Group Learning Online

“By removing the creative process and leaving only the results of that process, you virtually guarantee that no one will have any real engagement with the subject.” –from A Mathematician’s Lament by Paul Lockhart (2009)

This critique of mathematics education today is taken from an assigned reading in the first MOOC I have ever seriously taken. What I mean by serious, is that I am participating fully – watching all of the videos, doing the readings, completing the assignments, and even reviewing the work of my fellow peers.

By the way, there are approxinmately 35,000 people registered for this course.

ID-100201395Before discussing what the course is about, to those who do not know what a MOOC is, it stands for massive online open course. This recent development in distance learning provides opportunities for individual to connect, grow networks, and learn anytime, anywhere on virtually any topic. Coursera is one provider of MOOCS and presently provides 418 courses on their platform (that number will probably change quickly). In September, I will be taking Creativity, Innovation, and Change.

The course I am presently enthralled in, however, is called EDUC115N: How to Learn Math and is provided by Stanford University. Open to anyone and presently being taken by teachers, parents, educators, students, and those interested in mathematics, this course is designed as an intervention to change students’ relationship to math. I have currently finished Session 1: Knocking down the myths about math and am in the middle of Session 2: Math and mindset. It really has surprised me as to how engaging and well-designed the course is. Made up of short, 2-5 minute videos and assignments, I am moving through the content and finding myself thinking about what I am learning and experiencing throughout the day.  So far, I have been watching videos that include mathematics professor Jo Boaler speak about ways we stereotype mathematics, the labeling of the mathematical abilities of individuals as either “good” or “bad” at math, and the current research about math and learning—as well as students discussing how they feel about math. After each video, there is a short assignment to complete, a question to answer, or a reflection to respond to. These include, “What are similar messages that students hear about math?” or “Create a concept map of the big ideas discussed by the students in the video.”  In addition, you are asked to assess the work of your peers by rating responses with either a 1 (response addresses the given question) or 0 (response does not address the given question.) This is a great way to see how others are responding. You are asked to assess three learners at a time. There is also a discussion forum, which I have not yet participated in. If you finish most of the work (85%) you can earn a Statement of Accomplishment. Not sure what that means, however it is something I would like to strive for.

This is a short video about the course:

So far, I love this course. It’s engaging, well designed, and meaningful. I look forward to continuing the adventure!


Image courtesy of gameanna /

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