Mature and independent #change11

In every social relation where one person supports or helps or cures or teaches another person is a degree of dependency. The end of a supporting, curing or teaching relationship is difficult because this dependency has to change to independency, maturity, adulthood.
In a MOOC are mature adult independent learners. Self-supporting learners in a social structure of mutual and shared discussion and learning.

School and MOOC are on different ends of a continuum. And the difficulty is with the newbies who expect a course to be on the school end of the continuum and who discover they are in a ‘course’ on the MOOC-end of the continuum.
In my opinion it would not be fair to these newbies to change the MOOC into a course in the school-end of the continuum. For in the MOOC a new student could demonstrate to be an independent learner.

A question for thought: how come adult people in our society and culture cannot find their independent self-supporting way in a MOOC? Is school making the students too dependent? Or is our “culture of individual freedom” a fake, and are we only dependent and immature people?
How could we foster more independent and mature people? And why is this a paradox?

this post is a comment on A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings? Participant Support on Massive Open Online Courses


14 thoughts on “Mature and independent #change11

  1. Ik ben het helemaal met je eens Jaap. De uitdaging is voor de instituties en de leerkrachten. Een overbruggings fase voor ‘newbies’ met wat ‘scaffolds’ om hen te ondersteunen is belangrijk, maar het belangrijkste is de ‘mind-set’ van de betrokkenen in edukatie, learnkrachten en participanten.

    We zijn nu aan het kijken naar de belangrijkheid van ‘motivatie’ in de PLENK2010 data en daar komen ook interessante dingen naar boven.


  2. Interesting post Jaap.
    To answer your question: I believe that school is making people too dependent on others for their education. It is a common complaint from college professors who teach undergraduates that they (undergraduates) can’t think critically and on their own – they are expecting multiple choice tests and things assessments that require a “brain dump” instead of critical thinking. I think this is a symptom of the same problem as MOOCs and self-motivation.

    At the same time, borrowing from this past week’s theme of soft and hard technologies, I think that Schools are too “Hard” while MOOCs are too “soft” – in my view the best point is somewhere in the middle. Schools should have a little less structure, while MOOCs (depending on the MOOC of course) can benefit from more structure

  3. Hi Jaap, interesting food for thought….
    I think the problem lies in the fact that society wants dependent people and is working hard to keep it that way. It is beneficial for most in society (read: they make money) to keep people in a certain box that they can control. Independent thinkers might upset many other dependent people and that is not good for stability. That’s why religion and government have almost always worked hand in hand: both their plates are filled because of a subservient population.
    To get away from this is no small matter. I once saw the movie The Village (….very, very interesting….(talking about keeping everybody scared so they stay in the group). This reminds me again of State of Fear….also a good way of keeping people the way you want them…..
    People are just not taught to think for themselves and be different and that unfortunately starts from the moment you get blue clothes when you are a baby boy 🙂
    Sheep for the flock but then again,we do need people that plow the roads (we did have quite some snow here last week :-)…….
    Thanks for these interesting questions.

  4. Good Post Jaap,

    Maybe school takes too much credit for driving the independence out of children? My guess is everyone here in this MOOC was willing to sacrifice a bit to a lot of comfort for their own way and own independence. Many of the students studying at the college where I work come with previous attendance records full of missed days, weeks, years even. Before they get to us it’s hard to imagine they had any opportunity to be beaten down by “the system” they pretty much skipped up to this point. Mostly, these students just don’t care to connect with the institution nor do the goals and expectations we represent impress them in any way.

    I think we overvalue the power our institutions or wish them to be responsible because we know them so well it seems within our reach to fix them. What’s wrong with school can’t all be fixed by school. If students are disenchanted or detached from the whole value system that school rests on, what leverage do we have?

    And…this isn’t said in defence of de-schooling of society. Our students (not all of them) are not just disconnected, they are disenfranchised. They may seem immature or dependent but when your voice has no listeners you fall back on those who you know, friends, habits, silence. The whole of society hardly notices them—and would just as soon keep it that way.

    It would be great if we could bridge people into MOOCs as a place to begin reclaiming your voice and opening up the world. A place where you could feel like a valued contributor—or to feel anything beyond the numbness.


  5. Hi Scott, I think you are right, School is not the institution that is responsible for all things that go wrong in society. Having said that, I am a teacher and as such try to improve schools.
    I am afraid a MOOC as a course without structure and guidance would not be the best place for these kids, but every child is different.

  6. Hi Scott, school is just part of our society and therefore not solely responsible for things that go wrong. You are right. (and I always feel like a valued contributor and I have never felt numbness….I don’t need moocs for this though)

  7. Hi Jaap and Irene,

    The students I mentioned represent the extreme. The school experience of their parents and grandparents was beyond the worst we could imagine in our protected world. Probably a bad example though I believe the renewal of schools needs to serve not just the grad student demographic largely present in MOOCs but all students and maybe the least to lose students will be the first to benefit?

    What I’m thinking of is students who were never trained to talk back. A simple concept, owning yourself and assuming the caring for an identity that is yours. Being a responsible individual without being a “loner.” Talking back isn’t something all are allowed, it comes with social position and can be denied to those who displease power. How do we build institutions that encourage a challenging attitude? That are strong in confidence of purpose but not rigid or self-serving?

    Schools as they are can do much better and likely they aren’t going away soon. How do help foster independence and a sense of responsibility in students? Start by allowing them to own themselves and stop insisting on “setting a good example” as an exemplar of social behaviour.


  8. Hi Irene,

    Had a teacher who admitted she never gave Cs because she hated to decide who was “average.” You either tried or you didn’t and trying was a better indicator of learning into the future than memorizing lessons that evaporated in a week. And mistakes were accepted.

    When working with apprentices building houses of installing gas lines mistakes were seen as major learning opportunities. Of course you’d watch to prevent deadly mistakes but a good surprise was the perfect entry point for discussion on why it happened. The apprentices learned they could act on the world, have some control over their small part of it, be responsible for both the mistake and the fix. The “reward” was being a full participant–something that grades and gifts can’t bestow.


  9. Hi Scott, what a pleasure it must be to be able to make mistakes and still advance in your work…..It so often does not occur……THAT is a safe environment where learning can take place. And I like it when effort and not necessarily the right answer counts……A lot of people could have (still can) perform better if only the surroundings were not only focused on the outcomes…..Thanks for sharing those examples – it gives us hope

  10. Wonderful conversation, thank you all. So many interwoven themes of power dynamics, voice, safety, risk.

    Scott, your examples remind me of working with “youth at risk” (that was the label assigned to the target audience) who came from very difficult backgrounds, dropped out of school, etc. They were deemed societal ‘misfits’ and yet took great pride in a community project to restructure the local swimming pool. They apparently learned a great deal about masonry, project planning, team work and communication.

    I’ve heard of similar situations (such as Habitat for Humanity projects) that seem to inspire commitment, engagement (!) and skill-building through trades. Seems to be something about being able to walk past a place and say “I built that!” Maybe schools, families and other ‘institutions’ can think more about experiences that let participants create rather than regurgitate?

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