Posted on September 1, 2015


I took the morning off to drop in on my friend’s PhD dissertation defense. Spoiler:  It took ’em about 7 minutes to decide “accepted — no revisions” 🙂

She basically took what she was doing and learning and turned it into a research question, so it’ll make more sense to explain it that way.   SHe’s made online resources for learning about music and musical notation; she found that lots of people were interested in it.   Sixty people said they were interested in participating in her research on learning online; a bunch dropped out before even started and a bunch more disappeared before completing an activity.   However, she had 11 folks working with her towards their individual goals in learning about music.

Since she sent me the 200 pages yesterday, no, I haven’t read it … and she whirled through the presentation (because, after all, her committee pretty much knew it by heart and she only had 20 minutes)… but the goals ranged from wanting to compose  a “spooky-mood composition”  to wanting to learn to read common notation,  to wanting to compose a Baroque-style fugue.

So, while on the surface there weren’t common threads, she explored common issues:   the influences of the direct, individual interactions with her; positive and negative influences of the learners’ local “communities of practice” (yes, I need to read this part!)… the OER themselves and the local teachers some of her learners had.

One surprise was that the musical notation which she had always considered “hard but necessary” was, for some learners, basically a barrier between the learner and their goal.  How many aspects of math education might also be considered necessary but… not really be?

She talked about the importance of a short term activity being perceived as moving the student towards goals.

Questions that resonated in the air were:   how could online learning become more than isolated humans staring at their computers? WHy did so many people drop out?

New Buzzwords to explore:   ‘activity theory’ — because if it fits, that would be a nice way of declaring that there are ways of learning math that aren’t mimicking procedures. TIme to do a little reading 🙂   BUT mainly time to make some more movies…

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