or print on demand. Stay tuned.


ideasLAB – The Modern Learner Project

This year ideasLAB is looking for schools to participate in our Modern Learner Project. Ideally these schools would have a strong history in using modern technology and have a one to one program in place.

The project has three streams:
1. Social Learning
2. Inquiry-Based / Project-Based Learning.
3. Self-Directed Learning

For each stream we’re looking to run four projects, resulting in twelve projects across the year. We’ll have more information out soon but in the meantime there is more information on my projects page.


Browser-based ARG

I’ve had an idea for a browser based ARG for a couple of years now. Maybe with a bit more time this year will be the year? Most of the game mechanics are fleshed out and I think they’re pretty solid, the story needs a bit of work however. If you want to collaborate with me on this please get in touch.



Years ago I created a Flickr clone when I was at Concord. By the end of the project over  100,000 photos had been uploaded to it. I’d love to get this project to the release stage so schools could have their own private Flickr or Instagram. Maybe this is the year?


Collective Writing

Student blogging is so individual and teacher directed, I’m sure we can do much better. I believe the issue is the technology, I’d like to do something about this. Maybe the answer is close to what we did at Concord? Or maybe it is closer to branch or medium?



Lack of Knowledge

Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes sings in their song Lack of Knowledge

“I’m not doing something I’m supposed to do
I’m doing something I’m not supposed to
I don’t know about that
I don’t know about that
I don’t know nothing bout nothing like that
Destroyed my people are
Destroyed my people are
Destroyed for lack of knowledge”


I was reminded of this song when I read the article Early swimmers found to glide ahead at school this morning.It’s not the article or the research that I find particularly disappointing but the idea that there is “something out there”, cue the x-files soundtrack, that parents and teachers don’t know that will give our students “physical, emotional, social and intellectual benefits.” This type of research and article, along with the latest educational trend or application, wants us to believe that there are secrets out there, that we don’t know about, secrets waiting to be discovered. Secrets that we need to know. Secrets that by not knowing are doing damage to our children and students. As the Violent Femmes sing, we will be destroyed by our lack of knowledge.


Secrets like the one in this report:

“Children who participate in early-years swimming appear to be achieving many milestones earlier than the normal population”


“Many of the skills that the early-years children are scoring well on have value in schooling and other areas of learning so they are likely to be better prepared for the transition to school”


So what are we, parents and teachers, to do?


Well Gordon suggests we need to:

“Read read read read read read read everything you can read and
Learn learn learn learn learn learn learn everything you can learn”


But hang on a minute!


What do we know about physical, emotional social and intellectual development?


Well we know that people learn through quality learning experiences that confirm or contrast prior understanding. And by quality we mean a broad range of suitable, different experiences where the learner has support in interpreting, reflecting and making meaning as a result of the experience.


So let’s examine “counting to 10,” one of the areas in which swimming lessons help children to develop earlier than their peers.


During swimming lessons the students are exposed to experiences with counting, socialisation and physical activity. They are supported by the teacher which helps them make sense of their experiences. This is how we learn, so I don’t have any reason not to agree with findings that swimming lessons benefit children in these areas. To us (parents and teachers) this is obvious. If the swimming teacher incorporates counting to 10 during games and activities in the lessons then this would also be beneficial. It is a supported activity, and this is is the kicker, it is different from other counting activities that the students usually experience. It adds to the breadth of the learner’s experiences, but it isn’t the only or even “the best” learning experience that students can have or need.


It is obvious that swimming lessons alone are not enough, that they couldn’t possibly pass the test of being diverse enough. Students who only  (not that this would be possible) had physical, emotional, social and intellectual learning experiences through swimming lessons would be far behind their peers. This is also obvious.


The report should have said, “We know that swimming lessons ticks many of the boxes of what constitutes good learning. For those who can afford them, there is no reason not to do them. Of course, another reason is that swimming is great fun and  you’re much less likely to drown if you are able to swim.”


There is no magic bullet. There is no secret. There is nothing that we as parents and teachers don’t know that hinders the learning experiences of our children and students. When we implement new strategies, programs and technologies it needs to based around what we already know, rather from some secret new finding. We need to call “rubbish” to everyone and anyone  who comes bearing the latest educational discovery.


As a friend of mine often says, “we need to stop over thinking it.


I think we should let Gordon Gano finish this piece:

“I wonder if I’m happy
Wonder if I’m mad
I wonder why the whole wide world is so wonderfully sad
I don’t know bout that but I can tell you this
That when I drink a lot of beer y’know I gotta piss…”



Footnote: It would be remiss for me not to point out the caveat in the report:

“We cannot conclusively claim that swimming is responsible for the differences we have identified in this study. Simply, we can say that children who participate in swimming achieve a wide range of milestones (survey) and skill, knowledge and dispositions (child testing) earlier than the normal population”


Violent Femmes - Lack Of Knowledge