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From Ur to Shechem

The course I envisaged is for teachers of religious education using digital skills. The five week course is designed to teach the use of OER repositories and learn of the origins of the Jewish nation and their religion – they are intertwined.

The five topics are:-

Week 1: Early life in Ur. The life style of the family of Abram (and other ordinary people living in that important city about 2,200 years BC. None of the repositories provided the essential information readily and most either did not have the information or had some in an obscure location that was difficult to find. Using Google was much simpler and a source of much of the information needed. But a much better source was the Bible itself and there are a number of free online versions readily available e.g.

Week 2: The call of Abram: The OER repositories listed were of no help whatsoever.

Week 3: Re-locating to Haran: Again these OER repositories were of little value with information about the development of Haran as the major trading city in the region.

Week 4: Abram leaving home: I could not find any reference to this in those repositories.

Week 5: The journey to Shechem: Either there was nothing in those repositories or it was too difficult to find.

So, either I changed my target course or persisted in using Google or a modern version of the Bible.


Motivation – Mozilla Badges

The open learning concept embodied in MOOC has many attractive features but also faces some great (maybe insurmountable) hurdles.

One such hurdle that does not yet appear to be directly addressed is motivation; the kind of motivation that will keep students in a learning mode over a period of time . . . maybe years.

My experience as an old OU graduate and having completed several correspondence courses before that, taught me the importance of maintaining momentum over a prolonged period of time against the pressure of time allocation and family demands . . . we start our educational journey fresh and with much enthusiasm but this wears off as time goes by and realism sets in.

It seems that we need both “carrot and stick” . . . encouraging pats on the back and spurs in the backside or a pat on the back that is administered hard, low down and often. This requires constant vigilance by a respected pedagogue. Learning for its own sake is insufficient for most of us.

One MOOC approach is the encouragement a spirit of camaraderie – peer group pressure if you like or ‘we’re all in the soup together’, but time will be measure of the success of this strategy – (P.S. Some of us now have to learn the art of social networking – the dark secrets of blog or tweet technology.)

Those of us who have been involved in the teaching of the 11 to 16 age group in the State system know from bitter experience the difficulty of motivation.

“Nothing succeeds like success” is a motivational axiom, like the Pavlovian Dog concept (Classical Conditioning) and so an approach is offered using Mozilla Badges (we used gold star stickers for little kids in my day). To be successful the badges will have achieve (and demonstrate) success – students will demand a level of intrinsic value that can readily be perceived by educational institutes and employers alike, and this, in turn, will require some external validating authority.

One of my granddaughters is busy right now revising for an exam – third year medical studies. Most people will feel more confident in her medical skills when she has gained her MD rather than having a collection of Mozilla badges.

The question of accreditation remains – neither peer group acceptance, or blog approval, or community consensus is enough – society will demand more.

My name is Stephen and I’m too old to be enrolling for a course like this but I’m still interested in education and curious about openess.
Way back in 1978 while I was teaching in a High School graduated with the OU in Education (I’ve forgotten the Course Title).
My immediate reaction to these first papers was’wow’ can I cope with the hands-on knowledge of social networking required . . . blogs, Facebook, twitter, etc.
I also question the centricity of “creativity” demanded by Weller in an understanding of openess in eduction.
Having been educated in, and then taught in a High School with its conventional pedagical style, i.e. teacher (expert – master of the subject complete with chalkboard) and taught, I’m intrigued with the concept of shared knowledge.
The economic benefits are indisputable but will our educators, our professors, our course leaders want to leave their ivory towers?
The value of OERs likewise is indisputable but I wonder how readily such resources will become (apart from Google) and even Google has its problems with selectivity when I want the one appropriate resource out of the 5,000.000 offerings.
however, I must stop this and get thinking ‘creatively’ about presentation.