Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Balfour and Stewart through Johnston's filter #edcmooc

I read three articles this week, here is my rather limited reflection on them:

Johnston, R (2009) Salvation or destruction: metaphors of the internet. First Monday, 14(4).

In the article above Johnston discusses the use of metaphor when describing the Internet, based on a study of editorials. She broadly divides the metaphors into those which are utopian (salvation) or dystopian (destruction) . Examples of salvation metaphors she quotes are the Internet helps, transforms, handles. While destructive metaphors include the Internet targets, attacks, assaults. As Johnston states when we choose to use either set of metaphors we are choosing a filter through which to view the Internet. This is obviously designed to influence the reader.

Bearing this in mind, the tutors have asked us to read the following 2 articles on MOOCs. The first by Balfour focuses on the assessment of written work, looking at two methods, one automated, the other peer review. While the second by Stewart looks at how he believes that the advent of MOOCs has created an unintentional opportunity for students to develop digital literacies through participation and collaboration.

Balfour, S., 2013. Assessing Writing in MOOCs: Automated Essay Scoring and Calibrated Peer ReviewTM. Research and Practice in Assessment, 8, pp.40–48.

Stewart, B., 2013. Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation? Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2).

Balfour and Stewart articles approach MOOCs from polar opposites.  Balfour's article is comparing 2 assessment tools, that are aiming to assess student written work on a MOOC to the same rigorous standard as work submitted on regular University Bachelors course, where there are a manageable number of students.  While Stewart is looking at how the MOOC presents an opportunity to learn new digital literacies and take the teaching out of the lecturers direct control, while the learners use collaboration through social networking, blogs and discussion boards to share expertise and knowledge. Essentially, as I see it, Balfour is writing about how some are trying to limit the change MOOCs could bring, while Stewart is writing about how we should embrace the change and use it to develop learning in a new direction.

The metaphors used in both articles back this up, Balfour's are very mechanistic, tools, mechanisms, which suggest control and reliance on something/somebody else. While the metaphors used by Stewart suggest openness, vastness, growth and movement, sea of knowledge, flow of information, sowing seeds. 

It seems to me obvious which view of MOOCs is the most desirable, which heralds a utopian future for education, rather a drab dystopian one, but I have no interest in keeping things the way they are, I have no need of an A grade paper. I want to learn and learning by sharing is the future.

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