I’m not a MOOCs expert, but I was curious to see if they could replicate the best kinds of professional learning. So I made a conscious decision to try one because I wanted to know more about strategies and processes for integrating deeper learning. By getting involved, here’s what I learned:

  • How to successfully structure and facilitate my learning experience using simple tools. I had full control over which panel discussions, readings or videos to consume as part of the course, and the structure of the MOOC allowed me to choose how to put into practice what I learned.
  • Protocols for structuring discussions through Google Hangouts, as well as the power of a highly motivated and engaged Google+ community, all while earning a nifty badge.

By allowing me to pick and choose my path through the course, I had control of my learning. Voice and choice were foundational and made my experience personal and purposeful by allowing me to meet my needs in my own way. I’m not saying that a MOOC format will work for all learners or learning, but the personalization and tinker mentality warrant some thought when considering how to innovate professional learning. We have more than enough technology to support personalized and differentiate learning. The time has come to ask students and educators — I mean learners — what they want to learn, how they want to learn it, when they want to learn, plant a seed, then give them time to tinker.

Educators are masterful at tinkering to meet the needs of a diverse range of students. Students are masterful at tinkering to solve a problems in a video games. The more opportunities all learners have to explore what works or doesn’t work, the larger their intellectual toolbox. Many educators have not had the opportunity to be the drivers in their own professional learning and tinkering gives them this opportunity. If we want educators to facilitate, inspire, model, and design meaningful learning experiences for students that purposefully integrate technology, then professional learning should do the same.

Tinker Time tips

  • Use the experts on campus
    • Teachers, students, tech coordinators, parents, local businesses, etc.
  • Know your audience
    • Who needs what and when do they need it
  • Make learning flexible and personal
    • Voice and choice in what, how, and when
  • Build in extra learning time for failure, trial-and-error, and space to really tinker and, therefore, learn. Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast. Give learners time to explore the new tool, strategy, or knowledge.
  • When incorporating tinkering into learning, remember that the amount of scaffolding you will have to plan for depends on the participants. Communicate with people, not over people.

Tinkering is not about the product, it’s about the process. Enjoy the journey and don’t focus so much on having a spiffy product that can be presented or showcased. There is a time and a place for presenting, but true integration is about the journey and what was learned along the way. Tinkering is messy, but fosters deeper learning because learners are doing the thinking. Embrace it. Find balance. Find relief in the fact that you do not have to have all of the answers.

About the Author:

Jasmine Escalante is product development and curriculum writer for MindWorks Resources.