Aggregate Not Facilitate

I remember the interview well: “So, you’re a facilitator, more than a teacher.”

This was in response to my description of the student-centered model I had presented. I have always struggled with letting go of control, having once believed that a good lecturer was the key element to a transformative class. Now, I aspire to be a Nancie Atwell, although I cannot give up my podium completely.

Still, in 2002, putting desks in a circle instead of rows qualified as transformative.

Currently, I am “taking” an archived course on data through EdX and the University of Texas Austin. I put “taking” in quotes because I’m really just rummaging through their archived material, missing out on the most important element–the interaction with others in the course. It’s all explained in their video How DALMOOC Works, which I recommend for helping you see another way a class can be structured. (DALMOOC stands for Data Analytics and Learning MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course)

To boil it down, the primary learning in the class comes from students doing stuff in the world, integrating and talking with the world, and then bringing all of those discussions back to the class. Students talk with experts, go on forums, tweet, blog, chat, talk, explore and create and then get together (online) with the class to share out.

Notice how this is different than most online courses and their required posts and word counts. Yes, that’s there, but this is about the student and the power of sharing.

What is the teacher doing? Facilitating, sure. They set the whole thing up and keep it going. They are the expert and guide.

But then the aggregate. The most interesting thing is that they monitor and share the most interesting, insightful and important learning that happened that day. It goes in an email. Instead of monitoring words and posts for participation, these instructors promote ideas and work that moves the group forward. This is a community.

Now, I know we can leave no child behind. That quiet kid falls between the cracks. Most important, the MOOG is a volunteer course with no fee which starts with thousands and ends with far fewer completions. But prodding is a different philosophy than inspiring. I am wondering how this model of agregation could become a meaningful, transformative next step.