Unexpected Smiles: A #CLMOOC Reflection


I’m trying a new MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). This one is CLMOOC, Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration, the offspring of the National Writing Project’s past summer MOOCishness. It’s facilitated by a group of NWP-experienced and MOOC-solid volunteers.

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 11.43.39 AMMy track record with MOOCs is pretty dismal. I dive in with the rest of the mob but typically, within a couple of of weeks, I am floundering in the backwash of folks who seem to instinctively know the who, what, where, when, and why: who to talk to, when, what to say, what they want to gain from the experience, what they can offer others, etc. As I teetered on the cusp of CLMOOC2016, I wondered whether MOOCs are made for extroverts, which in many ways, I am not.

But I thought I’d try this MOOC for a number of reasons. For one, I know some of the participants from Twitter. They think about writing, talk about it, teach it, and most important, they do it. These are my kind of people. For two, having just finished my doctorate, I could stand to do a little reflecting

(where to live? what kind of work? how about some research? a little writing? or not? if not, why not? if not, then what?  could I extend my dissertation research without being attached to a university? how can we make writing, creating, something that threads through a kid’s life in a way that helps her feel more alive? is secondary English as it exists today the best place to do that? can we sidestep the boundaries to make English 2.0?  )

so a MOOC revolving around making makes sense.  And a MOOC centered on connecting the making (the “makes,” in the parlance of CLMOOC) and the makers is perfect for someone who’s spent upwards of 14 hours a day alone for many months, sifting data and writing.

The first CLMOOC activity was to make an introduction of some kind. So I did. Then there was a Google Hangout with a chat. There’s been some Twitter, some G+ commenting, some Facebook notes. There’s also the Daily Connector, which can be part of the CLMOOC if you want it to be. The CLMOOC daily connector for July 13:  share an unexpected smile.



One of our cars is in the shop. My husband needed a car today, so if I wanted to do errands, that left me with my bicycle.  That’s fine by me– I seem to synthesize best when I’m cycling, hiking, walking, digging– basically, any kind of moving– and I have a lot to chew on. I also have a sweet new bike, which I love, so I was a winner no matter what.

I wasn’t thinking about  smiles  when I pushed off. I was thinking about Pokestops I might encounter along the way. About whether MOOCs are made for extroverts. How a semester-long MOOC might be an interesting option for high schoolers.  All the questions running through my head since I finished (see above). How being affiliated with an institution– secondary school, university– makes some things possible and some things impossible. How easily we can get lost in the tradeoffs.

Smiles Along the Way

smile My church is a Pokestop. (That was a giggle more than a smile.)

smileAt the library, a high school-aged girl passed me as I unlocked my bike. She caught my eye and smiled as she fiddled with her phone. “Mine is frozen,” I said, gesturing to PokemonGo. “Mine, too,” she said; “It keeps saying to try later.” We both smiled, shrugged.

smileAs I slogged up a hill, I passed an elderly gentleman waiting for someone at the end of his driveway. “Have a wonderful day,” he called. “You too,” I said/panted/grimaced.


And then, the conversation I had with the young man at the framing counter of the local crafts store. Ostensibly I was there to check on the job they felt needed to be redone. Turns out I was just in a confluence of the day’s big questions.

He played Minecraft extensively for about five years, starting at about the age of 16. What he learned:

  • Minecraft opens up your world. It teaches you patience, creativity.
  • At the same time, what you make in the real world is infinitely more satisfying than anything you’d make in Minecraft. For example, the set of picklocks he made (he fished them out of his pocket to show me). (Picklocks? Picklocks? My husband tells me physicist genius Richard Feynman made his own set and wandered around Los Alamos trying them out. “It’s about the puzzle,” my husband explained.)
  • Minecraft helped him get thru high school– he didn’t hang out with a lot of people so it was good for those nights alone at home. He met people from all over the world through Minecraft. He met his current girlfriend, even though they were too young to date back then, so they waited ’til they were ready.
  • Minecraft forces you to think about what is a game
  • In the making and breaking of objects, Minecraft makes you think about if video games are art.

No lines. No barriers. Both of us creating and experimenting and puzzling, researching our ways through the world. The unexpected spark when questions and moments coalesce.

Curiosity is all (h/t Shakespeare).

The question is, what will you– I– make of it?



CLMOOC: screenshot

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4 responses to “Unexpected Smiles: A #CLMOOC Reflection”

  1. As a clmooc procrastinator, I very much appreciate your post. It is cool that your cycling is satisfying at that many levels. We walk our dogs around the neighborhood. I’m always impressed how many people connect with us, some walking, some driving, some from houses. A smile comes to my face just recalling the interactions.

    • admin says:

      I love talking with people about their dogs– it usually makes my day. And, as a clmooc newbie, I’m glad some of what I wrote about struck a chord with you.

  2. I really like the many questions you pose and discuss here, about games and art and many other things. My son loves Minecraft, but he hasn’t gotten to the point of creating new things in it (largely because we don’t know how!). But I appreciate the value it can have, as well as that man’s point about how great creating things in the “real world” is!

    I also love the shared smiles, including over Pokemon Go. Seems like that could bring strangers to interact in fun ways! And that there are still people who will greet strangers kindly, with a smile, without any excuse at all (the man as you were going up the hill) is heartwarming.

    • admin says:

      Yes– wasn’t it Blanche Dubois who said something about getting by on the kindness of strangers? It’s sometimes so hard to believe that, but then those little moments….After the Minecraft conversation with the young man, I put Minecraft on my list of things to learn this summer. Thanks for reading, and for commenting, Christina.

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