August 17, 2012

Encounter with the MOOC MOOC Monster

Darkness had spread across my world, but a single square of light shimmered in the Google Documents warehouse. A young woman from New Zealand sat cross-legged on the dirt floor next to me, studying the sheet of paper spread out before us. We were alone. 

The blank paper glowed with possibilities. New Zealand Woman had a vision for what the spreadsheet should look like — a place to gather sexy computer tools — but when she tried to write, nothing happened. She looked up in frustration. “How do we change it so that I can edit?” 

“I’m not sure,” I said. Just because I’d volunteered to help make a spreadsheet of computer tools didn’t mean I had the slightest idea how to use any of them. I started picking up pens and trying to scribble on the blank sheet that remained, annoyingly, blank. My usual method of figuring out new computer tools is to just experiment like crazy. New Zealand Woman, it turns out, was a kindred spirit. Soon we were both grabbing every pen in sight, clicking madly to see if we could make them work. 

That’s when we heard a noise, a door opening. 

“I think someone else is here,” New Zealand Woman whispered to me. 
“Maybe they overheard us talking on Twitter,” I said. 

The steps came closer. I could feel the creature breathing. The list on the screen said only “Anonymous 192.” It could be anyone or anything. But New Zealand Woman decided to take a risk. She stood up boldly and called out: “Hello Earthling! Welcome!” 

The creature didn’t respond. I jumped to my feet, yelling and waving my hands in the air, the way I would if I met a grizzly bear on a trail. New Zealand Woman began typing in all caps, as loudly as she could. 

“I don’t think it can hear,” I said. “Maybe it doesn’t know enough to click and open the chat function.” New Zealand Woman ran to the nearest wall and scrawled: “Welcome Earthling! Who are you? We need your help!” 

I jumped into the comments, banging pots and pans. New Zealand used that distraction to sneak back onto Twitter. Then I heard her squeal. “It’s the MOOC MOOC monster!” 

I dropped the pot that I was banging against the metal beam of cyberspace. We both ran into the dark shadows of the warehouse. New Zealand Woman found the MOOC MOOC creature first and gave him a hug. 

Everyone loves the MOOC MOOC monster. After several hugs, he transformed into the Jedi Knight we’d gotten to know over twitter, and he helped us figure out how to finish setting up the spreadsheet. He’d left the Google Doc door open, and soon a fourth person joined us, a smart young woman dressed in orange, Anonymous 196. She sat right down at the spreadsheet and began filling it out immediately. 

“Hey, Person in Orange!” I greeted her. 

“I come in peace,” she said. “It's the middle of the night where I am. But I have insomnia.” She lived, it turns out, in my time zone, only about 60 miles away, more than ten times closer than either of my other collaborators. We began working on the document, cursors blinking as we filled in rectangles. 

"What should we say about Pinterest?" New Zealand Woman asked. "That it's been taken over by pictures of baby stuff, wedding crap, and pretty clothing?"

Jedi Knight jumped in with snarky comments, and the two of them made me laugh so hard that I couldn't type. We talked about the MOOC MOOC community, all of us feeling warm and fuzzy about the folks we'd met this week. We worked, we traded stories, and it all ended with a big group hug. 

Then I shut my laptop, returning to the dark of my own house, where the rest of my family had been sleeping for hours. 

That was Wednesday night’s late night experience with MOOC MOOC – a massive open online course (MOOC) about MOOCs. I collaborated with three other people in two other time zones, folks I’ve never met in person. By the time I woke up the next day, the MOOC MOOC community had crowded the warehouse, taken over the document and filled in the blank spaces with all kinds of sexy tools. I'm loving the anonymous collaboration.

Here’s my challenge to my readers: go look at the document (click here) and see if you can add anything.


Chris Friend said...

How has no one commented on this yet? This is delightful. You've done a marvelous job of capturing the mystery, the nuance, and the cacophony of widespread random collaborative work.

What you depict here is exactly what I recall there: work gets done, and the work is good, but the connections with the people doing the work are far more important.

Elaine said...

Great story and thank-you for the link to the tools! It is excellent (I added one! So fun!)! I am totally reaping the rewards of your learning!!

Anonymous said...

You captured the feeling exactly!

Belle said...

I nominate Library Thing, which I love.

Andrew Chambers said...

My main comment is that the tool doc doesn't reference any LMS systems. I know that the MOOCMOOC used Canvas and there was some discussion over whether an LMS was neccessary. Even so I think they should be included as MOOCs need a place to form, The LMS may be the best place for the moment...

Unknown said...

This was wonderful! I loved the narrative just as much as I love the document you created! It will be so useful for me as an online graduate student. I'm excited to use it.