The challenging question offered to me this week is what do I do when I am at my best (Thanks Lorraine!). As I considered what best means and looks like in my personal and professional life, I also got to pondering what does being at my best look like when teaching…
My best is when I shouting with joy about the topic, bursting with curiousity as to what my students already know, dashing to keep up with their online explorations, and dancing when the conversation among them flows so naturally and forcefully it is like a spring river tracing new course.
As part of this morning’s discussion the ideas of flow and reckless/freedom arose. Also the question of what holds us back?
The short answer for me is fear…fear of being judged as foolish or insane* (* term used with all the societal implications and stereotypes carefully weigh and judged appropriate) – a hit to competence; fear of being pushed socially and professionally aside – a hit to sense of belonging.
But in this fear I also harshly judge others. I judge my collegial relationship with them to be too fragile, I judge their appreciation of good teaching as too narrow, and I judge them incapable of valuing and recognizing good teaching.
Yet, there is still a risk…do I leap up and take enthusiastic flight into online, active, student-directed pedagogy or stay grounded in the known traditional approach.
And if I leap, will you critique? Will you celebrate? Will you leap too?
(…and if I post a cat picture will you forgive me? for the leaping or perhaps the cat picture)
The journey of teaching is one of evolution. Shifts in content, growth in expectations of student engagement and tranformations of technology including the arrivals of “new” technologies such as power point and twitter (each new at one point int time as John Boyer noted in his Intro to Learning Technologies (#ILT) talk).
As educators, we try to surf on or before the crest of this every moving wave, but what powerful forces drive it forward?
Necessity is the mother of all innovation – in John’s case it was growing class sizes necessitating being able to interact with 5000 students, and evolving based on observation of students’ beahviour including signs of them becoming disengaged that lead to twitter, live streaming with chatrooms and recorded lectures with students remotely watching. What is weighing on you that might just be the couterweight to a really great slingshot?
Possibility raises temptation to try and the potential to succeed – We can be inspired to fly, given wings by a critical mass of students (such as John’s big class where there is enough students that enough get behind any technology), or even get pushed enough to the edge where anything is better than status quo. What would such air under our wings feel like and where could we go?
Support for we all get along with a little help from our friends – John introduced us to his tech wizard sitting just off screen (Katie). He also suggested we check out what is available at one’s university (including for those of us at the UofS the talents of #ILT instructor Heather Ross). What support exists to lift you up or could exist to help you float?
In education, just as the seas waves have and will aways be. And as we fling, fly and float among the waves, how differently will the courses we teach today will look in the future in content, form, purpose, and functioning!
After over a decade being a university student and three degrees later, I still enjoy a good class. Currently I am learning about blogs, tweets, online presence… in Heather Ross’s (@mctoonish) exciting Introduction to Learning Technologies at the University of Saskatchewan.
Why? My Four Reasons:
- Because I don’t have time: Kind of counterintuitive but taking a course allows me to carve out time to learn. When in the Cult of Busy, it can be hard to “justify” taking 30 minutes to read about copyright and creative commons despite working everyday with materials. Now I can break free & focus on what I want to learn…or failing the escape I have an excuse that my readings are “due”.
- To respect my colleagues more: We all have our specialities, our own domains of knowledge and skills. Mine are assessment and baking with chocolate. While I like learning what other people find exciting, sometimes all I have is only what I need-to-know including who knows how to book rooms, who has great resources about large classrooms, who can get Blackboard Learn to work…Heather in MHO (my humble opinion) knows lots about anything online (and she is in the office next to where I work) and even managed to teach me to blog. This course offers a chance to see her in her element and to be amazed!
- Good to feel like a novice on occasion: Sometimes it is too easy to forget what it was like to be unsure, confused, and unsettled. After years involved in tutoring, TAing and otherwise teaching basic math and statistics, I truly believe that every person can “do math” with feedback, clarification and practice. In other words noone is “bad at math” they are just struggling right now. Mid-PhD I was challenged to lived those words – I was invited to a recreational choir in our Faculty led by a choir director/graduate student. My first response was “not me. I can’t sing…” – sound familiar (just replace “sing” with “do math”). But I joined, watched what others did, tried to figure out terminology and when that all failed I just plain asked. In the end I could sing, not an undiscovered virtuoso but a learner. So this time I and my ITL classmates are in many ways tackling the myth “It is impossible to keep up with technology” and cross-training together.
- Flexibility: Being a student means doing the learner – somehow somewhere. It started as a bit of a joke that I learned quickly to write a blog well because I followed a rubric (created by Heather) due to many years as a “good” student. While it is true that through countless courses I eventually honed an ability to identify what will be recognized and rewarded, I also came to recognize my own intrinsic and extrinsic motivations and adapt my learning accordingly. I can choose to read some pieces quickly (or play videos at 1.5 speed) when the material is peripheral or already familiar, yet savour other pieces. In an open course such flexibility is built in – you can learn anywhere including on a beach…know any close by without snow?
In short, I want to learn as a novice about online teaching from a respected colleague on my own timeline (with the excuse of a deadline). How about you?
Baking, educational development and research are about transformation and possibility.
Transformation from an initial state of questions, flour & eggs…, and usual ways of teaching and assessing into something new that transforms how we see those pieces and what we can do.
There are lots of possibilities to consider, explore, select from and then post-transformation another whole set to uncover. In baking, for example, eggs, sugar and vanilla can become creme brulee (with cream), meringues, cakes (with flour etc.), icing, muffins, cookies and more. Once baked, the selected goodies can be birthday celebrations, a gift, an excuse to visit with friends, a treat to celebrate…or anything else one can dream up.
I’m curious to find new possibilities, and to journey with others in discovering and transforming.