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Showing posts from December, 2012

Why I stopped believing in MOOCs

When I was starting out in education, I really longed for an exciting range of technological solutions that could engage students from a distance, and encourage online interaction - or what we now refer to as MOOCs. It never seemed to come though, and as the years went by I found myself becoming disillusioned, and later disappointed. My faith in MOOCs as an educational solution wilted.
I had believed that online courses could provide a level social playing field for students in a way that no other educational forum could - but when eventually the technology did start to be readily available, it didn’t seem to achieve what it promised. No matter what I did, I could not seem to get students to engage with it. They seemed fixed, rigidly, in a distrust of educational technology, and unwilling to take that leap of faith into the world of discussion forums and online chats.
As the years went by, I began to understand why. These students were able to achieve everything that MOOCs prom…

Oh pants. This is going to be embarrasing.

This week saw my students undergoing their assessed discussions in a module on cultural theory. Since a central theme of this module is to explore popular culture and to apply methods of textual analysis to it (see Peter Childs’ excellent 2006 book, Texts), this semester I took my students into the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford and invited them to explore that desperate hell-hole in the light of the theories and topics we had been exploring.
I have done this kind of thing before, and it generally produces really exciting responses - and this time was no different. We had discussions about how some shops market the idea of elite bourgeois values to the masses as a material commodity rather than as a hegemonic power structure. We had discussions about how banks advertise themselves. We had discussions about paradox, the media and political power in The Hunger Games.
The discussion which caused the biggest stir though, was the one which took for its topic a rather exclusive…

But why not?! The questionable conjunction.

So I ended last week questioning the recieved wisdom about conjunctions.  I imagine like many educators, I have become habitually familiar with adding marginal comments on essays firmly declaring that you should 'never begin a sentence with a conjunction'.  In case you are unaware of the phenomenon, conjunctions are words which are designed to act as a pivot between the two clauses in a sentence.  Common examples are words like 'and' or 'but' (what we might refer to as 'co-ordinating conjunctions) or 'if', 'when' and 'because' (what we might refer to as 'subordinating conjunctions).  If you are still unsure of what we mean by conjunctions, you could do a lot worse that sit back and enjoy this masterful 1973 song:

It's a wonder more people don't write songs about grammatical or linguistic conventions, isn't it?  Perhaps Justin Beiber's next hit could be 'Beauty and a Compound Subject', or perhaps Olly Murs&…