So as part of the ongoing exploration of online learning or MOOCing around as i’m fondly calling it, I enrolled in a second MOOC. This MOOC is nothing to do with anything I really need to know. I am doing it for the love of learning. Suitably it is the Learning Creative Learning MOOC.
I might step back a bit here. Just a little though.
Just over a blog posting ago…
Before I found a tweet about OpenBadges and before that led me to MOOCs and the joining of, I took a small test on a whim. The test highlighted that I am motivated by learning. This is not the learning which results in a piece of paper that motivates me. This motivation is through the solid act of learning in itself. I liken this to experiencing a puzzle box.
“Before you lies a simple box unknown, locked with a mechanism that can be discovered through tactile exploration. Unlock this mystery box and whether you find it is empty or full, the satisfaction is not in the contents, but in the opening.”
The discovery of being motivated by learning resonated with me on some level. I had been feeling a little unmotivated recently and this suggested a way forward. Looking through mental lists of options I would cycle through over and over again finding not a single one that appealed. In part this is laziness: I am easily dissuaded from difficult things. In part it is tiredness: I have a lot on! In part though: it is because I lacked a motivation. So I am on a quest to find one.
Let’s step back into creative learning again.
Learning about learning…
Each week of the MOOC reading is assigned and tasks are suggested. Task 1 is around doing the reading and reflecting on it.The reading this week was around connected learning (video) as an approach which differs from traditional education by leveraging the interest of an individual and allowing that interest to develop in a way that improves their academic, civic or employment prospects. The connected element means that new media helps develop this innate passion or talent. E.g., in the plainest of terms, the writer is allowed to write for the passion of it, they post their work online and receive feedback from peers on their interest. They learn from this and eventually become an author 1.
I haven’t reflected much but isn’t there something to that (especially for those learning-motivated) which makes good sense? I don’t think it’s a new idea – there seems to be a trend recently for the internet to find a new way of doing something and for people to think that nothing like it ever happened before. I’m confident that there was connected learning before connected computers which is why I like the phrase from one of the readings: “New media amplifies opportunities for connected learning.” The internet is a massive great big amplifier of things, including learning, then. Now that I like the idea of!
The second task is much more intriguing: read Seymour Papert’s essay on the “Gears of My Childhood” and write about an object from your childhood that interested and influenced you.
Much more up my street in my current exploration of the world. Perhaps a little bit ego-orientated but internal focus helps introverts like me make sense of the world. Hopefully we then find a way to apply that externally.
So let’s jump back again. Way back this time. I called this post the circuitry of my head because it resonated with an object pertinent in my childhood. The computer. I’m adding in a second object though: DNA.
The computer and DNA
My earliest memory of a computer was in school. I’m not sure what it was. It had a game involving a train and traffic signals. It had a painting app. It was all I can remember about the machine. I played with it twice, once in Year 1 and once in Year 2. Nobody really knew how to use it beyond those two apps i’m sure. I’m fairly confident it was an IBM PC AT given what I remember about it.
My second earliest memory was when my mum and I lived with my Nan. An uncle at the time had a BBC Micro. I’m also convinced that he never really knew how to use it. One day when he was out I sneaked in and retyped in a command i’d seen him type. It was probably a load command of some kind. A while later something happened.
Here’s the thing. After those early experiences I didn’t have a computer until I was older. It was a Commodore 64. My family never had the money for computers those early years so I spent many of them still wondering about those cream white boxes with the green text or the poor colour range and what made them work. What was inside them that brought them to life.
Those same years I was learning that I was broken. That what was bringing me to life was also, slowly, destroying me. At age 8 I did not have the real comprehension of that 2. At age 8 I believe two objects in my universe collided quietly and even I didn’t notice for a while.
I found that Commodore, and the Amiga that followed and the 486 after that and the Pentium and the AMDs and the Core 2’s and ultimately the i7 i have today were all there at the moments I needed them.
I learned about computers at a time people really started to use them personally (80s). I learned about the internet arguably when it started to enter the mainstream (90s). I studied the science of computing just before it has become essential in information societies (00s) and now I am productive on a daily basis using them despite their still being an element of seperation (10s).
DNAs influence has followed a similiar trajectory. I lost any potential in physical pursuits early on (80s). I went to secondary school at a time when it became an option for those with disabilities to study in the mainstream (90s). I went to university at a time when funding existed to make it feasible for me to leave home (00s) and finally if computers didn’t exist as they do today my access to the world would be severely limited and my job would be difficult 3. Books for a start are impractical. But research doesn’t need books anymore.
So in true double-helix fashion two strands have been joined, two objects have provided a structure for my path through the world, a sequence to progress by. The DNA was an object influencing me behind the scenes, subtly limiting certain choices and promoting others. The computer was acting as a magnet pulling me toward it, clearly highlighting an interesting path forward. It’s probably also the reason my dissertation was in genetic algorithms. I still have a mild fascination with evolution today.
I think it wasn’t the only path open to me. I might have taken another path. I might have written or reported. I might have travelled or read. I might have managed or sketched. All but for one thing: I need to understand the puzzles in the boxes. It’s the circuitry of my head.