Monday 2 September 2013

Moocs, Music Festivals and Cricket Matches

In July I spent the weekend at the Latitude Festival in Suffolk.  It was the first time I had been to a music festival as opposed to concerts and also the first time I had been camping in a long time.
I blogged about the weekend and very much enjoyed it.
We arrived on the Thursday night and so started to explore on the Friday.  We set off from our small campsite, through a bigger campsite, through the 'village' of shops and facilities and headed towards the arenas.
Then I was struck by the thought 'wow, this is a much bigger place than I expected' and 'I have no idea what to expect or where to find anything' and then realised that I had had this feeling before, in fact very recently.
It was the same sort of feeling as starting a MOOC……
My next thought was ok, what sort of filtering system do I have to put in place in order to make sense of this? 
This has been my immediate response to participating in MOOCs and I thought that although it wasn't exactly the same situation,  there might be some common strategies that could be used?
The similarities were that:
I was in an environment that was massive, there were thousands of people and I didn't know anyone (apart from the person I was with). Thousands of participants and no way of knowing how many or who they were.
I was in an environment that I had signed up to, entered (either physically or virtually) but didn't know what it consisted of – I didn't know the lie of the land.  I could see that the people were in the environment and interacting but didn't have an overview of the whole place.
I could see that the people involved had a purpose, they were individuals or groups and they were there to see/ hear someone or something.  There was an itinerary – i.e. it was possible to find a list of performers (lectures) and there was a list of tents / arenas (rooms) in which you could enter to see the performance.
Most importantly, there was a lot  happening, too many events for one individual to see or participate in them all – it was necessary to dip in and dip out of events and 'go with the flow'.
So that is what we did at the music festival – we picked a couple of performances each day that we wanted to see and then just wandered around and stopped to see or listen to whatever was happening – sometimes we followed the crowd to the popular arenas, sometimes we chose a less busy place in order to interact more and sometimes we went back to the campsite to get away from it all.
Obviously there were differences, one is mainly a physical environment and was entertainment (the music festival) – there were no learning outcomes that I was trying to achieve. 
I could actually see (hear and touch) the other participants, I knew they existed and we were all in the same place. It was real but I was surprised by the similarities in the experience.
Last weekend we went to the Twenty20 cricket match at Chester le Street, Durham.  It was a great day – England v Australia and England won – women's match in the morning and men's in the afternoon.
Again there were a large number of people participating in an event but this time it didn't have any of those moocish overwhelming feelings nor music festival feelings.
I think this is because everyone had a seat – there was a defined space where each individual was placed – there was no choice and no decision to make about where you would place yourself.
There was only one performance at a time, one match, everyone was watching and listening to the same thing at the same time.  There was a start and finish time and it was a performance with rules that those playing and those watching knew about and adhered to.   You could interact with other participants but only the other members of the audience not the players although I suppose by cheering (especially the barmy army) you could influence the performance.  

I don't know whether to feel 'moocish' is good or bad – I don't think it matters as long as you recognise it when it overwhelms you.