How to really get to know people in an online course – ask a child #rhizo15

(This post was written as a transcript of a short presentation I gave at a Melbourne TeachMeet at Melbourne High School September 2015).

How do you really get to  know people in an online course? Ask a child! What would a child do? A child would play.

And so we did in Rhizo15, the connected MOOC. It was new to me and I loved every minute.

I wanted to be playful so I wrote a play. In response to the weekly prompt: “Learning subjectives: designing for when you don’t know where you’re going.”

I was unsure about how people would feel about the play – and if they would read it at all – so I was surprised when I received lots of positive comments (blog comments don’t always happen for me) and Terry Elliott suggested we make it into a radio play. Simon Ensor added the comment: “I second Terry. I’m in for rhizoradio or other play. Do we have to do casting for the role of Mr X or do we crowdcast?”

I felt encouraged and sent out an invitation to a Google Doc so we could write the play collaboratively.

Hello there. My name is Tania Sheko. Thanks for responding so positively to this short piece of fiction/non-fiction. I’m taking up the suggestion to create something for #rhizoradio (suggested by Terry Elliott and seconded by Simon Ensor) and other suggestions to do a collaborative rewrite eg include a larger cast so we can actually (somehow) create a podcast for #rhizoradio (which is going to be a thing I think). Hope you can join me here!

But how would we bring everyone together to produce the radio play/podcast?

Maha (from Cairo) was thinking about a live reading:

It’s near impossible to organize across timezones but if you sleep really late and I wake really early we might catch the ppl in the US ? or the opposite, if u wake really early and I sleep really late we can make it at a good time for everyone. Usually around 10pm my time that’s 2pm EDT and I think early-ish morning for you?

In the end we decided to record our own parts on SoundCloud and send the file to Kevin Hodgson who generously took the time to put it all together.

Other things also happened – you can’t keep up with the rhizome.  Actually, so much happened while I was sleeping last night:

Autumm Caines created a really neat video promo.

Autumm used the image created by Angela Brown in Pulp-O-Mizer.

Kevin Hodgson used Thinglink for his promo.

Sarah Honeychurch had fun remixing a popular Christmas tune forher promo.

Here’s the final version of the play (although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Google doc version continues to evolve).

My original story, Mr X loses his battle for objectivity, has been stormed, hacked and now exists as an evolved creation belonging to those playing and learning in the rhizome (#rhizo15). It is no longer mine and that’s a fantastic thing, something I’m excited about. Thank you, everyone, for the experience – in particular to Kevin for putting together the audio files – but also to those contributing voices, to the voices in the chat comments for the evolving Google doc, to those on Twitter and other social media platforms, to the creative people designing promos, and anyone else I’ve forgotten.  I know it sounds as if I’m accepting an Oscar (haha) but I really do want to thank all of you for the fun we’ve had together.

#Rhizoradio presents a radio play courtesy of the #rhizo15 community:

A Multitude of Voices

(aka) Mr X loses his battle for objectivity ( original unevolved title fromthe original story)


Was this a success in educational terms? We had fun!

Maha: it was some of the BEST fun I ever had… wish I could find a way to encourage my students to do something like this of their own initiative, but that’s not thinking rhizomatically… so I should think of how to create an environment that encourages the spirit of this kind of thing and see what emerges from their work!!!

We unpacked rhizomatic learning collaboratively and creatively. We got to know each other through play. We were amazed by each other – as each person initiated ideas and created things because they were inspired to do so. We keep in touch – in subsequent MOOCs, through hashtag conversations on Twitter. We reach out to each other with questions and challenges. We jump in when we see requests for collaboration and opportunities to do things together. I learned about different tech tools but more importantly why and how to use them. I added their blogs to my Inoreader, so I could keep reading them, I followed them on Twitter and made sure I added a Tweetdeck column to see what they were saying/doing, I explored what else they did online eg Soundcloud, Slideshare, Google +, in Facebook groups, and wherever else they were.

Don’t tell me that you can’t form friendships online.

How to really get to know people in an online course- Ask a child.

17 thoughts on “How to really get to know people in an online course – ask a child #rhizo15”

    1. Couldn’t tell. We had several 7 minute presentations one after the other. I would have liked to know though. Someone I had known for some time said to me later when went for drinks that she was expecting me to talk about risk. Yes, definitely, it’s about taking risks when you feel safe and supported by people. That’s why you won’t get students to respond meaningfully to an open task or discussion until you create a community that makes them feel safe to take risks.

      I could have elaborated a lot more but I only had 7 minutes. 🙂

    2. Thinking about it again, I think it wasn’t possible to convey the excitement of our collaborative playing in such a reduced story. You really have to experience it for yourself.
      Apart from that it was the only talk which wasn’t about teaching but about learning. Maybe some people think – well, this is fun but what does it have to do with teaching. One of the people did pick up on me saying we, educators, need nurturing too. I really believe this is an important aspect. After all we came to teaching because we love learning.

      1. That’s kind of the trick, right? We came to teaching because we love learning, as you said, which means we somehow flourished in previous educational approaches that may not work for our students today. I love cMOOCs coz they push me to learn in new ways and sometimes uncomfortable ways – which helps me remember a learner mindset, always, and inspires me to teach ih new ways because I continue to be exposed to new ways – both in content of MOOCs and as I learn what other educators in other contexts do in their own teaching. It’s a win-win-win

  1. Play is the key to most learning, I think—at least, it is for me. That we call it school work points to what’s wrong with traditional education. If we’d make it school play, it would work.

    1. So true, Keith. Sorry, I only saw this comment now when I saw that Angela had commented.
      I would love the opportunity to collaborate with educators who thought that play would work best at school and create some sort of example for how it would look. If you say it, you’ll be dismissed as being unrealistic but I really believe it’s true.

  2. It is interesting sometimes that if you ask a room full of teachers what their most fun, empowering, exciting learning experience, you can get 100% passionate responses, but ask the same question about online learning, and there are some who have never experienced a meaningful learning experience involving collaborating online . That’s why sharing these experiences as educators being learners is really important and great to see. 🙂 I’ve also realised that I have only shared my #rhizo15 experience with immediate colleagues (I’ve never been comfortable with an audience, so it’s not a natural progression for me to present about it) BUT I could do a lot more to share what made it so effective. I am going to think about that – feeding it forward. Love that you have all taken this beyond #rhizo15. Well done. 🙂

  3. Thank you, Angela. Encouragement from online/mooc colleagues is so valuable. It is the difference between keeping it quiet and allowing it to become an invisible archive and having the guts to tell the story. I do think that people are more comfortable sharing teaching/tech tips and not learning experiences because we should be all about teaching. But we need to be more about learning. I’ve been asked to do a short session in a couple of weeks when staff share expertise/ideas. Again I’m thinking about what I could do beyond sharing a tool or two. I’m a bit afraid though that teachers will only be interested in what they can immediately implement in their teaching.

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