Throughout the MOOC there has been conversation about humans and their interaction with technology. Specifically, the question of online learning. What can be taught and learned online? What cannot be taught and learned online? What helps us connect with each other as humans?
As I was waiting in line at my local coffee house, the guy behind me said “Wow. There’s a lot of technology here.” Coffee culture in the US is intertwined with technology culture. We can work anywhere and everywhere now. I’m typing this on an iPad in the coffee house. Upstairs there are people and their laptops. Typing away on a Sunday afternoon in Arlington, Virginia. This is the public square. The meeting place where we virtually and physically intersect with each other. With technology and coffee.
Thursday night I had an in-person learning experience at Bayou Bakery in Arlington. They hosted a coffee cupping (i.e., we tasted and sampled seven coffees in a carefully sequenced assessment process from smelling the ground coffee to smelling the brewed coffee in multiple stages to tasting each sample). It included two samples from local roaster Vigilante Coffee. While a human interaction, it was Bayou’s Facebook announcement that brought us together.
Short story – coffee cannot be experienced or assessed virtually. I can show you the photo. I can give you descriptions, but we all have different experiences and palates. Each person experienced each coffee sample differently and the coffees changed with time, as the temperature decreased, etc. Just like with any learning experience, as we sample more things, our understanding of each one changes.
Coffee is pretty complex – from growing methods, to regionally differences to roasting technique to brewing (read God in a Cup for more). There are as many variables in the process from bean to cup as there are for our students from home to classroom. Assessment of a coffee’s “goodness” is a multi-step, multi-faceted process that accounts for multiple variables such as aroma, acidity, taste and mouthfeel. It is a holistic process with multiple measures. Conversation about the coffees is part of the process.
And, students are more complex than coffee.
Which raises the question for me… why do we not treat their learning and assessment as at least as complex as a cup of coffee? And, what can we do virtually and what needs to be tasted and smelled and seen in person? How can we use technology to better create connections between us?
Photos by Margret Hjalmarson.