I work with and participate in #clMOOCs for a couple reasons. First, I like this approach to learning. It's learning and community on demand. Demand's not really the right word, but it's close: you show up, participate, and people are generally pretty kind and welcoming. Do some stuff, engage, share, interact, and there's nearly instant community. For someone like me, who values pretty instant reward and feedback, this is great! I can see and experience immediately some of what MOOCs are about. So that's the first solid: a supportive community. If you buy into constructivist educational theory, if only a bit, a #clMOOC's appeal is pretty clear.
The second reason I like #clMOOCs are, frankly, they are easy to integrate with some of the courses that I teach. Rather than requiring students to learn a specific content area, say math, art, or Ruby, my students--educators of all types--can focus on the professional development, networking, meeting other educators, and developing their own skills with technology, software, digital writing, and social media. It's as much about enculturation and participation with some different digital cultures and communities as it is about learning the actual content and skills. If you draw value or invest in social learning and/or Papert's constructionism, #clMOOCS will meet many criteria. You get to build, create, and share things that you want to build, that have meaning to you and others, and that support your learning and others' learning.
Third, the rapid uptake and membership in community, the quick sense of belonging, the positive feedback, the ability to read and learn from others--and watch them learn, too--is powerful. There's an emotional value to seeing others' successes--to seeing how everything is not perfect polish generated by companies with immense capital behind them. Yes, sure, we make work with tools enabled by investor angels, but that does not mean that we have been assimilated, that we have given them money, or that we need to be subject to their aesthetics or rules. Our value can from what and how we share with each other, how we seek to engage, learn, grow, give to, and grow from each other. Our value does not need to be if we got on a TED talk, if our article runs in a paid journal, if we get invited to speak at a conference, or if the absurd Stanford-Pearson-EdTech-Industrial-InfoTainment industry likes us or wants to use our ideas to somehow manipulate public education or extract tax dollars from local governments for extremist privatization moves.
We can be real and authentic with and for each other.
In "When in the future they look back on us," Doris Lessing writes:
"This is a time when it is very frightening to be alive, when it is hard to think of human beings as rational creatures. Everywhere we look we see brutality, stupidity, until it seems that there is nothing else to be seen but that—a descent into barbarism, everywhere, which we are unable to check. But I think that while it is true there is a general worsening, it is precisely because things are so frightening we become hypnotized, and do not notice—or if we notice, belittle—equally strong forces on the other side, the forces, in short, of reason, sanity, and civilization” (3-4).
Lessing's argument is too important and sophisticated to overlook, and I'll seek to address it in a later piece. For now, though, I'd just like to add that her point about the "equally strong forces" we often belittle. To reason, sanity, and civilization I would add kindness, compassion, and the simple act of welcoming strangers. Such things are easy to ignore, but they create environments where learning can thrive. At the core, that's why I like #clMOOCs.