MOOCs aren’t stabs

« MOOCs aren’t stab » clearly inspired by « Mocks aren’t stubs » an article of Martin Fowler well known by developers because it lighten a confusion between two approaches of emergent design: classical TDD and mockist TDD.

As a developer autodidact, I can’t pass through the phenomenon of MOOC, and find the parallel with Martin Fowler article funny.

 Let me hope I can lighten you about it.

Some teachers are reluctant against MOOC.

Set apart that in France teachers are just unwilling changes due to successive fails in educational reforms, they have arguments to protest against MOOC.

First, they loose their central role.

That’s not a joke, teaching can be a thankless task and the main reward teachers have, is their responsibility in the achievement of their students. Gratitude is not known as the best quality of students, so imagine if they have the feeling that they build their knowledge themselves.

Teachers are not “people who increase taxes”, neither nannies responsible of the bad education of your children, they are the future, the guarantors of the sane evolution of our societies. They merit gratitude, and they have the right to claim gratitude.

Connectivism, require more involvement for teachers.

As they aren’t the only source of information for their students, they need to verify sources, facilitate communications, manage students skills… with the fact they need to be proficient into technologies this may give them more work to achieve good results.

Business ride the change

Better education is not the reason why MOOC make the buzz.

First theories about constructivism started in the 1920’s (Lev Vygotsky) , moodle development started in the 90’s, Georges Siemens used publicly the term connectivism since the end of 2004 (see: ),…

In april 2012 coursera “a for-profit company” (src: wikipedia) announce they have received $16 million from venture capital, in july $6 extras million from funding and during summer 2012 MOOCs made the buzz.

Wait a minute, are we telling teachers: “now, you’ll have to work more, with less gratitude and make business or marketing to be considered.” ? This sounds like stabs, isn’t it ?

Going further…

My truth, is that rules have already changed since a while.

In the 50’s in France a child of 12 was able to recite each department of our country, nowadays, he will find a map of these departments on the web through his mobile.

The debate is not if it is better or not, this will go on whatever we do and the main reason consists in the fact that computers are better than humans to store data.

Knowledge and technologies grow faster than ever giving us more and more power which force us to think more about how we can manage and use this power in a sustainable way, than wasting our time to do what machines already do.

It’s time to explain the title of this article and the parallel with agile methodologies.

I think the main question agile methodologies tend to answer is about how we deliver value. It’s a bit the same question in education: how we make people to deliver their value.

The practice discussed in Martin’s article consists of iterating over:

  • writing a small test which fail

  • implementing the smallest code that makes the test pass

  • refactoring (a.k.a. improving) the code until it’s acceptable

This practice called emergent design, is well known to make developers in confidence with their code, helping them to progress step by step. Classical TDD focuses on testing what are doing each units (pieces) of code, whether the mockist tests the behavior of these units.

Nowadays as we tend to deliver the maximum of value to our users, most of “TDDist” concentrate their effort on the consistency between user expected behavior of an application and the application behavior itself, and so, mocks tend to become the main stream.

The situation is the same in education, what’s matter nowadays is not to stun others with an eidetic memory, but what we are able to accomplish with all resources we can reach.

Testing if a student can restitute “as is” pieces of knowledge we’ve bring to him will not help him to accomplish himself and being a part of society, whereas, testing his “capacity to deliver value”, his behavior inside a group, a project, a network (in the larger sense) will prepare him to find the needed resources to brave walls dressed along his route.

Humans and technologies are part of our life, connectivism is not a choice, is the actual obvious way.

Sure MOOC aren’t connectivism, it’s just a brick, a tool given to the most important piece of the education gear which is “teachers”.

This term certainly need to be refined, but teachers are those who have to inspire our children to become adults, they have to guide them to their accomplishment in the actual society. This is a task clearly more important and difficult than writing and dealing courses. This is also certainly more exciting and fun than being the controller of the right execution of a given plan.

So please, take the opportunity, if you are in the fewest that consider MOOCs are stabs, think about what they will be if you don’t take part of the movement.


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