MIT Massive Network Participation

To frame my participation in the course, here are my participations commitments and personal compass from the beginning of MIT Massive:

Personal Compass:

Broadly, I decided to take this class because I am interested in “learning science” (the study of learning) and I would like to be a better teacher. More specifically, I am interested in learning more about cMOOCs, which I know very little about, and in learning about the pedagogies and pitfalls of learning technologies designed to scale. I hope that if I have the opportunity to design curriculum for a MOOC or develop a learning technology intended to scale massively, that this course will provide me with the tools to be successful in that endeavor (or at least more successful than I would’ve been without the class).

Participation Commitments:

I plan to read news articles on education related topics and to share them (and my interpretation of them) with my classmates. I plan to stay active on Twitter over the course of class, and hopefully continue to use it after the class ends. In addition to sharing my thoughts, I’ve already found some new people to follow through whom I’ve found some interesting articles. I also plan to blog, on topics related to the course and topics not directly related to the course, and will share my writing with my classmates. I hope to participate in some online communities beyond the direct purview of the course (Twitter, blog) as well. I hope to read the work of my classmates, discuss with them, and form working relationships that last beyond the end of the course.


Participation Rubric

I wrote the following rubric for myself, intending it to be written such that meeting/exceeding expectations in each category would lead to me participating in the course in a way that was well aligned with my own learning objectives. I’ve highlighted the category that I think best describes my participation during the course, and have elaborated on my thoughts on each criterion after the table.

Criteria Exceeds Expectation Meets Expectation Underperforms Expectation
Read, share, and share thoughts on education articles Share 2+ articles per week, including blogging on my thoughts/reactions to them Share ~1 article per week, sometimes including thoughts/reactions Share < 1 article per week, without discussing why I found it interesting
Be an active Twitter user Share resources through Twitter, have dialogues through Twitter, participate in Twitter chats Use Twitter to find interesting articles and to share quick thoughts on resources I find Limited Twitter use by the end of the course
Blog actively Write high quality blog posts on a diverse range of topics (akin to Matt Might at Utah) Write ~weekly blog posts on topics related to the course (e.g., response to an educational article) Write a small number of blog posts, none of which are particularly in depth
Explore Instructables or a similar online community Post my own DIY project to instructables and write about the experience Try to build one or two DIY projects and write about the experience Explore DIY projects on the site without actually undertaking any of them myself
Get involved in a cMOOC such as ds106 Start open ds106 in earnest, getting a good start so I can work through all the assignments over the summer Participate in some of the daily creates offered by ds106 Have no continued involvement with cMOOCs after my initial exploration
Engage with classmates Leave the class having developed prospective collaborations with other students in the class Read classmates’ work, comment on it, and dialogue with them through the end of the course and beyond Occasionally read classmates’ work, occasionally leave short comments
Expand understanding of CBE (annotated bibliography assignment) Publish academic paper related to CBE (although this would likely occur long after the course was completed) Learn about CBE and write a report or long form article on what I’ve learned (likely during the summer) Learn about CBE, but create no significant content on the topic myself

Read, share, and share thoughts on education articles

My reading habits (in terms of reading about education) changed very little when I started MIT Massive. During the course, I would read 2-3 articles per week that happened to show up on one of my RSS feeds. Perhaps I was reading a bit more broadly, as I found some articles from the MIT Massive Twitter network, but these readings didn’t lead to any blog posts or in-depth exchanges with classmates. For this reason, I would say that I underperformed my initial expectations on this criterion, although in retrospect I’m not sure how important this piece was. I still enjoy reading articles on education and expect to keep reading in the future, and maybe with more time it will become more natural for me to share my thoughts through Twitter or blogging, but I’m in no rush to get to that point.

Be an active Twitter user

I have stayed fairly active on Twitter throughout the course, using it to share my work for MIT Massive, the occasional article, and have had some exchanges with my classmates. I think one of the biggest obstacles to me using Twitter more actively was that it felt clunky to use it to try to write meaningful (and consequently long) comments (or maybe I just need more practice at using 140 characters). While I don’t think I’ll completely drop Twitter now that the course is done, I do expect that my Twitter usage will decrease significantly. I didn’t form enough connections outside the class to use it for too much other than #MITmassive related tweets, and I expect the hashtag activity to die down once the course is completed. Overall however, I’m happy with how much I participated through Twitter and would say that I met my expectations.

Blog actively

In many ways I think blogging was the most successful outcome of my enrollment in MIT Massive. I was proud to share some of my posts, which I felt accurately reflected my thinking and creativity, which feels like a small personal success of connectivist ideas for me. Perhaps more importantly, I really enjoyed the process of writing many of my blog posts, which I definitely can’t say is true of all the writing I have to do these days. I have a list of topics I’d still like to write up posts on, and plan to continue blogging into the foreseeable future in order to address those topics and more. Since all the long-form writing I did for the class ended up on the blog, I’ll go into more detail for some posts below, but overall I think my participation through blogging met and maybe exceeded my expectations. (It’s hard for me to settle exactly on “met” vs. “exceeded” because I’m happy with the quality of my posts, but I feel it’s too audacious for me to claim that I wrote great posts during the class; to a large extent that’s for others to decide.)

Explore Instructables or a similar online community

I wrote a blog post about Instructables which I’ll also comment on below, so for here all I’ll say is that I’m glad I set aside the time to work on Instructables, and the extent to which I did exceeded my expectations.

Get involved in a cMOOC such as ds106

I was quite taken with ds106 when I first learned about it (as I wrote about in a blog post that I’ll comment on further below) but since the first week it was covered as part of the MIT Massive curriculum I’ve only participated in one more Daily Create. I still visit the page occasionally and hope to participate again in the future, but overall I fell a bit short of my expectations for continued participation in ds106.

Engage with classmates

This was the most challenging piece for me in MIT Massive, and I had little interaction with my classmates aside from activities during the actual class hours and some exchanges on Twitter. I think part of the challenge is that engaging with classmates depends on my interests being well aligned with those of my classmates, which might not happen in a class with such a broad range of topics and a relatively small number of students. I really do wish I had engaged with my classmates more and formed some stronger connections that might’ve outlasted the course, and so from that perspective I definitely fell short of my expectations. That being said, writing about this now has brought up some ideas for me to mull over and I think I might be able to synthesize them into a blog post in the future.

Expand understanding of CBE (annotated bibliography assignment)

I chose to complete my annotated bibliography assignment on competency based education (CBE), which I have learned a good deal about since starting the course. Since my goals for understanding CBE have a time frame longer than the MIT Massive course, I cannot yet say where my accomplishments lie relative to expectations. I still hope and expect to produce more CBE-related work in addition to the annotated bibliography.


Below I’ve linked my five favorite posts I wrote over the course of MIT Massive, and included some brief comments specific to each:

Why I made a personal website

This post encapsulates some of my strongest feelings on changes that should happen in education, particularly related to assessment. While it isn’t directly related to the ideas of MIT Massive (at least, not the curriculum we were covering in class when I wrote the post) it got a decent amount of traction (because Justin shared the piece on Twitter) so I think many of my classmates read it, and the positive Twitter response helped encourage me to share more through blogging. When I wrote the post, all my personal website had was my CV, and since then I’ve only added a research section. I have more sections planned out which I intend to add, and eventually I’d like a very polished, complete(-looking) product.

Thoughts on connectivism and cMOOCs

This post was a reflection on my learning about connectivism and my participation is a couple ds106 activities, which is a connectivist MOOC on digital storytelling. I’m very glad that I was introduced to connectivism in a more in-depth (or maybe the phrase I’m looking for is “hands-on”) way than I had in the past, because after doing a few ds106 Daily Creates I was truly sold on connectivism. Perhaps ironically, I didn’t seem to find any classmates who were similarly enthused, and I’m not sure how many lasting connections I’ve made by taking this course.

In praise of quals

This piece also goes back to assessment, and I didn’t write it intending to have any connection to MIT Massive. I’ve included it here because in retrospect I think the reason I wrote the post is connected to ideas we learned about in MIT Massive. I wrote the piece because I would sometimes run “mock quals” during recitation for the course I TAed this semester (graduate heat transfer), and these sessions seemed to get lower attendance. I sent the post out to my students in an effort to convince more of them attend the mock quals, and I think having this specific audience in mind (as opposed to my other posts, which I wrote very generally, or in some cases more for myself) made it more effective at forming connections and engaging the students, which is something that many technologies for learning at scale are grappling with how to do effectively (that is, connecting to their ideal audience).

Making digital art: IM t-shirt design

In this post I wrote about the process of making a design for the new intramural champions T-shirt at MIT. I basically just like this post because it was associated with an opportunity for me to make some art, which I get to do much less often than I would like. I also feel like it’s a little funny (in how ineffective it is as an educational post), because from the level of detail I went into, all it could really hope to accomplish is to let readers know about one particular tool (the autotracer). In any case, the design did win the contest, so maybe you’ll see this design on shirts around MIT soon.

“First” impressions of Instructables

This post details my involvement in Instructables through two means: publishing instructions for how to make a honeycomb sock organizer and following instructions on how to turn a t-shirt into wall art. I had fun doing both of these things, and I’m glad that MIT Massive led to me finally participating in Instructables after having found out about it so long ago. I’ve gotten a few comments on the Instructable I published, so I’m hoping that people are actually out there making honeycombs and organizing socks!


To begin summarizing some of what I learned by taking MIT Massive, I think it’s appropriate to make an observation about my favorite blog posts. It’s no coincidence that four of the five blog posts I highlighted involved making something (that is, if you don’t count the act of writing a blog post itself as “making something”). Participating in this class has helped solidify my belief in constructionism, because my most meaningful participation corresponded to the times when I was making something. It makes intuitive sense that learning activities which closely match real-world performances (which often involve making something) will be more effective at teaching the pieces necessary for real-world performances. (It also makes intuitive sense that assessments which more closely match real-world performances will be more effective at identifying the skill and knowledge level of students.) I’m glad to have a small piece of evidence supporting this from my participation in this class, although I do wish that I had been aware of learning theories earlier, because it’s difficult to apply this lens to my many previous years of formal education retroactively. This will likely be the last official university class I take (I’m done with my PhD coursework requirements after this), but I’m sure it won’t be the last time I’m trying to learn something, and I’ll use this constructionist experience to inform decisions about how I try to learn in the future.

The “I used to think/but now I think” framework we used in the last class session was helpful for getting me to think about big takeaways from the class, and besides the constructionist piece mentioned above, I think I had two main takeaways. The first, which I shared during class, was that “I used to think that we were on the verge of a technologically driven revolution in education, but now I’m not so sure.” This one is interesting for me, because I also wrote about how technology has essentially no limits (which I still believe). While technology is limitless, because of the paradox of free, the paradox of routine and the curse of the familiar, the ways that technology tends to be used in education is very limited. So while I think there are technologies which already exist that could revolutionize education, the change realized is limited by human behavior rather than technology itself.

The second big takeaway I had from the course, which is perhaps more optimistic, is that “I used to think traditional institutions would be responsible for revolutionizing education, but now I’m not so sure.” While this statement might not seem optimistic, I think it is more hopeful when considering the previous piece. Education outside traditional institutions doesn’t need to be familiar, because it doesn’t need to be sold as traditional education. Revolutionary educational technology developed outside traditional institutions might be able to infiltrate (I hate the overuse of the word “disrupt” but perhaps it is appropriate here) them if their learning outcomes can be demonstrated in traditional (as well as more meaningful) assessments. I think we have the technological tools to revolutionize education, and we might be able to overcome the human behavior obstacle by (initially) avoiding the traditional channels for delivering education.

As a general takeaway, it seems like with all the focus and energy and money that learning at scale is getting, it’s inevitable that it will play an important role in the future of education. I think all three types (teacher- self- and peer-directed) have their strengths and will continue to see success, but I’m curious to see if they will lead to any real changes in education. Because as wide spread and acclaimed as they are, I feel that current implementations of learning at scale are mostly cases of “everything old is new again.”


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