Its two weeks since I began the Creativity for learning in higher education course - so what I have learned? I have to start by acknowledging that I am one of the facilitators so my primary task is to work out how to facilitate participants' involvement. I have never experienced what I think is a mooc before so I'm learning about what a mooc is and feels like as I try to work out how best to engage with it and perfrom my role as a facilitator. In one sense everyone who participates in a mooc has the potential to be a facilitator so I'm not really much different to everyone else but I guess if you are tagged as a facilitator participants expect more from you.
Firstly, I knew what a mooc was as words on paper but I didn't know what it was through the experience of being involved in one. So the most important thing I'm learning is about learning to be in a mooc and to interact with my fellow participants. Its experiential knowing rather than knowing that comes from reading. After Chrissi said she didn't think that this was a mooc I felt compelled to find out what others thought a mooc was and I'm pretty sure its characteristics are those of a cmooc in which participants essentially form the curriculum as the detail emerges within the fairly open and permissive structure that has been created by Chrissi.
The thing that immediately struck me is the different levels of participation. While there are 75 people registered I think only 25 people have posted and only a very small number of people have provided access to their own curations of personal learning (their portfolios or blogs). So the mooc is a community of variable interest and involvement rather than a 'collective' in the sense that John Seeley Brown talks about: an enterprise in which everyone is actively involved and membership requires active participation. I guess the main job of facilitator is to try to encourage more people to be involved and to share their personal learning and probably the old adage - what you get out is proportional to what you put in, holds true.
Even though I am designated a facilitator I also feel compelled to join in some but not necessarily all of the activities. I do this because I think I will learn what it's like to be a participant. It helps me to know what it feels like to be invited to engage in a certain way with certain ideas some of which I am attracted to and some I'm not. It helps me to know that I have a choice not to engage with something - unless I want recognition for it, in which case I have to.
What I believe - that some people can be highly creative with almost any prompt/idea, and can create meaning and significance from almost anything, has been confirmed. It is in the process of sharing personal positions that the new insights emerge.. For me the most useful insight I have gained so far was one of the participants saying 'I may be less creative than I think [I am]'. And the honesty struck a chord.. there are many times and situations when I think I am just not creative but I have to balance this with the occasions when I am. So thinking about our own creativity is a situational thing. I know I'm not much good at brain storming exercises because I can see the people around me have more agile and fertile minds in the moment. But give me a problem or challenge that interests me and I care about, and I am allowed to engage with it in my own way in my own time then I know my creativity is more likely to flourish. I keep reminding myself that personal creativity is about bringing new things into existence and everyday I can see this happening in small and incremental ways.
It seems to me that willingness to participate in a mooc involves personal risk. You have to declare what you think in a public way and this remains once it has been posted. Even though there might be many nuances on what you have said that in a normal face to face conversation there would be opportunity for these nuances and even entirely different perspectives to emerge. Posting has a sort of finality about it and but in reality posts can only be provisional and partial. So I can see why people don't want to commit themselves. Also posting involves making yourself vulnerable. You inevitably reveal something of yourself, your own ignorance, inadequacies and prejudices. It takes courage to make yourself vulnerable and I've seen some good examples during the last two weeks. I guess a good mooc fills people with courage to share their beliefs and feelings.
I have also learnt that the simplest prompt, like a picture, can lead to the most meaningful conversations as people use their imagination and critical thinking in an integrative way to create new meanings and convey their wisdom and insight. SW's post in response to the watering can and grass image - 'I thought of my allotment (and neighbouring plots) which celebrate individuality – no two plots are the same- and the fruit and veg are all different too :-) Gardening for me is about adapting to the environment (soil, weather, slugs etc) and being creative is about finding the best balance between my own ambitions for home grown food and the vagaries of nature', elicited attracted several people to develop conversation with meaning around the idea. This seemed to me to be one of the best examples of emergent meaning around creativity so far.
Another big area of my learning is understanding how the technology works to support our individual and collective learning ecology. One of the answers to the 'what's in it for me' question is that if I learn how to organise and facilitate like Chrissi is doing I can perhaps develop my own mooc. Knowing how the technology works is an experiential matter so this two weeks has been invaluable. For example I never knew what a google hangout was until I clicked the button and I could see and then tried it out with my son, and how could I imagine how the google community space worked until I have experienced it myself? I started off with a picture of the technology as it appeared to me at the start of the process. I have now added some new technologies but most importantly it is the technologies that participants use themselves - their own blogs, portfolios and other tools to curate and share their thoughts and feelings that I can now see are essential to making this work as an ecology for learning.
So looking back I can now see that I have learnt quite a lot. I now know about and can do things that I could not do two weeks ago and I look forward to the weeks ahead. Furthermore, I know that this personal knowledge will inform other aspects of my work.