Learning in public: week 7

Assignments have been coming in and I get a much better sense of the folk with whom I have been having sporadic communication for the past 6 to 8 weeks. The nature of any kind of teaching necessarily involves an often too slow getting to know you for both teacher and student. I suppose the label teacher applies but I think much more of myself as mentor, coach, guide, helper for folk who have taken control of the agenda which has been lightly structured in this course. It takes them a while to work out that yes, all the lines about building something they'd be proud to have on their CV is actually what it is about.

One might call these notes more reflections than things i have learned, but I still count them as adding to what I know about how to work with folk in an online environment.

And, individually, you learn about folk accidentally. One student asked if I had received the assignment yet from her and I checked and had not. In the absence of anything on the L@G site she had taken the initiative to upload it to the Wiki. Great. I found the file after a bit of looking. It's not obvious if a file is attached to a page or not. I suggested she might try using some Wiki syntax to make it visible or just tell folk to look at the files link on the page. Again, to her credit, she went down the Wiki syntax path. I accidentally started watching that page1 and basically saw her trying to get it to work. I looked at the file name and it had spaces in it. Not a problem for desktop files and so on but often a problem for online software. I pointed that out. She amended the name and voilĂ !

Now these small moments are so easily "seen" in face-to-face classrooms. online, more often than not you just see the end result unless the student is happy to share her frustrations. No frustrations from this person. She just persisted at it.

This is not a course about learning to code with Wikis but there is a tiny bit of that required for both tasks. I'm always happy to hold the hands of folk having trouble but I know that there is a small sense of achievement when someone, perhaps for the first time, sets up a new page with a link and has added to the now many pages on the Wiki.

You can't build systems that are totally fool proof, hence the importance at trying to generate, even in a short course like this, a shared sense of helping out which is what underpins the various technical sub-cultures that have brought all the various digital bibs and bobs to reality. You see a similar gift economy logic at play in the cultures that support many online games where young (and old) folk will help one another, trade tips and so on. I have often wondered what schools would be like if they too embraced this co-operative culture and ditched that of competition which, the research literature tells us over and over is the poison for growing creativity and genuine problem solving skills.