My engagement with the MOOC has taken a big leap forward because it has helped to increase my confidence and experience in the e-environment. I am already convinced of the value of participating in the MOOC because of this. It has helped to break down my threshold of resistance and fear of going on-line. But, as I mentioned in my previous blog, now I've gotten over my initial resistances its turning out to be fun. Like a game, I'm learning some rules and skills as I go, by trial and error. I think the capacity for fun, the capacity to have fun and its connection with learning is under-rated because fun is, at least partly, a mode of emotional engagement. Its a bit like 'flow' the creative state where you have the wonderful experience of being absorbed in something and forgetting about yourself for a while. Emotions are important in learning, in creativity and in the on-line environment as I happened across recently.
In my non-MOOC Twitter stream, someone reTweeted a post by David Dobbs (@David_Dobbs) a writer who included a link to what he described as an 'achingly beautiful' and 'sad' review in the NYTimes Book Review of a book about Ernest Hemingway (sorry I still havent taught myself how to include the direct link here - you can get it via David Dobbs Twitter and link to his blog, if you're really keen.) I immediately started following him because he had used those words and tweeted to tell him so, but only because my confidence has increased in the on-line environment through participation in the MOOC. I wasn't expecting a reply - I just wanted to let him know I responded to those words.
About an hour later another Tweet from David Dobbs came through to all his followers saying thanks, and that he had had amazing reaction to the Tweet about the Ernest Hemingway review. My theory is that it generated so much interest because it had the words 'achingly beautiful' and 'sad' in it and that lots of other people had been attracted to it for the same reasons as me. One of my favourite Tweeters is Maria Popova at Brainpicker because she loves things she recommends, she adores them, she swoons over them, she is moved by them and I respond. Enthusiasm goes a long way with me. Of course there's a danger that emotion can be manufactured and faked quite easily online but for the time being, at any rate, I like to think its a relatively authentic space - at least until its more comprehensively colonised by marketeers and profit-mongers.
I suppose as far as teaching and learning goes, explaining to people that getting involved in on-line learning and getting into the on-line environment is likely to be fun - rather than something they 'ought' to do in order to keep up - might attract people, curious people, who like playing but don't like being told what they 'ought' to do. But it won't work if you're faking it. The on-line environment at the moment IS surprising, amazing, unpredictable, as well as frustrating. Continuing my metaphor theme, its a wild, untamed, unruly place - the technical and intellectual equivalent of an undiscovered continent: we don't know what it is yet. I'm talking about the on-line environment in general here but it also applies to the MOOC environment.
The best teachers are ones who are passionate about what they do - hardly a radical idea but one that deserves closer attention for the relationship between emotions and the life of the mind and learning. As is probably not surprising to some, I'm also a fan of Antonio Dimasio who wrote 'Descartes Error'. Descartes was wrong - its not that 'I think therefore I am'; its that 'I feel, therefore I think and connect.'