by Jessie Daniels
At our Feb 21 lunchtime FutureEd discussion, we had the good fortune to be joined by Cathy Davidson for a chat about unlearning and the state of the MOOC. We opened by each sharing a story that involved unlearning. In examples that ranged from home aquariums to classrooms to social justice, we shared moments of transformation. As far ranging as the specific instances were, what emerged from the group is that unlearning is transformative because it pushes us to have authentic learning experiences and to know by doing, not to know by thin content acquisition. When it comes to our classrooms, this is especially tricky. Academic professions are built around the idea of content mastery in specialized fields, and our students often come the expectation that we will transfer knowledge to them. Even when teachers and students both understand that active, experiential learning yields the best results, we can experience significant resistance on both sides when we leave behind the simple transaction between the lecturer and listener for the wilds of the immersive and experiential. Perhaps what teachers can do for our students is to model how to be comfortable with uncertainty, and take risks ourselves. Our current cultural fascination with technology in the classroom is really just a ruse: technology is the ploy that encourages teachers and students to move out of their comfort zones and into better ways of learning. Professor Davidson echoed this sentiment in sharing what has been the most surprising about teaching a MOOC: it is not the massiveness of the scale, but the intimacy of human exchanges via the discussion forums, social media, and local groups.
See the Storify of live tweets from the talk:
Jessie Daniels is Professor of Public Health, Sociology and Psychology at the Graduate Center and Hunter College, and the co-director of JustPublics@365.