“…we can all participate in, and help build new models of online learning.”

A key inspiration behind the format and structure of #crit101 is the cMOOC model of massive open online courses, such as DS106 and #ETMOOC.

Theo Keuchel recently participated in the second edition of MOOCMOOC, a course in which I participated last August. The course explores what MOOCs are and what they might mean for education. Like myself, Theo is asking questions about whether this model of online course can work for school-age students. Obviously I believe that it can or #crit101 would not exist. Reading Theo’s post is like looking at my own checklist, I asked many of the same questions when putting the course together. In my view it comes down to two specific considerations above all others:

  • Do you believe that courses of this type are a valid form of learning?
  • Do you trust young people to participate in such a course?

If you can answer yes to the above then everything else is a matter of planning, pedagogy and technical practicality. However, the questions above strike at the heart of what I feel MOOCs are all about: Freeing learning from the confines of the classroom; bringing it to where the learners are – the connected web. Such an approach is too scary for some, too fraught with dangers. But this is the future… learning should belong to the learners. If the school curriculum can’t offer all that they need or want to learn then they should be free to go elsewhere and get it.

#crit101 is in its infancy, but it is my hope that the course demonstrates what Theo states at the end of his post:

we can all participate in, and help build new models of online learning.”

“But isn’t all learning independent learning?”

Last night saw the first Twitter discussion take place as part of the #crit101 course. It began with an opportunity for participants to have any questions they had about the course answered, before turning their attention to the topic in hand: Independent Learning.

The participants on the course, for the most part, range from 14 to 18 years of age and for many this was their first ever Twitter discussion that had a specific educational angle. Given this fact, I felt that it was a tremendous success, with everyone demonstrating that they had engaged actively with the course material. Although the chat was limited to an hour, many important ideas were raised, and I hope that some of the resurface in blog posts shortly.

We tackled the question of what Independent Learning is. Opinion varied with some seeing it as a disposition whereas others sighted specific attributes. Here are a few highlights:

One idea that began to come up from several participants was the notion of maturity – being integral to being an independent learner. I asked if it was simply then an issue of time or could IL be taught/developed? This was a challenging question that garnered a variety of responses. One response that captured the duality that I often wrestle with when considering this myself came from Rosie:

This is the challenge, isn’t it? Autonomous learners is what many of us (as educators) want to see but do all learners want to be autonomous, do they know how and is it something that can be learned? Another participant asked, what I felt was a significant and thoughtful question:

Learning is happening all of the time, and it is not happening en-mass, although too often we try to teach that way. For the learner, their education is personal to them, therefore to answer Lily’s question: Yes, all learning is independent learning. However, if this is so, is maturity an issue or is it about reframing how we understand and interpret what independent learning is?

As the end neared, I wanted to challenge the group further by considering if independent learning is something that can be learned. What if I have got this all wrong? The participants responded with maturity and candor…

Finally, as it had come up and few times, I broached the idea of school eroding a learners ability to work independently…

Indeed, it might and that is one of the many reasons underpinning #crit101. I want to challenge the very idea of traditional classroom-based education. Here was a group of learners from different year groups, with different backgrounds, abilities and interests, engaged in a thought provoking discussion about the way they learn. What could be more ‘in(ter)dependent’ than that?

*You can read all of the tweets from the discussion here.