Hello Grif!

See the preceeding goodbye post from our former learning lead Vanessa, before reading this hello post from new learning lead, Grif Peterson…

Thank you for passing along the learning torch Vanessa – I humbly accept. I’m lucky to have had a month to overlap with you, and am grateful to your commitment to lend an ear and a brain down the road. You really are stellar.

Last month, I introduced myself in the P2PU online community, and I am happy to have the chance to expand a bit here. For the past year, I’ve been part of Learning Over Education at the MIT Media Lab, where we develop new technologies for creative learning, tie together learning-related research across the Media Lab, and engage the Lab community in conversations about learning. It was through my work with Learning Over Education that I first encountered P2PU.

In spring 2014, the Media Lab and P2PU jointly ran Learning Creative Learning, an open community that explores new ways to support creative learning across a variety of disciplines and professions. Even though the community was based online, our biweekly discussions always focused on how we could better support learners’ goals, rather than how we could force learners into an existing online platform. It was encouraging to be amongst a team that recognized the radical power of learning at scale, but never at the expense of the unique needs and goals of each individual learner. To liberally paraphrase JFK, we were asking not what learning could do for the internet, but what the internet could do for learning.

In light of these conversations and others like it, P2PU made a deliberate shift this year to begin supporting offline communities who are using open online learning materials, rather than working (almost) exclusively online. Joining P2PU as the Learning Lead, I am eager to support this effort. To begin, I’ll be coordinating Online Learning @ the Public Library, a Knight Foundation project charged with organizing in-person study groups for patrons of Chicago Public Library to take open, online courses together. Beginning in late April, we’ll be running pilot courses on public speaking, GED math prep, programming with Python, and academic writing at the Harold Washington and Edgewater branches. We are documenting progress in the P2PU community, and are eager to hear from you if you have ideas or resources to share.

I’ll also be supporting the inimitable Dirk and Erika in the upcoming launch of A Gentle Introduction to Python. Similar to the Knight project, we will work with a handful of in-person study groups who are using OER material. In this case, we’ll be evaluating whether in-person study groups foster noncognitive skills better than solely web-based learning.

I have been working in and around the wide world of education since 2008 and have worn many hats, including academic affairs officer, financial advisor, and bus driver. Yet at this point in my life, I feel more at home here than I think I could anywhere else, and I am oh so grateful for the opportunity to be engaged in work I believe in with such thoughtful, intelligent, and quirky colleagues.

This blog is a great way to stay up to date on P2PU news, so subscribe here if you haven’t already. For anyone interested, I also blog on Medium and am on Twitter @grifpeterson.


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