@sgreenla: Wondering whether I have the creative chops for #ds106. Guess that’s part of why I’ve put off taking it.
This casual tweet set off a series of responses (slightly edited):
Christina Hendricks @clhendricksbc Me too, so need practice.
@cogdog @sgreenla Yeah, the social comparison thing is hard, esp. re: creative stuff. Decided to ditch it and just have fun. Seems like such a great group of ppl doing ds106 that I want to talk to/connect with too. Bonus!
So this got me thinking. It’s the social pressure that’s the barrier. As Christina says, this doesn’t feel like an entry level course where learners are expected to know little about the subject coming in. There are so many creative people doing amazing things. I barely know what some of the things are (e.g. animated gifs) much less know how to create them. What if I embarrass myself? What if I can’t live up to the standard set by the rest of the class?
I’ve thought about “taking” DS106 for a longtime. I’m not sure that’s the right verb, though. My sense is you can’t “take” DS106 in the same way that I’ve taken the three MOOCs I’ve attempted. Rather, DS106 seems to demand a level of engagement or commitment that goes far beyond what a normal class requires. It feels like a cult, almost. This is not a bad thing—I’d love to be able to create course environments in my classes that would make students feel like this. But it is a hurdle for bringing new people in.
The thing is, my “ought to take DS106 desire” wasn’t enough to make me take the plunge. There are a lot of things that professionally I “ought” to do, but I don’t have the time or emotional energy to do them all. In fact, things I put in that category are generally things I don’t do.
So what’s different this time? I have a real reason for taking DS106. Last year, I taught my first fully online course. It was a great experience and, at the same time, it was a humbling experience. I failed my students in some important ways. The course was not the best learning experience it could be. Teaching online is a different animal than teaching face-to-face, and though I thought I understood that, in retrospect deep down I still thought I could hit it out of the park the first time. I couldn’t. I’ve spent six months, since the end of that course thinking about how to improve it, thinking about what I did wrong the last time. I am anxious do to it again.
I’ve gotten a lot of help along the way. Wendy Drexler (@wendydrexler) made an extraordinary effort to meet with me to give me just the right kind of pep talk. She had been following my blog posts about my online course, and decided correctly that I needed an intervention. Her effort involved an hour long drive, a car breakdown, which made the trip *much* longer, all to help someone she’d never met in person before.
I also participated in Dan Ariely’s A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior MOOC. I haven’t completed it yet, but I did achieve my goal which was to get a richer sense of online learning, something I can use to improve my own course.
In short, I want to take DS106 because I think it will help me make my online course a better learning experience. So I’m not taking DS106 because it’s a “requirement” in some sense (“I ought to take this for professional reasons.”) Rather, I’m taking it because I want to, because I see a genuine need this course can help to address. Perhaps that’s the difference between a novice view of learning and a professional, mature view.
Maybe the best help came from Christina Hendricks (@clhendricksbc) who showed me that I’m not alone in my inexperience and anxieties. So Christina, if you’re willing to do this with me, I’m willing to do it with you.