Category Archives: YogaMOOC

Twenty twenty twenty-four hours to go, oh-oh

I set the lecture videos for #YogaMOOC to play at 1.5x speed, so that I could get through the material on digital distraction a little faster.

It seems like this is an opportunity for reflection.

It feels like a lot of the literature about online ed and flipped classrooms treats this like a feature. Lectures, a one-way communication channel,  become available where and when we want them in video form. The learner has the ability to rewind and rewatch to get all the information they want. The learner can skip forward, or increase the speed of the lecture, if they feel they already know the content, or just prefer the speaker’s voice to be faster (or are in a time crunch). This respects the learner’s autonomy, which is good for intrinsic motivation, right? It also puts a great deal of faith in the learner’s metacognitive skills – that they really are gleaning everything they think they are from a speeded-up lecture.

The edX interface even allows me to read the transcript and ignore the video entirely. I think this was when the penny dropped for me. One criticism I’ve seen of podcasts in particular is that most of us can read a lot faster than we can listen. So if the goal is to move through content, or to ingest a lot of information in a limited period of time, reading is more efficient than listening. But surely the instructors aren’t just using lectures to support different so-called “learning styles,” and I hope they’re not doing it just because classes have lectures.

No, I assume they’re doing it to share their “gift of voice”. (Thanks to Storycenter for this wonderful term, which wraps up all these wonderful variables of tone, timbre, pacing, expression, and personal viewpoint.) They’re doing it to quickly provide a layer of humanity which is much harder to do with pure text.

And I sped it up, and then skipped it entirely. Which I suppose respects my autonomy, but perhaps disrespects theirs.

I’m looking forward to Todd Zakrajsek’s new book Dynamic Lecturing. Todd’s point, in a nutshell, is that “lecture classes” have gotten a bad rap because of some pretty bad lecture practices, but also because we haven’t done a good consistent job of defining what a “lecture” is.  I might even speculate that we’ve defined any lecture which works (including but not limited to short lectures mixed with active learning exercises) as not a true “lecture class”.

(Bonnie Stachowiak’s got a great discussion with Todd on her podcast if you’d like to get that straight from the horse’s mouth.)

It’s interesting to use some of Todd’s thoughts to examine the #YogaMOOC structure. They’ve done a good job of keeping course content engaging by involving multiple speakers each week. (I might prefer to see more videos with multiple speakers, but even having the videos split up with the 3 instructors does help compared to some of the 1-teacher MOOCs I’ve dropped out of.) I don’t feel like I’m getting a real sense of the different personalities of the instructors – I feel like they’re all in a rather narrow “teacher/presenter” mode – but I can tell that they are different individuals. (And again, I’m the one choosing to skim the lectures, so maybe that isn’t fair.)

On the other hand, the edX interface is regimented in a way which encourages us to think of “Lectures”, “On the mat practice”, “Off the mat assignments”, “Guest interviews” and “Optional readings” as thoroughly separate units. There’s no linking back and forth to let me know that I could go into more depth on a lecture’s topic by checking out a particular reading or interview, or that maybe I could skip from a lecture into a few minutes of yoga practice. The design of the navigation does provide structure, but particularly for this course, it feels like an imposition of order which fights the actual message of the class.

What One Sees

I have more thoughts about digital distraction, but I think I’ll summarize so I can publish this post. For starters, I feel like there’s a lot of sloppiness about whether we want to locate blame in our always-on devices, in the specific qualities of platforms like Facebook and Instagram, in our own habits and choices, or in the cultural values which suggest that anything which can be known should be known, immediately. (That’s a criticism of the discussion generally, not specific to this week’s course lectures.) It seems like, if we want to live more balanced, less distracted lives, then we need to start teasing those back apart.

I’m also deeply concerned about using the language of “addiction” to discuss behavior. I say this because I’m pretty sure that I’m out of step with current psychological research, and I’d love to have someone help me understand why, on a biological level, “addiction” is a more appropriate word than “compulsion” or “conditioned behavior.” I notice that I react very negatively to the expansion of the language of substance abuse to behaviors which don’t involve consuming substances; again I suspect there’s something I’m missing here but simply repeating the phrase is not convincing me that it’s medically useful and not just a rhetorical flourish.

Image credits:

GIF from Cool Hand Luke, taken from The Scott Rollins Film and TV Trivia Blog because it looked better than the one I found on Giphy.

Book cover for Dynamic Lecturing from Amazon.

“What One Sees” by Ryan Cadby, CC-BY-SA 2.0, found by searching for Flickr for “digital distraction” and limiting to Creative Commons licensed material.

Don’t be afraid to care

Maha Bali’s blog about starting #YogaMOOC felt like I could have written it.

Normally, that’s a good feeling. Maha’s pretty smart; if she says something I was thinking, then I must be on the right track.

But this post resonated differently. I felt some of that free-floating stress in my own life. A general physical off-ness that comes in part from letting my exercise and sleep routines slip. A mental unsettledness, an annoying distractability. The ongoing battle with my own temper (and perhaps that word “battle” is part of the problem).

It’s a little less fun to see the harder parts of yourself reflected. But it’s still a connection.

So I signed up for #YogaMOOC too. Worst case scenario, it’ll be another notch on my belt of online courses started but not completed. (I guess the worst case is really that I’ll injure myself and annoy everyone telling them how great I was before I took a MOOC to the knee, but then, I’m middle aged, my knees are already creaky, and it’s pretty much a matter of time anyway.) But even if I do, I ought to get a couple of more mindful hours out of it.

So thanks, Maha!

Surya Namaskar

It’s important to set realistic fitness goals. I believe this is achievable.

On the face of it, an “online course” about physical activity seems odd. Of course, there are plenty of YouTube videos designed to teach physical skills, and exercise DVDs and tapes before them, and books before that trying to teach technique with still photos. But I’ll still want to think a little bit about how this compares to a physical yoga class.

Autumm Caines had some interesting thoughts about the class too. Why do we persist in some endeavors? (Which implies the question, why do we stop, and sometimes return?) What does it mean to have a discipline (as opposed to just the quality of “being disciplined”)? And what does it mean to love a discipline, a belief, a system?

I don’t think these thoughts are just navel-gazing; I think they’re core to the business of teaching and learning (and supporting teachers and learners). But I think they’re particularly hard to ask within the walls of the academy, precisely because on the one hand there’s probably somebody who’s studied it harder than you have, and somebody else who’s convinced it’s not actually interesting. There’s also probably some larger group which admits it’s interesting but has some more immediate question.

But I’m particularly interested in this class because it’s got a formal reflective component. I suppose I’ll be trying to reflect on the ways greater awareness in body and mind might have social impact, and what role academic support centers might have in promoting this kind of wellness for work-life balance.

So thanks, Autumm!

Image credit:

“Surya Namaskar” by Michael Pravin, CC-BY-2.0 on Flickr. Found because it’s also been added to Wikimedia Commons,