If someone had told me two months ago that a MOOC would bring my family closer together I would have LOL’d at the idea. However, several weeks into my participation in the National Writing Project & Educator Innovator’s Connected Learning MOOC (#CLMOOC), I can tell you that “Connected Learning” has taken on an entirely new meaning to me. Yes, I connected with many other people in the MOOC in various and interesting ways, but moreover, I made deeper connections with my family and close friends.
How? You ask – through making.
The #CLMOOC is the inverse of your typical MOOC. In this MOOC, instead of one person doling out bits of information that they deem important, the learners drive the show. The course is structured through “make cycles,” in which facilitators suggest a “make” theme that can apply to virtually any interest or topic that you are passionate about learning/doing. Learners contribute their “makes” to a “make bank” for others to view, learn from, comment on, and riff off of.
I chose my makes to be about food, since my son and I have a keen interest in the subject (see my earlier post for background on this). In our first make cycle, we were asked to develop a “how-to guide” for our subject. We decided to make a three-tier cake and write a how-to guide. Mind you, this is quite ambitious for me since I can’t recall the last time I made a birthday cake, let alone a three-tier goliath (I have to thank my son’s obsession with Cake Boss for figuring out what in the world to do with fondant). Here is the final version of our how-to guide.
In the process of making the cake and guide we:
- Took a family trip to a friend’s farm to gather ingredients
- Sought out advice from close friends on cake-making tips.
- Jointly researched cake-making techniques and designs.
- Celebrated by eating with family and friends (on more than one occasion).
- Shared photos and stories of the event with other family and friends.
- Were asked by several friends to make birthday cakes for their kids.
- [and the list continues to grow]
The making of the cake became an event that connected us with the lives of family and friends in deep, memorable, and playful ways.
The making of the cake became an event that connected us with the lives of family and friends in deep, memorable, and playful ways. And there was more fun to come- the next cycle asked us to make a “meme.” This was easy – our trial runs at decorating cupcakes had been a complete fail (and thus, good learning experience), so the “nailed it” meme worked perfectly. In the process of creating and sharing this make we:
- Connected with foodie friends in my personal network, some of whom I hadn’t heard from in years.
- Discussed “hacking” with my parents, and learned more about their 1960’s version of making/hacking: the Whole Earth Catalog.
- Convinced my mother to use Facebook. Not sure if that was a loss or a gain.
We were then asked to create a game. I must admit, we wimped out on this. We had plans to create a Minecraft food game, but ran out of time for this. Instead we played 20 questions on a “food” theme – which was pretty fun and did involve the entire family. Who knew it was so difficult to guess ‘asparagus’?
Our next task was to “hack our writing.” We decided to hack a recipe for this make. Having convinced my son that the Little House on the Prairie series was the best book series ever (and hopefully not wrecking his social life in the process), we discovered the The Little House Cookbook, which curates all the dishes described across the series and provides stories and recipes. We chose to hack an “apple turnovers” recipe in several ways: 1. Make it gluten-free (celiac sufferer here) 2. Use modern apples (the apples they used back then were pretty sour and inedible by today’s standards). 3. Half the recipe. In the process of this make we:
- Learned about the history of apple pie making on my father’s side of the family (that’s where the ‘Baker’ comes from, I guess).
- Took trips around the city together to find various ingredients.
- Argued about who ate whose apple turnover and then came up with a plan to respect each others’ food (it all worked out in the end…).
We are still in the midst of the CLMOOC. Next up is working with light and writing. I’m not sure how we are going to work that into the theme (open for suggestions though!). I am looking forward to continued family making and celebrating. I am thankful for the CLMOOC in inspiring us to connect. make, and play together. Also, I want to give a special shout-out to Mia Zamora and Kylie Peppler for helping me think more deeply about the role of making in connected learning, and in my own life.