This is an exciting week as COOCS are represented at the Learning Technologist of the Year awarded by ALT (the Association of Learning Technologists). We are alongside some brilliant projects, individuals and teams from the world of education, so it is amazing to think our project has been included. For those of you already involved in COOCS, it is a fantastic reflection of your efforts in creating learning for free, in multiple spaces and places and often with people accessing learning they could otherwise not find.
If you are new to COOCs, we would welcome you and your ideas for learning at any time, on any subject. It does often feel that we can be outside the discussion on education, and that is why it is so significant to have the support of ALT, a recognition of these outsider spaces of learning being important. The whole COOCs project came about by recognising that the more discussion focuses on what happens in the institutions, the more those innovations, energetic learning ideas and vibrant communities happening outside can be marginalised and forgotten.
A few key things define COOCs, it is free because we do not want people to be put off by lack of money. It is open to what you want to teach and learn, because we realise this can be something that applies to small-scale and local interest and won’t always fit with formal courses. The term community is fluid, it can mean one or two people creating learning they want to share, it can be whole organisations, community groups or newly formed groups of people coming together around a shared passion. The idea of courses is also free, it can mean different things depending on context. Length of course, who interaction occurs and what the point of the learning is comes from those involved.
These freedoms can be challenging. There is no quality control, no cover-all standard of what needs to be done and what that needs to look like. It requires responsibility, reflection and ownership of the learning that takes place. Free does not mean without value, it can mean an increase in participation because without it, there are no giant establishment scaffolds to keep things aloft. Free comes at a price, and that is the price of purpose. Without a purpose then learning cannot thrive and although that may mean long-term projections are impossible in an environment of rapidly changing purpose, it does mean fluid, responsive approaches such as COOCs can accommodate such flux.
Collectively, participation in learning in such diverse places has highlighted some exciting practices. it is clear for instance that those involved in learning creation are able to create knowledge pathways best by including their own lives and experiences. Rather than attempting to ‘discover’ a utopian platform of objective truth, beginning thinking by realising our use of knowledge is important, has been powerful. In some cases this has meant challenging conventional wisdom, seeking new spaces of thought beyond medical or social problems of health for instance. We came to know this as gonzo pedagogy, reflecting Hunter S Thompson’s approach to journalism that recognised sometimes the subjective narrative tells the story better than a simulated objective truth. Gonzo pedagogy, like campfires of creativity which also emerged as a means of creating learning, requires dialogue first of all and a willingness to allow others to be included in what is created. Without an immediate adherence to what has gone before, what is accepted and expected as a common sense approach to learning, then new approaches can emerge. These rarely followed familiar and standardised roads, and more likely lead to creating new pathways altogether. And it is this that means we can celebrate COOCs as one strand in the many ways we might create fairer, more responsive ways of learning together. By responding to changes that do not happen to everyone, everywhere, but are happening to you, right now we can see knowledge- creation as something we contribute to and help create.
Thanks to ALT, it feels as if we can engage with others in discussion. Along with others doing great work in the in-between spaces, such as the Ragged University, the possibility of helping shape alternate ways of developing formal and informal education seems possible.
Please consider joining COOCs, we collect no data, trade no details, run no adverts and charge no fees. We are non-institutional but supportive of all those educators inside and outside the educational institutions who work to try and create educational opportunity that is accessible and reflective of the communities in which we all live.
If you read this before 12th September 2018, consider voting for COOCs in the ALT Community Choice Award. Win or not, it would be great to have your support.
To Vote by email:
Use the subject line ‘Vote #LTA10 Shukie’ and send to LTAwardsfirstname.lastname@example.org
To Vote by Twitter
Tweet the phrase ‘Vote #LTA10 Shukie #altc’