week 1 reflecting
September 13, 2014
Today marks the completion of Week 1 of my new doctoral course at Athabasca 803: Teaching and Learning in Distance Education and kind of the completion of my first week in Connected Courses.
In the spirit of reflection and doing things to proactively support new and good rhythms for the rest of the year, I’ve decided that instead of spending the remaining hours of the day browsing the internet for Halloween costumes appropriate for small dogs (Ruby and I have already had the talk establishing that it’s okay to be a bumble bee two years in a row) I’d spend a bit of time reflecting on what I’ve learned this week.
I’m hopeful too that by consciously adding reflection time into my week I’ll avoid feeling research bloated, which was kind of a constant during my last course and the cause of me dropping from #rhizo14. Before I was consuming research articles with the reckless abandon of a six year old consuming cookies at a birthday party. This year…no longer my first rodeo thus time for some positive reflective bursts built into the works.
Overall analysis of the first week: instructional design chaotic + cohort proud.
As an educator who deals with a fair amount of technical snags in the opening days of courses (and even the oops! this that’s not the current curriculum load for the course! so sorry…just ignore the man behind the curtain for the next 30 minutes….) I will confess it made me kind of happy to see it happening in another institution, especially one that is in many ways “the” distance learning mecca. As an actual student in the course trying to do my best to start on a good note and not get buried under an avalanche of deadlines and readings it was kind of a nightmare to manage. Good news is that the cohort saved the day once more and between nine astute minds we were able to untangle the mysteries of Moodle. (Good news is also if we did decide figuring was too hard to manage we also have sufficient numbers to revolt….just saying. 🙂 I know I’ve been very pro-cohort for the community element but this week made me realize it’s much easier as an instructor to also have your students in a cohort because their figuring it out really does ease your own work load. Cohorts…Genius on both a high level pedagogical analysis and a personal sanity analysis.
Once the dust settled we were tasked with first writing our teaching philosophy, then reading a bit about the “official” titles that define teaching philosophies (humanistic, progressive, radical, liberal, etc.) and finally going back and reflecting on where we now place ourselves. It was an interesting exercise to first use all sorts of casual (dare I say more natural) language to talk about ourselves and then find how or if those terms could be bounded by more academic definitions of who we are.
Here Connected Courses breaks in because it was kind of the Kool-Aid I’d last consumed around these ideas (and legit represents ideas I already hold pretty close.) My own teaching philosophy was casually called “connect + reflect” and had I been not so space limited I’d have added a nod to transparency and open networks. Connected Courses Wk1 left me all kinds of excited about how big the world is and what an awesome gift it is when you engage in open communication on a very large scale. I know it’s not all rainbows but it is filled with so much potential and if you can get people confident enough to pull their chair up to the table…it could have so many far-reaching positive effects.
But anyways, back to the cloisters of AU….I’m still waiting to find out what or if there will be a big reveal behind this teaching philosophy identification or if the identifying itself was the goal of the assignment. In many ways I actually like all the answers that we gave before we were exposed to the more official titles because they feel more real. I think legit it’s important to know the educational movements and theories and how they fit into the grander scheme but if you don’t take that one step further and establish the “why” ….it all kind of becomes background academic noise.
I think we must be establishing a sort of baseline for ourselves and then through the rest of the course we’re going to build but I’ve not been brave enough to enter into the following weeks without my cohort being there as a rescue should I get lost.
It’s interesting also to be doing this AU course concurrent with Connected Courses because on paper this one is kind of the antithesis of that one. We’re closed, we’re hierarchical, we’re LMS locked, etc. and yet here I am openly sharing and reflecting and here’s my cohort, in the absence of an instructor with stable internet teaching one another in a collaborative manner. Perhaps even the closed boundaries of more formal courses can get permeated if the right community structures exist or the right renegade student happens to enter the mix. Perhaps open networks are a “thing” but also and even more important we need to cultivate an open mindset. Perhaps these open mindsets are the key element that allow boundary crossing and from that boundary crossing…who knows what sorts of marvelous things might emerge? Pretty amazing to think about.
Yes, “open” is definitely a state of mind. Both students and instructors can have trouble with it, because it’s so different from the private, structured courses most of us are used to. Teachers are used to having more control and working behind closed doors, and students are used to getting very specific instructions. Most of us have to be eased into it, in the company of others who are already accustomed to it. Alan Levine said “People learn how to be open, connected educators and learners by participating as open and connected people.” It has also been pointed out that there are sometimes very good reasons for keeping discussions private. It doesn’t have to be all one or the other.
I look forward to pictures of your little dog in a costume.