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@philip_downey just received this reply from Deborah! 😀 #mscedc

@philip_downey just received this reply from Deborah! 😀 #mscedc

Going beyond the MOOC community

In conversation with Deborah Wizel on The Holocaust: An Introduction – Part 2 MOOC discussion forum, I asked if I could share her Survivor poem in my micro-ethnography project. Deborah agreed, and wanted me to share my project with her after it was completed. I emailed her the link to my Spark page and the following photos are screenshots of her email response. I am so thrilled to be able to continue the conversation with Deborah outside of the MOOC forum. It’s great to go beyond the MOOC community conversation!


from notwithabrush

Some of my Micro-ethnography rough work

Some of my Micro-ethnography rough work

Some of my rough notes in planning my micro-ethnography:



  • Week 1 of the course The Holocaust: an Introduction, part 2 will focus on the processes which led and the implementation of the mass murder of Jews throughout Europe” (from MOOC intro)

Posted on discussion forum by:

Deborah Wizel

26 FEB

“I have a small book of Holocaust poetry (in Spanish) that won an award in Panama, where I reside. I have translated one poem to English so i can share with you” (Wizel, 2017).


I close my eyes and try to forget


I carry the memories

tattoed on my arm

tattoed in my mind

in every pore   

every breath

I remember

the echo of ignored prayers

the weeping of children

the screaming of mothers

I remember lifeless figures

open eyes

shooting pit

Around me absolute silence

  • Also being discussed- WWI, Pearl Harbour, the Gulf War, 9/11, the Syrian refugee crisis, ISIS… all in relation to the Holocaust
  • Although it would not be ethical to share here in my ethnography, a few participants in this MOOC discussed what they would do, or how they might react if put in a situation where there knew they were about to die. Exceedingly personal, serious and profound discussions occurred in this thread of dialogue.
  • There is much interaction and communication between participants in this MOOC. Many posts convey shock and horror over the atrocities of the Holocaust. From reading through the forums, a general sense of camaraderie, a shared view of horror in terms of the events of the Holocaust and The Final Solution.
  • Some have even shared personal stories about family members who were directly affected by the Holocaust. Sharing personal anecdotes – it’s a privilege to have access to a community where people feel free, uninhibited and willing to offer their stories so others can further comprehend what happened. Many shared stories from their grandparents.
  • Sharing experiences, resources, books, websites, videos, personal anecdotes, stories on the holocaust.
  • Some discussion posts have more than 25 replies…
  • One participant on the course who I will call “Jane” has been very active on the discussion forums with over 100 posts. Jane also took part in the first part of this MOOC and is a teacher.

From discussion forum about the shooting pits:

“I, too, remember hearing or reading similar accounts. One account I never forgot was from a woman who somehow managed to survive the pits. She said that, as she held her young daughter in her arms, her frightened child tearfully implored her to run, to which she could only replied “Where to?””

There is also evidence of participants who also took part one of this MOOC and have now connected with each other again through the discussion forum.

Deep philosophical discussions on religion – anti-semitism, christianity, God, etc from this series of posts:

Dawn, we cannot begin to fathom anti-Semitism, but I think it was much more than a view of God. Jews looked different, ate differently, many dressed differently, were schooled with emphasis on learning and spoke differently (Yiddish). Combine that with very religious people who actually believe that all Jews killed Christ and you come up with the ultimate “other.” Jealousy and hatred combine with religion and anti-Semitism and then The Jews deserve everything they get.

Not only is the content of this MOOC very comprehensive and informative, the participants in the course have also become not only participants, but teachers and content providers themselves through the sharing of resources, recommended readings, expertise, stories, etc. So fabulous to see such a depth of sharing in this course.

27 FEB

“Even though I am far removed from the actual events,both by time,and that none of my family were directly involved. I still find myself horrified , sickened and shocked beyond belief and asking the same question,how could human beings take part in such murderous acts, as the wholesale shooting of men,women and children and in such numbers? It’s a rhetorical question because despite all I have seen and read in media and this course has given me,I still don’t know the answer.. Were these people just like robots,following orders blindly and without question,were they rabid Nazis who believed that what they were doing was justified for The Reich,were they all just caught up in the killing,were they afraid that if they disobeyed,that they would face the same fate,or Maybe it was a combination of all of these things or none, for different individuals. But there is a world of difference between killing the enemy on a battlefield and shooting a small helpless child in its mothers arms. There is not and can never be an excuse for such a crime,no matter what. And maybe the reason I am still so shocked is that it was carried out by so called’ civilised (as opposed to primitive) human beings.”

“When information and communications technology is cast into the world, and moist life breathed into its brittle, dry circuitry, it turns out that it is used to manifest culture and build community” (Kozinets 2010).

  • use Kozinets, Stewart
  • Knox (2015)



Kozinets, R. V. (2010) Chapter 2 ‘Understanding Culture Online’, Netnography: doing ethnographic research online. London: Sage. pp. 21-40.
Stewart, B., (2013). Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation? MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Technology, 9(2), pp.228–238.

Skate to Survive

Skate to Survive

Skate to Survive: The Story of Ellen Burka

Ellen Burka, who was a famous and iconic Canadian figure skating coach, survived Nazi concentration camps to become a champion skater. The YouTube video above, tells her moving and important story. I’m posting this because I was reminded of Ellen’s story when I decided to switch to the Holocaust MOOC. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to take some lessons from Ellen when I was a young skater.

Find other related articles about Ellen Burka here:

Ellen Burka dies at age 95: Hall of Fame figure skating coach survived the Holocaust, revolutionized her sport and kept working in her 90s

Changing to a new MOOC

Changing to a new MOOC

After much frustration, I’ve decided to drop the IoT MOOC and joined another MOOC on FutureLearn from Tel Aviv University: The Holocaust: An Introduction – Part 2. 

I wish I had’ve found this MOOC in the beginning because the subject matter (the Holocaust) is something I have a deep interest in…thus increasing my level of engagement!